Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding BEYOND

in pursuit of the Tufted Duck – Cape Breton chapter

in pursuit of the Tufted Duck – Cape Breton chapter Posted on January 29, 2016

This week I’m in Cape Breton to see pet shops and to see my family so making time for birding of course.  Cape Breton is a very birdy place although the birds are under-reported that does not mean they aren’t here.  To me it seems much “birdier” than the mainland.

The drive down from Halifax on Tuesday included a few pet shop visits on the way to Sydney so didn’t leave much time for birding but I did manage to check out some sea ducks on the Cape Breton side of the Causeway.  First Common Mergansers I’ve seen this year and in good numbers, along with the other usual suspects.

cape-breton-jan-26-2016 034 cape-breton-jan-26-2016 035

Wednesday was tied up all day with pet shops and some of today, but I did manage to sneak out for a bit this afternoon in search of a Tufted Duck which was spotted by David McCorquodale earlier this week.

This is a new to me bird (Nova Scotia lifer 181 for me) so I’ve been hoping to spot one for a while now and I’ve been on the lookout in Halifax so when I saw it was a short drive from my folk’s place I had to give it a shot.

Much like the where’s Waldo puzzle of trying to find a Cackling Goose in the midst of a flock of Canada Geese I had to pick through a few rafts of Scaup (I believe they were mostly Greater Scaup but not certain) to find the Tufted Duck.  Admittedly it was easier as there were a much smaller number of Scaup then the group of Canada Geese and the Tufted Duck is much more identifiable then a Cackling Goose.  Still, it took me a good hour.  Partially because I didn’t realize there were several rafts of Scaup to find and also because I was afraid I may have difficulty recognizing the Tufted Duck.

Actually it was challenging to pick him out because I don’t have a scope but the zoom on my camera goes up to 200x so after some time of scanning the groups I saw his long hair blowing in the wind.  My photos leave a lot to be desired but with my eyes it was quite a sight to behold.  I was just over the moon to find him I’m sure the fishermen thought I was a fool since I shouted out got him!

This spot is a bit of a duck haven as there were a large group of American Wigeons with one Eurasian male mixed in.  He was swimming up to different clusters of Americans and even to the gulls crying out “are you like me?”…I’m certain that was what he was doing.

Eurasian Wigeon in back and American Wigeon in front - both males
Eurasian Wigeon in back and American Wigeon in front – both males

Also tons of Bufflehead ducks, and of course a variety of gulls and Black Ducks.  And just for good measure one of my dear little Long-tailed Ducks was hanging around and a couple of Savannah Sparrows.

one of two Savannah Sparrows who dropped in to see what I was all about when I arrived
one of two Savannah Sparrows who dropped in to see what I was all about when I arrived

Don’t forget that Glace Bay is home to a bird sanctuary and near Donkin, Port Morien, and Louisbourg.  All very wonderful sea bird territory and a great reason to take a break outside any time I say.

On another note on the way to my next pet shop I dropped by quickly to check in on the Barrow’s Goldeneye ducks as I had spotted 14 there in November.  The sun was going down so I don’t know if was a mix of Common and Barrow’s or all Barrow’s but some were certainly Barrow’s and there appeared to be about 30 in the group.  If I get time before I leave the island I will try to look again, or check with David McCorquodale about it.

Anyway, if you have time to visit the greater Sydney area to bird I would recommend it highly and there a number of nice new restaurants and coffee shops around.  If the storm doesn’t ruin my plans tomorrow evening I do hope to get to Flavor on the Water for a burger with friends.   Try to do something in each town you visit that helps their local economy like the big list man, Noah, says.  Me I’m never going to do a big list, but I am a foodie so I am down with that.

Happy Birding from Cape Breton.