Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding

Team Phalarope  – we made the best of the weather and the leap year day to grab a rarity in the dead of winter

Team Phalarope  – we made the best of the weather and the leap year day to grab a rarity in the dead of winter Posted on February 29, 2016

My day was slated to be spent at Myra Run with Diane and Sean, and Chris who very kindly offered to be our guide, searching for crossbills but the windy weather is less than ideal for finches so we put that on hold for a better day.

When Paul got in touch yesterday about looking for Harlequins this week I said let’s do it Monday because Diane and Sean live in Harlequin territory and have the day free, the windy weather is good for blowing things onto that shore, and the Harlequins won’t let a little wind get them down.

We started out at Chebucto Head where I’d hoped we might get some Kittiwakes close to shore but I didn’t realize and Easterly wind is probably best for a sea watch.  So much to learn!  Hence Chebucto Head was a bit of a bust for birds, but a place to visit for the vista for sure and well enjoyed by all of us.

And so off we went to Crystal Crescent Beach in search of the Harlequin Ducks to no avail.  Perhaps they were in Prospect today or Peggy’s Cove or just flew in behind us from further up the hike.  We went just past the 3rd beach which is usually a guaranteed spot as of late but no go.

Although with the wind it was not a terribly birdy day we were greatly entertained by 8 American Pipits.
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The absence of Harlequins and uncommon sea birds made us question and second and third every bird we saw in the water which turned out to be wise as not for from the parking lot we spotted a Phalarope fairly close to shore.

Through binos we could at least determine it was not a Guillemot, and next that it was not a small gull such as a Bonaparte’s but with the new cameras you can zoom in almost as far as a scope so I was able to see the line through the eye and also realized it was spinning a bit and shouted out Phalarope.  Bing…we have a winner.  Next onto the phone to Sibleys to confirm and also Paul had seen them in Calgary.  We came up with Red-necked being the more likely of our two native Phalaropes but it turned out to be a Red Phalarope.

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None of knew at the time that either of the two would be a very rare sighting for this time of the year and the first record for the DoWL.  Proving you always have to expect the unexpected as they say, and having an extra day in February is cool for more reasons than we thought  🙂

Honestly we would have been happy for a walk on the beach in the sunshine on the last day of February.

Diane, Sean, and Paul aka Team Phalarope
Diane, Sean, and Paul aka Team Phalarope

And for me that ends my first winter list at 106 birds and quite a few uncommon ones, thank you El Niño I suppose?  Well and to birding friends who help ID things when we are out of course.

I find it very interesting that it was easy to get that many birds in the winter period without doing anything different than I usually would.  So I didn’t go for some easy grabs such as the Wood Duck or Peregrine Falcon, and some I saw last year as a brand new birder didn’t turn up, but I also ended up with some surprises and it all balances out I suppose.

Perhaps I’ll never keep a winter list again but I’m glad I did it for learning purposes.

And here is what appeared for me from December 1st 2015 – February 29th 2016 and ended with our very interesting Leap Year rarity, our little friend the Red Phalarope.

Much serendipity to you in birding,


ANATIDAE (Waterfowl)
Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Ring-necked Duck
Tufted Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
PHASIANIDAE (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
SULIDAE (Boobies and Gannets)
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
ARDEIDAE (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
Great Blue Heron
ACCIPITRIDAE (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
RALLIDAE (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
American Coot
GRUIDAE (Cranes)
Sandhill Crane
CHARADRIIDAE (Plovers and Lapwings)
SCOLOPACIDAE (Sandpipers and Allies)
Ruddy Turnstone
Purple Sandpiper
Red Phalarope
ALCIDAE (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
Thick-billed Murre
Black Guillemot
LARIDAE (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
Bonaparte’s Gull
Black-headed Gull
Mew (Common) Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
COLUMBIDAE (Pigeons and Doves)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Snowy Owl
PICIDAE (Woodpeckers)
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
LANIIDAE (Shrikes)
Northern Shrike
CORVIDAE (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
PARIDAE (Chickadees and Titmice)
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
SITTIDAE (Nuthatches)
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
REGULIDAE (Kinglets)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
TURDIDAE (Thrushes and Allies)
Mountain Bluebird
American Robin
STURNIDAE (Starlings)
European Starling
MOTACILLIDAE (Wagtails and Pipits)
American Pipit
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
CALCARIIDAE (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting
PARULIDAE (New World Warblers)
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
EMBERIZIDAE (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
CARDINALIDAE (Cardinals and Allies)
Northern Cardinal
ICTERIDAE (Blackbirds)
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock’s Oriole
Purple Finch
White-winged Crossbill
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
PASSERIDAE (Old World Sparrows)
House Sparrow