Atlantic Region: Fall 2018

Fall 2018: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Alvan Buckley

Recommended citation:

Buckley, A. 2021. Fall 2018: Atlantic Region and St. Pierre and Miquelon. <> North American Birds.

The Autumn 2018 season was an average one with no major storms or unexpected movements of birds. European geese continued to entertain birders throughout the region, while increasingly noble efforts to find seabirds resulted in more discoveries for the region. Rarities were highlighted by a Gray Kingbird in New Brunswick and a Hooded Oriole in Nova Scotia. The warbler diversity and rate of vagrants for Autumn 2018 was felt to be below average – lacking any major rarities other than a Hermit Warbler in Newfoundland.


Alain Clavette, Alix d’Entremont, Alison Mews, Brian Bishop, Bruce Mactavish, Chris Bartlett, Coral d’Entremont, Eric Mills, Evelyn Symons, Gina Sheridan, Jason Dain, Jim Edsall, John Kearney, John Tuach, Jake Walker, Lancy Cheng, Kathleen MacAulay, Ken McKenna, Mark Dennis, Paul Gould, Patrick Hacala, Ronnie d’Entremont, Robert Keereweer, Richard Thomas, Susann Myers, Steven McGrath, Sebastian Pardo, Vanessa Bonnyman, Vernon Buckle.

Geese through Ptarmigan

European geese continued to make inroads in the Atlantic provinces. The current theory is that these birds are originating from Greenland or Iceland and are following Canada Geese westward, instead of their more traditional easterly route in fall. Two Pink-footed Geese discovered in St. John’s, NL 24 Oct–18 Nov (m.obs) were particularly wary and only reliably came to freshwater to roost well after sunset, and another in Deer Lake, NL on 25 Oct (JT). Most exciting of the European geese was a Barnacle Goose near Antigonish Landing, NS 17 Oct–9 Nov (JD) and a second at Glace Bay, NS 30 Oct–31 Oct (SMc). A Greater White-fronted x Canada Goose hybrid in St. John’s, NL 28 Sep–28 Oct (LC) may have also originated from Greenland. A handful of Cackling Geese were noted in NS and NB where they are becoming almost annual. A Blue-winged Teal was found in St. John’s, NL 10 Sep (m.obs) and another was in St. Pierre (PH) where they are much more uncommon than in the Maritime region. Eurasian Wigeon were recorded in all four Atlantic provinces with high counts of four in Cape Breton, NS, and a minimum of 11 in St. John’s throughout the season. A Redhead was a one-day wonder at Kenny’s Pond in St. John’s 8 Oct (AB) providing only the 11th provincial record for NL and another in Cole Harbour, NS 31 Oct–18 Nov (m.obs). Tufted Ducks continue their steady population growth in Newfoundland and are now innumerable in the St. John’s region. A Tufted Duck in St. Pierre 6–25 Nov was only their third record (PH). The only other sighting was one near Glace Bay, NS 5 Nov (SMc). Ruddy Duck continues to be uncommon in the region with an individual in Dartmouth, NS enjoyed by many, and three males together in Mt. Steward, PEI was noteworthy 10 Aug (VB). Certain game species continue in isolated populations throughout the region. Wild Turkey can be found in far western NB in small numbers, while Gray Partridge are unique to PEI. A newly discovered and accessible colony of Rock Ptarmigan was enjoyed by a handful of birders in central NL (AB).

Doves through Loons

White-winged Doves continue their far-flung flights into the Northeast with one as far north as Happy-Valley Goose-Bay, Labrador 8 Sep (BB), and two were in the St. John’s area 16 Aug and 8 Sep (m.obs). A Eurasian Collared-Dove – first found in Jan 2018 – continued at Melvern Square, NS throughout fall 2018. The only reliable location for American Oystercatcher in Canada continues to be Cape Sable Island, NS where they have been breeding for several years. This year, two oystercatchers were seen as late as 3 Sep (RK). Three Common Ringed Plovers were discovered in Newfoundland. One at Portugal Cove South 30 Aug–3 Sep (RT) was colour banded revealing that it was banded in Sep 2013 as an adult in Southern England. Another adult was seen at Renews 26 Aug–1 Sep (BMt), and only the third-ever juvenile was well photographed at Bellevue Beach 27 Sep (AB). Upland Sandpipers, increasingly difficult to see in the Atlantic provinces, were observed near Wolfville, NS 4 Aug (JW) and Beaver River 13–17 Aug (JK). A rare Western Sandpiper was well described from Cape Breton, NS 9 Sep (SMc). Great Skuas continue to be difficult to locate in the Atlantic Region without regular pelagic excursions. Individuals were observed in the Bay of Fundy, NB 2 Sep (m.obs), Brier Island, NS 3 Sep (EM) and from land at Cape Race, NL 13 Oct (BMt). Multiple South Polar Skuas were observed in the Bay of Fundy throughout Aug to Oct (m.obs).

