Learning Season

Here we go again then, there is the unfamiliar, tinny song somewhere in a distant tree top, heard via bionic ears so sounding different from real life, i.e., as on the app! Every year I have to relearn some of the warbler songs because some just don’t stick. The main irritant is American Redstart, a species that can sound like various things and it seems that the first one of the season always has an extra bit to the song, a bit not present on the app, so it has to be dug out before being sworn at, still, I wouldn’t change a thing, I rather like the learning season.

Thankfully there are a few buzzy ones which are fairly easy to recall, usually. One unexpected buzzy one was found by Sharron and Ronnie d’Entremont recently on the Clyde River Road. This lengthy route into the hinterland has most of the regular warblers that we get in southern NS, probably it has all of them, singing out there but only found if we get off the road and explore the ATV tracks. As it is, the buzzer that the keen ears of Sharron picked out belonged to a Blue-winged Warbler, something of a prize in warbler terms and perhaps more expected as a rare coastal migrant rather than so relatively far inland as Clyde River. Even I could hear it with the hearing aids on maximum gain and it being ten feet away, I also got a few ropey photos when it wasn’t ten feet away plus a recording which can be heard on the eBird checklist, follow the link to have a listen.


Since we last spoke I’ve been to The Cape a couple of times but without really seeing much, some days are good, some not so. On the last trip Warren took us out first to Green Island, just off The Cape but far enough away to be worth a separate visit as it holds our local Atlantic Puffins. We were not disappointed, seeing around 20 plus a bunch of both Arctic and Common Terns and loads of smart Black Guillemots. It occurs that, with so many idle Lobster boats in the locale surely someone might fancy running summer sea bird trips on suitable days. You might not make what you get hauling Lobsters but it would attract tourists to Cape Sable Island and, with a little luck, they’d go away marvelling at the Puffins, seabirds and maybe even Harbour Porpoise. If you read this, see the opportunity and you need an onboard guide, I’m your man.

After Green Island we dropped into Flat Island for a quick look. Warren had seen a bird a few days prior that could only be a plegadis ibis on this very spot but we saw no sign. Johnny Nickerson has been telling us to get our sorry asses on there for warblers for some time, well Johnny, we will now we’ve added it to Mike and my collective experience although Ronnie had been there before.

The Hawk, as ever, has produced a few good CSI birds recently. A couple of smart Scarlet Tanagers were around for a few days, joined quite briefly by a Red-bellied Woodpecker. It was déja vu as the same combination, but unlikely the same individuals, were at the same place around the same time last year.


Slowly the woods are filling with birds. I tend to think of the process for CSI as back-filling. We are only able to provide marginal habitat for many birds and, judging by the frequent new builds, are going to get even more marginal. As the optimal habitats fill up so the birds with less vigour for hitting the best spots wind up on CSI. Not exactly second best just that we can’t all live in the best spots as such. Here are a few of the new arrivals.


Each day at the moment seems to be filled with activity and field days that had intended to be a few morning hours have a habit of swelling to a full day. Such it was when Alix found a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher at Pubnico Point Road. Oddly enough, on 13-May, 207 Alix, Mike and I were on not os far away Bon Portage and you can guess what we found! Gnatcatcher is generally scarce in Nova Scotia with typically three to six records per year so a good bird to divert for. Pity this year’s chose to look away at just the wrong time!


In year list terms, that is the list of birds I’ve seen so far this year and not a list made up of birds chased for a list for the year that I am not doing, it is plodding along nicely. I suspect 200 may be in close proximity by the end of May, on CSI, after a slow start I have 142 with some notable absentees.  


Finally, a word on eBird. They have done some messing around with a few bits, looks ok but it is time spent in an area that was already ok. The fixes many have been waiting for, especially the marking of recorded escapes so that they don’t get included in your list totals have been known for a long while but are not yet addressed. Also there is the need to be able to select more than one Hotspot when viewing data. On CSI some people use only the Cape Sable Island Hotspot when we have them at all of the main places, subsequently the overview of species recorded at a site like CSI is rather a mess. I’d also like to see Top 100s update automatically post checklist submission, then re-adjust post validation and I’d like to see a list that does not show publically, invalidated species on individual Top 100 lists. That, and the inevitable consequences would however require eBird to ‘grow a pair’ as the vernacular has it!

They should also stop people entering entire counties or multiple unrelated sites such as state parks as single local patches. The best way would be to write to the miscreants involved although a sturdy 3×2 bearing the message, swung firm and true might have more resonance.


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