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CANADA -- NOVA SCOTIA

31 March - 15 April 2001

by Brad Robson and Anja Rösler



Daily Weather Conditions, Itineraries, & Comments

Sat. 31st March

Itinerary --  09.00hrs Belfast to London Heathrow, delayed 12.30hrs Heathrow to Halifax departed c14.40hrs.  Landed briefly in bright sunshine at St.John’s, Newfoundland, there was quite a lot of sea ice offshore and a raven was seen near the runway as well as distant great black backs and American herring gulls.  c1.5hr flight to Halifax where weather was very poor. 

Comments -- A thick grey blanket of cloud covered NS and nothing could be seen as we landed.  There was a covering of snow that had fallen this morning; most water bodies were frozen.  Highlight of the drive to Middle Sackville was an otter seen from the car swimming in a partly frozen lake near the main road.  American crows were everywhere.  Spent the night with friend’s family in Middle Sackville.

Sun.1st April 

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 8/8, temperature 0 to –2̊C though feeling considerably colder in the wind NE3 going SE3. Dry until 16.00hrs then wet snow until dark. 

Itinerary -- Middle Sackville gardens 07.30 – 08.30hrs; Halifax waterfront 09.30 – 14.30hrs; Eastern Passage/Fisherman’s Cove 15.30 – 19.00hrs.

Comments --  Singing black-capped chickadees remained unseen around the garden before we headed off to Halifax waterfront.  Large numbers of very approachable black ducks frequented the boardwalk but more interesting were the Iceland gulls that remained tantalisingly too distant to racially identify except for the occasional close kumlieni.  Fisherman’s Cove was more productive with several white-winged scoter and dresseri eider in the deteriorating weather.  Most disappointingly, there were no murres to be seen.  Several white-tailed deer and a common seal were the only mammals noted.

Mon.2nd

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 8/8, winds NE 3 – 4, Temperature 1 to –2̊C with severe wind-chill.  Light snow pm becoming heavier, c2ft lying in Springhill drifting up to 12ft.

Itinerary -- Left Middle Sackville c09.00hrs drove up to Maitland on Cobequid Bay via the Schubenacadie River.  Drove out on dirt tracks from Noel Shore and to Burntcoat.  Headed on via Truro pm following the old Route 4 via Wentworth in drifting snow before rejoining the Trans Canadian Highway to Springhill.  Short walk around the gardens of Springhill at dusk. 

Highlights -- Dark eyed junco and b.c.chickadee were in the garden in Middle Sackville before we set off.  The first bald eagles of the trip were seen en route and as we arrived in Maitland the first flocks of American robins, grackles and other common birds.  Highlight was a very confiding Ipswich sparrow along a dirt road near Densmore Mills and close views of Todd’s Canada geese feeding in a roadside field.

Tues.3rd 

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 8/8, 2+ inches of overnight snow continued to fall throughout the day and drifted due to winds NE4-5, -4̊C with a wind-chill to –11̊C.  Initially conditions were very difficult until we managed to get into some shelter along a woodland road.  All roads snowbound. 

Itinerary -- Walked from Springhill to Salt Springs and back 09.00 – 14.00hrs then drove to Parrsboro along route 2 and out to shoreline campsite before driving back to Springhill in hazardous conditions after dark.

Comments -- Despite the conditions, the birding was excellent.  A flock of bohemian waxwings were feeding on berries nr. Springhill cemetery followed by three more flocks before the junction to Salt Springs totalled 250+ birds, 12 cedar waxwings flew by over one of the b.waxwing flocks.  Several feeders were packed with birds mostly juncos, pine siskins, purple finches and a few mourning doves.  The highlight came as we approached Salt Springs as snow began to fall again; I could hear a ringing call from behind a small house and as I looked around the back there was a flock of c40 evening grosbeaks they were fantastic!  On the way back a northern shrike was chasing birds around one of the feeders we’d passed earlier.  The river at Parrsboro was ice-free in the lowest reaches and several bufflehead, r.b.mergansers, common mergansers and two male ring-necked ducks could be seen from the bridge.  The sea of the Bay of Fundy was a deep red from the very heavy sediment load and as a result was almost devoid of birds. However, as we walked back through a campsite along the shore an American woodcock flew out of a ditch and landed close by giving good views despite the failing light.

Wed.4th

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 4/8, dry all day, -6 to 4̊C pm, winds SW3.  Some of the snow beginning to melt on the roads. 

Itinerary -- Left Springhill at 07.30hrs drove to Parrsboro where we took time out to visit the geological museum.  Spent c3hrs on the beach near Partridge Island birding and fossil hunting then drove to East Advocate where the un-cleared road prevented us from getting out to Cape D’Or or Cape Chignecto.  Drove via Joggins back to Springhill c21.30hrs following a magnificent sunset over the Bay of Fundy.

