Wednesday, November 19, 2014

BP/Seal rarities!

I already did a little blurb about why BP is a good spot for turning up those most sought-after feathered creatures: vagrants. See here: If BP is in a good position to turn up vagrants, Seal is even better. It was actually pretty mind-blowing to see just how many lost birds turn up there - the list of rarities found over the years is extensive including quite a few first records for Nova Scotia (and even a few for Canada as a whole!). I can't even imagine what would be found there if it had regular coverage - as it stands it is usually only birded for a week or two every fall! As with last year, the list below covers all species seen (by us) on the islands which are noted on the NSRBA as 'reportable' species. Again, bold indicates a 'good' rarity, CAPS indicate megas! Apologies for some of the photos' quality, many of these were taken with my cell phone!

Eurasian Wigeon - 1 - molting male on our second visit to Seal!
Northern Shoveler - 1
Redhead - 1
Harlequin Duck - 8 - one individual hung out from late August to early October!

Ruddy Duck - 1
Pacific Loon - 2 - somewhere around the 20th and 21st records for the province
PTERODROMA SP. - 1 - distant bird on seal that gave me the impression of being a Fea's...aghhh
Cory's Shearwater - 59 - banner year for this species due to warm water anomalies north of their usual range, many thousands seen in Massachusetts all fall! This photo is to show why there are generally no seabird photos here...

Manx Shearwater - 23
AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER - 1 - likely due to the same warm water anomalies that brought us a lot of Cory's
Great Egret - 2

Cattle Egret - 1

Green Heron - 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron - 2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - 1 - found on BP just after I left........
Turkey Vulture - 60 - should be removed from the list
Red-shouldered Hawk - 2 - both on BP while I was on Seal
Cooper's Hawk - 5
CLAPPER RAIL - 1 - 10th NS record - good story behind this one, ask me privately!
Virginia Rail - 1 - I have a photo but it really shouldn't be posted anywhere, it's that terrible
American Coot - 6
COMMON RINGED PLOVER - 1 - flyover on BP, calling its distinctive tooee!
Solitary Sandpiper - 6
Red Knot - 14
Stilt Sandpiper - 1

Long-billed Dowitcher - 1
Red Phalarope - 36
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 19 - not really a rarity anymore
Caspian Tern - 2
Forster's Tern - 1
(also dead Laughing Gull and Black Skimmer, remnants of Hurricane Arthur) 
Great Skua - 8 - mostly due to some crazy ENE winds we had in early October
South Polar Skua - 2
Pomarine Jaeger - 217
Parasitic Jaeger - 73

Long-tailed Jaeger - 4
Common Murre - 1
Thick-billed Murre - 1
White-winged Dove - 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 11
Long-eared Owl - 1
Red-headed Woodpecker - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 6

Willow Flycatcher - 18 - almost all identified in the hand, a couple identified by voice 
DUSKY FLYCATCHER - 1 - 3rd NS record - banded on BP while I was on Seal! I will add a photo here if/when I receive one
HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER - 1 - 2nd NS record - banded on Seal!

Eastern Phoebe - 34
Great Crested Flycatcher - 1
White-eyed Vireo - 2

Warbling Vireo - 7
Philadelphia Vireo - 8
House Wren - 8 - I think this one is the western subspecies, due to the amount of barring on the back+flanks?

Sedge Wren - 2

Marsh Wren - 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 4
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 6
Wood Thrush - 1
Brown Thrasher - 1

Blue-winged Warbler - 2

Orange-crowned Warbler - 22
Cape May Warbler -18
"Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1

Yellow-throated Warbler - 1
Pine Warbler - 14
Prairie Warbler - 11

Western Palm Warbler - 19
Prothonotary Warbler - 1

Hooded Warbler - 1
Yellow-breasted Chat - 2

Eastern Towhee - 1
Clay-colored Sparrow - 16

Field Sparrow - 6

Vesper Sparrow - 1
Lark Sparrow - 3

LE CONTE'S SPARROW - 1 - 7th NS record

White-crowned Sparrow - 22
"Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow - 1
Scarlet Tanager - 2
Blue Grosbeak - 3

LAZULI BUNTING - 1 - 2nd or 3rd NS record - gray nape+rump, wingbars (noticeable in field), buffy breast with white belly, lack of streaking on flanks/breast lead me to this ID - showed up after a nice front that brought the above Blue Grosbeak, 10 Indigo Buntings and a few other goodies

here with an Indigo bunting for comparison

Indigo Bunting - 53 - probably some duplicates

Dickcissel - 14

Yellow-headed Blackbird - 2

As you can tell, it got a bit ridiculous out there. Despite a multitude of SLOW days, there were occasional bursts of migration, and W/SW winds predominated throughout the season bringing us a large number of southern/western vagrants, especially on Seal Island. This list comprises a whopping 81 species, or 32% of our season total. Of these, 58 were observed on BP, a bit more than the 54 we had last year (about 25% of the total on BP both years). 59 were observed on Seal, 29% of our total during the month we spent there. If you take a look at my potential rarity list at the end of my post last year, you will see quite a few of the species mentioned above! We did very well in terms of both 'regular' rarities and true megas this season! Seal Island is probably one of the best places in Canada in terms of sheer numbers of vagrants and 'quality' of vagrants, due to its position 17km out in the ocean and wide variety of habitat types (salt marsh, short-grass, dunes, rocky and sandy beaches, sheltered coves, spruce/fir forest, alder and mountain ash patches, etc, etc!). I think it would be fun to spend a whole season out there... who knows what would turn up?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Off the island(s)!

I've been back in civilization (currently Wolfville, NS) for a little over a week now, getting caught up on things that mostly get forgotten about while one is living in the wilds, looking at birds for most of the day, every day. That means it's time for a blog post as it has been far too long! I think I will do something similar to last year, with a summary, seawatch and rarities post - I will leave out the petrels (as cute as they are) and shorebirds since I did a pretty good job of summing those up last year. Anyway, here goes.

I was out on Bon Portage from August 11 - September 15 and again October 14 - November 4, and out on Seal Island from September 15 - October 13 with a brief visit on November 4. While I was out on Seal there was still a crew on Bon Portage running things so we had good coverage of both islands! This year, the Atlantic Bird Observatory was not operating at full capacity due to a lack of funding, however, we had a fairly large crew of experienced birders out there as part of a study on Blackpoll Warbler stopover ecology on the two islands. Our banding and species totals are perhaps not quite as high as they could have been had we been running a regular season, but we still did extremely well!

Number of species: 253 (223 on BP and 204 on Seal)
Number of individuals: Not sure as the eBird totals are duplicating shared checklists! My personal checklist total is 172 016, it is probably safe to add another 30-40 000 for BP from when I was on Seal.
Number of species banded: 78
Number of individuals banded: 1731 (1545 on BP, 186 on Seal)
ABA lifers: 2 (Common Ringed Plover and Great Skua)
Canada lifers: 6 (above plus Blue Grosbeak, White-winged Dove, Audubon's Shearwater and Clapper Rail)
Number of steps walked: ~1.9 million or ~1 700km - the increase over last year was mainly due to Seal, which is much larger and requires more walking! My highest single-day was about 35km.
Number of times I swam in the ocean: 4 - I wanted to go in November but it was too stormy!

Now on to the photos...