A killdeer in the winter

  • <p>JAMES HIRTLE PHOTO</p><p>A killdeer was spotted in Fader&#8217;s Cove Feb. 19.</p>

As I was driving through Fader's Cove Feb. 18, I was surprised to see a killdeer on the shore feeding amongst the seaweed. This is a species that is not easy to find over the winter.

The killdeer is 22.5 to 27.5 cm with a wingspread of 47.5 to 52.5 cm. Sexes are outwardly alike and about the same size. They resemble a semi-palmated plover but are larger, with white below, and distinguished by two black bands across the chest.

The killdeer is grey-brown above with the lower back, rump and upper tail coverts a bright rufous or orange. There is a slim black bill and the legs and feet are a flesh or straw-colour. The tail is long and rounded with a black band near the end, which is tipped with white, and there is a white stripe along the wings.

It turns out that there were two tufted ducks with the group of greater scaup that had been tending at Mason's Beach. Natalie Barkhouse-Bishop was able to get photos of both of these birds in the same frame.

The greater scaup flocks are moving around a lot, so people have been having a hard time finding the tufted ducks as well as the three redheads.

At the time of writing, the redheads seem to have moved on. Eric Mills found a tufted duck at Kingsburg Pond. He believes that this is a third bird and different from the other two that had been at Mason's Beach. In previous years, the greater scaup groups would grow to over 800 birds over the winter and they could always be seen in Bayport and First South. This year, the largest group that I've seen was 130 birds.

Near the end of January, Willie Joudrey let me know that there was still an immature common loon at Molega Lake. On Feb. 12, Minga O'Brien sighted a great blue heron at Corkum's Island. Kevin Lantz was able to find the same bird on Feb. 19. Minga also had five green-winged teal at the Back Oler Farm Marsh in Garden Lots Feb. 12.

Cathy Ramey reported six bald eagles behind her house in Crousetown Feb. 15. The next day, Barbara McLean saw 10 yellow-rumped warblers along the Front Harbour Trail in Lunenburg. She also had a number of Bonaparte's gulls at Mason's Beach.

Bernard Forsythe reported a ruddy duck with the greater scaup and tufted duck near Corkum's Island. There have been a number of belted kingfishers about. I found one at Rose Bay and saw others at First South, Lunenburg and First Peninsula. Steven Hiltz had one at Fader's Cove. I also sighted one in West LaHave. There are lots of northern pintails around now and Eric Mills reported nine American wigeons in First South.

Tom Marrie sent me a photo of a common loon eating a green crab. These crabs seem to be a staple food source for the loons over the winter. Sadly these crabs are an invasive species and affect the kelp beds, which in turn affect the lobsters.

Elizabeth Bell captured a photo of a hooded merganser with a huge tommy cod that was over half the size of the bird. It was amazing that the hooded merganser was able to eat it.

I heard a northern cardinal calling on territory from high atop a tree in Bayport Feb. 19. On Feb. 20, Barbara McLean of Lunenburg heard two song sparrows singing on territory. Audrey Fancy of East Dalhousie has a pair of Canada jays coming to her feeders.

Eric Mills found four double-crested cormorants and a thick-billed murre in the Lunenburg harbour as well as ring-necked ducks at the Kingsburg Pond. On Feb. 20 an American kestrel was sighted in Kingsburg. Janet Corkum photographed the red-throated loon that has been tending in the Lunenburg Harbour.

The grey heron, as well as a red-shouldered hawk, is still in Argyle in Yarmouth. Mark Dennis reported a black-headed gull at Clam Point Feb. 15. Kathleen MacAulay found a winter wren at Cranberry Head Feb. 16. A hermit thrush continues at Highland Heads Road on Cape Sable Island as reported by Logan Moore.

You may reach me at (902) 693-2174 or email jrhbirder@hotmail.com.

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