I went out birding on Feb. 26, hoping to add a few more species to my winter list.
I was not expecting to find anything new, especially since the winter list would end Feb. 28. Therefore I was surprised to find a common grackle in Rose Bay and found seven American pipits at Kingsburg Beach.
Usually I only get to see American pipits in September and October when they are moving through in migration. Rarely do I find any over the winter.
The American pipit nests in Alaska, the Aleutians, the Yukon and in Greenland, south in the western mountains to Oregon, Idaho, Utah and California. They also nest in Labrador. Sexes are outwardly alike being 15 to 17.5 cm. long with a wingspread of 25 to 27.5 cm.
This species is plain grey-brown above and buffy below with streaking. The outer tail feathers are white. The body is slender and there is a thin-pointed bill.
The American pipit walks about and plucks insects and seeds from the ground, grasses and weeds. They consume weevils, bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, aphids, ground beetles, caterpillars, plant bugs, ants, spiders and mites, as well as small mollusks and crustaceans. I've mostly found this bird feeding on the seaweed rack or on beaches along the coast.
This winter was the latest ever that it took me to see a common grackle. There were enough grackles seen around the province to suggest that this species has started to return in migration.
On Feb. 21, Barbara McLean spotted a turkey vulture in Lunenburg near the old train station. Returning home on Feb. 22, Rhonda Crews of Mahone Bay was pleased to see a merlin perched on the railing of her house steps. On that same date Eric Croft sighted an American wigeon among the mallards at the Aquatic Gardens in Mahone Bay.
Steven Hiltz spotted a barred owl in a hardwood tree alongside the road in Rhodes Corner on Feb. 24. The next day, Alan Slaunwhite was pleased to see two bald eagles sitting side-by-side on the famous tree overlooking the Lahave River in Cookville.
On that same day Loretta Shannon of Bridgewater had a red-bellied woodpecker visit at her suet and John Prentiss sighted two turkey vultures near the Sawpit Park in Lunenburg.
Feb. 26 was a productive day for Barbara McLean who had a pair of downy woodpeckers, a hairy woodpecker, a northern flicker and a red-bellied woodpecker at her feeders.
On that day there was also two red-breasted and two white-breasted nuthatches. Robert Keereweer watched a thick-billed murre for over an hour on the Lunenburg waterfront on that day. Kevin Lantz located one of the tufted ducks with a group of scaup off of the Highliner wharf in Lunenburg.
On Feb. 28, Kerry Jarvis reported hooded mergansers, common mergansers, common loons, common goldeneyes, black-capped chickadees, song sparrows, red and white-breasted nuthatches, European starlings, dark-eyed juncos, blue jays, American goldfinches, and a downy woodpecker in and around Riverport. On Feb. 27 when Kerry was coming from Bridgewater, halfway down Highway 332 towards Riverport, he saw a belted kingfisher.
On Feb. 20, Mary Kennedy sighted a lesser black-backed gull at Lake Banook. On Feb. 22, Gary Poole found the salt marsh sparrow, that had been frequenting the aptly named Saltmarsh Trail in Dartmouth for around 12 weeks. Many have since mentioned that they were glad that this sparrow had thus far survived the cold snap.
Also, on Feb. 22, the four sandhill cranes that had been around the valley were seen in Bridgetown by Sarah Foote. The western meadowlark at Grand Pre was seen again by Logan LaLonde on Feb. 26. On Feb. 28 at the residence of Anne MacDonald of Cook's Brook, Elizabeth Doull saw the yellow-headed blackbird. Elizabeth also reported a brown-headed cowbird and five common grackles. The pink-footed goose was seen along the Wellington Dykes near Canning.
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