The Atlantic Region: Spring 2019

Spring 2019: 1 Mar–31 May

David Seeler

Recommended citation:

Seeler, D. 2021. Spring 2019: Atlantic Region & St. Pierre et Miquelon. <> North American Birds.

Weather conditions for the region were relatively unremarkable this season. Reports of note included North America’s fifth record of Eurasian Oystercatcher in Newfoundland, a Chuck-will’s-widow and a lingering Eurasian Collared-Dove in Nova Scotia, and an unusual movement of a number of passerine species into the southern portions of the region.

Contributors: Alvan Buckley, Roger Etcheberry, Alix d’Entremont, Bruce Mactavish, Jim Wilson, Marie Dunford

Abbreviations: C.S.I. (Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia), G.M.I. (Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick), P.E.I.N.P. (Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island), S.P.M. (St. Pierre et Miquelon, France), Pen. (Peninsula), P.P. (Provincial Park)

Waterfowl through Black Skimmer

A male Northern Shoveler discovered 7 May near the village of Miquelon, S.P.M. was an unexpected surprise (RE). It remained through 12 May. Rare to S.P.M., a Eurasian Wigeon present since 1 Jan lingered in the vicinity of Miquelon, Miquelon I., S.P.M. through 10 Apr. A pair was observed in the same place 11 and 13 May (RE). Redhead is rare to Newfoundland in spring so the individual found in Mundy Pond, Avalon Pen., NL 8–13 May was a good find (ph. Brian Hoffe et al.). Tufted Duck is a rare vagrant to S.P.M.; a female that lingered in St. Pierre., St. Pierre I. 16 Apr–6 May was exceptional (Patrick Hacala, Patrick Boez). Harlequin Duck is infrequently reported at North Cape, PE—most likely because the area is visited infrequently—so a report of five males in the company of Black Scoter on 13 May was welcome (ph. Donna Martin). A pair of Buffleheads was observed on the Isthmus, Miquelon I., S.P.M. 25 Mar, 10 and 26 Apr, and 4 May; two pairs were observed 18 Apr. All were rare finds for that region (RE). A Hooded Merganser near the village of Miquelon, Miquelon I., S.P.M. 8 and 14 May was quite unexpected (RE). A male Common Merganser observed in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I., S.P.M. 21 Apr was also very unusual for the French islands (RE). Three male Ruddy Ducks, now regular breeders on Prince Edward Island, were first reported at the Allisary Creek Impoundment, Mt. Stewart, Queens 12 May (Rosemary Curley, Glen Kelly, Dan McAskill).

A Chuck-will’s-widow was an exceptional, and well-documented, find at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, NS 22–23 May (Shannon Doane, m. ob.). On 23 May a deceased Chuck-will’s-widow was found nearby in Milford, Annapolis, NS; it was considered a separate individual (ph. Robyn McMurray). Sandhill Crane was present throughout much of the region this season with at least eight being reported from New Brunswick and seven from Nova Scotia. Interestingly, two Sandhill Cranes—rare to Newfoundland and Labrador—were observed in a backyard in Labrador–Happy Valley–Goose Bay 16 May (Tony Chubbs, Mark Simms). The Eurasian Collared-Dove first observed 16 Jan was present throughout the season at Melvern Square, Annapolis, NS (fide Steven McGrath).

