Waterfowl through Sandpipers
The discovery of a Barnacle Goose at Shubenacadie, NS 4 Nov. (ph. Shawn Chapman, m. obs.) was an unusual event given the species’ rarity in the region, but the possibility of an escapee must be considered. While local hunters have mentioned other observations of Barnacle Goose, the provenance of these birds remains unknown. Two Tufted Ducks at St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 10–30 Nov. provided S. P. M.’s second and third records of the species (Patrick Boez). A male Tufted Duck was at Tower Rd. Lagoon, Cape Breton, NS 14–29 Oct. (ph. David Turgeon); a male Tufted Duck observed at Miller L., Halifax 29 Nov. may have been the same individual (Rob Debay). Considered a rare fall migrant in S. P. M., a Yellow-billed Cuckoo appeared at St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 5 Nov. (ph. Danielle Goicoechea). The presence of an Eastern Whip-poor-will on Bon Portage I., Shelburne, NS 15 Sept. was exceptional (Danae Mouton, D. B.).
Three American Avocets were found this season in NS: one at Dominion Beach, Cape Breton 25–28 Aug. (ph. Monique Vassallo), another at Pinkey’s Pt., Yarmouth 29 Aug.–4 Sept. (Brenda Levy Tate, et al.), and a third individual at the HAWK, C. S. I. 14–28 Sept. (Clyde Stoddard, et al.). The summer population of American Oystercatchers at C. S. I., NS numbered five individuals 11 Aug. (Mark Dennis) and lingered through 20 Sept., with one fledged young observed (Mark Dennis). Two Common Ringed Plovers were present in NL this season: one lingered into the season at Biscay Bay, Avalon Pen. to 3 Aug. (ph. B. M., Ken Knowles, John Wells) and relocated to nearby Trepassey Bay 5–7 Aug. (fide BM). Another at Portugal Cove South, Avalon Pen., NL 10 Aug. was clearly identified as a separate individual through photographs (A. B., Alison Mews, B. M.). In NS, a flyover Common Ringed Plover was observed and heard calling loudly by members of the Atlantic Bird Observatory banding team on Bon Portage I., Shelburne, 1 Sept. The calls were recorded and compared to a Xeno–Canto recording identifying the overhead visitor as a Common Ringed Plover (fide D. B.). A Marbled Godwit at Marsh Creek, St. John, NB 21–27 Aug. was a rare summer observation (Pam Watters, Don Gibson, m. obs.). Another Marbled Godwit—or perhaps the same individual—was found at South Malbaie, Miscou I., Gloucester, NB 31 Aug.–16 Sept. (Frank Branch, Michel Roy, ph. Rosita Lanteigne, m. obs.). Rare to NS, a Ruff present at Miner’s Marsh, Kentville 3–4 Sept. was a good find (ph. Andrea Drake, Janus Churchill, et al.).
The first Stilt Sandpiper of the season was reported 17 Aug.–3 Sept. on St. Pierre I., S. P. M., where it is considered rare (Patrick Boez, Laurent Jackman). Stilt Sandpiper is also rare in NL, perhaps even more so than Common Ringed Plover, so reports of a total of three Stilt Sandpipers in NL this season were quite unexpected (fide B. M.). Two juv. Stilt Sandpipers were discovered at Renews, Avalon Pen. 19–20 Aug. (ph. B. M., ph. Lisa Leon, at al.), while another juv. was found at Cape Boyle, Avalon Pen. on the same dates (ph. Lisa Leon, ph. B. M., et al.). These sightings were part of a significant invasion of the species into the region. For NB, a total of 24 Stilt Sandpipers were reported 3 Aug.–25 Sept., including an amazing find of 13 individuals at the Salisbury Wetlands, Westmorland 8 Sept. (ph. Bill Windsor). Nine Stilt Sandpipers were reported within NS, with one individual lingering at Miner’s Marsh, Kentville 27 Sept.–9 Nov. (fide Rick Whitman). A Curlew Sandpiper found at Martinique Beach P. P., Richmond, NS 27 Aug. (ph. Chris Peters) was relocated in the same locale 31 Aug. (Blaine & Amber MacDonald, Alison Conrad, Angela Granchelli). Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a rare fall vagrant to NB, so the one at Anchorage P. P., G. M. I. 17 Aug.–3 Sept. was a good find (Dan Nickerson). Interestingly, another Buff-breasted Sandpiper was at Malbaie South, Miscou I., NB 28 Aug. (Michel Roy, Denise Godin). Western Sandpiper is considered uncommon to NS, and two Western Sandpipers were reported in the province this season: one on Seal I., Yarmouth 27 Aug. (David McCorquodale, et al.), and the other at Gabarus, Cape Breton 8 Sept. (Tony Timmons).
