February Fortitude

Not many birders (in the north) like February. It is a dead month, the depth of winter and a time when nothing much is expected to happen in the bird world. We always have gulls to look at though, omnipresent around the bays and fish plants, loafing, feeding, looking nothing like those illustrations in the field guides in some cases but what’s new there? I’m not complaining though, I could still be in Quebec with snow up to my Ass (never keep a quadruped outside in the winter in QC) and nary a blade of grass to see until April. At least we still have the rare geese in our area to enjoy, when you can find them that is. The Yarmouth duo, the Pink-footed and Greater White-fronted Geese, had gone missing until February 2nd when Ervin found them in nearby Pembroke, hiding in with the Canada Geese. Sandra and I were in Yarmouth to pick up bits and so went along and got distant views. Just the pinkie here.

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While in Yarmouth we wandered along to see the two male Barrow’s Goldeneye that are lingering off Lobster Rock wharf, this Glaucous Gull looked on. It seems to be a good winter for glaucs.

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Nearby, House Sparrows were still present in their favourite tangle. In many parts of the world the House Sparrow population has shrunk, mostly due to the changes in houses, no spacious soffits to breed behind and folk are oh so fussy if a sparrow nests on their property. On Cape Sable Island where we live they are hard to find and that is with plenty of feeders around, still the Yarmouth area seems to be to their liking and long may it continue.

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Just as we arrived in Yarmouth, a text from Alix prompted us to pay our respects to his Red-bellied Woodpecker on the way home, always nice to add it to the year list.

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As a little surprise, nay delight, I took Sandra along to Dennis Point Wharf to look at gulls, she loved it. We didn’t see the hoped for Thayer’s, it had been on CSI earlier in the day but we’d looked and missed it, but we did get this hybrid gull which is a different one from the regular hybrids we’ve been seeing there, I feel a blog post coming on about hybrids.

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On Saturday (2/4) the weather was cold with northerly winds chilling the bladder. West Head, CSI was covered in gulls but, as Obe Wan Kenobi might say, “not the gull you are looking for”. I did see this though, a Herring Gull probably, in an odd plumage possibly or whatever, it really stuck out. A web trawl has not been too useful so far and I suppose I could post to the Facebook gulls page but, to be honest, it gets a bit wearing when some pasty-faced geek, who only sees gulls occasionally, tells me it is good for something common. I really must stop yelling “if it was common I wouldn’t be posting the damn thing now would I?” at the computer, although it does cheer me up when I do!

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Another Alix text later in the afternoon, followed by one from Ronnie, told us that the Thayer’s Gull was back at Dennis Point. Sandra missed it by three minutes on CSI last time so, as a very special treat, I took her along to the point where we had great views. If you look at the last photo you can see a clipped off P5, same as the CSI bird, absolute confirmation.

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And finally, a female Northern Harrier from CSI.

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A Good Run

Day four into 2017 already, still without the rudder of a specific goal and so I’m just going with the flow. Last night Anemoi delivered and the house shuddered, coming from the south-east I sort of expected to see the area littered with tired alcids but that was not the case, although it may be in a day or two. Instead the gull influx continued and it made for a fun day of birding around Cape Sable.

Part of the alcid thing is to check each wharf as you pass and search the calmer areas for recently wind-bothered birds, and I don’t mean those that have been on a bean diet! Thick-billed Murres and Dovekies come inshore and end up being very confiding, mostly because we are just pink lumps to them, unless you are from Cape Island, in which case you are pink lumps dressed in camo, I have no idea how they find their clothes in the morning.

Swimm point turned out to be a good place to be and I found a nice 1stW Glaucous Gull that bullied everything, they must teach that in big gull school, also was a bonus year-bird, a 1stW Black-headed Gull.