Comments -- Just before we set off c30 evening grosbeaks arrived at the feeder I’d put out in Lorne Drive, quite probably the same flock we’d seen yesterday.  The first addition to the trip list of the day was a pair of hooded mergansers seen from inside the geological museum on the river at Parrsboro.  A small area of roadside scrub as we walked down to Partridge Island had a ruffed grouse, three Am.woodcock and two fox sparrows that were all showing superbly.  A n.shrike was in driftwood on the beach and a bald eagle flew overhead, again the red sea was just about birdless.  On the road to Advocate an Am.woodcock flew across the van and landed in the snow next to us allowing an unexpected photo opportunity.  The wintering hawk owl seemed to have left East Advocate, there were three displaying killdeer on the muddy shore.

Thurs.5th

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 0/8, dry again 0/8 – 3/8, –6 to 4̊C but SW 5 – 6 so severe wind chill. 

Itinerary -- 09.15hrs set off to Amherst Point and Chignecto NWA then on to Amherst Marsh and the New Brunswick boarder at Fort Beauséjour off the Trans Canadian Highway.  Tantramar Marshes NB 16.00 – 17.00hrs then on to Joggins fossil hunting until dark.

Comments -- The severe weather meant that the marshes were mostly frozen solid and not only quiet for birds but also the deep snow meant it was almost impossible to find a route to walk out onto the dykes.  Eventually found an access point just over the NB border allowing a c1hr walk. The view from Fort Beauséjour was very good and a pool below held several ducks and gulls but again the deep snow meant it was not possible to approach more closely.  Several species of duck were added to the list and proved to be the only site on our trip including gadwall, shoveler, g.w.teal and pintail.  Three dark phase rough-legged hawks were seen from Amherst Point and another at Tantramar.  The dyke walk produced a flock of snow buntings and horned larks; several bald eagles frequented the marsh as well as 3 male northern harriers.  The hours of scanning for snowy owl proved fruitless as I later learned the three wintering birds had already left.  Several Iceland gulls and a glaucous gull on the pool at Fort Beauséjour were frustratingly distant.  A red fox out on Amherst Marsh was an addition to the mammal list.

Fri.6th

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 1/8, dry sunny and cold –4 to 4̊C a beautiful day. 

Itinerary -- Morning walk east of Springhill into spruce woods following snow mobile tracks then pm back at Joggins fossil hunting. 

Comments -- A quiet day for birding with the only highlight being a flushed black-looking grouse in the spruce wood seen very briefly by Anja suspected of being a spruce grouse.  Several white-tailed deer close enough to photograph.

Sat.7th

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 8/8, weather deteriorating, temperature –6 to 1̊C, much colder in winds NW3, though dry. 

Itinerary -- Following the arrival of non-birding friends form Boston and a late night in the pub took a drive up to the Northumberland Strait pm. 

Comments -- Most rivers frozen though Philip River open in places and holding a flock of greater scaup, common goldeneye and mergansers.  The unexpected highlight was a flock of 6 American tree sparrows in some roadside bushes near Stonehouse where we were turning the car. The Northumberland Strait was frozen as far as the eye could see.  Another red fox seen from the car.

Sun.8th

Conditions -- Cloud Cover 3/8, dry and cold  –1 to 5̊C E2. Said goodbye to Springhill and followed back on the route we did yesterday via Port Philip, Pugwash, Wallace Bay, and on to spend the evening in a guest house in Pictou.

Grilling Goldeneye at several sites failed to find any Barrow’s nor other desirables such as scoter or harlequins.  A walk along a dirt road near Wallace Bay added brown creeper, r.b.nuthatch, another Ipswich sparrow and we saw displaying bald eagles and sap collecting for maple syrup.  Another ruffed grouse and this time I saw a black grouse flush out from near me that I suspected of being a spruce grouse though the books say how confiding this species is?  A further highlight was a flock of 7 male and 6 female hooded mergansers on a river along Route 6 near R.John.

Mon.9th

Conditions -- Cloud cover 8/8, light rain and snow am, becoming drier, temperature –1 to –3̊C.

Itinerary -- Almost all of N.Strait frozen so little chance of sea duck.  Pictou harbour 09.00hrs – 10.15, Pictou causeway 10.30 – 10.55hrs, Arisaig harbour c12.30 – 14.00hrs then on to Cape Breton.  Drove via Dundee to St.Peter’s where we walked through some spruce woods off a nearby dirt road until dusk and then failing to find accommodation had to drive to Sydney Forks and stayed in a motel.

