Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bon Portage - the rarities

This will probably be my last post about the island (at least for a while), since I am leaving home in 11(!) days to start a 7-week adventure (more on that later), but it's probably the most interesting one to all the birders out there!

Situated on the Atlantic Coast, right at the very southern tip of Nova Scotia, BP is in a pretty much ideal spot to turn up loads of provincial rarities. The island list (since 1997) stands somewhere around 315 species, not bad for an island that's only about 150 hectares (about 1/10 the size of Point Pelee National Park)! Since it's a pretty small island, we didn't get huge numbers of the regular migrants, and species that are 'dirt birds' on the mainland (Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Ring-billed Gull, Common Grackle, etc) are actually pretty rare! As an example, I think we only had 2 Mourning Doves actually on the island (could scope them on the mainland if we really tried), while we also had 2 Lark Sparrows. The nearest (regular) breeding Lark Sparrows are around 1000km away, while the Mourning Doves breed 3km away across the channel. I think this makes it easier to find rarities though since you aren't constantly being distracted by really common birds. Anyway, here's our list of rarities for the fall (taken from the NSRBA list) - bold species are the 'good' rarities, caps are the megas:

Manx Shearwater - 52 - I think this species is more regular but lack of coverage means it's on the RBA list

Cory's Shearwater - 1 - ditto
Black-crowned Night-Heron - 2 - only breeding location in NS for this species
Glossy Ibis - 1 - part of a small invasion of this species which is usually a good rarity!
Turkey Vulture - 48 - not rare in the southern part of the province, increasing
Cooper's Hawk - 9 - ditto
Northern Goshawk - 3 - regular rarity
American Oystercatcher - 2 - small breeding population on Cape Sable Island ~10km away
Solitary Sandpiper - 14 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Red Knot - 8

Baird's Sandpiper - 2

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 3
Long-billed Dowitcher - 1
Red Phalarope - 9 - regular offshore but not as common from land
Pomarine Jaeger - 9 - ditto
Parasitic Jaeger - 3 - ditto
South Polar Skua - 1 - really rare from land but regular out in the Bay of Fundy
CALIFORNIA GULL - 1 - potential first provincial record
Thayer's Gull - 1 - first eBird record for NS but there are quite a few older records

Lesser Black-backed Gull - 15 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Roseate Tern - 1 - small breeding population nearby but an endangered species so makes the list
Common Murre - 2
Black-billed Cuckoo - 1 - small NS breeding population but rarely seen
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 5 - regular fall vagrant

Long-eared Owl - 1
Willow Flycatcher - 4 - probably more regular than realized as it's a tough ID

HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER - 1 - first provincial record  - check your latest issue of Birding magazine and you might recognize this photo! ;)

Eastern Phoebe - 10 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Great Crested Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 2

"WESTERN" WARBLING VIREO - 1 - first in-hand record for NS but there was one photographed in 2007 that is most likely this (sub)species - note the differences in colour from the above bird as well as the small bill. This is a potential future split and so is more exciting than your average subspecies!

Philadelphia Vireo - 7

Purple Martin - 1
House Wren - 1
Marsh Wren - 1

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 2

Eastern Bluebird - 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 6

Wood Thrush - 1
Northern Mockingbird - 1

Orange-crowned Warbler - 6 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Connecticut Warbler - 1
Cape May Warbler - 6 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Pine Warbler - 8 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list

Prairie Warbler - 3

Yellow-breasted Chat - 1 - usually many more than this in a season, see below!

Eastern Towhee - 2

Clay-colored Sparrow - 1
Field Sparrow - 1

Lark Sparrow - 2

White-crowned Sparrow - 7 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list
Indigo Bunting - 13 - probably shouldn't be on the RBA list
Dickcissel - 2

Eastern Meadowlark - 1
House Finch - 1

As you can see it's a pretty extensive list with 54 species on it (out of our 217 total, or 24.9%). That doesn't include out-of-season birds such as the 2 Brant we had (rare in fall), or the Red-necked Grebe we had on August 17 (crazy early)! We also missed a number of regular rarities as the usual late fall reverse migration of southern birds was almost non-existent. These possibilities (and regulars) include southern herons, more Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Red-headed and -bellied Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireo, more swallows, Sedge Wren, Brown Thrasher, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Yellow-throated, Cerulean, Prothonotary, Worm-eating and Hooded Warblers, more Yellow-breasted Chats, Vesper, Grasshopper and Seaside Sparrows, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Blue Grosbeak and Orchard Oriole (all of these have been seen in at least 1 of the last 3 seasons). If we had been hit by a hurricane we could have potentially added a good number of terns and other seabirds as well! All in all the place has a good amount of potential for provincial-level rarities although I think it has less potential for crazy megas (for Canada or NA) than some other places on the mainland.

1 comment:

Brandon Holden said...

THIS is an awesome post! Congrats on all those sweet birds