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The latter bird is most interesting as it surely comes from North American breeding stock as opposed to having crossed the Atlantic from Europe (discuss). There are certainly enough adult Black-headed Gulls around this side of the Atlantic these day to produce young and they are long-lived as adults. I have no doubt that birds at favoured sites are the same ones returning each year, and colour banding in Europe has shown their longevity and site fidelity. I got photos of both birds, despite the lousy light, big ISO and keep clicking is my policy.

 Also of interest was this hefty Herring Gull, it was 10% bigger than all the other Herring Gulls present, perhaps it had recently devoured a consignment of pies?

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The light was pretty yuk but I managed a few shots of the many Kumlien’s Gulls around, here are a couple.

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As a break from the gulling it was nice to get a reasonable shot of a Black Guillemot too.

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After returning home and telling Sandra of the good morning, she decided she needed to see some of the birds so we went out and did the circuit again, more or less, although the Black-headed Gull had moved on. Arriving home for the second time, Paul Gould called to say he’d seen a dowitcher and a couple of Red Knot on the beach at The Hawk, so for the third time today I fired up the Quattro (Life on Mars reference) and went looking. Just as I got onto the beach (on the falling tide) the shorebirds paused while I had a view, then came barreling past me, so I waved the camera at them. Not great results just doc shots, all but the Dunlin were eBird adds. I reckon the dowitcher to be Long-billed. It looked chunky on the beach and there is good foot projection in flight and, we had one around before the New Year so perhaps this is it.

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The year ambles along on 75 species and is going along fairly well. The gull influx is welcome as I enjoy the challenge they present, as I am sure that you are aware. I think that is enough posting for a few days while I write the CSI big year up.

 

Review of 2016 – ex CSI

Any review of 2016 is inevitably going to be colored by influences outside the normal birding sphere, because 2016 was one of those extraordinary years that the aware amongst us (and that will be you if you are reading this) will remember. This review is something of a departure from my usual favorite birds of the year type of thing. I’m also planning a bit more of a write-up about our Cape Sable Island big year, that will come later.

On a personal level it was a bad year tempered with good. Sandra was diagnosed with the dreaded cancer and so we spent more time visiting Halifax than we ever expected to. Life influences died, David Bowie who shaped my musical tastes somewhat, as did Leonard Cohen. Victoria Wood shuffled off, a comedienne whose style of humor paved the way for many others to follow. Actors live and die, most only matter to their loved ones or obsessive psychopaths. One whose work I admired was Alan Rickman, sad but such is life.

Perhaps the second most epoch-making event was the election of Trump to what is always vaunted as the most powerful office in the world. His opponent wasn’t that much better so we got the worst of a very bad deal, at least she has some dignity. It may not be our country but we are all affected and, by electing a bigot and misogynist – and they are his good points, it showed us all how low the underbelly of the USA truly is. Any American woman or person of color or white immigrant that voted for him, hang your sorry heads in shame.

After writing that, I now have a few U’s spare, the rest will be in English, English.

If you are a regular reader, you will know that my birding focus has been a Cape Sable Island big year, I suppose I should say Cape Island because that is the way it is said around here. It was to be my personal motivation, a goal, a bar to set and a way of learning quickly all about our still relatively new home, that changed when two others took op the challenge. What made it a great year was that three of us, myself, Johnny Nickerson and Mike MacDonald pushed on to new levels, assisting in recording a cumulative year list for Cape Island of 249, or maybe 250. We all broke the 200 barrier and, on a personal level, I have to say I’m very happy with my total and look forwards to adding my the CSI life list over the years. Those are the bare-bones, more meat on that story in a later post.

It is true the listing is just numbers but, numbers have to be accumulated and their accumulation offer experience as a by-product. The secret is to learn more than you forget, not many people manage that one and when I stop adding and start subtracting I’ll slip quietly into the background. In the meantime, in 2017, expect more glaring mistakes and more flashes of latent talent from me, WYSIWYG. Now, without further ado, I’ll get to the selected highlights My stand-outs might be different from other viewpoints, just because I rate a gull higher than a warbler is a matter of personal opinion.

