Atlantic Region: Winter 2020–2021

Winter 2020–2021: 1 Dec–28 Feb

David Seeler

Recommended citation:

Seeler, D. 2021. Winter 2020–2021: Atlantic Region. <> North American Birds.

Regional temperatures were above normal this season, moderating many of the winter’s effects. Various forms of precipitation, consistent with normal amounts, affected the latter part of the season. Sea temperatures within the region were at record high levels for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while the Bay of Fundy also had water temperatures above normal. As a result, sea ice coverage of the Gulf was at a record low. The development of a sudden stratospheric warming event reversed normal wind patterns for the North Atlantic by 5 January. This development, combined with a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, created conditions favourable to facilitate downward drift of European vagrants to the region. The combination of these weather events resulted in excellent Winter Bird Lists where NL reported 266 species, NS reported 214 species, and NB recorded 171 species. Similarly, NL reported 10 sparrow species and 11 warbler species, while NS documented 17 sparrow species and 15 warbler species. An incursion of Redwings into the region beginning 7 January involved three provinces. Other species of note include Tundra Swan, Common Shelduck, Western Grebe, Common Gallinule, “Taimyr” Lesser Black-backed Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Gray Heron, Rock Wren, and Golden-crowned Sparrow, amongst others.

Geese through Terns

A Snow Goose at Clifton, Colchester Co, NS 20 Dec (Ross Hall) and another in the Pembroke area, Yarmouth Co, NS 23 Jan–22 Feb (ph. Ervin Olsen, m. ob.) were unexpected. Casual to PE, a blue morph Snow Goose was found at Little Basin, Murray River, Kings Co 13 Feb (Melanie McCarthy). Exceptionally rare to NS, two Greater White-fronted Geese were reported—one lingered into the season in Truro, Colchester Co to 12 Dec (Sean Smith et al.), and the other was in Ambercrombie, Pictou Co 1 Jan–13 Feb (ph. Ken McKenna, m. ob.). The Pink-footed Goose at Burton’s Pond, St. John’s. NL, which lingered into the season, was last reported 24 Feb (Kyle d’Entremont, ph. Roger Blackmore, m. ob.) A Barnacle Goose found at Snide’s Lake, Hants Co, NS 8 Dec–16 Jan (ph. Kathleen MacAulay, m. ob.) was an excellent find. A Cackling Goose located in Moncton, Westmorland Co, NB 30 Nov–3 Dec (Ron and Valerie Tracy, Paul and Rhonda Langelaan et al.) was an accidental visitor. Cackling Goose is very rare to NS, with one present at Houston’s Beach, Kings Co 7 Dec and 28 Jan (ph. George Forsyth). The Tundra Swan that lingered into the season on Cape Sable Island, Shelburne Co, NS to 1 Jan (ph. Mark Dennis, m. ob.) was a rare visitor. Accidental to NL, A Tundra Swan located at Castle Island, St. Georges–Stephenville 3 Dec–2 Jan (ph. John Tuach et al.) provided the province with its first winter record of the species. Also accidental to NL, a Common Shelduck found at Buckle’s Point, Forteau, Happy Valley–Goose Bay Co, was making good use of the unseasonably warm open waters to feed 11 Dec–13 Jan (ph. Vernon Buckle). Amazingly, this provided Labrador with its third record and the province with its fifth record of the species.