A Black-necked Stilt was an exceptional find at Lundrigan’s Marsh, St. John’s, NL 29–30 May (Anne Hughes, Todd Boland, m.ob.). A Eurasian Oystercatcher at Lushes Bight, Beaumont, NL 17–23 May provided the province with its fourth record and North America with its fifth record of the species (Vernon Buckle, ph. Frank King, ph. John and Ivy Gibbons, m. ob.). The first American Oystercatcher of the year arrived 6 Apr at Daniel’s Head, C.S.I., NS, a known breeding area for the species (ph. Mark Dennis). Very rare in New Brunswick, two American Oystercatchers were observed flying eastbound at Point Lepreau, St. John, NB 18 Apr (Holly Frazer, Todd Watts). Quite uncommon in spring on Prince Edward Island, two American Golden-Plovers were found on Dalvay Beach, P.E.I.N.P., Queens 27 May (Albert Kayser). A late Black-tailed Godwit lingered at Goulds, Old Bay Bull’s Rd., Avalon Pen., NL 28 Apr–11 May (Syd Cannings, ph. AB, Marcel Grahbauer et al.). A Black-tailed Godwit discovered on Caribou I., Pictou, NS 29 May was rare for that province (ph. Ken McKenna, Steve Vines et al.). Two Ruddy Turnstones found at Point La Haye, Avalon Pen., NL 13 Mar were exceptionally early (Fred and Colleen Wood). Three Ruffs were reported this season: a female in alternate plumage at Elderbank, Halifax, NS 28 Apr (ph. B. Haley); a male in breeding plumage at Hartlen Point, Halifax, NS 15–22 May (ph. David Currie, Diane LeBlanc, m. ob.); and a male at the Borden Lagoons, Prince, PE 25 May (ph. Ron Arvidson). Uncommon in Nova Scotia and exceptional in spring, a Stilt Sandpiper was at the Hawk, C.S.I., NS 16 May (ph. Paul Gould). A Willet ss. inornata returned for the third consecutive year to Crescent Beach, Lunenburg, NS 3 Mar–25 Apr (fide Rick Wittman).

The first observed adult Pomarine Jaeger of the year was seen flying over Yarmouth Bar, NS 27 Apr (ph. Paul Gould). This individual was followed by single adults reported southwest of Yarmouth, NS 3 May and 30 May (ph. Aldric d’Eon). A dark morph Parasitic Jaeger was also observed southwest of Yarmouth, NS 30 May (ph. Aldric d’Eon). A Razorbill at East Point, PE 10 Mar was a good find (Scott Sinclair). An exceptional movement of approximately 900 Razorbills was observed flying south past Cape Forchu, Yarmouth, NS over a 70-minute sea watch 28 Mar (ph. AE). The first arrival of a Bonaparte’s Gull to P.E.I. was at Corran Ban, Queens 6 Apr (Brendon Kelly). Four Laughing Gulls were found and photographed in Nova Scotia this season from 3 to 30 May. Laughing Gull is rare in Newfoundland so an individual located at Witless Bay, Avalon Pen. 12–14 May was a very good find (ph. Alison Mews, ph. Ethel Dempsey et al.). Rare and out of place, an adult Franklin’s Gull at Sackville, Westmorland, NB 17 Apr was also a good find (Laura Achenbach), while a Franklin’s Gull on Caribou I., Pictou, NS 29 May was equally unusual (ph. Steve Vines). An exceptionally high 229 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were counted in New Brunswick at Pointe-du-Chêne Wharf, Westmorland 12 Apr (fide Gilles Belliveau). A “Common” Mew Gull (Larus canus canus) was found at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s, NL 17 Apr (ph. Shawn Fitzpatrick), while a second individual was present 20 Apr (ph. AB). Both lingered through 30 Apr (fide AB). A first-cycle European Herring Gull was discovered at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s, NL on 18 Apr; it remained until 1 May (Frank King, David Brown, AB et al.). Alix d’Entremont reported a lack of activity at the new Roseate Tern colony at Gull I., Yarmouth through May, a shaky start for Nova Scotia’s endangered population of the species. By the end of May, nine Roseate Terns were at their old colony site on North Brother’s I., Yarmouth (fide AE). Four Arctic Terns observed alongside the Hillsborough River in Mt. Stewart, Queens, PE 30 Apr were a very good find (Don Jardine). Black Skimmer is considered accidental to New Brunswick, so the discovery of an individual at Point Lepreau, St. John’s was a good find as well (Todd Watts).