My top bird of the year was the Kamchatka Gull and it is not even a real tick (yet!). As a bird it was a lesson in mid-sized gull taxonomy and answered many questions for me regarding some versions of Larus canus I’ve seen. It was found as a Mew Gull by Clarence Stevens Jnr, but its true identity didn’t come out until Joan Comeau posted a suite of Facebook photos giving context, after that it just had to be seen. Experience tells me that this is a good species, but within the strictures of the species concepts we use it may take a while for the science to prove it.

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Even when you have seen a species very many times, context is all and so when I pitched up at The Hawk one dazzling May afternoon my thoughts were more on seeing migrants than vagrants. The light was fierce and, at that time of the year, somewhat against the viewing position. I saw a shorebird that didn’t fit, at least here, but I knew what it was. Digital cameras have changed everything, just as audio playback has, and so I grabbed images of the general shorebird group, knowing that a view on a screen would confirm my suspicions. The image was grainy and a bit off focus, clearly I had a Curlew Sandpiper but wait. The frame I viewed had a slice of another bird encroaching so I scrolled further images and, make that two Curlew Sandpipers. In the meantime Alix had hit the road and was watching both, we had the conversation, yes I now knew that there were two, wild.

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They were never very lens friendly but I’d have been happy with what I got until Robert and Sandi Keereweer pulled another out of the hat in more or less the same place in July. That bird was friendlier and everyone who wanted it enjoyed great views and shots and the question asked most was, is one of the spring birds? We can never know that one.

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We had a year of drought in southern Nova Scotia, it was obvious it was coming because it didn’t rain. That didn’t stop the weak minded pouring water on their lawns or washing their cars or doing any of the other things that don’t need water quite like the Human body. Even after we knew that wells were drying people still watered plants because their well had more water than their neighbours, how dumb is that? The upside of the drought was the low water levels in local barrachois pools. The one at The Hawk beach developed attractive margins and the odd Spotted Sandpiper explored them. Nearby two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons found the problem of fish procurement greatly eased by their have a reduced acreage to swim in, as did one of the Cape Island stars of the year, a Least Bittern.

Anything that is a Cape Island tick for Johnny has to be a highlight because he is the master. I just happened to be the one who saw it first and the finding was one of the pieces of birding serendipity that happens, for some. I had decided to walk The Hawk roads hoping to find migrant warblers and so I parked at The Hawk beach and set off. A yellowy looking thing on a distant bank attracted my attention but bins did not quite cut it, although I did actually think it was a Least Bittern. I walked back to the car, scoped the thing and the rest is history as they say.

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A by-product of visiting Halifax while Sandra got sorted was the opportunity to explore a few of the local birding spots. On one occasion I was able to look for a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher found by Diane LeBlanc. Sandra was with me when we saw it so that was even better. It may not be mega rare but they are characterful birds and I’d missed Clyde’s on Cape Island, so we enjoyed it greatly.

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Another nearby bird was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at West Jeddore. The home owner was so typically Nova Scotian in welcoming us onto the property to search for the bird. Elsewhere on this planet, and not too far away people are not so welcoming.

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I have a particular penchant for pelagic birding, something I share with a few others. The very successful, if invitation only, Pubnico pelagics are a highlight because we are out there with the same birds that are often just dots from Daniel’s Head, although I am getting better at identifying what are still dots for some, a good scope helps. So I thought why not get out off Brier Island in September because a pelagic that doesn’t spend time providing endless tail-flukes for people with little more interest that arranging a few pixels on the phone would surely offer some good pelagic birding. So I floated the idea, so to speak, and the uptake was very encouraging. Some preparation was involved and I’ll know to take the frozen chum out of the freezer earlier, rather than have to thaw it overnight in the bathroom of an unnamed lodge on Brier Island.

