As of lately, I bird in my neighbourhood most days if only for 5 minutes in the area between MacCormack’s Beach to Redoubt Way and thought I had seen pretty much all there was to see. But I learned a lot of new information yesterday on the NSBS Sewer Stroll. We spent a great deal of the trip along the Shore Road and Hartlen Point, which is my “patch” as Mark Dennis says.
Even though I look for sea ducks every day, I’ve been missing the Black Scoters. I see Surf Scoters (pictured below) pretty much every day with the odd White-winged mixed in but didn’t know how to spot the Black ones. Many of the other ducks I was very familiar with, but I didn’t know to look for them in with the fishing boats down at the end of Fisherman’s Cove. Perhaps I’ll get a better photo of a Long-tailed Duck someday knowing this.
But the most important thing I was reminded of is to always expect the unexpected just in case, and to take a second look instead of discounting things as common birds. A flock of about 40 Purple Sandpipers flew in and I thought they were Starlings and completely ignored them and then heard someone call out “shorebirds!” which I didn’t even think to look for as most of the shorebirds are gone. Ah but the Purple Sandpipers are our winter shorebirds here in Nova Scotia. Although I had seen them last year in Point Pleasant Park I didn’t even register them as a possibility. Had I not been with the group I would have missed them altogether. So thank you to whoever noticed them and taking a closer look. I think we were all pretty thrilled to see them in good numbers. Fulton Lavender thought there were about 40-50 and I wouldn’t argue with him about the birds. I was far away so my photos are really grainy but it was way more fun to see them in person then to photograph them although I do hope to get an opportunity to do them better justice this winter without having to leave my neighbourhood.
Down at Hartlen Point I learned another lesson. The Snowy Owls are there indeed but out on Devil’s Island as their current home base. They are pretty tough to see without a scope, but I will try to be more observant as I had not thought about them being in flight over the water like that. On Dec. 12th I photographed one on a tower at Hartlen Point and he wasn’t there the next day so it’s nice to know where he went. I had thought McNabs but I guess Devil’s Island is the place for the raptors. People who have birding for a long time know these things, and are kind enough to share their knowledge.
We were really lucky yesterday as both of the Clarence Stevens (father and son), who are crazy amazing Halifax birders, were leading the tour. These guys are well known in the local birding community for sharing what they know with any who want to learn, and they know a lot!
We went to a few other spots but our car load mixed up directions and lost the main group mid-afternoon.
And so I put my thank you out here for a great day of birding to both Clarence Jr. and Sr. and for teaching me quite a few new things. And to all the group participants as we all learned from one another and it was wonderful to meet some new birding people.
I do learn a great deal from reading books, but unless you get out in the field to observe for yourself it really is not much use. Birding alone has it’s benefits as it’s quiet and you see a lot of things as a result and are often the first to find a bird, but like any hobby you have to challenge yourself and surround yourself with experts if you want to accelerate your learning. The community here is very welcoming for knowledge sharing and you will meet other birders when you are out much of the time. You might was well introduce yourself because you never know what you will learn, or what you may be able to teach 🙂