Skuas through Caracaras
A Great Skua reported off Castalia Marsh, G. M. I., NB 23 Aug. was exceptionally close to shore (Alan Young). Great Skua is also uncommon within NS waters, so an individual observed during a whale watching expedition off Brier I., Digby 9 Sept. was unusual (Angie & Tony Millard). South Polar Skua is the more frequently reported species in the region, with a total of seven reported in NS waters 20 Aug.–30 Sept., and nine in NB waters 26 Aug.–2 Nov. A Laughing Gull, considered a rare vagrant to S. P. M., was found at St. Pierre, St Pierre I. 30 Aug. (Bernard Verger). Another Laughing Gull made an uncommon appearance at Westport, Brier I., Digby, NS 6 Oct. (Jake Walker). Rare to NB in fall, an ad. Sabine’s Gull was observed at Head Harbour Passage, Charlotte 27 Aug.–16 Sept. (ph. Chris Bartlett, Donald Maro), and was joined by a second individual there 10–12 Sept. (ph. Chris Bartlett, ph. Woody Gillies). A Franklin’s Gull at the Windsor Causeway, Hants 15 Sept. was a rare visitor to NS (Jake Walker, Phil Taylor). Of note was a rare Sandwich Tern present at Cresent Beach, Lunenburg, NS 20 Aug. (Lisa Bell). A Pacific Loon was a surprise at Port George, Annapolis, NS 30 Sept. (ph. Larry Neily). Subsequently, two Pacific Loons were observed at Seal I., Yarmouth, NS 3 Oct. (Danae Mouton, D. B., Sarah Fensore), and one reported there 18 Oct. was presumably one of the original two (Danae Mouton, et al.). Eastern Canada Seabird at Sea surveys were conducted off NS 1 Aug.–30 Nov., and the results are noted in Figure 1.
Figure 1: ECSAS Fall 2017 Counts
The relative lack of Manx Shearwaters during ECSAS surveys was probably due to the fact that the surveys were conducted mostly inshore (fide John Loch), but three Manx Shearwaters were observed during a pelagic tour off G. M. I. 4 Sept. (fide J. W.). An Audubon’s Shearwater found during an extended pelagic trip out of Pubnico Harbour 180 km. s. of Cape Sable I. 4 Aug. represented an uncommon NS record of the species (ph. David Currie, Richard Stern, ph. Paul Gould et al.). An ad. female Magnificent Frigatebird observed at Seal I., Yarmouth, NS 28 Sept. (ph. D. B., Sarah Fensore, Laura Achenbach, Danae Mouton) provided the province with its 7th record of the species (fide John Loch). An American White Pelican lingering at Black’s Pond, Prince 23–27 Nov. (Marlene Aylard, ph. Don McLelland) provided a 4th record for PE. Rare to S. P. M. in fall, a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was found near Miquelon, Miquelon I. 6 Aug. (Charlène Jézéquel).
A Black Vulture present at Burego, NL 18–20 Nov. was a first record for the province (ph. Mitchell Billard, Ken Knowles). Accidental to NB, three Swainson’s Hawks were reported there this season. One found at Shepody Marsh, Albert 24 Sept. (Gilles Bourque, Rose-Alma Mallet, Gilles Belliveau) wandered widely, and was subsequently observed at Greenlaw Mountain, Charlotte 30 Sept. (Todd Watts) and Hopewell Rocks, Albert 7 Oct. (Jason Dain, Michel Doucet). The second Swainson’s Hawk was a juv. at Miscou I., Gloucester, NB 30 Sept.–11 Oct. (Robert Doiron, Roger Bumaresq, et al.). Finally, a third Swainson’s Hawk was at Tantramar Marshes, Westmorland, NB 25–30 Nov. (ph. Gary Dupuis, ph. Michel Doucet, et al.). Golden Eagle is elusive in NS, so one observed in flight at the Kelley River Wilderness Area, Cumberland (ph. Kevin Lantz) was a good find. A Burrowing Owl at Castalia Marsh, G. M. I., NB 1 Aug.–30 Sept. (ph. Robert Hay, ph. Mark Morris, et al.) provided the province with its second record of the species. A Crested Caracara made wide-ranging appearances in NB: it was first seen along Shepody Rd., Harvey, Albert 24 Sept. (ph. Sibyl Wentzell), and continued in the area through 25 Oct. (David Christie); it subsequently frequented Westcock Marsh, Westmorland 29 Oct.–2 Nov. (ph. Louise Nicholas, ph. Jason Gallant, et al.).