Comments -- Pictou harbour was great with d.c.cormorant (causeway pilings and in harbour) and lots of greater scaup and Iceland gulls finally close enough to study.  A male and female lesser scaup were with a flock of greaters off one of the pier ends showing smaller size, head shape features and a wing-flap of the female revealed the white secondary bar contrasting with the grey primaries.  The causeway at Pictou where the water flows through was amazing, I’ve never seen so many r.b.and common mergansers anywhere!  Also large flocks of greater scaup, a male white-winged scoter, glaucous gull and several bald eagles.  Arisaig was another fossil stop but the cliffs were snowbound though we did see a flock of horned larks on the beach.  Arriving on C.Breton we headed off on a road near Big Bras D’Or Lake and finally took a walk along a dirt track out of St.Peter’s that was painfully quiet, we saw only b.c.chickadees and finally gave up as the light faded.  On the way back along the track Anja noticed two plump birds feeding innocuously in a larch overhanging the track –  male and female pine grosbeak!  They were fantastic and undoubtedly bird of the trip, the crimson of the male on soft, almost fluffy plumage and their large size and silent gorging gave them a wonderful quality and saved a desperate two-hour birdless walk.

Tues.10th

Conditions -- Cloud cover 8/8, occasional persistent snow flurries, temperature –3 to –1̊C, relatively calm.  Sea almost completely frozen from Mira Beach to Ingonish except for few relatively small breaks. 

Itinerary -- Sydney Forks around motel 08.00 – 09.00; Sydney Forks via Marion Bridge to Mira Beach c09.45 – 10.30rs; Mira Beach via Port Morien sandbar to Schooner Pond  and Cape Pierce 12.00 – 14.10hrs; brief stop in Glace Bay then drove to Cabot Trail where walked up the Oregon Road to the North Falls Provincial Park entrance which was closed and blocked with 4ft+ of snow c16.30 – 18.50hrs.  Stayed at Knotty Pine Cottages at Ingonish Ferry.

Comments -- Early morning stroll at Sydney Forks added g.c.kinglet, another fox sparrow and a very confiding snowshoe hare.  Took the back road out of Sydney Forks and saw two grey jays fly across the track and land in the top of a spruce; we saw them all too briefly before they flew on.  I was very surprised that these were the only ones we were to see despite extensive periods spent in suitable habitat.  At Mira beach a large flock of w.w.scoter and a few surfs were in the only open water.  There was a large flock of Todd’s Canada geese at Port Morien sandbar as well as a flock of 13 b.h.gulls and several bald eagles.  Glace Bay centre offered a great opportunity to study Kumlien’s and Iceland gulls close up.  However, I was harassed by a drunk and had to make a swift getaway to hang onto my bins and scope!  There was a beaver lodge in a lake near the Canso crossing.  The Oregon Road was excellent with n.shrike, 6 pine grosbeaks and at long last several boreal chickadees.

Wed.11th

Conditions -- Cloud cover 2–7/8, occ. light snow flurries, winds W1 – 2, temperature 1 to 3̊C.  Forests still waist deep in snow so access very difficult. 

Itinerary -- 07.15 – 08.00hrs Ingonish Ferry/IngonishRiver, 11.20 – 12.20hrs Keltic Lodge area,  2.30 – 16.45hrs Clyburn Brook following cross-country ski-route, c17.20 – 17.35hrs Ingonish harbour,
17.40 – 19.30hrs Warren Lake, following snow mobile routes Cape Breton Highlands National Park. 

Comments -- The only additions to the list were a belted kingfisher along Clyburn Brook and several gannets offshore.  Most anticipation was in the search for moose.  There were tracks literally everywhere as well as hairs and droppings but we were unsuccessful; a tree felled by a beaver was seen along the Clyburn.  Several red squirrels and two chipmunks were also along the Clyburn.  Three boreal chickadees were near Keltic Lodge.  We had thought there was a good chance of seeing moose at dusk at the frozen Warren Lake but despite the evidence that they were everywhere we saw nothing.

Thurs.12th

Conditions -- Cloud cover 1/8, variable light winds, dry, temperature –2 to 2̊C, a stunning day of blue sky and bright sunshine. 

Itinerary -- Drove from Ingonish Ferry to White Point on the scenic loop 10.15 – 11.15hrs.  White Point to Bay St.Lawrence 11.15 – 12.15hrs; Bay St.Lawrence to Meat Cove including 4hr walk into Meat Cove 12.15 – 16.45hrs; Meat Cove to Pleasant Bay 16.45 – 18.20hrs; walk in woods at Pleasant Bay 18.20 – 19.20hrs then drove on to Cheticamp where we stayed in “Dejeuner du Soleil” B+B. 

Comments -- Again the deep snow prevented any off track walking; as we drove along the northernmost section of the Cabot Trail the snow was over 12ft deep on either side of the road so it was like driving down a bobsleigh run and the viewpoints were inaccessible.  Despite this the scenery was magnificent and the drive to Cheticamp spectacular.  Additions to the bird list were now few and far between, three r.t.hawks were along the coast, a bald eagle flew out to sea and disappeared, a pileated woodpecker was heard near Big Interval Cape North as was a probable small owl species though neither were seen.  There were 27 Kumlien’s gulls standing on the ice at Bay St.Lawrence.  A walk at Pleasant Bay was again mooseless despite abundant signs and we were later told that this was where all the moose were because of the deep snow in the forests.

