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There was a shorebird melee at Sandy Cove's Beach in Halifax. I found European Starlings (always present year round), Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black Ducks, and one Bairds Sandpiper.
Black Ducks and Sanderlings
Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers and one Baird's Sandpiper
This beautiful Yellow-breasted Chat will try to overwinter in our merciless climate. I had one in my back yard for some time several years ago as I attempted to save it. I fed it grape jelly, suet, red grapes and peanut butter all combined in a mesh bag heated by flood lights so they would be constantly warm. The chat would even stand on the lights to warm up. Yet for all my effort it still vanished. It must have build up enough body fat to make a run for the Carolinas. I hope so.
The Sandhill Crane family continues to linger and feed in the corn field stubble. I have photographed them in previous years scratching away the snow to find the corn so they may stay awhile yet. The corn field stubble makes for the worst possible background to photograph these elegant birds.
The Upland Sandpiper is near to an annual regular, albeit in small numbers. It is still considered rare and certainly hard to find.
Laura and I first met this friendly species in Manitoba where often as not it would sit on a post and signal its pleasure with a wolf whistle song. We came to call it "button eyes" due to its piercing glare. Like the Manitoba Upland Sandpiper the Halifax visitor was friendly and not easily startled although like most birds if you get too close you will end up photographing its backside.
I visited Chebogue Point to view and photograph the Vermilion Flycatcher. The Chebogue Point dairy farm is a rich bird area probably due to the rich variety of edible insects that inhabit the place primarily Stable Flies and Stable Fly maggots. The thousands of Stable Fly larvae may sustain a mix of birds this winter and the warmth created by hundreds of dairy cattle in their heated enclosures should provide ample if not luxurious accommodation for several overwintering birds. Predation by several resident barn cats and the ever present Merlins that also overwinter in this situation thanks primarily due to the hundreds if not thousands of local starlings, a reslilent and intelligent bird species. Also present were Palm Warblers, Song Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Photographing the Vermilion Flycatcher was challenging thanks to my camera's inability to focus the bird which was usually present behind branches and also its active nature. I trashed dozens of out of focus photographs and images of branches absent of birds. Nevertheless out of this melee I obtained one decent photo of the Vermilion Flycatcher. Two images shown below are crops of the wider field photograph.
This visitation of the Vermilion Flycatcher would be the fourth confirmed record according to Dr. Ian Mclarens , "All the Birds of Nova Scotia". It has been reported before in the last decade but without photographs it is difficult to confirm the record.
If your interested in more details of this rare bird here it is:
The vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus obscurus) is a small passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family found throughout South America and southern North America. It is a striking exception among the generally drab Tyrannidae due to its vermilion-red coloration. The males have bright red crowns, chests, and underparts, with brownish wings and tails. Females lack the vivid red coloration and can be hard to identify—they may be confused for the Say's phoebe. The vermilion flycatcher's song is a pit pit pit pidddrrrreeedrr, which is variable and important in establishing a territory. Riparian habitats and semi-open environments are preferred. As aerial insectivores, they catch their prey while flying. Their several months-long molt begins in summer.
Despite being socially monogamous, vermilion flycatchers will engage in extra-pair copulation. They also practice within-species brood parasitism, whereby females lay their eggs in the nest of another individual. Females build shallow open cup nests and incubate the brown-speckled whitish eggs. The male feeds the female during incubation. Two broods of two or three eggs are laid in a season lasting from March through June. Once hatched, both males and females feed the chicks, which are ready to fledge after 15 days.
The species was first described in the late 1830s as a result of the voyages of Charles Darwin. The taxonomy of the genus Pyrocephalus was revised in 2016, which led to the identification of several new species from the vermilion flycatcher's subspecies, including the now-extinct San Cristóbal flycatcher. Populations have declined because of habitat loss, though the species remains abundant. The overall population numbers are in the millions, thus the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers it a species of least concern.
I photographed the Merlin at Cape Sable Island. It was cooperative, thank you very much. The larger cousin the Peregrine Falcon is less friendly and the smallest falcon species, the Kestrel is the jumpiest of the three falcon species that regularly inhabit our province. The Merlin and Peregrine Falcon overwinter in Nova Scotia whereas most of the Kestrels migrate south often in flocks.