A Great Crested Flycatcher at Basin Head, Kings 28 Aug. (Ron Valentine) constituted an uncommon record for PE; another was unexpected on Bon Portage I., Shelburne, NS 29 Aug. (Lucas Berrigan, Dominic Cormier, Diane Mouton). A Tropical Kingbird appeared briefly at Rockville, Yarmouth 24 Oct., where it stayed just long enough for documentation through sonograms and photographs, providing a first record for NS (ph. Ervin Olsen, ph. A. E., Paul Gould, et al.). Another found near Shippagan, Gloucester, NB 4 Nov. (Frank Branch) was identified later that day as a Tropical Kingbird (ph. Gerard & Denise Benoit): a first for NB as well, it was later observed at Cape Tormentine, Westmorland 9 Nov. (ph. Gary Dupuis). Western Kingbird is a rare fall visitor to NB, so one at Cape Tormentine, Westmorland 13 Nov. was an excellent find (Carmella Melanson, Gilles Belliveau). Also rare to NB was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found along the Cape Enrage Rd., Waterside, Albert 11–13 Oct. (Laura Vatour, Durlan & Sally Ingersoll, Jim & Jean Wilson). A juv. Fork-tailed Flycatcher on Miscou I., Gloucester, NB 10–12 Oct. & 24 Oct. (ph. Frank Branch, Jean–Yves Lagace et al.) was a rare find. Exceptionally rare to NL, a Willow Flycatcher discovered in the Lower Virginia River area of Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s 8–11 Nov. was well documented through audio recordings and photographs (ph. Lancy Cheng, Paul Linegar). A Dusky Flycatcher was an exceptional find at Bon Portage I., Shelburne, NS by Atlantic Bird Observatory researchers 24–27 Oct., providing the province with its third record (ph. D. B., et al.). NS experienced a modest influx of Say’s Phoebes this season, with at least four individuals reported 30 Aug.–28 Sept.
A White-eyed Vireo in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 13 Oct. provided S. P. M.’s sixth record of the species and continued a four-year streak in which one has been observed there (ph. Patrick Boez). White-eyed Vireo is a very rare fall vagrant to NB, and the discovery of one on Miscou I., Gloucester 19 Oct. was not only a great find, but provided the third record of the species for that island (ph. Rosemonde Dugay, Denise Godin, Joland St.–Pierre). Subsequently, a total of at least eight White-eyed Vireos were reported at various locations within NB 27 Oct.–21 Nov. Rare to NL, a Yellow-throated Vireo in the company of an equally rare Warbling Vireo was found at Bear Cove Point Rd., Avalon Pen. 14 Sept. (Ken Knowles). A total of four Yellow-throated Vireos were reported in NB, where they are considered rare: lone individuals were reported on 27 Oct. at Fredericton (Don Gibson) and Lorneville, St. John; a third was at Racoon Beach, Charlotte 28 Oct. (ph. Beatrix Kohlhass, Susan Kline, Sandra Bourque), and the last was observed in St. John 3 Nov. (Gilles Belliveau). A Warbling Vireo on St. Pierre I., S. P. M. 12 Oct. provided a second record for the French island (ph. Patrick Boez, Marcello Brongo). A rare fall migrant to S. P. M., a Cliff Swallow was discovered on Miquelon I. 31 Oct. (Laurent Jackman). Three House Wrens at North Head, G. M. I., Charlotte, NB 27 Aug. were considered rare fall vagrants (ph. Michel Doucet, Joanne Savage). A Marsh Wren at Bay Bulls, St. John’s, NL 29 Oct.–5 Nov. was considered quite rare (B. M., Paul Linegar, Lancy Cheng) A rare fall migrant to NB, two Northern Wheatears were found this season: one at Castalia Marsh, G. M. I., Charlotte 1–8 Sept. (Ken Edwards, ph. Buffie Eicher, ph. Bob Hay et al.), and the other at Atholville, Restigouche 5–8 Sept. (Margaret Gallant Doyle, Irene Doyle). Perhaps the most exciting report from the region this season was that of an ABA-area first Yellow-breasted Bunting at the feeders of Vernon Buckle in Forteau, Labrador, NL 16–18 Oct. (ph. Vernon Buckle, Paul Linegar, et al.), in the company of another rarity to the province—a Dickcissel (fide B. M.). In NS, Grasshopper Sparrow is becoming increasingly rare as a vagrant, yet one flushed at Canso, Cape Breton I., NS and continued 2–12 Oct. (David McCorquodale). A Black-throated Sparrow observed in St. John, NB 1 Sept. did not linger (Jimmy Dee, Gail Taylor). Clay-colored Sparrow was first reported at Cape Forchu, Yarmouth, NS 23 Aug. and subsequently 27 additional individuals strayed into several NS counties through the season (fide I. M.). Interestingly, only one Clay-colored Sparrow was reported in the neighbouring province, NB, on G. M. I. 30 Sept. (Michel Doucet). Very rare to S. P. M. was a Vesper Sparrow discovered in e. Miquelon, Miquelon I. 21 Sept. (Laurent Jackman). An unusual sequence of events brought to light a video of a LeConte’s Sparrow perched on a cattail at Point Park, Riverview, late Oct. (Greg Irving), providing NB with its 3rd record of the species. The incidence of Yellow-headed Blackbird reports this season for NS was twice that of the ten-year average. Three Orchard Orioles were observed on Seal I., Yarmouth, NS 20–28 Aug. (ph. DB, Jason Gregg, Siobhan Darlington), and another was found at Hartlen Point, Halifax NS 28 Aug. (Jim Edsall).
