Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding BEYOND

fall migration a time of jealousy, nemesis birds, and natural wonders (aka those elusive Godwits!)

fall migration a time of jealousy, nemesis birds, and natural wonders (aka those elusive Godwits!) Posted on September 2, 2016

I don’t have as much budget for petrol as many of my birding friends, however I live near a migratory point (Hartlen Point), and so do my parents in Cape Breton (short driving distance to Donkin).  And so although I cannot visit the banana belt (CSI) as often as I would like, I still make out like a bandit and am getting my share of great birds for sure.

It is the time of the year to be jealous of all your bird friends and they of you, and to want to be in several places at one time.  While visiting Cape Breton this week I frequently wished I were back in Eastern Passage, and some of my friends wished they were here.  And so it goes during fall migration!

Alas, my two present targets have eluded me and one my current nemesis at that.  The Hudsonian Godwits escaped me in Cape Sable Island a few weeks ago, and now I’ve missed them on 3 separate attempts this week in the Morien to Glace Bay region.  Last year I didn’t get my Buff-breasted Sandpipers either and it looks like I will miss them at Donkin as I only have one tropically windy day left on the island.

Although Saturday I intend to bird through the Framboise/Forchu area (thank you for this tip and ongoing Cape Breton inspiration David McCorquodale) and up to Point Michaud before returning to the Halifax area.  Shorebird season is short and exciting so even if I miss my targets it is all to be enjoyed to the fullest.

Cape Breton birds are ridiculously under-documented.  And there are tons of great birding experiences to be had on this island.  Many very knowledgeable birders have lots of local knowledge to share should anyone want to sit them down and record it before it is lost.  Like most things the world seems to stop at the causeway.  I hope more inroads will be built to connect the birders and in particular I would like to see representation on the board again from Cape Breton to the NSBS.  Skype and Facechat are wonderful technologies that are one way to bridge the gap of distance.  As a Cape Bretoner who is now a mainlander this has always been something I’ve tried to tackle in various organizations.  It would be really cool too if someone could get a student to put some historical records from some of these fantastic birders handwritten records and heavily notated field guides into the eBird database even.  Okay stepping off my soapbox now and on to the wonderful birds here on the island and a thank you to the good folk who have made, are are still making such efforts past and present.  Ian McLaren for certain!

Shorebirding in the Cape Breton and Richmond counties is pretty amazing and for me it’s nice to see birds in good numbers that I don’t see more than a few of at home, such as these Ruddy Turnstones.

There is so much coastline that is easily accessible and where there are people they are easy going and friendly and engaged with nature for the most part.  I have had a great time walking with my dog on leash who has met other friendly dogs and met people who have lived here all their life, moved here from away, or are just visiting all with varying knowledge of birds and all interested in learning a little more.

I do hope the island never gets over developed and keeps rich in habitat and attracts visitors who appreciate nature and a slower pace of life.

So all this being said, on my hunt for shorebird rarities (have not even spotted a Bairds yet) I have been striking out for the most part but did find 3 rare non-shorebirds today that were completely unexpected and self found.  And one a lifer to boot!

In Lingan today I found a juvenile Little Blue Heron in a small pond with two Lark Sparrows flitting about in the same spot.

juvenile Little Blue Heron – Lingan, CB, NS September 1st, 2016
Lark Sparrow - Sept. 1, 2016 Lingan - Cape Breton - NS - proudly photographed with my crazy Border Collie on leash
Lark Sparrow (one of two seen) Lingan, CB, NS September 1st, 2016

And then when I did my last unsuccessful scout at Schooner Pond for Buff-breasteds I happened upon a group of sparrows making a call I did not recognize.  I noticed they were sort of dark capped and had smooth unstreaked breasts.  I tried to snap some evidence as they quickly made their way through the bushes into the marsh not to be seen again mixed in with goldfinch and songs.  And good thing I’m a quick snapper because my little friend with the bright pink beak turns out to be a Clay-coloured Sparrow.  The photo is horrendous but I cropped it out here so you can at least get the ID if you are a birder who is interested in that type of thing.

Clay-coloured Sparrow – Sept. 1st Schooner Pond, Donkin, CB, NS

Worthy of note is the large number of Great Blue Herons in the area.  Particularly in Port Morien where I counted a minimum of 39 in one view two days ago and certainly there were many more.

Mostly I’ve just enjoyed the birds in some places that are recently discovered for me as birding really encourages you to get to know your own homeland inside and out.  Today was in fact my first visit to Dominion Beach if you can believe it and Macy and I had a lovely walk on the boardwalk checking for shorebirds.

spacey Macy at Dominion Beach
Macy my fine birding companion in training at Dominion Beach

Here is a little collection of my favorite sightings from the past few days.  Nothing too spectacular, but I think all of us nature lovers appreciate the fact that the shorebirds don’t visit for long and it is a natural wonder to be savoured.

Happy Fall Migration,

Angela & Macy (bird dog in training)

what it's like to bird with an on leash dog - do you see the Ruddy Turnstones beyond those ears?
what it’s like to bird with an on leash dog – do you see the Ruddy Turnstones beyond those ears?