The thick-billed murre

I was out birding Jan. 28 and was thrilled to find a thick-billed murre at Fader's Cove. I had stopped to try and get a photo of a belted kingfisher on an electrical wire, my third kingfisher for the day. The belted kingfisher unfortunately flew off, and I was only able to grab one photo of it in flight. As I continued checking out other birds in that particular area, I saw the thick-billed murre.

In North America the thick-billed murre nests from the Ellesmere Island and Greenland south to Hudson Bay, Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland. They also nest in the North Pacific in Siberia to Japan, also in Alaska. They winter in Greenland south into Hudson Bay and on the Atlantic coast to New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. This is when we mostly see them in Nova Scotia.

The thick-billed murre is 42.5 to 47.5 cm long. Sexes are outwardly alike. The bill is shorter and thicker than that of the common murre. In breeding plumage they show a white streak along the cutting edge at the base of the dark upper mandible. In summer the breast makes a sharp inverted V in the black of the neck. In winter the black of the crown extends well below each eye.

While visiting Sand Beach in Queens County on Jan. 24, Kathleen MacAulay sighted palm warblers, an orange-crowned warbler and an eastern phoebe. Wendy and Tony Michener of Broad Cove reported a fox sparrow.

I did not find a purple sandpiper last year. I was excited therefore to find one at Crescent Beach Jan. 26. Lise Bell spotted 30 there the following day. Another good find for Lise was 70 Bohemian waxwings at Lilydale.

Kevin Lantz had a fox sparrow show up at his feeders in Front Centre. On Jan. 27, Kerry Jarvis reported a red-tailed hawk at Second Peninsula. Elizabeth Bell was pleased to see a common merganser and a common loon at Corkum's Island. On Jan. 28, Robert Keereweer located a male gadwall at Graves Island and on Jan. 30 a thick-billed murre at the Lunenburg waterfront.

Kerry Jarvis sighted a belted kingfisher in Riverport on January 28. Charles Berry of Bridgewater had a large group of 75 American goldfinches Jan. 29. He also had six black-capped chickadees and six dark-eyed juncos. Also present were a couple of white-throated sparrows and a lot of mourning doves.

On Jan. 24 Ervin Olsen reported two short-eared owls at Sunday Point. Lyall Bouchard discovered a tufted duck at the Middleton Sewage Lagoons on Jan. 27. As for Natialie Barkhouse-Bishop, the golden-crowned sparrow was still continuing in Canso.

On Jan. 28 Natalie Barkhouse-Bishop saw two snow geese at the Falmouth Dyke Road. Paulo Matteucci had a yellow-bellied sapsucker in Halifax. Tony Millard sighted a great egret at Daniel's Head on Cape Sable Island. Jason Dain found a northern mockingbird at Melbourne.

Jan. 30 produced a snow goose for Kathleen MacAulay at Salmon River. A Townsend's solitaire was found by Andrew Wagstaff on Jan. 30 at Fox River, Cumberland County. Ervin Olsen reported a pied-billed grebe at Stumpy Cove on Cape Sable Island.

On Jan. 31 Richard Donaldson discovered a hermit thrush at Lower Argyle. The gray heron continued to be reported between Argyle Head and Ste. Anne du Risseau at the time of writing.

As of Jan. 23 our Nova Scotia Winter list was sitting at 216 species.

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

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