Fri.13th 

Conditions -- The weather was to now turn against us.  It began calm enough but by midday it was 8/8 (cloud cover), winds E3 increasig to 9 , temperature -1to 2̊C but –11̊C in the wind. 

Itinerary -- We were told in the B+B of two moose and a great horned owl at Le Buttereau north of Cheticamp the previous afternoon so that’s where we went 09.20 – 14.30hrs then drove down the coast to Mabou and stayed in River Mabou Hostel. 

Comments -- After five hours of walking in knee-deep snow at Le Buttereau, increasing wind, moose hoof prints and droppings everywhere though no sightings of anything we gave up and headed south as it began to rain.  Birding highlights were pair of snow bunting along a dirt road near Broad Cove Marsh but the weather was even making driving difficult.  As we drove into Mabou we passed a flock of icterids so I stopped the car.  They were mostly grackles but also 5 r.w.blackbirds and after five trips to N.America I finally saw brown-headed cowbird! and quickly moved on!

Sat.14th

Conditions -- Light rain, sleet and snow all day, winds NE2 – 3, temperature -4 to 2̊C, quite miserable. 

Itinerary -- Walked at Glenora Falls road 09.30 – 11.00hrs then headed south and left Cape Breton.  Continued through Gysborough and along the beautiful Marine Drive to Sheet Harbour where we stayed in a B+B.

Comments -- The rain made birding unpleasant in the promising-looking Glenora Falls where we heard and saw evidence of pileated woodpecker and saw our last boreal chickadees.  The drive south past numerous water bodies and the Marine Drive in particular was peppered with numerous summer plumaged great northern divers (common loons).  The best birding spot was the ferry crossing along the road from Isaacs Harbour North to Port Bickerton where there were lots of long-tailed ducks, a surf scoter, r.n.grebe and more divers.

Sun.15th

Conditions -- Cloud cover 8/8, light drizzle, winds W5 – 6, temperature 0 to 1̊C. 

Itinerary -- The miserable weather continued on our last day effectively wiping out our birding opportunities for the last three days.  Drove from Sheet Harbour to Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage where we’d started our trip two weeks ago 09.00 – 12.00hrs and visited Hartlen’s Point but there were no new species to add and again no murres. 

Comments -- We gave up in favour of something to eat, souvenir shopping in Halifax waterfront and set off for the evening flight home.

SYSTEMATIC LIST

Numbers in brackets represent: (total number of individuals seen on trip, number of days seen and maximum number of individuals on any one day). 

* - new species for BJR


1.  Great northern diver/Common loon Gavia immer (68, c50, 5) c5, including breeding plumage birds, were at Fishermen’s Cove/Eastern Passage 1st; a single was offshore near Parrsboro, Cumberland County 3rd; 3 were in small, ice-free, pools off Mira beach, Cape Breton 10th; a minimum of 50, mostly breeding plumage birds, were seen whilst following Marine Drive from Guysborough to Sheet Harbour 14th with a further 10 between Sheet Harbour and Eastern Passage 15th.

2.  Red-necked grebe Podiceps grisegena (4, 3, 2) Three were at Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 1st and a single from the car ferry between Isaacs Harbour North and Port Bickerton, Guysborough County, 14th.

3.  Gannet Sula bassanus (100+, 100+, 2) Four flew north past Ingonish Island 11th followed by large numbers moving in both directions off the north coast of Cape Breton 12th, we counted a minimum of 100 but a longer watch would have recorded many more.

4.  Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (39, 23, 4) Four were off Halifax boardwalk 1st, 23 on ice off Mira beach, Cape Breton, 10th; 7 off Ingonish Harbour 11th, and 5 Halifax boardwalk 15th.

5.  Double-crested cormorant P.auritus (78, 70, 2) c70 were in Pictou harbour, mainly on pilings near the causeway 9th and 8 near Hartlen’s Point 15th.

6.  Great blue heron Ardea herodias (6, 2, 5) A single flew over the Trans Canadian Highway at the NS/New Brunswick border 5th; 2 near Pugwash, Cumberland County, 8th; 1 near Bras d`Or 9th, 1 Marine Drive 14th and 1 Sheet Harbour - Musquodoboit 15th.

7.  Todd’s Canada goose Branta canadensis interior (1,300+, 500+, 6) All of the Canada geese seen well appeared to belong to this form; two were at Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 1st; 300+ in fields near Noel’s Shore, Hants, 2nd; 500+ feeding in fields at both Chignecto NWA and Amherst Marshes 5th; 15 came in to roost at Pictou harbour at dusk 8th; 500+ Morien sandbar, Cape Breton, 10th and 2  Margaree River, Cape Breton 13th.

8.  Green-winged teal Anas carolinensis (15, 15, 1) c15 were near an unfrozen pool below Fort Beauséjour, New Brunswick, 5th.

9.  American Black duck A.rubripes (1000+, 300+, 13) By far the commonest duck of the trip.  Seen almost daily on any available water from Halifax Harbour and sheltered shores to damp patches in fields, rarely counted.