Wood Duck is particularly rare to NL, yet at least eight individuals were present. A male Northern Shoveler at Ellen’s Creek, Charlottetown, PE 15–27 Feb (Rosemary Curley, Geoff Ralling) was a casual visitor. Casual to NL, two Gadwall were in Virginia Lake and the surrounding area, St. John’s 2 Dec–26 Feb (ph. Frank King, Kyle d’Entremont, m. ob.). A juvenile Eurasian Wigeon present in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 1 Dec+ joined by a second in early Feb+ (Bernard Verger, Patrick Boez, Joël Detcheverry) were considered exceptionally rare. An incursion of “Eurasian” Green-winged teal into NL occurred where at least 28 individuals were present throughout the season. Four Redheads on PE were considered casual visitors with one at the Black Pond Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Kings Co 11–12 Dec (ph. Roberta Palmer, Melanie McCarthy), a male was in Reiner’s Creek, Prince Co 7–18 Feb (Geoff Ralling et al.), and a pair were at the Oysterbed Bridge Causeway, Queens Co 10 and 24 Jan (vt. Melanie McCarthy, Dwaine Oakley). Ring-necked Ducks lingered late into the season on PE: thirteen individuals were in Weisner’s Pond, Queens Co 11 Dec (Ray Cooke), seven were located in Black’s Pond Migratory Sanctuary, Kings Co 11 Dec (ph. Roberta Palmer). A Male Ringed-neck Duck x Lesser Scaup was in Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s, NL 2 Dec–19 Feb (ph. Frank King et al.). Rare to SPM, two female King Eider were offshore of Cape Miquelon, Miquelon Island 10 Dec (Laurent Malthieux), while a male was offshore of Colombier Island 23 Dec (fide Roger Etcheberry). Also rare to SPM, two female Bufflehead were present offshore of St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 1 Dec+ (Patrick Boez, Bernard Verger, Joël Detcheverry, Patrick Hacala). Occasional to PE, a male Hooded Merganser was at Oyster Bed Bridge Causeway, Queens Co 24 Jan (Dwaine Oakley)—at a very unusual location and date. In NS, where Ruddy Duck is very rare, seven individuals were present.

A Pied-billed Grebe in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 26 Dec (Patrick Boez) was exceptionally late. Out of place, and exceptionally uncommon, two Pied-billed Grebes were reported in NL during late Jan with one lingering through early Feb. A Western Grebe discovered in the Florence area, Cape Breton Island Co, NS 1–24 Feb (David McCorquodale et al.) was an accidental vagrant. The Eurasian Collared-Dove previously reported at Malvern Square, Annapolis Co, NS was last reported 6 Feb (ph. Larry Neily, Mike Jones). Exceptionally rare to NL, a Common Gallinule continued into the season in Mundy’s Pond, St John’s 2 Dec–1 Feb (ph. Ethel Dempsey et al.). Very rare to NS, were at least nine American Coot, and five or more remained into at least mid-Jan. Three Sandhill Cranes found in Souris West, Kings Co, PE 12 Dec (Brett MacKinnon) were accidental visitors. A Sandhill Crane discovered at Herb’s Landing, Annapolis Co, NS 27 Dec (ph. Wendy Rickards) was exceptionally late. The discovery of 10 Black-bellied Plovers at The Hawk, Cape Sable Island, Shelburne Co, NS 9 Feb (Mark Dennis) was a good find. A Marbled Godwit present along the causeway at Big Island, Pictou Co 3–13 Dec (ph. Ken McKenna, m. ob.) was an exceptionally late find that provided the province with its second winter record. The “Western” Willet returned to Crescent Beach, Lunenburg Co, NS 20 Dec+ (ph. James Hirtle). Two Greater Yellowlegs near the village of Miquelon, Miquelon Island, SPM 1 Dec were the latest recorded (fide Roger Etcheberry). Reports of Pomarine Jaegers in winter are exceptionally rare in NS, yet at least 32 individuals were observed through the season. Rare to NS, six Atlantic Puffins were present with an individual at Terence Bay, Halifax Co 1 Dec (ph. Mike Jones), two were at west Cape Forchu, Yarmouth Co, 6 Dec (ph. AE, ph. Kathleen MacAulay), and another was at Chebucto Head, Halifax Co 26 Dec (Kathleen MacAulay, AE et al.). Single Atlantic Puffins were at Point Michaud, Richmond Co, Cape Breton Island, NS 28 Dec (Steven McGrath, Rowland Spear), and rounding it off was a bird at Baccaro Point, Shelburne Co, NS 27 Jan (Mark Dennis).

An adult and juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake observed at East Point, Kings Co, PE 21 Feb (Melanie McCarthy) were accidental visitors. Rare to NB, two Black-headed Gulls were found: one at Botsford, Murray Corner, Westmorland Co 3–4 Dec (ph. Michel Doucet et al.), and the other was at the Cape Jourmain Natural Wildlife Area 17 Dec (Gilles Belliveau). The juvenile Little Gull present at Boat Harbour, Pictou Co, NS 10 Dec–19 Jan (ph. Ken McKenna, m. ob.) was a rare visitor to that province. Rare to NS, a “Common” Mew Gull was on Pubnico Point, Yarmouth Co 17–30 Dec (ph. AE, ph. Ronnie d’Entremont, ph. Mark Dennis). A second “Common” Mew Gull was also located in New Glasgow, Pictou Co, NS 4 Jan–25 Feb (ph. Angela MacDonald, m. ob.). A “Taimyr” Lesser Black-backed Gull discovered in New Glasgow, Pictou Co 4–11 Jan (Ken McKenna, ph. Angela MacDonald, Peter Adriaens, m. ob.) was an exceptional find, if not a difficult ID—excellent photos were obtained. Two Slaty-backed Gulls were present in NL: an adult at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s 12–25 Feb (ph. Lancy Cheng, m. ob.), and the other—also an adult—was found at Crow Head, Happy Valley–Goose Bay Co 18 Feb (ph. Vernon Buckle). A Slaty-backed Gull located in Sambro, Halifax Co, NS 28 Feb+ (ph. David Currie, ph. Diane LeBlanc) provided the province with its third record for the species.

