I might be a bit premature, but I’m feeling that November is done for this year and we’re now looking forward to the winter listing period. For those who don’t know, (that would be most of the US and eBird), winter listing is a popular way to get through winter in the frozen north and retain your enthusiasm for birding. It took me a while to find it but, once I did, I was onboard.
From the off, 1st-December will see me hitting the spots on Cape Island and around Barrington where summer fare hopefully lingers. Getting new winter birds is much harder these days, I can’t justify any great distance for ‘just’ a winter bird, but I do like to try for local birds and to ensure that Shelburne County is well represented in the winter ‘league’. As ever, winter will throw up a surprise or two, for me I’d like to book the Steller’s Sea Eagle for a tour of Cape Island sometime mid-December and a Golden Eagle somewhere nearby in January too.
Locally, the birds have been interesting, with an influx in Yellow-breasted Chats reaching Shelburne, a few winter in Yarmouth but we rarely find them here. A couple of patches in Barrington Passage, ones laden with berry food, were favoured briefly. We also managed late Nashville and Prairie Warblers there.
Getting new birds for the yard list is always tough now. I can think of the odd species that might find us, it’s just a case of looking at the right spot at the right time. A chat would be one of those species. Something I missed recently was Snowy Egret. I found one off Drinking Brook Park, which is just up the road, but it never came my way so I was pretty pleased when one decided to attend the rising tide on the marsh opposite me a few days ago. Bearing in mind the date, I even had hopes that it might be a Little Egret, but no.
Bonaparte’s Gulls have been milling around in various spots on the island. Off the causeway, a nice immature paddled around just off the promenade for a few days.
A trip to Yarmouth to get the winter shoes fitted to the tin pony (car) gave me the opportunity to look for and photograph House Finches. There are a few spots where you can see them. These were off Argyle Street. I’m not aware of any in Shelburne County although we have had the odd record over the years.
One of the drawbacks of feeding birds is that predators will visit. Sharp-shinned Hawk is the most frequent, often as immature birds who flush but can’t catch. One of the current Sharpies is so small that I reckon he’d be in trouble if the chickadees ganged up on him. Cooper’s Hawk is a different proposition, they eat the Mourning Doves by preference which don’t like that at all. Here is one of each, the Cooper’s on the bird table sat there for twenty minutes before loping off.
I used to be a countryside ranger, a job that involved dealing with the public and doing a bit of birding when I could. Some time ago I wrote an eBook, Park Life, recounting all the highs and lows of my fifteen years in the job. Now that I use Amazon, I republished so that I can do both eBooks and print versions, I also did a re-edit and restructure of the new book. The cover is from a photo of one of the many Mute Swans I took to the vets. Some were such frequent visitors for lead poisoning treatment that we used to share the driving! One of twenty-eight books published by Sandra and I, so far.
The annual finch forecast, a predictive article that gives us an indication of which finch (and waxwing) species might erupt south, looks interesting. Various berry and cone crop limits may well see us getting some nice finches here in the south. These Evening Grosbeaks at Clam Point might be the vanguard.
Just to update on my previous posts re species potentially affected by avian flu. My observation is that Gannets seem to be reduced in number. Eiders are much reduced, with no large movements noted yet and few birds around locally. It is hard to assess most species though, because the fall has been very mild and the hard-weather movements haven’t really happened. Perhaps the best day so far was 25th-November when I had over 600 Dovekie past The Hawk. We may have another big day of southwards passage left in the year yet, winds and temperature will, as always, dictate the action.
The annual Christmas Bird Count for Barrington should take place on 17th-December, a Saturday. This allows anyone who wishes to also take part in the Yarmouth one, or possibly the Lockeport one, although I have no details for that one. If you participated last year you’ll get an email soon with your count sheets. Let’s hope the driving, horizontal snow that the day generally produces is warmer this year.