Loons through Wrens

The Pacific Loon observed offshore of St. Vincent’s, Avalon Pen., NL 31 Mar was presumably the same individual that has been at this location for the last several springs (BM, Edmund Hayden). Within Nova Scotia, 14 Great Egrets were reported this season from seven counties, while 2 Great Egrets were seen in New Brunswick, and 4 were observed in P.E.I. New Brunswick hosted 5 Snowy Egrets while Nova Scotia had 12—twice the recent seasonal average for the species—with a high count of 4 individuals at Clam Harbour Marsh, Halifax 10 Apr (fide Jason Dain). Only one adult Little Blue Heron was found in Nova Scotia at Morden, Kings 11 May (Shawna Finley), while a Little Blue Heron observed in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I., S.P.M. 24–25 May (Patrick Hacala, Patrick Boez, Nathalie de Lacoste) was considered a rare vagrant. A Tricolored Heron located at Grand Desert, Halifax, NS 5 Apr–1 May wandered throughout the area (fide Jason Dain). Ten Cattle Egrets were reported through the season in Nova Scotia from the counties of Digby, Lunenburg, Shelburne, and Yarmouth (fide Jason Dain). Glossy Ibis is a rare migrant in New Brunswick; one reported this season in the Hartland area, Carleton 20–22 Apr (Nathan Staples) provided that county with its first record of the species. Two Glossy Ibises were reported in Nova Scotia: one along the Chapel Gully Trail, Canso, Guysborough 2 May (Jeff Odgen), and the other in Brookfield Marsh, Colchester 3–12 May (ph. Starr Caines, m. ob.).

A Black Vulture at Rothesay, Kings, NB 8 Apr (Michele Trail et al.) and another reported at the Hampton Lagoons, Kings, NB 7–24 May (Richard Blacquiere) may have been the same individual; both reports were rare occurrences for the province. Black Vulture is also rare in Nova Scotia, and there two individuals were reported: one was near Queens Waste Management Facility, Queens 12–16 May (Debbie Wambodlt, ph. Mark Dennis) and the other was observed in flight near Londonderry, Colchester 17 May (Dominic Cormier, Lucas Berrigan et al.). Turkey Vultures are now expected in the southern portions of the region, but an individual observed at La Manche P.P., Avalon Pen., NL 28–31 May was an exceptionally rare occurrence (ph. Chris Hearn, ph. Ethel Dempsey, ph. Alison Mews). A Golden Eagle at Goose Brook, Labrador-Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador NL 21 Mar was an interesting report (ph. Tony Chubbs). Two Golden Eagles were reported in Nova Scotia this season: an adult soaring over Canning, Kings 31 Mar (Jake Walker et al.) and a juvenile at Spicer’s Cove, Cumberland 9 May (ph. Kathleen Spicer). A Red-tailed Hawk found at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s, NL that wandered throughout the area 16 Mar–27 May was an exceptionally early, rare spring migrant (fide BM). Interestingly, a Red-tailed Hawk was later discovered at Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador NL 5 May (ph. Vernon Buckle). Historically, Gyrfalcons appear on the Avalon Pen., NL at the end of winter. This season a significant number of Gyrfalcons were still on the Avalon Pen. 3–15 Apr, with another in St. John’s, NL later than expected (fide BM).


Why is this happening?

You can’t Google the answer to this question. Over the decades there has been a distinct pattern of an increase of Gyrfalcons (and often Snowy Owls) in late winter 20 March–10 April. It is not evident every year and it has been a good while since it has happened with Gyrfalcons. I have a theory about the current Gyr influx: Prolonged—very prolonged—cold, far-reaching, northwesterly winds along the entire Labrador coast and eastern Newfoundland through February and into early March helped more Gyrs drift into Newfoundland waters. Gyrs are perfectly at home living out on the pack ice during the winter and feeding on seabirds. The Gyrs might have made their way back north mostly unnoticed, except that in late March the ice off Newfoundland disintegrated quickly in the face of powerful westerlies, until there was nothing but a narrow strip of it running off the tip of the northern peninsula. My theory is that the Gyrs wintering at sea had to head to land in late March. It was still winter in their minds, so the Gyrs didn’t have to go back north yet. Once they hit the coast, their search for food led some of them farther south. The Avalon acts as a catch bag, and at the Cod End, they can’t go farther south. But they are finding food here. Lots of nesting kittiwakes are coming back to the nesting colonies—prime meals for Gyrs. The Gyrs are getting Herring Gulls as well; that species is abundant on the northeast Avalon at least.