10.  Mallard A.platyrhynchos (c40, 10, 10) Seen regularly in small numbers often in the company of A.rubripes.

11.  Northern Pintail A.acuta (40+, 40+, 1) 27 Chignecto NWA and c15 below Fort Beauséjour, Amherst Marsh 5th.

12.  Northern Shoveler A.clypeata (6, 6, 1) 6 below Fort Beauséjour, Amherst Marsh 5th.

13.  Gadwall A.strepera (8, 6, 2) 6 below Fort Beauséjour, Amherst Marsh 5th and 2 Pictou causeway 9th.

14.  American wigeon A.americana (24, c20, 2) c20 below Fort Beauséjour, Amherst Marsh, 5th and 4 Northumberland Strait nr. Fox Bay 7th.

15.  Ring-necked duck Aythya collaris (2, 2, 1) Two males were on the river at Parrsboro, Cumberland County 3rd.

16.  Greater scaup A.marila (c2200, c2000, 5) c50 were on the River Philip 7th, 100+Port Philip/Wallace Bay 8th, c2000 mainly where the water runs through the causeway at Pictou but also at Pictou Harbour nr. the piers 9th, c30 Glace Bay  and c20Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 15th.

17.  Lesser scaup A.affinis (2, 2, 1) A male and female were with c50 greater scaup at the end of one of the piers in Pictou Harbour 9th.  Both were seen very well including the wing pattern on the female.

18.  Common Eider Somateria mollissima dresseri (285+, 100+, 5) All birds seen well appeared to be of this distinctive race with the frontal processes of the bill broad, rounded and greenish in colour giving the head a more convex profile than on eastern Atlantic birds.  100+ were off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 1st ; c20 on the sea at Parrsboro 4th; 15 Meat Cove, Cape Breton, 12th; 50+ along the coast of Marine Drive 14th  and 100+ off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 15th.

19.  Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemlis (c130, 70+, 6) c20 off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 1st; c6  Mira Beach and c10 off Cape Pierce nr. Port Morien 10th; 7 Ingonish 11th; 4 White Point, Cape Breton, 12th; 70+ from the car ferry between Isaacs Harbour North and Port Bickerton, Guysborough County, 14th and c10 off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 15th.

20.  Surf scoter Melanitta perspicillata (c26, c25, 2) c20 were with a large flock of M.fusca off Mira Beach and 4 (possibly many more in distant flocks of scoter) off Cape Pierce nr. Port Morien 10th and 1 1st w male from the car ferry between Isaacs Harbour North and Port Bickerton, Guysborough County, 14th .

21.  White-winged scoter M. fusca deglandi (515+, 500+, 3) 10+ were off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 1st; a single male was with greater scaup off Pictou causeway 9th; c300 in the little available ice-free water off Mira Beach and c200 off Cape Pierce nr. Port Morien 10th and 3 off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 15th.

22.  Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula (c415, 300+, 10) Two females were on the river at Parrsboro 4th; c10 on the Philip River 7th; 300+Pugwash/Port Philip/Wallace Bay 8th; c50 Pictou Harbour 9th; c10 Mira Beach/Cape Pierce 10th; 5 on sea off Ingonish 11th; 4 Meat Cove, Cape Breton, 12th; c30 Margaree River 13th; 1 Mabou 14th and 3 off Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage 15th.

23.  Bufflehead B.albeola (c38, c20, 6) 13 were on the river at Parrsboro 3rd and c20 in the same area 4th; a pair were at Wallace Bay 8th; a male on the river at Glace Bay 10th; a male Margaree River 13th and 1 Mabou 14th.

*24.  Hooded merganser Lophodytes cucullatus (15, 13, 2) A pair was on the river at Parrsboro 4th; 7 males and 6 females were on a river along Route 6, possibly River John, 8th.

25.  Goosander/Common merganser Mergus merganser (c170, 100+, 7) Two males were on the river at Parrsboro 3rd with 7 there 4th; c10 Port Philip 8th; 100+ Pictou harbour near the causeway 9th; c20 near Bras d’Or, Cape Breton, 10th; 3 Margaree River 13th and 20+ Mabou 14th.

26.  Red-breasted merganser M.serrator (c1100, c1000, 10) 6 were at Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 1st; 3 Parrsboro 3rd and 2 there 4th; 2 off Joggins 6th; 4 Port Philip 7th; 50+ along the coast between Port Philip and Wallace Bay 8th; c1,000 Pictou causeway to New Glasgow and 3 Arisaig 9th; c10 Cape Breton 10th; c20 along Marine Drive 14th and 10+ Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 15th.

