Keep Them Coming

Despite my ageing legs complaining about walking The Cape on May-7th (see below), I went back on May-8th with Ervin and Mike, mainly to get another look at the thrushes but also hoping to catch the next set of arrivals on an island we had all to ourselves. In a better world there wouldn’t be billionaires spending stupid money on gold taps and palaces, there would be money for places like The Cape to protect it, maintain it and to recognise the value of such places. The downside would be more people would visit and, if I’m honest, we don’t want that, the ecosystem is fragile and is in need of nature-friendly TLC rather than the size-nine boots of the masses.

The visit of May-7th was remarkable for a number of things, not least the fact that we (myself, Ronnie, Alix and Mark Morse) actually went. It was thick fog, the sea was boiling but the crossing from The Hawk is over a protected basin. A number of sand bars and rocks loomed as we crossed but we hit the beach full of optimism, even though the fog had barely budged. The sheep pen at Steven’s Point will have a Fork-tailed Flycatcher on it one day. On this day a thrush darted for cover, Ronnie was quickest to spot it, and then led a us a merry dance for all of ten seconds, the pen really does not off much cover. It was a Veery, my first on CSI and Shelburne.

Many times the Veery would have been bird of the trip but, at Lockie’s cabin another thrush dashed around. It too surrendered after a few minutes and the diagnostic digital led to one conclusion, Grey-Cheeked, another CSI tick. With two great birds so far surely The Forest would have something too? The short answer is no and we didn’t get the next good bird, another Veery, until we reached the light.

Now came the hopeful slog, tramping the stony ridge from the light around to the second cabin. I hate walking on this stuff, my knee is especially vociferous in complaining, but good birds do hide in the many and welcome lots Lobster pots there. This time they didn’t but another thrush flushed further round turned out to be a Swainson’s, CSI tick #3. We’d peaked. The sun then shone for a while better Grey-cheeked Thrush views and shots were enjoyed, it really was the prize of the trip. Once we’d returned to the mainland the fog rolled back in, we had a lucky window there.

Veery above, Grey-cheeked Thrush below.

And now to the trip on May-8th and only the sheep pen Veery remained from my previous visit so we pushed on. At the Grey-cheeked Thrush spot, a Merlin happily plucked at a warbler; a bad omen for a seeing a sensible thrush, we didn’t. No other thrushes were evident elsewhere but, offshore, five late (as in still here, not dead) Harlequin remained. In The Forest’ a secretive Ovenbird tolerated our presence only briefly before heading for the Alder scrub, and that appeared to be it

News of an Upland Sandpiper somewhere on The Hawk had us calling up Leslie for an early departure. A fortuitous delay, he was eating lunch, had us lingering on Steven’s Point for half an hour. I say fortuitous because we flushed a Common Nighthawk from the beach, a first of the season, then a jaeger flew past. The jaeger seemed pretty light-weight although the solid breast-band suggested Parasitic. No white flashes were visible on the upper and underwing and it had a lengthy tail and so identification was paused until the distant photos could be scrutinised on the PC, they were and Parasitic was the right call. Only doc-shots of both the jaeger and nighthawk were possible, but doc-shots have great value in some cases.

Composite shot of the Common Nighthawk above, Parasitic Jaeger below.

The five ‘late’ Harlequins.

One of many Savannah Sparrows (above), Piping Plover on The Cape below.

There was no sign of an Upland Sandpiper anywhere when we got back to The Hawk.

That might have been the day done, but a text from Joan in Brighton told us of a Scarlet Tanager in her yard. I tossed the double-headed coin and got the right result. Sandra and I picked up Alix and we sped north. At Joan’s place, a short wait was endured before the male tanager popped up feet away from a beautifully spotless window. There was a Pine Siskin there too so a Nova Scotia tick and another year tick took me to 180 for the year. Many thanks to Joan and Al for their hospitality, Scarlet Tanager seems to have been a while coming but it was well worth the wait.

In the yard, the assortment of good birds linger. The female Blue Grosbeak is regularly joined by the remaining two, female, Indigo Buntings on the bird tables and now two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks attend; a female and a different, less full-plumage male.  I was happy to get better shots of the Blue Grosbeak finally; it really is quite skittish at times.

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