The American Pipit was working the corn stubble on the fields of Grand Pre. It was hard to photograph thanks to the similarly coloured background.
Both the American Pipit and its usual migration companion the Snow Bunting are on the move now so look our for them.
A visit to Milford Road showed the same five Sandhill Cranes that I photographed recently. They were further away this time and there is no way to get closer thanks to the muddy corn fields. But as a photographer I never pass up an opportunity to photograph wild birds.
It was a dreary and rainy day but just perfect for a drive around looking for Sandhill Cranes. The same family of cranes was beside Milford Road, Nova Scotia. Just like my last visit the rain let up briefly just as I found the cranes and allowed for some quick pics.
I had hoped to photograph The Pleiades and the Orion Nebula in one frame but it required a clear north eastern horizon but no such luck as I was frustrated once again. It's the curse of living in a beautiful coastal province. If its not clouds its fog.
All was not lost as the crescent moon was spectacular as it settled into the Atlantic directly south of my position at Peggy's Cove.
Crescent Moon Setting
I photographed the Limpkin in Brooklyn (Queens), Nova Scotia. The late Dr. Ian Mclaren recorded four records in his masterwork, "All the Birds of Nova Scotia", so this would be our fifth record. The Limpkin is far from its preferred tropical and semitropical environment but it has found a nature garden here in Brooklyn (Queens) where there are lots of goodies to eat. Hopefully it will build its strength and fly south soon.
Taxonomy and systematics
The limpkin is placed in the family Aramidae, which is in turn placed within the crane and rail order Gruiformes. The limpkin had been suggested to be close to the ibis and spoonbill family Threskiornithidae, based upon shared bird lice. The Sibley–Ahlquist taxonomy of birds, based upon DNA–DNA hybridization, suggested that the limpkin's closest relatives were the Heliornithidae finfoots, and Sibley and Monroe even placed the species in that family in 1990. More recent studies have found little support for this relationship. More recent DNA studies have confirmed a close relationship with particularly the cranes, with the limpkin remaining as a family close to the cranes and the two being sister taxa to the trumpeters.
Although the limpkin is the only extant species in the family today, several fossils of extinct Aramidae are known from across the Americas. The earliest known species, Aramus paludigrus, is dated to the middle Miocene, while the oldest supposed members of the family, Aminornis and Loncornis, have been found in early Oligocene deposits in Argentina, although whether these are indeed related is not certain; in fact, Loncornis seems to be a misidentified mammal bone. Another Oligocene fossil from Europe, Parvigrus pohli (family Parvigruidae), has been described as a mosaic of the features shared by the limpkins and the cranes. It shares many morphological features with the cranes and limpkins, but also was much smaller than either group, and was more rail-like in its proportions. In the paper describing the fossil, Gerald Mayr suggested that it was similar to the stem species of the grues (the cranes and limpkins), and that the limpkins evolved massively long bills as a result of the specialisation to feeding on snails. In contrast, the cranes evolved into long-legged forms to walk and probe on open grasslands.
I photographed these Sandhill Cranes alongside Milford Road. They were about 1/2 kilometre distant so haze and image compression were issues I had to grapple with. It was also raining heavily at times but fortunately it let up some when I took these photos.
The Northern Flicker was photographed at the Urban Farm Museum. Most of these tree tappers migrate but some will overwinter often near bird feeders. The Red-eyed Vireo was at Duncan's Cove. It migrates south and they are all gone by mid November.
I have always found the Wilson's Warbler easier to find in Newfoundland than Nova Scotia. It is a rugged warbler of wetlands and lakes. It's trill is distinctive and very powerfull. Learn the trill and you will find this bird.
My first impression at Martinique Beach Provincial Park when it was highlighted by the sun and it showed its bright yellow chest to me was Prothonotary Warbler but its jaunty black cap albeit subdued as it was put that hope to rest.
Nova Scotia's October orchid is the Yellow Lady's Tresses Orchid. It was widespread up to about two weeks ago but they are almost all gone now. They darken and fade from the bottom of the stem going up. The flower head itself is the length of a grain of rice and very delicate looking.
Yellow Lady's Tresses Orchid
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