Strictly for the Birds
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.