A rare visitor to the area - the limpkin

  • <p>JAMES HIRTLE PHOTO</p><p>A rare sighting of a limpkin who stopped in at Cosby&#8217;s Garden Centre in Milton recently.</p>

On Oct. 16, I received a call from Ivan Higgins of Cosby's Garden Centre reporting that a limpkin was present. There have been only three other sightings of this bird in Nova Scotia, the last of which was in 1971.

Word was sent out about this rarity and birders came from near and far. A big thank you to Ivan for hosting us and for allowing the birding community to see this wonderful bird.

The limpkin is resident from Georgia through to Florida, in Cuba, Isle of Pines and other West Indian Islands and from Mexico south to Argentina. They are largely non-migratory, but are expanding their range, so this one in Liverpool was special.

They are 57.5 to 70 cm with a wingspread of 105 cm. This bird is long-billed and long-legged with the brown feathers having a sheen of metallic green. It is about the size of an American bittern. There are streaks and spots of white on the back, head and neck.

In flight there is a cranelike flick or jerk of the wings. The limpkin feeds on freshwater snails, freshwater mussels, some lizards, frogs, insects, worms and crayfish. A number of people witnessed the bird at Cosby's Garden Centre eating slugs.

The name limpkin comes from the birds halting gait. Other local names for the limpkin are Carau, clucking hen, courlan, crippled bird, crying bird, Indian pullet, mourning widow, screamer and speckled curlew.

Brad Armstrong of Chester had a male eastern towhee at his place for two weeks. On Oct. 17 Dominic Cormier discovered two great egrets behind the Hank Snow Museum in Liverpool. Logan Moore found a dickcissel at Second Peninsula. Sarah Foote sighted an indigo bunting on Oct.18 behind the Skateboard Park in Liverpool.

Jason Dain reported a Canada warbler, a rusty blackbird, an indigo bunting and a dickcissel at the Cosby's Garden Centre Oct. 19. Also he found a clay-coloured sparrow at Western Head in Liverpool. On that date Eric Mills had an indigo bunting show up at his place in Lower Rose Bay.

On Oct. 21, Barbara McLean made a trip to Shoreline Drive in Blue Rocks and saw greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, a pectoral sandpiper, and 20 black-bellied plovers.

I went there with her on Oct.22 and we saw 11 lesser yellowlegs, eight greater yellowlegs, nine black-bellied plovers, two pectoral sandpipers and one short-billed dowitcher. There were plenty of other species around as well. On the same day there were large numbers of double-crested cormorants on the move. Eric Mills reported 172 in Lunenburg. I saw a group of 100 at Voglers Cove and another 200 flying by LaHave.

Eric also had a blue-winged teal and a gadwall at the Back Oler Farm Marsh in Garden Lots. Lise Bell found a red-throated loon feeding in the waters along the causeway at Crescent Beach. At Green Bay, Terry Durnavich saw a winter wren on her deck on Oct. 24. On that date Mike MacDonald sighted the pink-footed goose as still present at Second Peninsula. Steven Hiltz reported two golden-crowned kinglets at his apple tree in Back Centre.

It has been a great week for rarer species especially in Yarmouth County. Oct. 16 produced a cackling goose for George Forsyth at the Middleton Sewage Lagoons. Angela MacDonald spotted a yellow-breasted chat at the Coast Guard Wharf in Port Bickerton on Oct. 17. Mark Dennis found a rusty blackbird at Clam Point on Cape Sable Island.

On Oct. 18 Ervin Olsen sighted seven eastern bluebirds at Chebogue Point. Logan Moore had a black vulture at Daniel's Head on Cape Sable Island. Logan Lalonde found an indigo bunting, an American restart and a Wilson's warbler at Grand Pre and a yellow-billed cuckoo at Horton Landing. On Oct. 19 a lark sparrow, a winter wren and a Wilson's warbler were seen at Chebogue Point by Logan Moore.

On Oct. 20 Jim Edsall reported a yellow-breasted chat and a Nashville warbler at the Maybank Field in Dartmouth. He found a blue-winged warbler in Dartmouth as well. Oct. 22 produced an orange-crowned warbler at Duncan's Cove for Natalie Barkhouse-Bishop. There was a great egret seen by Tim W at West Chezzecook. Ross Hall discovered a snow goose in Truro and Tom Kavanaugh had a red-headed woodpecker in Canso.

On Oct. 23 Alix d'Entremont saw three Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, an eastern phobe, eight eastern towhees and a field sparrow at Pubnico Point. He later found two field sparrows at Pond Road in Pubnico. Rick Brown had an eastern towhee at the Willows in Yarmouth. Ronnie d'Entremont spotted an American coot at the Broadbrook Park in Yarmouth.

Along the Chebogue Point Road Mark Dennis saw three field sparrows and two eastern towhees at Cape Forchu. At The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, Logan Moore sighted a brown thrasher, a least flycatcher and a clay-coloured sparrow. Jason Dain had a lot of yellow-billed cuckoos in Antigonish. Paul Gould located a cattle egret and a yellow-billed cuckoo at Chebogue Point on Oct. 24.

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

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