Checking out a rare visitor to the area

April 19-21 was quite the weekend for birds.

April 19, I started out with the American coot at Woodland Gardens in Bridgewater, which had previously been reported by Lise Bell.

I then went to the Brookside Cemetery to see if the northern pintail was still present. This bird was reported to me by Lise Bell and Minga O'Brien. The pintail was there and provided perfect photo opportunities. Later that night I did my second owl monitoring route, which runs from Rhodes Corner to Whynott's Settlement and to Sweetland. My team and I saw two American woodcocks and six barred owls.

Jeff Ogden had discovered an upland sandpiper at Western Head in Queens County, so Dorothy Poole and I set off on April 20 to try and see it. I had seen this bird only twice before. We were successful on our trip.

We heard the Carolina wren singing in Liverpool and saw our first greater yellowlegs for the year at Beach Meadows. David Walmark earlier in the week had seen two snow geese in Kingsburg, so on April 21 I set off to try and see if these geese were still about. I had no luck with the geese, but was rewarded by finding a white-eyed vireo.

Earlier in the day, Mark Dennis at West Head in Clark's Harbour found a European golden plover. This was only a sixth record for this bird in Nova Scotia and would be a "lifer" for me. As I was watching the white-eyed vireo I received a phone call from Dorothy Poole, asking if I would like to join her in going to try and see the plover.

On the way to meet Dorothy, I saw a broad-winged hawk perched on the wires at Broad Cove and one at East Port Medway. I met up with Dorothy and we rushed to Cape Sable Island hoping that the European golden plover would still be there. When we arrived there was a crowd of birders watching the plover and I got some decent photos. We were lucky to get there when we did as, about 20 minutes after our arrival, the plover took off, not to be seen again.

The European golden plover, also referred to as the Eurasian golden plover, gets its name from the golden colour of the bird. They nest in Iceland, the Faeroes, Europe and Asia. They winter in Europe and Africa, Baluchistan and India. In North America it is a regular migrant to Greenland and in Newfoundland, where a few appear in late May on the flats of Stephenville Crossing.

The European golden plover is 27.5 cm with a wingspread of 55 cm. They are quite similar in size and appearance to the American golden plover. They are distinguished by darker upper parts richly spotted with gold. The European golden plover has white axillars (armpit feathers) which the American golden plover does not have.

As an added bonus on my visit to Cape Sable Island, I got to see 10 black-bellied plovers and two American golden plovers at The Hawk. There were also two ruddy turnstones. There were numbers of turkey vultures on the move on April 21. We saw some in Shelburne County, one at White Point and five at Liverpool. Other shorebirds I saw were my first two willets for the year at Crescent Beach on April 24. There also was a greater yellowlegs present.

On April 19, Talitha Budden saw wood ducks, heard a hermit thrush and found a common raven nest at Dare's Lake in Maitland. Patricia Watson reported having two northern cardinals, purple finches, a downy woodpecker, American goldfinches and American robins at East LaHave. Barbara McLean heard several pine warblers calling at Miller's Point Peace Park in Dayspring.

On April 21, Kerry Jarvis reported a pair of purple finches and white-throated sparrows in Riverport. He spotted a yellow-rumped warbler in Bridgewater along the rail trail on April 24.

Bob Thexton was watching a pair of white-breasted nuthatches doing bill sweeping, a courting ritual, at his bird house and this pair has now started nesting. David Walmark in Kingsburg had purple finches and two white-throated sparrows and there are now five American tree swallows.

On April 24, the osprey pair in West LaHave had the nest half built. Purple finches are moving through in numbers. I had 10 in LaHave and saw 14 at Crousetown.

April 18 produced yellow-rumped warblers, both kinglets, palm warblers and a red-eyed vireo at Cape Forchu for Tony Millard. At Daniel's Head on Cape Sable Island Mark Dennis reported a laughing gull. Alix d'Entremont found a purple martin in Hebron.

On April 20, Sarah Foote located a Baltimore oriole at Grand Pre. The little blue heron came back to Big Meadows Marsh on Brier Island for Eric Mills on April 20. Alix d'Entremont and Kathleen MacAulay spotted the gray heron and a willet at Abram's River.

A short-billed dowitcher was a good find for Logan Moore at the Guzzle on Cape Sable Island. Ronnie d'Entremont discovered a rusty blackbird at Pubnico Point on April 21. Tony Millard reported dunlin, American oystercatchers, ruddy turnstones, and black-bellied plovers at The Hawk on Cape Sable Island.

At Cape Forchu on April 24 he spotted a yellow warbler, palm warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, a gray catbird and a hermit thrush. Kathleen MacAulay sighted a blue-headed vireo and a black-crowned night heron. Jason Dain reported four black-backed woodpeckers at Upper Tantallon. Diane LeBlanc noted that the hooded warbler she had found was on day eight at Sandy Cove.

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

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