Little Gulls, a regularly-occurring rarity, were observed in all four provinces this fall, while individual Franklin’s Gulls were seen at Bellevue, NL 7 Sep (BMt) and a long-staying individual near Halifax, NS 19 Sep–27 Oct (m.obs). A Sabine’s Gull was found in late Aug near Deer Island, NB roosting with Bonaparte’s Gulls (CB). Forster’s Terns, a true rarity in all Atlantic provinces, were observed in Victoria Beach, PEI 5 Sep (GS), and Pictou Harbour 9 Nov (KMc). A Pacific Loon was seen from Roosevelt Campobello International Park Aug to Nov – the only one of the season for the entire region (m.obs).

Tropicbirds through Owls

Nova Scotia continued to enjoy the majority of notable seabird sightings. A White-tailed Tropicbird on 29 Sep off the continental shelf was photographed from a cruise ship where they are likely more regular than previously recognized. A Yellow-nosed Albatross was tantalizingly close to Halifax, NS – only 25 km offshore – and photographed by entertained fishermen (ph. Matt Bulger et al.) A White-faced Storm-Petrel was seen by a reliable observer far to the South of Nova Scotia 4 Sep; one of only a handful of Canadian records (CD). Cory’s Shearwaters continue to be seen from coastal Nova Scotia locations throughout Aug and Sep and as late as early Nov. They quickly become rare half-way up the Nova Scotia landmass, and very rare in Newfoundland waters where only one was observed this season (BMt). Brown Booby – a species only recently considered a mega rarity in the Atlantic provinces – continues its inexplicable occurrence with at least six individuals seen throughout the region. An American White Pelican was seen in Northern NB 7–10 Oct (Nicole Roy), while another one was seen at Cape Sable Island, NS 16–21 Oct (MD). A Least Bittern was photographed in a tree north of St. John, NB after a significant Southerly storm on 4 Nov (ES). A Gray Heron was photographed by a very happy birder 300 km to the east of Newfoundland 30 Sep (BMt). It, or another one, was found at Renews and seen by several birders 2–13 Nov before being re-discovered in early Dec in St. Lawrence, NL (Lillian Walsh). The rarest Southern heron was a Tricolored Heron discovered in Moncton, NB 8–26 Aug (m.obs). A Little Egret at Spaniard’s Bay, NL lingered from the summer through 1 Oct (m.obs). A handful of Black-crowned Night-Herons were recorded throughout the region, with the furthest northeast at St. John’s, NL where they are very rare 5 Sep (AB). A Glossy Ibis was in southern New Brunswick 10 Oct (Todd Watts) and two together in PEI 15 Aug (VB). Small numbers of Black Vultures were observed in the Maritime provinces, while Turkey Vultures are increasingly common. A few Red-shouldered Hawks were observed in NS and NB, while a Red-tailed Hawk was found 18 Nov and remained for the winter in St. John’s, NL where hawks rarely venture (Chris Brown). A fly-by Northern Hawk Owl in Southern Labrador 18 Oct was the only regional sighting for the season (VBu).