In past decades, when this late-winter Gyr influx has occurred, the sightings have stopped around 15 April. BM


A Peregrine Falcon in the P.E.I.N.P. at Brackley 9 May sported two bands—a green band with a white U and a black band with a white 96 (ph. Vanessa Bonnyman). The discovery of three Eastern Phoebes at the railway bridge, Larkin’s Pond, Kings, PE 30 Apr was exceptional for the province (Gerald Macdonald). A rare Say’s Phoebe at Keswick Ridge, York, Queens, NB briefly lingered 27–29 Apr (ph. Michel Doucet, Jim Carroll, Pam Watters et al.). Three Northern Shrikes were reported on the Avalon Pen., NL 21–31 Mar, while six Northern Shrikes were reported on P.E.I. in Kings and Queens 14–28 Apr. A White-eyed Vireo discovered at Mavillette, Digby, NS 26–28 Apr was a very uncommon overshoot to the province (ph. Ervin Olsen, ph. Kathleen MacAulay). White-eyed Vireo is also uncommon in New Brunswick, so an individual at Anchorage P.P., G.M.I. 17 May was a great find (ph. Alain Clavette). A Yellow-throated Vireo first observed at Anchorage P.P., G.M.I. 17 May (ph. Alain Clavette) was later found at the Old Dump, G.M.I. 19 May (Michel Doucet et al.). Purple Martin is a rare vagrant to S.P.M., so the individual observed in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 26 May was exceptional (Patrick Boez, Patrick Hacala). Also rare to S.P.M., a Brown Creeper was photographed in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I., S.P.M. 26 May (ph. Joël Detcheverry). A House Wren present at Cape Forchu, Yarmouth, NS 13 May (ph. Ervin Olsen) likely overwintered in the area (fide Nancy Dowd) and a House Wren observed near Seabright, Halifax, NS 29 Mar was considered a transient (ph. Jake Walker).

Gnatcatchers through Tanagers

Wood Thrush is a rare vagrant to S.P.M., so when one was found in a backyard in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 27 Apr it was well appreciated and quickly photographed (ph. Joël Detcheverry). The Wood Thrush located in Fort Needham Memorial Park, Halifax, NS 11–12 May was considered a vagrant (ph. Sean Dekelver et al.). The Gray Catbird that had been lingering at feeders in Lumsden, Notre-Dame Bay-Lewisporte, NL since last fall was last reported 29 Apr (Frank and Heather King).

Field Sparrow is a very uncommon migrant to New Brunswick, yet five were unexpectedly reported this season. Within Nova Scotia, Field Sparrow was reported at approximately twice the seasonal average—all in the western half of the province, suggesting an influx into that region (fide AE). A Swamp Sparrow that had overwintered at Hermitage Creek, Charlottetown, PE was last reported 9 Mar (Brendan Kelly). Quite early for New Brunswick, a Yellow-headed Blackbird was discovered in the Bell Street Marsh, Moncton 21–22 Apr (ph. Michel Doucet, Holly Frazer et al.).

Eastern Meadowlark is very uncommon in New Brunswick, so the occurrence of three individuals was quite unusual. The first Eastern Meadowlark was found in St. Martin’s, St. John, NB 19 Mar (ph. Michel Doucet, ph. Jim and Therese Carroll, ph. David Miller et al.), and was joined by a second Eastern Meadowlark 27 Mar (Jane LeBlanc); these two Eastern Meadowlarks were last observed 11 Apr (Jane LeBlanc). The third Eastern Meadowlark was in Lower Woodstock, Carleton, NB 17–21 Apr (ph. Linda McHatten). Western Meadowlark is very rare in Nova Scotia and the individual discovered at First Peninsula, Lunenburg lingered long enough 8–11 Apr to be well documented (John  Prentiss, m. ob.).

