Sunday, 6 January 2013

72 species day in the Halifax area

This morning I met up with my good buddy Dominic Cormier to see what birds we could find in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Dom and I go back a ways, meeting in first year university and going birding together whenever we are in the same part of the world. He happens to be living in Halifax at the moment.

Our first stop was a private residence in Lower Sackville who was hosting several rare birds at their feeders. The back yard was perfect for birds, backing onto a ravine, containing lots of brush piles and shrubby areas for the birds to hide, and of course lots of feeders. We managed to located all but one of the rarities coming to their feeders, only missing the Hoary Redpoll seen the day before. We did see a Yellow-breasted Chat, Baltimore Oriole, Pine Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbirds (they are actually fairly rare in Nova Scotia), Pine Siskins, and a pair of Evening Grosbeaks. Even though species like chats and orioles are regular fall visitors and often try to overwinter, I still can't get over how cool that is! Rarely does either one of those species show up late in the fall in Ontario. What a fantastic yard this place was.

Yellow-breated Chat from Ontario

We then headed southeast to the coastline east of Dartmouth and planned to spend the rest of the day working back along the shoreline. The Marsh Wren found the previously day was easily relocated. This is a pretty rare bird in Nova Scotia and was a new one for Dom's Nova Scotia list (and mine of course).

We ended up having a pretty amazing day, seeing a number of good birds for Nova Scotia. A Ruddy Duck and Red-throated Loon were off Seaforth Beach, as was a cold looking Killdeer. Conrad's Beach held 7 lingering Sanderlings, and we turned up Swamp Sparrows in several different places (a pretty tough January bird for the province). Certainly one of the highlights for me was watching a Merlin almost take out an American Pipit. After two or three futile attempts it finally flew away.

The Three Fathom Harbour loop was pretty decent as we added some boreal species in Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Eventually we headed over to Cole Harbour for some lunch, then checked out the scrubby area behind the funeral home. Two more Yellow-breasted Chats were skulking around here! Pretty crazy to see for an Ontarioan like myself.

At Rainbow Haven Provincial Park we successfully chased the Audubon's Warbler hanging out with a crew of Myrtle's (another rarity for the province), then raced over to Hartlen Point. The snow was falling heavy at this point, making the geese nearly impossible to see, but the 9 Snow Geese and 1 Ross's Goose was still present on the golf course! This continuing bird was a first provincial record.

Feeling lucky and close to 70 species, we searched for some remaining species with the last light. A Harrier was a nice surprise and all three scoters came easy at the next stop. We nabbed a guillemot, Common Loon, and some Lesser Scaup before racing over to Sullivan's Pond. Here, we noticed a male and female Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall, and several Northern Pintails. It was a great day and we finished with 72 species. Not bad! :)

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