Woodpeckers through Thrushes

At least three Red-headed Woodpeckers were seen in NB and NS between Oct and Nov including a long-staying individual in Stewiacke, NS (m.obs). Four Fork-tailed Flycatchers were recorded in the region in fall 2018; Cape Bonavista, NL 16–24 Aug (AM), St. Pierre 27 Oct (JD), Halifax, NS 7 Nov (Paul Harris), and Harvey, NB 6 Oct (Brian Bauld). A Hammond’s Flycatcher at Cape Forchu was the fourth record of this western Empidonax species for Nova Scotia 4 Nov (AD). A Say’s Phoebe 25–27 Sep was seen near Carrolls Corner, NS (m.obs). At least 10 Western Kingbirds were seen throughout Nova Scotia, with the only other one at Grand Manan, NB 7 Oct (Alain Clavette). One of the biggest rarities of the season was a Gray Kingbird in western New Brunswick 5–10 Oct (m.obs). Not surprisingly, a first record for the Atlantic provinces. A handful of White-eyed Vireos were seen at scattered locations in NS and NB, while only two Yellow-throated Vireos were found – both in NS 14 Sep and 30 Oct (JE, PG). Tufted Titmouse continue to be seen in far southwestern New Brunswick – the only reliable area for this species in the region. Multiple Northern Rough-winged Swallows were observed in southern NS 9 Nov (m.obs) and one in southern NB 9 Nov (Todd Watts). Three House Wrens in southern Nova Scotia in Oct were the only sightings of this abundant North American wren. A Winter Wren was at Forteau, Labrador 4 Sep (CB) was notable for that location. While two Marsh Wrens were observed in NS; near Wolfville 7–19 Nov (m.obs) and Yarmouth 18 Nov–16 Dec (m.obs), while another two were in southern NB where they are known to breed. Carolina Wrens were seen at widely scattered locations in NS and NB. A Townsend’s Solitaire in rural NB 23 Nov was photographed by one lucky observer at a private feeder (fide Nathan Staples). Nocturnal flight calls seem to be the only lens into migrant thrushes throughout the region in fall. The Beaver River Monitoring Station recorded hundreds of thrushes migrating throughout the season – highlighted by two Wood Thrushes 31 Aug, 23 Oct; and Gray-cheeked Thrush every night from 16–20 Sep.

Sparrows through Grosbeaks

Only one Grasshopper Sparrow was reported from the region this fall: Brier Island, NS 19 Oct (JW). At least 10 Field Sparrows were reported from NS and NB combined. Harris’s Sparrow – a genuine rarity in this region – were found in Pubnico, NS 24 Oct (Lisa LeBlanc) and Dartmouth, NS 5 Nov (m.obs) A Vesper Sparrow was observed by many at Cape Race, NL 5–9 Nov (RT, m.obs) and several more were reported from southern NS and NB. While Eastern Towhee – surprisingly rare in the region considering how abundant of a breeder it is in the East – were seen in Halifax, NS 8 Nov (SP) and a few reported from Grand Manan Island, NB in early Nov. A Yellow-headed Blackbird at North Harbour, NL 4 Oct and another at Cappahayden, NL 11–14 Sep (m.obs.) were notable for this less than annual vagrant. Despite the declining population of Bobolink, it was reported from two locations in Newfoundland; Renews 8 Sep (m.obs) and Cape Spear 9 Sep (m.obs). An Eastern Meadowlark at Long Beach, NL 11–12 Nov (RT) was notable, as were one north of Saint John, NB 4 Nov (Scott Makepeace) and two in southern NS; Cape Sable Island 10–12 Nov (RK), and West Head 18 Nov (Bill Crosby). An Orchard Oriole was enjoyed by many birders at Cape Spear, NL 13–16 Aug (ED, m.obs) while two more were observed in southern NS 23 Aug (Lucinda Zawadzki, RD). The most unprecedented record of the season was a Hooded Oriole on Seal Island, NS 26 Aug (AD, KM) – another first for the Atlantic Provinces. A Bullock’s Oriole 28 Oct–9 Nov in Lakeville, NB was enjoyed by many. A Brewer’s Blackbird on Cape Sable Island, NS 30 Nov entertained several birders into Dec. Warbler diversity and rarities were below average this fall. Highlights were a Golden-winged Warbler in Dartmouth, NS 30 Sep (Jim Edsall), Cape Forchu, NS 29 Sep (RD, PG), and up to five Blue-winged Warblers – all in NS, except one on Grand Manan, NB 5 Oct (AC). Prothonotary Warbler was represented by two individuals; Bear Cove, NL 30 Aug–17 Sep (m.obs) and Lunenburg, NS 9 Nov (Sylvia Craig). A Kentucky Warbler was seen at Hartlen Point, NS 20–22 Aug (JE). Three Hooded Warblers were reported from NS. At least five individual Yellow-throated Warblers were reported from across the region. The rarest warbler of the season was a Hermit Warbler at Cape Broyle, NL 23 Oct (DB) which was a one-day wonder. Summer Tanagers, an annual vagrant, were only represented by two sightings; Grand Manan, NB 30 Aug (Katie Margo) and Halifax, NS 4 Nov (Bernie Brown). Blue Grosbeaks were well represented with at least seven in NS, including two at the old Halifax dump – a near annual location for this rarity.

Report processed by Justin Bosler, 28 Mar 2021.