Strictly for the Birds

The Victoria Standard - - Environment - BETHSHEILA KENT

As many of you are aware, Satur­day, May 14 was the an­nual North Amer­i­can Mi­gra­tion Count which en­cour­ages bird­ers from across the con­ti­nent to get out and count birds, all on the same day. New this year was the ad­di­tion of a Big Bird Day ini­ti­ated by the folks at E-bird and which will, hope­fully, add sig­nif­i­cant data. As usual, I un­der­took an enor­mous route that took me from the mouth of Mid­dle River all the way to River Ben­nett. I would have con­tin­ued north to Wreck Cove but the weather did not co­op­er­ate and the heavy rains cur­tailed my count at about 1:15 on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Re­gard­less of the in­clement weather I had a pretty good day with a to­tal of 46 species noted and a fairly re­spectable 534 in­di­vid­u­als counted which in­cludes birds com­ing to the feed­ers at home. My re­sults fol­low.

As al­ways, I started at the bridge over Mid­dle River, at Wag­mat­cook. From there I made many stops, walk­ing some stretches of the qui­eter roads in south Vic­to­ria County and cov­er­ing as much ter­ri­tory as weather and light con­di­tions al­lowed. This year’s stops in­cluded two lo­ca­tions on Nyanza Bay, the Bad­deck River, the pond below the Bell Mu­seum and the sec­ond pond on the Bay Road as well as the end of Bad­deck Bay just be­fore the turn into Beinn Breagh. From there I re­traced my steps and re­turned to the Old Mar­ga­ree Road where I con­tin­ued around the loop through Big Bad­deck and Bad­deck Forks, walk­ing var­i­ous stretches of road and stop­ping at sig­nif­i­cant spots. Once I re­turned to the high­way I con­tin­ued on to Big Harbour where I walked lengthy stretches of road and checked out fa­mil­iar sites. I then drove straight to English­town and Black Head, again walk­ing short stretches, crossed the chan­nel on the ferry and drove along the rock bar to Jer­sey Cove and River Ben­nett af­ter check­ing out all the shal­lows and ex­posed rock bars. By the time I got to River Ben­nett walk­ing was no longer an al­ter­na­tive as the rain had be­gun in earnest so, rather than con­tinue north, I took the Cabot Trail around the St. Ann’s Loop, stop­ping at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and lis­ten­ing and watch­ing from the car. Af­ter a short visit to the Gaelic Col­lege grounds I re­turned home to watch the ac­tiv­ity in the yard and at the feed­ers. I called it a day at about 5:00 p.m.

And these are the bird species I saw, listed in the tax­o­nomic or­der favoured by the Nova Sco­tia Bird So­ci­ety and its NAMC co­or­di­na­tor: Canada goose, Amer­i­can black duck, mal­lard, ring-necked duck, com­mon mer­ganser and red-breasted mer­ganser. I was not sur­prised by the high count of com­mon mer­gansers on the shal­lows at Nyanza Bay as this has tra­di­tion­ally been a place where this species con­gre­gates. I also saw Ruffed grouse, dou­ble-crested cor­morant, bald ea­gle, greater yel­lowlegs, ring­billed, her­ring and great black­backed gull, Caspian tern (!), com­mon tern, rock dove (more com­monly called pi­geon), belted king­fisher, downy and hairy wood­pecker, north­ern flicker, mer­lin, blue jay, Amer­i­can crow, com­mon raven, tree and cliff swal­low, black­capped and bo­real chick­adee, ruby-crowned kinglet, her­mit thrush, Amer­i­can robin, Euro­pean star­ling, black and white war­bler, yel­low-rumped war­bler, song and white-throated spar­row, dark-eyed junco, red­winged black­bird, com­mon grackle, pur­ple finch, Amer­i­can goldfinch and evening gros­beak. Among the many male red-wing black­birds, all dis­play­ing and call­ing on ter­ri­tory, was a sin­gle fe­male, heav­ily streaked and a stand­out among the glossy black males with their star­tling epaulettes. These species were all noted in the field and, given the amount of ground I cov­ered, both the species noted and the in­di­vid­u­als counted were, in con­trast with past years, some­what low in num­ber.

At home and at the feed­ers it was a very dif­fer­ent sce­nario. As the weather con­tin­ues to re­main cool, and some­times down­right cold, with sig­nif­i­cant amounts of rain of­ten cou­pled with high winds, many mi­grant bird species have not yet shown up. Ruby-throated hum­ming­birds are just com­ing onto Cape Bre­ton Is­land as any­one who lis­tens to CBC knows. My first re­port came Fri­day, May 13, from English­town and was re­ported by Char­lene Vick­ers. Since that time many re­ports have been noted on the ra­dio and, lo­cally, Jen­nifer Lind­gren, Big Bad­deck, re­ported her first hum­mers of the sea­son Sun­day, May 15, the day fol­low­ing the count. How­ever, I di­gress...

On Count Day my feed­ers were ver­ti­cal hubs of ac­tiv­ity! Bright spots of colour dashed out of trees and shrubs barely bud­ded to take ad­van­tage of the seed I con­tinue to pro­vide. The ab­sence of in­sects has prompted me to con­tinue to feed the birds as I am con­cerned there is not yet enough wild food to sus­tain them, let alone al­low them to nest, breed and rear young. My dili­gence paid off in spades as I hap­pily watched mourn­ing dove, black-capped chick­adee, red-breasted nuthatch, a sin­gle yel­low-rumped war­bler (for­ag­ing in one of the birch), fox, song and white-throated spar­row, dark-eyed junco, a sin­gle, male red-winged black­bird, com­mon grackle, pur­ple finch, pine siskin, Amer­i­can goldfinch and evening gros­beak gob­ble up seed. At one point I counted 19 pine siskin on feed­ers and on the ground be­neath them but found it dif­fi­cult to count pur­ple finch, the num­ber vary­ing from 14 to as high as 21 birds. Be­cause they were all feed­ing to­gether and fe­male pur­ple finch are heav­ily streaked as are pine siskin, I de­cided to keep my re­ported num­ber of pur­ple finch to a con­ser­va­tive 14, a num­ber in which I was con­fi­dent.

Richard Mccurdy, Swamp Road, also par­tic­i­pated in the Count and pro­vided me with his re­sults. I share them with you in no par­tic­u­lar or­der: Amer­i­can robin, blue jay, yel­low-rumped war­bler, palm war­bler, ruby-crowned kinglet, downy wood­pecker, dark­eyed junco, white-throated and song spar­row, com­mon snipe, Canada goose, belted king­fisher, hooded mer­ganser, red-breasted nuthatch and black-capped chick­adee. And, in other lo­cal bird­ing news, Alice Maclel­lan re­ports the re­turn of her tree swal­lows on May 6, her north­ern flicker on May 7, and a mys­tery bird we are still try­ing to i.d. on May 15. Jim and Sharon Morrow, West­side Mid­dle River, re­ported the re­turn of their north­ern flicker May 8. Anna and Hugh Mc­crory, Meadow Road, had a visit from an Amer­i­can bit­tern, an un­com­mon wet­land species.

A most in­ter­est­ing two weeks of bird­ing in­deed! Thanks to all who con­trib­uted their sight­ings re­ports. I can be reached at 902-295-1749 with your bird­ing news.

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