Orchard Oriole is a rare vagrant to New Brunswick, so the unique opportunity to observe a male at the feeders of Ted Sears in St. Martin’s, St. John 9–24 May was quite exciting (Ted Sears, ph. Jim and Therese Carroll, m. ob.). A male Bullock’s Oriole that was briefly present at feeders in Duncan’s Cove, Halifax, NS was quite rare for that province (ph. Dominique Gusset). The Rusty Blackbird that continued into the season at Monticello, Kings, PE was last observed 9 Mar (Gerald Macdonald).

The presence of three Worm-eating Warblers this season in Nova Scotia was unprecedented for spring, with all being reported from the southwest region of the province (fide Ken McKenna). A Blue-winged Warbler found at Seal Cove, G.M.I., NB 24 Apr was a rare vagrant and an excellent find (ph. Mark Morse). A male Hooded Warbler at White Head Marsh, White Head I., Charlotte, NB was very unexpected (JW, Alain Clavette et al.). Two Prairie Warblers were reported, one at White Head Village, White Head I., Charlotte, NB 12 May (Roger Burrows) and the other on Kent I., Charlotte, NB 27 May (Eric Heisey). Prairie Warbler is considered rare in New Brunswick in spring. Cape May Warbler is rare in S.P.M., so a male in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 27–29 May (Patrick Hacala, Joël Detcheverry, Nathalie de Lacoste), and a female in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 30 May (Joël Detcheverry) were both very good finds.

A Summer Tanager in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I., S.P.M. 17 Apr was exceptional (Pascal Asselin). In fact, Summer Tanager numbers were also exceptionally high in the southern portion of the region this season, with 5 reported in New Brunswick (fide JW) and 16 recorded within Nova Scotia (fide Ken McKenna). Two Scarlet Tanagers, considered uncommon in P.E.I., were reported in that province this season: one along the Confederation Trail, Morell, Kings 3 May (John te Raa) and the other at Wood Islands, Queens 11 May (ph. Bryon Fichter). Northern Cardinal used to be considered rare in Newfoundland, but since the fall of 2018 at least five records have been established. The last of these was of a female Northern Cardinal lingering 28 Feb–3 Mar at feeders in Pouch Cove, Avalon Pen. (ph. Fred and Colleen Wood, m. ob.). Blue Grosbeak is a rare migrant to New Brunswick, yet six Blue Grosbeaks were reported in the province this season, all well documented. A Blue Grosbeak was reported at the feeders of Fred and Joyce Gill in Cornwall, PE late Apr through 4 May, providing that province with its fifth record of the species (ph. Fred Gill).

Indigo Bunting is quite rare to Newfoundland, so the reports of two individuals were exciting for the province. One was observed at Middle Cove, Logy Bay, Avalon Pen. 5 May (ph. Blair Flemming) and the other was at Clovelly Stables, Avalon Pen. 1–8 May (Shawn Fitzpatrick). Also rare in S.P.M., an Indigo Bunting was found in St. Pierre, St. Pierre I. 29 May (ph. Pascal Asselin). Painted Bunting is rare in New Brunswick, so it was exceptional that there were two reports of the species this season. One was observed at Cumming’s Cove, Deer I., Charlotte, NB 14–15 May (Linda and Bob Bosiens, ph. Jim and Therese Carroll et al.). The second was discovered at Rusagonis, Sunbury, NB 20 May (ph. Alain Clavette). Painted Bunting is also rare in Nova Scotia, and that province had two new records as well: one briefly lingered at feeders in Hunt’s Point, Queens 23–25 May (ph. Mary Carroll, ph. AE, ph. Kathleen MacAulay, ph. Larry Neily et al.), while the other was reported at Nine Mile River, Hants 27 May (ph. Adelaide Rodgers). Curiously, both Newfoundland and P.E.I. also established new records for Painted Bunting—both provinces on the same day: a Painted Bunting found in St. George’s–Stephenville, NL 29 May provided that province with its fourth record (ph. Randolph White, ph. Janie Flynn), while one located at a feeder in Souris, Kings, PE 29 May (Rose Cheverie, ph. Wanda Bailey) provided that province with its second record.

Report processed by Joshua Malbin and Marie Dunford, 26 Feb 2021.

Photos–The Atlantic Region: Spring 2019

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.