27.  Bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus (35, 9, 11) Single adults were seen over Route 25 near Urbania, Hants, and route 104 nr. Masstown, Colchester County 2nd; 1 ad. nr. Salt Springs, Cumberland County 3rd; 1 ad. over  nr. Parrsboro 4th; 2 ads. and 2 1st w. Amherst Marsh 5th; 1 2nd yr. Pugwash and 2 ads. displaying nr. Wallace Bay 8th; 3 Pictou, 1 Canso Causeway, 2 Bras d’Or Lake and 2 St.Peter’s 9th; 5 Morien sandbar, 1 Bras d’Or, 1 Oregon Rd. and 1 along the road to Ingonish all Cape Breton 10th;  1 Ingonish and 1 Warren Lake 11th; 1 north coast of Cape Breton, an adult which flew off out to sea 12th; 2 rd. to Mabou 13th and 2 Marine Drive 14th.

28.  Northern harrier Circus (cyaneus) hudsonius (4, 4, 1) Three males were over Amherst Marsh and another male at Joggins 5th.

29.  Red-tailed hawk Buteo lineatus (6, 3, 4) A single was over route 2 nr. Parrsboro 3rd; 1 on a pole along Route 104 nr. Antigonish 9th; an adult at White Point, 1 1st w. Meat Cove and 1 1st w. Pleasant bay, Cape Breton, 12th and 1 ad. along Glenora Falls road, Inverness County, 14th.

30.  Rough–legged buzzard/hawk B.lagopus (4, 4, 1) Three dark phase birds were over Amherst Marsh and a single, also dark phase, at Tantramar Marsh 5th.

31.  Pheasant Phasianus colchicus (5, 1, 5) Singles were along Route 215 2nd; Route 2 to Parrsboro 3rd; Amherst Marsh 5th; Marine Drive 14th and 15th.

[Spruce grouse Falcipennis canadensis (2, 1, 2) Single apparently black grouse flushed from near footpaths as we walked by in a spruce wood east of Springhill 6th and at Wallace Bay 8th.  Both were seen extremely briefly but appeared to be too dark to be Ruffed grouse although the behaviour of flying off from a path as people walk past does not fit with spruce grouse behaviour stated in the books.]

*32.  Ruffed grouse Bonsana umbellus (5, 3, 3) A single grey adult was seen well in roadside scrub at Partridge Island nr. Parrsboro 4th; 3 were seen separately along a woodland edge at Wallace Bay 8th and 1 was at Le Buttereau nr. Cheticamp, Cape Breton, 13th.

33.  Killdeer Charadrius vociferus (9, 6, 2) Three were calling and displaying to each other on mud flats at Advocate Harbour 4th and 3 were at Chignecto NWA, 1 over the Trans Canadian Highway on the NS/NB boarder and 2 Tantramar Marshes 5th.
*34.  American woodcock Scolopax minor (6, 4, 3) A single flew a short distance out of a ditch and was watched closely in fading light at a campsite nr. Parrsboro 3rd; 3 were in roadside scrub at Partridge Island nr. Parrsboro  and a single flew across the road and landed next to the car along Route 209 (photographed) 4th and one was watched “bobbing along” in the snow at Wallace Bay 8th.

35.  Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus (14, 13, 2) A single 1st w. was at Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 1st and 13 were on ice at Morien sandbar 10th.

36.  Ring-billed gull L.delawarensis (300+, c100, 11) Seen almost daily whilst at the coast except for the north end of Cape Breton.  Most were in the Wallace Bay/Pictou areas on 8th and 9th with c100 on each day.

37.  American herring gull L.argentatus smithsonianus Seen daily often in very large numbers whilst at the coast and generally small numbers flying overhead inland.  These north-eastern birds are typically rather large and heavy billed though some features such as greater covert bar colouration of 1st – 2nd w birds was rather variable with several having chequered outer greater coverts as in L.a.argenteus.

38.  Iceland/Kumlien’s gull L.glaucoides kumlieni/glaucoides (c200, c50, 8) Unlike the other gull species seen on the trip, these were rather more difficult to get good views of.  On 1st c50 were off Halifax boardwalk though generally they stayed well out in the middle of the channel or were flying high overhead (Fisherman’s Cove) so that racial identity could not be determined.  A single adult and 3rd yr., which did come close, were kumlieni.  On 5th c30 were around a pool below Fort Beauséjour NB but deep snow prevented me from getting close enough to them.  Of eight birds at the end of a pier in Pictou Harbour 9th, a single 3rd yr. appeared to be a completely white winged glaucoides, there were 2 ad. kumlieni and five 1st yrs. which had rather pale primaries similar to glaucoides.  At Glace Bay 10th, there were 5 adult kumlieni with very variable amounts of pigmentation in the primaries, 1 ad. possible glaucoides and 9 1st – 2nd yrs, which again had very pale primaries similar to glaucoides; unfortunately the study was cut short as a local drunk harassed me!  At Ingonish Harbour 11th, three adults and 1 3rd yr. were all kumlieni.  At Bay St.Lawrence, Cape Breton, 12th 27 kumlieni were standing on the ice in the bay and of 15+ seen flying along the coast all that came close enough to be seen well were also this race including a fine 3rd yr. showing a grey tail band. On 13th 2 adult kumlieni flew along the shore at Le Buttereau, nr. Cheticamp and on 15th back at Halifax boardwalk/Fisherman’s Cove c30 were too distant to identify fully and an adult kumlieni came close by the boardwalk.  Additionally there was a very large flock of gulls at Dartmouth near the ferry terminal on both 1st and 15th but I didn’t get the chance to look at them closely.