Loons through Larks

A juvenile Northern Gannet was at Lewin’s Cove, Burin Peninsula, NL 23 Feb (Todd Hollett)—an unusually late date—possibly due to increased ocean temperatures causing open waters within the region. An American White Pelican discovered at Kelly’s Creek, Kingsclear, York Co, NB 27 Dec (ph. Charles Howell) provided that province with its first winter record of the species. A Gray Heron, an accidental vagrant to the NL (and the ABA), was at Burin, Burin Peninsula 14–15 Jan (ph. Susan Joey Poulain) providing the province with its sixth record. The Great Egret which lingered into the season in the area of Shag Harbour, Shelburne Co, NS 1 Dec–1 Jan (Mike MacDonald, ph. Barbara McLean et al.) was an exceptionally rare observation. Especially rare to NS, a Little Egret was on Dominion Beach, Cape Breton Island 4 Dec (ph. Kenneth MacIntosh). Similarly, a Cattle Egret, rare to NS, lingered on the Second Peninsula, Lunenburg Co to 6 Dec (ph. Sandi & Robert Keereweer et al.). A second Cattle Egret was in the Historic Acadian Village of NS, Yarmouth Co 6 and 15 Dec (Ronnie d’Entremont). Rare to NB, a Golden Eagle was at Fort Beauséjour, Westmorland Co 21 Dec (Jaden Barney). A number of Red-shouldered Hawks were present this season. A Red-shouldered Hawk in Johnson’s Mills, Westmorland Co 22 Jan–9 Feb (Alain Clavette, ph. Marco Vachon et al.) was a causal visitor. In NS where Red-Shouldered Hawk is rare, one individual lingered into the season in the area of Brickton, Annapolis Co 11 Dec–26Feb (ph. Keith Welton, m. ob.). Nearby, another Red-shouldered Hawk was at Falmouth, Hants Co, NS 15–16 Jan (ph. Guy Stevens et al.), while another was reported along the French Basin Trail, Annapolis Co, NS 4–19 Feb (ph. Reg Baird, ph. Lyall Bouchard). Red-tailed Hawk is rare on PE, yet their presence has been increasing over the last few years, with at least nine present this season. A Long-eared Owl present in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 24 Dec (ph. Laurent Malthieux) was a rare find.

Rare to NB, two Red-headed Woodpeckers were reported this season: one at feeders in Edgett’s Landing, Albert Co 1 Jan-14 Feb (Dwaine Biggar, ph. Marjorie Wilson, ph. Paul Langelaan et al.), while the other was observed in Rothesay, Kings Co 14 Jan (ph. Therese and Jim Carroll). American Kestrel is a casual vagrant to PE, with two individuals being reported: one at Mount Albion, Queens Co 17 Jan (Brett MacKinnon), and the other along the Hillsborough River, Charlottetown 28 Jan (Dave McRuer). The Pacific-slope Flycatcher reported last season continued on Sable Island National Park, Halifax Co to 6 Dec (au. Greg Stroud). Similarly, the Vermilion Flycatcher previously reported at Indian Head Park, Stephenville, NL was last reported 14 Dec (ph. Denise McIsaac et al.). In both instances, these two species respectively, provided first winter records for their respective provinces. Eastern Phoebe, considered a casual visitor to NS, was reported twice: one was found in a backyard in Cambridge, Kings Co 2 Jan (ph. Daniel Penner), and the other was observed in the town of Antigonish, Antigonish Co 30 Jan (ph. Tamara MacDuff). A Blue-headed Vireo discovered during the annual CBC for Yarmouth, Yarmouth Co 20 Dec (Jerome d’Eon, John Sollows) was especially late.