A Worm-eating Warbler was netted, banded, and fitted with a location transmitter on Seal I., Yarmouth, NS 11 Oct. (fide DB). An unusual number of Golden-winged Warblers were reported this year in NS: a female at Mavillette, Digby 4 Sept. (Simon d’Entremont); a hatch-year female banded on Bon Portage I., Shelburne 27 Oct. (fide D. B.); a female at Chebogue Pt., Yarmouth 31 Oct. (ph. A. E.); and a fourth individual at Eastern Passage, Halifax 4 Nov. (fide I. M.). Rare to NB, a total of six Blue-winged Warblers were reported from the province this season, the first at Greenlaw Mountain, Charlotte 26 Aug. (Todd Watts), followed by five additional individuals elsewhere 8 Sept.–2 Nov. (fide J. W.). This was an exciting year for NS, as well, with respect to Blue-winged Warblers, with seven individuals reported there 2 Sept.–31 Oct. (fide Ken McKenna). A single Prothonotary Warbler was located at Hartlen Pt., Halifax, NS 28 Aug. (ph. Jim Edsall). Eighteen Hooded Warblers were found throughout NS after a late Oct. fallout, with most reports emanating from Shelburne and Yarmouth (fide Ken McKenna), and another was reported from NB on White Head I., Charlotte 4 Nov. (ph. Rodger Burrows). A Pine Warbler discovered on Miquelon I., S. P. M. 26 Oct. was considered a rare fall vagrant. Prairie Warbler is an equally rare fall vagrant to S. P. M., so one lingering on St. Pierre I. 1–7 Oct. was exceptional (Patrick Hacala, Joël Detcheverry). In NB, Blue Grosbeaks made rare fall appearances at Anse-Blue, Gloucester 9 Oct. (Frank Branch) and White Head Village, White Head I., Charlotte 12–27 Oct. (Roger Burrows, et al.); another or the same individual came to a feeder on G. M. I. 7 Nov. (ph. Bob Hay). A male Painted Bunting frequented a feeder on G. M. I., NB 18–29 Nov. (Jennifer Pierce, ph. Bob Hay, Michel Doucet et al.) A Dickcissel made a rare appearance on St. Pierre I., S. P. M. 2 Sept.–24 Nov. (Joël Detcheverry, Laurent Jackman, Patrick Hacala, Nathalie Michel).
An unusual combination of weather conditions on the east coast of North America during the fourth week of Oct. 2017 resulted in an extraordinary transport of large numbers of nocturnal migrant songbirds from the southeastern United States to a huge area stretching from NS s. to New England and all the way to Bermuda. The 2017 fallout was similar to the “great fallout” of 1998 in numbers of stray birds, but much more geographically extensive. Numbers were greatest in the southernmost coastal areas of the province, and above average along the Atlantic coast of the mainland as well. Weather analysis indicates that the main source of the fallout birds was likely central Florida, with the possibility of additional birds arriving from northern Florida n. to South Carolina. In all these areas, n. and nw. winds below 500 m. altitude were favourable for southbound migration, but at 1500 meters, crosswinds from the sw. would have carried birds ne. over the Atlantic Ocean. We suggest that updrafts from thunderstorms along a frontal system carried songbirds to these higher altitudes and trapped them in the crosswinds. The species composition of the fallout birds also supports a Florida origin. By Alix d’Entremont and John Kearney– NS Birds: 2017 Vol 60 Issue 1.
The weather analysis by Alix d’Entremont and John Kearney of NS included direct comparisons with the Great Fallout of Oct. 1998. Data pertaining to weather patterns indicate that the fallout of 2017 was due to drift of nocturnal migrants. Data sourced from eBird by the authors was compiled 26 Oct.–30 Nov. to ensure that species numbers reported in Figure 2 show those which arrived during the fallout (fide A. E.).
Figure 2: Count Data for Species Which Arrived in NS 26 Oct. though 30 Nov.
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler