Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding BEYOND

what are the birds doing? of habits and habitat

what are the birds doing? of habits and habitat Posted on August 7, 2016

I’ve been birding here and there for the past 3 months since I’ve adopted the Border Collie but not blogging too much so here is a long and windy post.  Since this is my second summer birding, I am more keen to learn the songs and sounds of birds.  And most of all habits and habitat.

It is all well and good to “twitch” birds that have already been found by others, but to find them on your own you need to become familiar with the habits and habitat of birds.

This holds true for both native species and vagrants, who are the delight of every birder.  I am at the beginning of this process and expect to spend many years of study before I get a handle on it but the first lesson that stands out in my mind is about the Ovenbird.  These birds are uncommon and local which means they are not common all over, but in the right habitat there are pockets of them.  When I visited my parents this summer in Sydney I realized they are all over the woods surrounding our house.  And somehow in my ongoing education by Google, I found out they build their nests using Blue-bead Lily plants.  I played in the woods pretty much every day as a child and vividly remember the ground being covered by these plants so it all makes perfect sense now.  Knowing this now I will always recognize their habitat.  And so I am hooked.  If I can learn this for all our native species I should always know when to keep my eyes peeled for them.

My goal is to categorize this information in a logical way over time.  Native birds, diet, vegetation, etc. organized in a way that has not yet been done.  If there is currently a Nova Scotia book that does just this, please let me know.  I understand the breeding atlas contains a lot of this information but I don’t have my copy yet.  Keeping notes has always been my way to learn though so this will be a worthwhile project for me either way, and is a large reason for my keeping this blog.

Since my last blog I’ve visited some great spots and my accounts will not be detailed but here are the highlights.  The photos are doc shots, not great photos but “evidence” as my friend Paul says.

Paul and his dog and me and Macy (dogs on-leash) spent a few hours exploring the Belleisle Marsh.  Gem of a place where we were treated to the songs of at least 3 Soras, and even got a little show from one.

Sora (a type of super skulky rail with a really cool song…google it!)

Shorebird season is upon us, and although I’ve not been able to get to the banana belt yet (CSI), Eastern Shore shorebirding is very good.  On my own I located 2 Pectoral Sandpipers in Three Fathom Harbour which was very cool as they were a lifer for me.
Pectoral Sandpiper - Three Fathom Harbour July 19, 2016

A little group of us had a lovely day trip to Johnson Mills in NB to watch the “shorebird ballet” and made a stop in Amherst to see the Black Terns that hang out on the Amherst Marsh in summer.  Another lifer for me which was a bonus in an already wonderful day.

Semipalmated Sandpipers there were about 30K of them there my pictures do not do this justice you just have to go it's amazing!
Semipalmated Sandpipers there were about 30K of them there my pictures do not do this justice you just have to go it’s amazing!

Just a doc shot but happy to finally see my first Black Terns today - this one carrying a fish - Amherst Marsh (as promised) July 28, 2016
Closer to home, Hartlen Point is starting to heat up again.  The Whimbrels have been hanging around for a while now and other shorebirds are collecting up in the evenings before they head off to sleep somewhere.  McNab’s Island perhaps?  As a result the Merlin are perched on the shore waiting for snacking opportunities most evenings.
Whimbrel - hard to get close to so not very sharp - Hartlen Point - July 13, 2016

Merlin hunting the shore
Merlin hunting the shore

Last week I spent a few days in Sydney visiting family and also working in pet shops and I had a low tide adventure with my 7 year old niece and Macy at Morien Bar.  This is one of the best shorebird spots in Nova Scotia and the only thing that would have made the experience better would be a scope.  Still we saw lots of Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers with a few Whimbrel and Black-bellied Plovers mixed in for good measure.  I wish I would be there this week as it’s time for the Hudsonian Godwit to show up anytime now and all the shorebirds in greater numbers.

If you don't get dirty, you didn't have enough fun.
If you don’t get dirty, you didn’t have enough fun.  Morien Bar at low tide.

On the way to Cape Breton I stopped in Pictou on the holiday Monday to see friends at their cottage, and then I hit the Caribou Island area on the way out.  I was very happy to see my first male Bobolink.  There were a group of Bobolinks flitting about the marsh grasses where they will hide out to molt.

Bobolinks in Caribou Island
Bobolinks in Caribou Island

While in Cape Breton I saw that 2 immature Yellow-crowned Night-Herons had shown up in Hartlen Point and I was worried they wouldn’t hang around until I could get home.  Luckily they were still there yesterday when I had a chance to walk down to the back cove.

immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron back cove Hartlen Point - August 6, 2016
Ahhhhhh, to be everywhere at once in summer!

Next week I will be going to Pubnico and CSI for a visit with birding friends and my first Pelagic cruise…so freakin excited!!!!!

Happy Birding,