Swallows through Dickcissel

The Rock Wren previously reported at North Cape, Prince Co, PE was last reported 20 Feb (Thomas Bruce). A Rock Wren located at the Chebucto Head Light House, Halifax Co, NS 4–7 Dec (ph. Peter Shelton, m. ob.) provided that province with its third record of the species. House Wrens, casual to NS and accidental to Cape Breton Island, were reported in Sydney, Cape Breton Co 10 Dec (ph. Steven McGrath), in Armdale, Halifax Co 12 Dec (Sebastián Pardo, Brodie Badcock–Parks), and at Sutherland’s River, Pictou Co 21 Jan (ph. Leah Abas). A Marsh Wren continued into the season in the Broad Brook Wetland Park, Yarmouth Co 11 Dec–7 Feb (Sandra and Mark Dennis et al.). Carolina Wrens were present in good numbers with 13 in NB, and 4 in NS. Rare to NS, a Townsend’s Solitaire was reported at George’s River, Cape Breton Island 24 Dec (ph. David McCorquodale), and another was in the community of Guysborough, Guysborough Co 27 Feb (ph. Ken McKenna). A mini incursion of 22 Eastern Bluebirds were present in NS. A Swainson’s Thrush at Pynn’s Brook, Corner Brook, NL 20 Dec (John Tuach) was exceptionally late. Accidental to PE, a Hermit Thrush found roadside in Monticello, Kings Co 11 Dec (Gerald MacDonald) was in poor condition.

A negative phase North Atlantic Oscillation and simultaneous Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, both of which predominated throughout Jan and Feb in the North Atlantic facilitated an incursion of Redwings into the region. This weather pattern provided favourable conditions for European vagrants to occur within the region via downward drift (fide Steven B. Feldstein). Within that timeframe, individual Redwings made appearances 7 Jan–28 Feb in the region, with six in NS providing that province with its fourth through ninth records of the species, three in NL, and two in NB providing that province with its second and third records. Individual Brown Thrashers, rare to NS, were reported at the Blockhouse, Lunenburg Co 14 Dec+ ((Marilyn Tremere, ph. James Hirtle, m. ob.), in Springfield, Annapolis Co 16–17 Feb (ph. Kim Leslie), and the last was in Weymouth, Digby Co 17 Jan (ph. Becky Manzer). A Brown Thrasher located in Pasadena, Humber District–Corner Brook 2 Jan–27 Feb (ph. John Tuach, m. ob.) was a rare visitor. Accidental to NB, the Brown Thrasher found in Dale, Charlotte Co, 3 Jan (ph. Sandra Bourque, Susan Cline) was a very good find. Casual to PE, a Brown Thrasher was at East Point, Kings Co 25–27 Feb (Dave and Michelle Fletcher, ph. Dwaine Oakley). Rare to NL, a Northern Mockingbird was in Labrador–Happy Valley–Goose Bay 3 Dec–1 Feb (ph. Brian Bishop, Tony Chubbs), while another was present in Rennie’s River, St. John’s 16 Dec–27 Feb (ph. Blair Fleming, m. ob.). Irruptive species such as Bohemian Waxwings and Common Redpolls were present throughout the region. Significant numbers of Hoary Redpolls were present within NL222 and NS, less so in NB and PE.

Particularly rare to NL, a Lark Sparrow was visiting feeders in Trepassey, Avalon Peninsula 5–10 Dec (Cliff Doran). Lark Sparrow is exceptionally rare to NS where one was on Horton Landing, Kings Co 13 Dec-3 Jan (ph. Devin Johnstone et al.). A Clay-colored Sparrow lingered into the season at feeders in Stratford, Queens Co, PE 4 Dec+ (ph. Nicole Murtaugh, au. Ph. Dwaine Oakley et al.) providing the province with its fifth record. In NS, where Clay-colored Sparrow is very rare, with seven individuals recorded. Two Field Sparrows, casual to NS, were present: one at Sangster’s Bridge, Hants Co 16 Jan–28 Fen (Guy Stevens, Diane LeBlanc, Sylvia Craig et al.), and the other–perhaps the same individual–was in the same area 13–18 Feb (ph. John Forsyth, m. ob.). A “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 1 and 12 Dec (Patrick Hacala, Laurent Jackman), and again later on 21 Jan and 19 Feb (Valérie Jackman) was a very good find. A juvenile Golden-crowned Sparrow in Rothesay, Kings Co, NS 11–14 Feb (ph. Harry Scarth) was an accidental visitor. Quite rare to NS, four Vesper Sparrows were observed: one in Caledonia, Queens Co 5–10 Dec (ph. Greg White), two were found in Milford, Halifax Co 11 Jan–20 Feb (ph. David Currie, m. ob.), and the last Vesper Sparrow was located in Starr’s Point, Kings Co 17–26 Feb (ph. George Forsyth et al.). A Spotted Towhee, present at feeders in a yard in Cape Sable Island, Shelburne Co, NS 18 Jan+ (Buzzy Smith, ph. Mark Dennis et al.) provided that province with its second record of the species. Similarly, the Spotted Towhee that arrived at feeders in Little Bay, Burin Peninsula, NL late Feb+ (ph. Dave Foote, ph. BM et al.) provided that province with its third record. Eastern Towhee is a rare visitor to the region with one in NB, one in NL, three in NS, and one on PE.

