This time of year the camera is kept busy as photo opportunities materialize and good birds show up. So far, in the tropical southern mainland of Nova Scotia, at least there has been nothing stellar around but we have had a small selection of migrants to enjoy. Offshore it is different story and the bird magnet that is Seal Island recently produced a first for Nova Scotia, a Hooded Oriole. Had not Alix, Kathleen and Bertin taken advantage of slick seas and made the crossing in Alix’s Zodiac, it would never have been discovered, kudos to them for both getting to Seal at all and then finding a real Mega for Nova Scotia. Naturally I tried to get us birders a ride out there the next day but my Facebook appeal fell on deaf ears – my bad really for not having already made the right contacts to get us there on such occasions.
Their eBird checklist is here: https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S48090916
After prolonged south-westerlies and their gift of fog, the wind was predicted to swing to a more productive direction and so Mike, Ronnie and I went off to Brier for the day full of hope and expectation. For such a hotspot you mentally conjure up a list of exciting strays that just might show up and, almost inevitably, they didn’t this time either. We still had a decent day with 54 species seen, here is our checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48047406 Speaking to the banders, apart from hoards of irrupting Red-breasted Nuthatches, a sure sign of cone crop failure in the north, the migration was light to negligible, in that context our checklist did not seem too bad. A whale trip may well have been productive for sea birds and, rather typically, an Atlantic Right Whale showed up off the headland we’d been birding the next day. Here are a few shots.
Closer to home the birding has been slow to comatose, and, while we accept that t can’t all be fallouts and vagrants, the action did smack of everything not pausing with us while on migration and heading right through. It is also possible that the breeding season was later after a rubbish June and so the push simply had yet to happen, even though there were triggers in the weather patterns. What is certain, as evidenced by the Hooded Oriole, is that an even bring birds from the south-west of the USA had happened.
Our natural inclination when it is slow is to go to The Cape. It may not have the isolation and cover of Seal Island but is is accessible fairly easily and has the capacity to surprise. In late August our thoughts also turn to that super-elegant birds, not a shorebird, prairie bird is better, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The Cape is about as near a certain bet as anywhere, you just have to pick your way around the bare patches where the sheep have feasted until you spot the stop-go of a usually confiding buffy. Then you stand and wait as they go about their business. Nine times out of ten they will walk towards you so no need to chase them. Mike and I did the first run and, although it should have been better it wasn’t and no buffy. Still we did see some stuff, notably this adult American Golden Plover which put on a show for us. Here are the pics.
Thursday 30-August didn’t look too promising at the start and, as it was just two days since we’d done the last Cape Trip I wasn’t really intending to go back over, besides Mike wasn’t available and Ronnie was elsewhere. I was just about to give up having seen nothing but the odd Yellow Warbler when my last stop produced this local scarcity – a Mourning Warbler. Emboldened by such riotous success I tried one of my little spots that is a sit and wait site where I turned up another Cape Sable Island scarcity, Tennessee Warbler. Next I had another go for a Northern Waterthrush at Johnny and Sandra’s place and saw it within seconds, decision time.
Fortunately Warren was able to take me out; he normally likes more notice than ten minutes but had a window so off we went into the fog, navigating by hand-held device to find The Cape. It did not seem very promising, nothing was flushing as I walked the trails, The Forest held a bunch of Nelson’s Sparrows but not a single warbler and the fog horn was singing its monotone note every 58 seconds, you count between blasts and cover your ears. I was at the very last bit of buffy habitat before reaching the light when moving bird caught my eye, it was a Least Sandpiper but, next to it was my first Buff-breasted Sandpiper of the year, hurrah.
So just a wet toe of migration so far and not the full body emersion birders always dream about. The fallout of 2017 will take some beating but stranger things have and will happen.