On a blustery day 43 birders had around four hours at sea, chucking bits of smelly fish out to attract the sea birds and, as is almost always the case, the best was saved last when we came across this South Polar Skua sitting on the water.

It was not a regulation bird in that it was a bit warm and the nape and back/covert flecking made an instant diagnosis difficult, as did the apparent bulk, it was a biggie. The skuas still confound but research showed our bird to be South Polar, our second for the day but the only one that showed properly. Special thanks should be given to all who spotted on the day, we dealt with the logistics of getting everyone on the birds fairly well although a PA would be an advantage.

For those taking note, I am proposing to run the trip again pending boat availability. It will go the weekend after Labour Day and will run on both Saturday and Sunday. The compliment will be limited to 30 each day, so the cost will be a trifle more, and we will spend less time bouncing around aimlessly and more time on the ridge where the birds gather, the birds will be encouraged to come to us more, I need sharks livers. Make a note in your diary if interested, let me know too.

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The early part of the year delivered our hoped for alcids to Cape Island. High on my wants list was Thick-billed Murre and, exactly as Johnny had predicted, they came in force. The first was off the causeway from Barrington. I’m sure the people passing in their trucks wondered what we were looking at, some even slowed to 98 kmph to take a peek!

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While on the wharfs Dovekies appeared and were duly enjoyed.

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Not all highlights were rarities. For years I have tried to get a shot that did Northern Harrier justice, I think I finally did.

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Going back to the Pubnico pelagic, it was a good one with just about everything expected showing up and the weather holding fine The only absentee had been Manx Shearwater, there are not that many of them out there at the best of times. After we had turned and started the run back to port, and the tamest Manxie ever followed us home a while. It was bird of the trip and a very welcome addition for the day.

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We bump into Short-eared Owl in our area once in a while, but more often than not they are flying away. One afternoon I watched one hunting The Hawk and decided to go for it. I wedged myself against a rock and waited and, eventually, got the shots I was after.

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May is the month we hope to see the unusual and this year contained a few surprises. Ronnie called on morning with a catharus thrush on Chebogue, he called it 100%, a Grey-cheeked Thrush. Mike and I galloped over and were rewarded by close view of this surprisingly scarce thrush.

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Long-distance twitching sometimes has to be done. Halifax, for us, is long-distance although route familiarity doesn’t make it seem quite so bad now. The tireless birding of Dave Currie had the rare bird alert flashing, first with Bell’s Vireo, then with a MacGillivray’s Warbler plus there were other birds around. The Bell’s Vireo twitch turned out to be a bit more lenghty that planned when Peggy Scanlon found a Brown Booby off Canso causeway and it stuck. We, being nearly halfway there, dropped all plans post-vireo and hared it to Canso where the bird showed itself very well to a small but appreciative crowd.

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Sandra and myself headed to town with a shopping list that included Grasshopper Sparrow and Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Bell’s Vireo again, Sandra needed them all for NS, I needed the first two. Diane had relocated the sparrow the day before so we started there with some success, then news of the MacGillivray’s Warbler broke and we couldn’t believe our luck. We tried and missed before taking a break with the nearby Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Back at the warbler site, it had been seen again, even photographed but for me the best I did was flight views just too fast to tick. Sandra had refused to descend the storm drain but we had found the Bell’s Vireo again so she went home three up, me two.

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I went back a few days later with Mike and Ervin and we did get the warbler, and the cuckoo again then lucked in on a Yellow-throated Vireo that had gone missing but the sparrow had gone and that was that. It was a crazy spell but exciting and we certainly got to know the spots around Dartmouth.

There are some fairly common species on the mainland that just don’t get to Nova Scotia very often. Mostly this is because the species are fairly sedentary but also because they really don’t look built for speed. One such is Carolina Wren although it is in the nature of the beats that it is expanding its range, maybe even our way. This one was on Cape Forchu, found by the redoubtable Ervin and it showed remarkably well at times.

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While Sandra and I were in Halifax for one of the chemo trips, new came to us that Ellis had found three Red-necked Phalaropes along Pond Road, Lower West Pubnico. As a species in Nova Scotia Red-necked Phalaropes are common to abundant in the Bay of Fundy, seasonally, and not at all uncommon offshore elsewhere. Occasionally birds will come to inland pools so, at the insistence of a sick woman, we went for the on the way home. Even noxious chemicals are not going to put the girl off and we had great views. Alix was actually in the water and these most confiding of shorebirds just swam around him. Some people on one of the Facebook groups reckoned he might be stressing them, which sort of told you how much they know about phalaropes. I can understand the sentiment but, phalaropes are almost always confiding in you are patient and not in the least bit stressed, good field craft Alix.

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My last highlight was a common shorebird that barely raises the pulse, in Europe. This one was on the border with New Brunswick at some pools right by the highway. It fed constantly and the light was a challenge but it was nice to add Ruff to my Nova Scotia list, especially after dipping one at the scenic Windsor Sewage Works.

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There were many other highlights of course, there could have been more had some of the rarities behaved better.

And look at what you might have seen!

We all expect to miss birds. If every twitch guaranteed success then there would be no tension and it would be just a matter of making the effort to go rather than going in hope rather than expectation. The year was a bad girl in many respects, teasing with distant birds that I should have gone for while offering snatches of rarities that would not resurface.

Townsend’s Warbler is probably the biggest miss. Were it not for a Sharp-shinned Hawk that may well have eaten it, we might have all seen it that afternoon at Butch Hoggs’ feeders. It was not to be and Ervin is the only one with the prize.

Alix has his dad Arthur well-schooled so, when a late hummingbird appeared in the yard Arthur took the photos and the hummer experts called it a Calliope, stunning. It never came back of course.

When Richard Donaldson was out for his constitutional, he was photographing and briefly snapped what looked like a Grey Catbird. It was only a few days later, when reviewing the photos, that he realised it was no catbird. It turned out to be a Townsend’s Solitaire which was then duly searched for but had gone. On the plus side, the record is documented and added to the archive and it give optimism that another will turn up one day.

A bird identified as a Lapland Longspur was photographed at West Head, Lockeport in the autumn and posted on a blog but a diligent birder (not me!) soon noticed that it was a Smith’s Longspur. It would have been a big bird to see, my only lifer for the year, but it was not to be but it did show that there could be anything out there, especially on the woefully under-watched south shore.

For any birding year to be memorable it needs birds but also birders, and I am very grateful that Nova Scotia has such lovely people birding. I could name you all and tell you how great you are but you, modestly, already know. Our time on this planet is limited and, despite all the non-bird related traumas 2016 delivered, it will go down as a great birding year, big thanks to all who contributed and see you all at the next big one.

And now the stats:

I birded on 359 days in 2016, a personal record for me and it takes my life birding days, that is days when I went out specifically to bird up to 8922.

I saw 281 species, I never left the province, the first time that I have ever just birded a single province or county. My Nova Scotia list climbed to 299. I had no lifers, the last was California Quail in October 2014.

I continued to eBird diligently, submitting 1211 checklists. I also started to add as many of my photos to eBird as I had. I am up to 947 species photograph, I may have a few more tucked away yet.

Our home in Clam Point is very birdy and I submitted 129 checklists just for the yard (within my own definition of the yard!). We had 129 species for the year and the yard list rose to 142 species, many of which have photos and can be seen on this blog under the Clam Point yard tab.

I’ll deal with Cape Sable Island elsewhere, except to say that my CSI list is now 248, I’d hope to get near to 300 inside the next two years.