Two Yellow-breasted Chats, considered particularly rare to NL, were observed: one at Virginia River, St. John’s 1 Dec–27 Feb (ph. Shawn Fitzpatrick, m. ob.), and the other was at Long Pond, St. John’s 2 Dec–2 Jan (Kyle d’Entremont et al.). Rare in NB, a Yellow-breasted Chat was at Cape Tormentine, Westmorland Co 4-2 Dec (ph. Marc LeBlanc, ph. Gilles Belliveau et al.). Within NS, at least 18 Yellow-breasted Chats were present. Occasional to PE a Yellow-headed Blackbird briefly lingered at feeders in Stratford, Queens Co 11–27 Dec (Dwaine Oakley et al.). The Yellow-headed Blackbird at St. Leonard, Madawaska Co, NB 17 Dec (ph. Roy LaPointe, ph. Denise Boudreau) was a casual visitor. Seven Yellow-headed Blackbirds in NS were rare visitors. The Bullock’s Oriole found in Dundas Parish, Kent Co, NB 21 Dec (ph. Stuart Tingley) provided the fourth record to the province. Casual to NS, two Ovenbirds were reported: one in Shubie Park, Halifax 20 Dec (ph. Mahlon Kaulback), and the other was at Herring Cove, Halifax Co 26 Dec (ph. Cathy MacKenzie). The Prothonotary Warbler in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 3–6 Dec (Laurent Malthieux) provide the French islands with its first winter record. A Tennessee Warbler which lingered into the season at Kelly’s Brook, St. John’s, NL through 24 Feb (I.L. Jones, ph. Glen Mitchell, m. ob.) provided the province with its second winter record. In NS where Tennessee Warbler is considered a casual visitor, three were reported. A Magnolia Warbler found at the New Minas Sewage Lagoons, Kings Co, NS 3 Dec (ph. George Forsyth) was quite late.

A Pine Warbler in St. Pierre, St. Pierre Island, SPM 1–7 Dec (Patrick Boez, Patrick Hacala) provided the French Islands with its third winter record. The Pine Warbler in St. John’s, NL 5 Dec–13 Feb (ph. Blair Fleming, m. ob.) was a rare visitor. On PE, where Pine Warbler is a casual visitor, six individuals were present with two remaining throughout the season. In Ns where Pine Warbler is exceptionally rare, at least 54 individuals were present. Two Yellow-throated Warblers, casual to NL, were present: one in the Virginia River, St. John’s area 1–12 Dec (Charles Fitzpatrick, Frank King, m. ob.), and the other was in Central Newfoundland–Grand Falls–Windsor Co 4 Dec (Linda Parsons). A rare visitor to NS, seven Yellow-throated Warblers were present through the season. Exceptionally rare to NS, a Prairie Warbler continued into the season in Sable Island national Park, Halifax Co 3 and 6 Dec (Greg Stroud). Exceptional for NL, a Townsend’s Warbler was at Kent’s Pond St. John’s 11 Jan (ph. Maureen Sheppard). A Western Tanager, which lingered into the season in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, NS to 28 Feb (ph. Steven McGrath) was a rare vagrant. The presence of an Indigo Bunting in Upper Musquodoboit, Halifax Co, NS 13 Dec (ph. Angela Leigh) was quite unexpected.

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 29 Apr 2021.

Photos–Atlantic Region: Winter 2020–2021

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