Thursday, 8 September 2011

More from the maritimes

My next post will detail my first day back in Ontario, which I spent at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton. But until now, here is the full account of the rest of my birding adventures in "Canada's Ocean Playground".

As I mentioned, the day in Brier Island was a success. All said and done, I finished with 4 life birds as well as great looks at other seabirds.

Laura and I drove from our bed and breakfast in Digby down to Brier Island, arriving at around 9:00 AM. Since our whale-watching trip wasn't scheduled to depart for another 3 hours, we drove to the north end of the island to check out a good spot for 2 species of seals.

Laura checking out the seals - Brier Island, Nova Scotia
Common Eiders - Brier Island, Nova Scotia

We did see both species but my photos are kind of crappy so I'll spare you.... I did however photograph some Common Eiders and I saw a Great Cormorant, some Black Guillemots, and a few common shorebirds. The entire time, chip notes from Wilson's Warblers and the calls of Eastern Phoebes could be heard in the shrubby area behind us.

I stopped briefly to photograph this fritillary (ID forthcoming once I check my resources)

Laura and I made our way onto the ferry and actually ran into the couple from B.C. that we had met earlier in the week with Blake Maybank in Cow Bay. Small world!
The pelagic trip started somewhat slow, but before long we were swimming in phalaropes. Red was the most numerous by far, and by the end of the trip we estimated that we had seen well over 10,000! What a way to get a life bird.

Red Phalaropes - Bay of Fundy

Despite their abundance, it was hard to get passable photos due to their small size and our continuous rocking on the water. An extra 100mm on my lens would certainly help!

Not long after, we were buzzed by the first of many Great Shearwaters. My only previous sighting was a poor look at a single bird 2 years prior near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It was great to study the intricacies of their plumages.

Great Shearwater - Bay of Fundy

Somewhat spotted some whales off in the distance, and I quickly fired off a couple photos of what would turn out to be our only Fin Whales for the day.

Fin Whale - Bay of Fundy

As the day wore on, a few more pelagic species showed up, as well as some that aren't pelagic. I saw a single adult Pomarine Jaeger, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, and many Wilson's Storm-petrels. In addition, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Pectoral Sandpiper made brief visits to the boat.

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Bay of Fundy

Not long after, we came across a mother and calf Humpback Whale that had been known to be in the area for some time. We were all treated to a great show, as the calf swam up to the boat and lifted its head out of the water. I was limited photographically because I only had my 300 mm lens, so I tried a couple close-ups of the barnacles. The whales stayed with the boat for the better part of an hour.

Humpback Whale barnacles - Bay of Fundy

My highlight came as we were watching the whales. One of the birders on the trip (Elizabeth Doull) alerted me to a Northern Fulmar whizzing past. This was a target species for me, though I didn't expect to get such good looks at one! It also hung around the boat, hoping for a handout, for quite some time.

Northern Fulmar - Bay of Fundy

Northern Fulmar - Bay of Fundy

Our last new seabird for the trip were a few small groups of Atlantic Puffins. Despite missing Manx Shearwater, South Polar Skua (seen a few days prior), and Leach's Storm-petrel, we did quite well with pelagic birds.

Atlantic Puffins - Bay of Fundy


  1. Wow... Great series of photos here. The Shearwater and Puffins are particularily awesome photos. I am going to try to make it up to VN Beach soon. With my luck, the winds will be blowing from the South...

  2. Nice shots Josh. I'd love to make a trip to the East Coast - someday!
    You and Dwayne both talk of going to VanWagner's Beach. I was there a couple Saturday's ago, and got no more than sunrise pictures. But a friend and I headed into the ponds there with not really any success. Where are you planning to photograph? Right along the shore?

  3. Thanks Dwayne. I have to admit, Van Wagner's is a bit of a let down after being used to the abundant seabirds out east. Good luck if you go.

    Brian - I usually don't take pictures at Van Wagner's because many of the birds are much to distant. However, occasionally birds come right overhead, so it pays to have your camera ready!

  4. Looks like your butterfly is a Silver-bordered Fritillary. You got a lot more seabirds on your Brier Island pelagic than I did on our whale-watching excursion in 2008! We didn't get any fulmars or storm-petrels. I really need to go on another excursion the next time I'm in Nova Scotia!