Finally, for those interested in reading about the activities of Nova Scotia birders, then you might like to browse the following blogs, listed in no order whatsoever.

http://southshorebirder.blogspot.ca/

http://atlanticwoof.com/atlantic-canada-birding/

http://alixdentremont.blogspot.ca/

http://dominiccormier.blogspot.ca/2016/10/a-nova-scotia-big-day-full-tale.html

http://ssmbirding.blogspot.ca/

http://teddeon.com/tern16.html

http://www.capebretonbirds.ca/index.html

Go and see what others have seen and even send in your lists:

http://www.neilyworld.com/neilyworld/listerscorner/listers-corner.htm

Rain Slows Play

New Year is once again upon us and so it was out in the elements after a leisurely breakfast and yard watch to see what was about. The yard kicked off things with a healthy 24 species, no surprises except that Surf Scoter and Common Loon failed to make the list, they will tomorrow I’m sure.

Our merry route took us sploshing around Clam Point before heading to the Hotspots of Daniel’s Head, The Hawk and Johnny’s yard. Our first eBird species add was the expected Snow Goose at Daniel’s Head, luckily it was nice and close so photos were obtained, it is the lower bird.

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The next but one stop was Johnny and Sandra Nickerson’s yard. Sandra, while sitting in the van, got a Brown Creeper (not counted in my total) but that was eclipsed by her Nova Scotia tick Brown Thrasher (eBird, are you sure bird). Unfortunately the Fox Sparrow that had been there earlier decided to be sly, we really needed a lazy dog to draw it out for a quick view (tell me you get this).

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The thrasher is listening for worm movement, American Robins do it to. Worms emit a high frequency whistle which humans can hear. If your hearing is up to it, wait for warmer ground, lie flat on the ground with your head on one side and listen, see whether you can hear the worms.

Our third eBird add was, surprisingly Double-crested Cormorant. I guess our tropical tip of Nova Scotia is hard to work into the filters and, true, we did see a good few more of Great Cormorants.

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West Head Wharf had seven Iceland Gulls, none of which I photographed as there is a gulls post coming and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Then it was on to a new-found spot where a bunch of 25 or so Yellow-rumped Warblers (for about 40 for the day) had an Orange-crowned Warbler secreted within their numbers. As if to balance the Brown Creeper disaster, Sandra didn’t see it due to the rain and the angle of the car and it just would not come out again for a photo.

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So the day is done and American Robin is the most surprising omission. The total of 60 species was not bad at all and a good kick-off for this eagerly awaited year that sees off 2016. For context, my best Quebec January contained 61 species for the entire month, tomorrow we may roam further afield as there is shopping to be done!

Posts pending are: Bloody Thayer’s Gulls, that interesting new taxonomic list and the end of year review which is taking longer than expected.

I still haven’t decided what my birding focus will be in 2017, perhaps I should stick with breathing and take it from there!

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog and have a truly great 2017, happy New Year (cue a small firework that goes pfffpff).

Final Flush

A south-easterly storm is on the way so, never say never, but, I think we are done for 2016. It has been a roller coaster with some odd avian absentees and some unexpected special guests, all of which I’ll discuss in my end of year review. For now we are in the dregs of December 29th with a tricky, wet and windy day in store tomorrow, it doesn’t leave too much wiggle room. There is also the little issue of surviving the 2016 cull, pity such things are random as I can have a list ready in a jiffy containing those who I’d like to see exit through the door of no return in 2017.

Today Ellis d’Entremont took Mike, Ronnie and I to his Cranberry Bog camp, thanks for organising it Ronnie and big thanks to Ellis. It was species light (five) but the star birds, our new national emblem the Gray Jay (spelling as a sop to those who say it can be spelled either way, unlike Whisky Jack) came along and entertained us. I tried hard to get that full-focus flight shot but failed miserably, still the little posers did pause during their winter food gathering routine to allow the odd photo.

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At one point a Northern Flicker came by to see what the fuss was.

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A couple of days ago, incidentally during another storm, Ronnie found the Greater White-fronted Goose in Yarmouth again so we wet-footed it over and eventually, and courtesy of Laurel tracking it down on a ball field, got views. Best of all was Mike MacDonald finally nailing his long-time nemesis. No more skulking back indoors after a twitch because this time, yes he did see it!

