Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding

Birding in Donkin Mines / Morien Bay July 30

Birding in Donkin Mines / Morien Bay July 30 Posted on July 31, 2015

I was lucky enough to find out about this Cape Breton hidden treasure from this website, and was far from disappointed.  Thank you to Allan and Cathy Murrant for this great resource.  To note, the mine is open now so you can’t walk through the mine buildings.  I recommend birding the coast and walking back through 12 and 10 to reach the inner paths and perching birds personally.  It took me a good 4 hours and I didn’t dilly dally much so make this a full day to get the maximum benefit out of the visit.

2 days earlier I visited with a birding friend (Alicia Penney) and we explored some of the inner areas and sighted Wood Ducks in eclipse plumage, Ring Necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup, had a lovely Red Eyed Vireo sighting, and she sighted the Baird’s Sandpiper which I later identified with my new Peterson’s field guide  🙂

We both agreed it was a spot to spend more time at and so I came back alone to bird the coastal path by myself today.

Upon my arrival I was quickly greeted by Harbour Seals (making a guess at the type of seal) who continued to distract and entertain me for the rest of the afternoon.

As I walked a little further down the path the Spotted Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, and Tree Swallows all made appearances.  They seem to be the usual suspects, but also the Baird’s Sandpiper was still on the beach.  I always worry for the vagrants and stray migrants as if they are off course they could be in trouble so I do hope he finds his way.

My goal in walking the coastal path was to view the Black Guillemot, Black Legged Kittiwake, and Razorbill colonies.  I saw the first two, but could not see any Razorbills from the lookoff at number 14 so think next time I’m in Cape Breton I will walk from the inner paths and pop out on path 16 to get to 15 where the colony is.  Hopefully this is the best way.  Maybe if I get here in the Fall there will even be Whimbrels about.  A local lady I met on the path told me that the Whimbrels eat the Gooseberries down the shore at Gooseberry cove in Little Lorraine.  This area feels a bit like Newfoundland to me with the wild beauty and seabirds so will be a treat at any time of the year I’m sure.

I will say this about walking in this area, if your feet aren’t wet and you aren’t standing in a huge ant hill taking photographs, you aren’t getting the full experience…LOL

This is such a wild, varied, and scenic habitat for many species.  The entire time I walked the coast a group of 5 Northern Gannets were fishing off in the distance and through the woods trails on the way back there was huge species diversity of moths and butterflies in pretty colours.  Herring Gulls were basking in all the best sunning spots, and Cedar Waxings were whistling and flying all over, and some juvenile songbirds were about for good measure.

It was new to me to see the male Eiders in their juvenile plumage.  And neat to see them swimming with the Black Guillemots to see the difference in size and in their similar colours.

The Guillemots are skillful and adorable fishers and I had a great time watching them fly out of the banks and into the water to swim in the rough surf with their little red feet.  Just about as cute as Puffins if you ask me.

I didn’t get any great photos (and maybe not any photos) of the Black Legged Kittiwakes in flight although I did see the colony and see them flying for the entire coastal walk.  They are an uncommon Gull so interesting to see in good numbers for sure.  They say their wings in adult plumage appear to be dipped in ink as the black is straight across, and they have black feet so if you look closely you can spot them quite easily even though at first glance you will probably just think they are Herring Gulls.

As I approached the lookout point at the Trail Head (more or less) it was a bit surreal as there was a Bald Eagle perched on the point.  As if the Canadian flag were not enough.

I was unable to see the Razorbills this time, but I was delighted to sit on the point surrounded by what I believe were nesting Bank Swallows.

I hope it is not too many months before I can return.  A little piece of heaven is this Morien Bay…

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a Baird’s Sandpiper has found himself off course and is hanging around the beach hope he finds his way to where he belongs
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a group of 5 Northern Gannets were fishing off in the distance the whole time I was there they didn’t get close enough for me to get a clear photo but it was lovely to see
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you are pretty unlikely to walk the shore path without getting your feet very wet – me I don’t care it’s summer my shoes will dry I just walked on through and in the woods too
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Double Crested Cormorants and I believe a Great Cormorant (ID help always appreciated)
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the toughness of Eider ducks always impresses me Momma quicklytook her ducklings into the water when she saw me look down at them
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Black Guillemot nesting in the cliff colony
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3 Black Guillemots who rival the Puffins for cuteness and are from the same family
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Spotted Sandpiper
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Black Guillemots flying out of their cliff colony and down to the water to fish
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huge diversity of moths and butterflies at this location
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junenile Yellow Warbler
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thanks you Jeff MacLeod for letting me know this is a Fox Sparrow
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many Cedar Waxwings whistling and flying over the cliff overlooking the Black Guillemot colony
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the Herring Gulls nabbed the best sunning spot
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I sort of could not believe it when I reached the trail head and not only was there a Canadian flag, but also a Bald Eagle – you just never know
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I so enjoyed all the seals who I’m certain eat a lot of the seabirds and seaducks and I bet there are sharks to eat them!
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Black Guillemots are fantastic little fishers
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Black Guillemot with a catch
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Black Guillemot handsome little Alcid
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Black Guillemots have super cute feet
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and if you look closely you will see a Cedar Waxwing keeping watch over his domain (double click for full zoom)
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I had trouble trying to get a Black Legged Kittiwake shot but they were there aplenty hoping this is one the wings look dipped in ink but I can’t see any black feet so would not swear by it
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many Cedar Waxwings about
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the Harbour Seals were my welcoming committee
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even though they eat all our little duckies the seals sure are adorable and entertaining we all have to eat
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hovercraft parent I assume the Spotted Sandpiper seemed to float in the same spot and then run and peep loudly
male Eider duck juvenile swimming behind some Black Guillemots
male Eider duck juvenile swimming behind some Black Guillemots