39.  Glaucous gull L.hyperboreus (3-4, 1-2, 3) 1 – 2 adults were below Fort Beauséjour, NB 5th; one 1st – 2nd w. was at Pictou causeway 9th and a 2nd w. was on the beach at Fisherman’s Cove/Eastern Passage 15th.

40.  Great black backed gull L.marinus Seen commonly throughout NS.

41.  Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla (50, 50, 1) c50 were calling and circling the breeding cliffs at Cape Pierce nr. Morien Bay10th.

[Brunnich’s guillemot/thick-billed murre Uria lomvia Headless corpses thought to be of this species were found on the tide line at Partridge Island nr. Parrsboro 4th and on Amherst Marsh 5th.]

42.  Black Guillemot Cepphus grille (37, 20, 4) 20+ were in Halifax Harbour/Eastern Passage 1st; c10 off Ingonish harbour 11th, 2 from the car ferry between Isaacs Harbour North and Port Bickerton, Guysborough County, 14th  and 5 Halifax Harbour/Eastern Passage 15th.

43.  Mourning dove Zenaida macroura (25, c10, 8) c10 from car, mostly in Hants, 2nd; 5 feeders between Springhill and Salt Springs, Cumberland County 3rd then 1 – 3 seen on six days 5th – 14th.

44.  Rock dove Columba livia Seen daily throughout NS.

45.  Belted kingfisher Ceryle alcyon (1, 1, 1) A single bird sitting on a rock in the middle of the Clyburn Brook nr. Ingonish, Cape Breton, was a surprise 11th.

46.  Downy woodpecker Picoides pubescens (8, 5, 4) A male was drumming on a tree in Springhill 6th; 1 along Oregon Rd., Cape Breton, 10th; 2 Ingonish Ferry and 3 Clyburn Brook 11th and 1 male along Le Buttereau nr. Cheticamp 13th.

47.  Hairy woodpecker P.villosus (4, 3, 2) A male and female were near Partridge Island, Parrsboro and a female at East Advocate 4th and a male was photographed nr. Springhill 6th.

48.  Pileated woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus (2, 1, 2) Very deep and loud drumming was heard, and a tree showing typical excavations of this species nr. Big Interval Cape North, Cape Breton, 12th and a calling bird at Glenora falls road, Inverness County, 13th again with typical tree excavations was thought to be this species.

49.  Shorelark/Horned lark Eremophila alpestris (26, 15, 2) A flock of c15 were at Amherst Marsh 5th showing very rich orangey tones to the nape and breast sides and 11 were on the beach at Arisaig, Antigonish County, 9th.

*50.  Grey jay Perisoreus canadensis (2, 2, 1) Two flew across a dirt road and landed briefly in the tops of a spruce tree behind Sydney Forks, Cape Breton, 10th.  I was very surprised not to see more on the trip, especially given the amount of time we spent in suitable habitat.

51.  Blue jay Cyanocitta cristata Seen daily throughout NS.

52.  American crow Corvus brachyrhynchos Probably the most numerous and widespread species seen. 

53.  Raven C. corax (38, c6, 10) Seen regularly throughout the trip, including a single at St.Johns airport, Newfoundland 31st.

*54.  Black-capped chickadee Poecile atricapilla (c90, c20, 11) Seen regularly throughout the trip from gardens to mixed woodland, Halifax to Meat Cove.

*55.  Boreal chickadee P.hudsonica (32, 25, 4) Seen only on Cape Breton with c25 along the Oregon Road, Victoria County 10th; 3 around Keltic Lodge, Ingonish, 11th; 3 Big Interval Cape North 12th and 1 Glenora Falls road, Inverness County 14th.  These birds were much quieter and generally harder to see than P.atricapilla although they were very confiding at Big Interval Cape North.

56.  Red-breasted nuthatch Sitta canadensis (12, 8, 3) A single was at Wallace Bay 8th; 3 singing loudly along the Oregon Road, Victoria County, 10th and 1 Ingonish River, 6 Clyburn Brook and 1 Warren Lake 11th.

57.  Brown creeper Certhia americana (3, 2, 2) Two Wallace Bay 8th and 1 heard on Oregon Road, Cape Breton 10th.

58.  Golden-crowned kinglet Regulus satrapa (1, 1, 1) Surprisingly scarce with only a single bird seen behind the motel at Sydney Forks, Cape Breton, 10th.