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The same sortie got us a winter tick Hermit Thrush on Forchu with a Black-capped Chickadee for company.

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And we saw one of the two male Barrow’s Goldeneyes that are wintering in the harbour.

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Going back further, we did a little ride down to Baccaro and paid our respects to one of the Snowy Owls there. If you go there and see anyone shooting off the rocks below the light, please call the DNR and pass along their plate number. They have no chance of recovering shot birds and are just killing and maiming for fun. I have already flagged that there is an issue with the DNR, more on that when I get a reply.

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On Cape Sable the Snow Goose continues to use the white farm geese and an avian shield. It blends in quite well, and probably doesn’t even get a second look from those who are not in the know.

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Yesterday (Dec 28th) a flock of Bohemian Waxwings dropped into the yard briefly, allowing Mike to add them to his CSI year and life lists. They didn’t stay long but while they were there they were intent of stripping off the last few berries that the American Robins had no-doubt earmarked for later consumption.

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After much hand-wringing I have decided that Daniel’s Head is my local patch. I go there most and, just like my two previous serious local patches, it gets disturbed by people and poorly treated, I must be a glutton for punishment. My recording area also takes in the beach north to Stoney Island Road and cuts off part way to The Hawk. My list for the area is just over 200 species, now that I have formally adopted it I must learn it better and make sure that I see any birds found there that I still ‘need’.

Well that empties my pending picture folder for 2016. My Excel file is ready and waiting for 2017 and Sandra and I will be out making a good go of it January 1st. If I don’t talk to you again before New Year, do enjoy the one day at this time of year that is really worth celebrating and we’ll catch up in the New Year.

 

 

Distant View

Against all common sense, Sandra and I decided to go for the Pink-footed Goose that had been lingering around Cape John, Pictou County. It is a bit of a trip but, as I was on 298 in Nova Scotia and Sandra has now taken an interest in her life list, we can ask for a little latitude. There was also the opportunity to see a bit of Nova Scotia that we’d not visited before, as much of an excuse to travel as you need really.

We thought to try for Sandhill Cranes on the way, just a short diversion from the highway, but the cranes had wandered and so, after a short circuit of possible spots, we headed on. The route got less simple once we were past Truro, back roads, short cuts and drivers who had probably already died at the wheel but for whom cruise control was giving them another unexpected journey. To add to the whole mix first rain, then sleet with ambition to be snow started to fall. Luckily we had winter tyres, unluckily they were still waiting to go on and so rested serenely in our garage.

Cape John swept into view and is quite lovely. It brought to mind Portland Bill but of course you have had to have been there to appreciate the comparison. As we reached the end it was clear that Canada Geese were feeding in the last fallow field, and that seeing them all well would be a problem. The rain/sleet/snow had abated somewhat and we were able to scope from the road, getting good views from the neck up as most birds fed in a dip! There was no sign of the Pink-footed Goose though and, even when the whole flock flushed onto the ocean and we got some sort of unobstructed view, we didn’t see it.

After a couple of hours and with the light pulling on its nightwear, we headed off, intending to call it a dip. After a few kilometres basic logic reasserted itself and so we overnighted in New Glasgow, successfully getting a room away from the road but close enough to the boiler to enjoy its night-long rumble. Un-refreshed we went back to the scene and were delighted to find most of the Canada Geese patiently sitting on the sea and awaiting inspection. A couple of hours later we’d seen every goose on the cape from every angle and still no Pinky, time to go.

We went off and had a look at nearby Brule Point and while there noticed more geese in the area, with some flying over to Cape John. Backtracking, we again found the geese in the long and lumpy field but this time some ‘weather’ was arriving and it had become quite cold. Scanning through the scope I eventually got the pinky with its head up for brief but diagnostic views, it repeated the performance again and that was enough, can we go home now?