59.  American robin Turdus migratorius  (1200+, 400+, 14) Very common.  As the snow began to melt, robins could be seen on almost all areas of bare ground.  The highest estimate was 400+ at Amherst Marsh 5th though birds became rather scarce in northern Cape Breton on 11th and 12th where the snow was much more extensive and deeper.

60.  Bohemian waxwing Bombycilla garrulus (250+, 250+, 1) Four flocks totalling 250+ birds were seen on 3rd between Springhill cemetery and the junction to Salt Springs (<1 mile).

61.  Cedar waxwing B.cedrorum (12, 12, 1) A single flock of twelve birds was seen well as they flew across a road near the junction to Salt Springs on the outskirts of Springhill 3rd.  The flock flew over a feeding flock of bohemian waxwings from which they were easily told in flight by their white under tail coverts.

62.  Northern shrike Lanius excubitor (4, 1, 4) Singles were seen pursuing birds at a feeder at the junction to Salt Springs from Springhill 3rd; in shoreline debris below Partridge Island near Parrsboro 4th; Wallace Bay 8th and Oregon Road, Cape Breton, 10th.

63.  Starling Sturnus vulgaris Seen commonly throughout NS.

*64.  American tree sparrow Spizella arborea (6, 6, 1) Six were in a small clump of bushes at the roadside near Stonehouse, Cumberland County 7th.

*65.  Ipswich sparrow Passerculus (sandwichensis) princeps (2, 1, 2) Singles were feeding along roadsides near Densmore Mills, Hants (photographed) 2nd and near Wallace Bay 8th.

*66.  Fox sparrow Passerella iliaca iliaca (14, 7, 5) Two were feeding below roadside scrub at near Parrsboro 4th; a single alongside the road near Arsaig, Antigonish County, 9th; a single at Sydney Forks, c5 Schooner Pond and 1 near Glace Bay 10th; 3 alongside the road between Pleasant Bay and Cheticamp 12th and 1 again alongside the road nr. Mabou 14th.

67.  Song sparrow Melospiza melodia melodia (c60, c15, 10) Common in low numbers, seen from a park in Halifax to the north coast of Cape Breton; often singing.

68.  Dark-eyed junco Junco hyemalis hyemalis (c700, 200+, 14) Slate-coloured junco was very common along roadsides where often seen feeding in large flocks but also regularly found singing in conifer woods and visiting garden feeders.

69.  Snow bunting Plectrophenax nivalis (33, c30, 3) A flock of c30 was feeding along a dyke at Amherst Marsh 5th including some almost full breeding plumage males; a single male flew overhead at Pugwash 8th and 2 were feeding on a dirt road nr. Broad Cove Marsh, Inverness County, 13th.

70.  Red-winged blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus (5, 5, 1) Five were with a mixed icterid flock on the northern outskirts of Mabou, Inverness County, 13th.

71.  Common grackle Quiscalus quiscula (c200, c40, 14) Seen commonly throughout NS.

*72 Brown-headed cowbird Molothrus ater (2, 2, 1) Two were with a mixed icterid flock on the north side of Mabou, Inverness County, 13th.

*73.  Evening grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus (60+, 40+, 3) A flock of c40 of these most stunning “monsters” was at a feeder at Salt Springs, Cumberland County, 3rd.  First noticed by their ringing calls, the males in particular looked magnificent against the snowy backdrop.  C30, possibly the same flock, arrived at our feeder in Springhill on the morning of 4th and a single male was at a feeder on the junction to Salt Springs from Springhill 6th.

*74.  Pine grosbeak Pinicola enucleator (8, 6, 2) Bird of the trip. A pair was found feeding silently at dusk in a larch tree along a dirt road out of St.Peters, Cape Breton, 9th.  They were very approachable but the light was too poor for photography.  They were incredibly quiet and could easily have been missed but for noticing their large silhouette.  They fed intensively and the only sound came from their feet on the branches and their wings as they fluttered to other branches.  A flock of six, 2 males and four females were feeding, also silently and in a larch, along the Oregon Road, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, 10th.

75.  Purple finch Carpodacus purpureus (22, 15, 3) 15+ were around feeders at the junction to Salt Springs from Springhill 3rd; a single was on the road nr. Stonehouse, Cumberland County, 7th and 6 were at a feeder in Ingonish Ferry, Cape Breton, 11th.

76.  Pine siskin Carduelis pinus (450+, 300+, 6) 300+ were at feeders and in woodland between Springhill and Salt Springs 3rd, 40+ were in the Springhill area 6th; c50 were along the Oregon Road, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, 10th; c50 Ingonish area 11th; c10 Le Buttereau, nr. Cheticamp, 13th and several were heard at Glenora Falls road 14th.

77.  American goldfinch C.tristis (18, 10, 2) 10 were around feeders at the junction to Salt Springs from Springhill 3rd and 8 were at Ingonish Ferry 11th.

78.  House sparrow Passer domesticus Seen quite frequently in built up areas throughout NS.


bradr@bradr.kitaonline.co.uk