At Truro we stopped at the Tidal Bore Lookout and found a Cackling Goose, nice. Then we headed to Shubenacadie for another swing at the cranes. We had gen but they were not where they had previously been, so we did a little tour of the spots I’d seen them in the previous year. We stopped near Carrol’s Corner (ish), they flew over honking, simple. Three cranes would do for Sandra’s NS tick, and our little mini-break for two had added three to her NS life list, we must do this sort of thing more often.

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While away, a text from Mike told us that there was a Common Redpoll on The Hawk, Cape Sable Island. More in hope than expectation we went for a look this morning (11/27) and there, being jostled on the feeder, was the sole Common Redpoll. CSI life tick 246 and year bird 229. I suspect that it will be the last CSI year bird for 2016, I hope I’m wrong but it just feels that way.

I continue to mess with the new camera, some results below…

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This young Bald Eagle flew past in dull light, came up not too bad though.

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Kumlien’s Gull above and Herring Gull below – soon all my posts will be about gulls again, sorry in advance.

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Above – I can’t think what upset the starlings, unless it is that Merlin!

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Above, a flash at a flying American Pipit, not great but doc.shot quality. Below a Horned Lark – both on The Cape.

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Late dowitchers are usually Long-billed, as in this individual that chose Stumpy Cove, CSI as home for a few days. I used the 1.4 extender on these. The lousy flying away shot is deliberate, just to illustrate how photos are useful even if National Geographic are liable to laugh in your face if you send them for publication there.

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Same Orange-crowned Warbler, different light, Port Latour.

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The Cattle Egret has now gone but at least I got a shot of it with the new camera.

Below, not sure what this is. I saw the bird at range, grabbed a shot, then looked and it was gone. Not a washed out jay I can tell you that, otherwise, not sure just put here for your interest.

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Calavera’s Warbler?

Probably not but…

Western and eastern is a misleading term when it comes to many species. Personally I like distinctive names for birds, leaving the scientific name to fill in the other details. In the west our regular Nashville Warbler is slightly different in plumage and habits, it was even called Calavera’s Warbler at one time. The field and specialist guides are rather vague on the specific differences in plumage for ‘western’ Nashville although all agree that it is a regular little tail pumper. Ours doesn’t, so a late season tail-pumping Nashville in Nova Scotia is one to look at twice.

At the end of October 2016 I came across not one but two Nashville Warblers on different parts of Cape Sable Island. The first looked standard and behaved accordingly. The second was a pumper and looked to have more extensive grey on the back and a whiter lower belly, I didn’t get to see the rump. I blogged it at the time but recently read a few things, such as the tail pumping habit of ‘Calaveras” and suspect the bird may have been of, or at least showing the behavioral characteristics of the western form. Ian McLaren in ‘All the birds of Nova Scotia – Status and Critical Identification’ notes four examples of putative western birds here.

Here are two images of the Fish Plant Road, CSI tail-pumper from September 26th 2016. Due to my own stupidity I managed to delete the originals and the doc shots of the other Nashville from the day so all I have is edited versions of the interesting one.

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Below is a map of the respective ranges of eastern and western summer and winter ranges, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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By Cephas – Birds of North America OnlineAmerica-blank-map-01.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12860116

There are some pitfalls in identifying late Nashville Warblers, here is a link to an interesting warbler by Blake Maybank.

http://maybank.tripod.com/images/warbler.htm

Below a few shots of an eastern Nashville from September 6th 2016 near Halifax.

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And another eastern Nashville from Cape Sable Island, September 30th 2016.

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A shot of a bright autumn QC bird from September 9th 2007

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A shot of a known western, taken in Arizona on September 9th 2011. Interesting that the eye-arcs on this bird are broken.

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Lastly an August 26th 2006 Nashville in QC, well sort of, it does look a bit odd, sorry it is not quite up to the regular standard..

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