Sunday, August 31, 2014

Late August Weekend at Brier Island

This time of year, reports of fall migrants begin to come in. In SW Nova Scotia there were recent reports of Prairie Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Canada Warblers and Northern Waterthrushes. I decided to take advantage of the pleasant weather shown on the forecast for the Labour Day weekend and head to Brier Island. Due to the geography, the island is a great spot for catching migrants on the way to warmer places. I was hoping for some good warblers and I was not disappointed.

Brier Island Sunrise - August 30, 2014.

I left work at 2 pm on Friday and arrived on Brier island at around 5 pm. I had booked 2 nights at the Brier Island Hostel. I got my things sorted and headed down the Lighthouse Road that leads to West Head. I saw a large hawk on the wires and slowly approached to get a few badly lit photos. Before I could position my self it flew off into the trees near the road. This was a very large accipiter and I knew immediately that it could only be a Northern Goshawk. I then snapped a photo of the juvenile bird in a spruce tree.

Juvenile Northern Goshawk - Brier Island - August 29, 2014.

The size of this bird alone was enough to convince me that it was a goshawk. Some other distinguishing field marks from a Cooper's are a goshawk's heavy underpart streaking on a buffy base, contrasting supercilium and the bulkier build.

After a night's rest at the hostel I awoke at 5:15 am, got ready and headed out to see Lance Laviolette and the other banders. I spoke with them for a bit and birded the road leading to the Northern Light. I found a Blackpoll Warbler near the lighthouse.

Blackpoll Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

I then drove down Gull Rock Road and hit a few pockets of great warblers. I got my first good photos of a Northern Waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

My next find was the best of the day and my second lifer for the weekend. A beautiful Blue-winged Warbler appeared in front of me. These warblers breed up to the southern part of Maine so this bird was a reverse migrant, heading north to Canada instead of south towards Central America.

Blue-winged Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

As of 2012, 95 Blue-winged Warblers have been reported in Nova Scotia. Below is another photo that shows its blue-grey wings.

Blue-winged Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Below are photos of a few other birds that were seen throughout the morning on Gull Rock Road and Lighthouse Road.

American Redstart - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Red-eyed Vireo - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

I saw a few other somewhat uncommon warblers also. 2 Canada Warblers, 1 Nashville Warbler, 1 Cape May Warbler and 1 Wilson's Warbler. Here are a few shots.

Cape May Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Nashville Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

My last lifer of the weekend came twice. I've identified this Mourning Warbler as a first year male due to the dull appearance and light veiled black in the throat. These warblers nest in Nova Scotia but particularly in the eastern half and are rare over in the west.

Mourning Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

The other Mourning Warbler that I saw initially looked very similar to a Common Yellowthroat through the camera viewfinder. Checking my photos later I clearly saw that it wasn't a yellowthroat. This bird could be a first year female due to the extremely dull colouration and broken breastband. The narrow broken eyering, broken breastband and yellow supraloral area seperate it from other similar but rarer species (Connecticut and MacGillvray's).

Mourning Warbler - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Later on in the morning I stopped in at the banding station again and watched them process a few birds. Here are some shots of birds in the hand.

Northern Waterthrush in the hand - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in the hand - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Black-and-white Warbler in the hand - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

Least Flycatcher in the hand - Brier Island - August 30, 2014.

The Brier Island Banding Station - August 30, 2014.

Sunday morning was only partly sunny and quite windy. I left Brier Island at 8:30 am and soon found 2 Eastern Bluebirds on Long Island (my first bluebirds for the year). Jerome d'Eon had called me about a Snowy Egret at Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau, Yarmouth County so I stopped in on the way home and picked up another good bird. After this weekend my Nova Scotia 2014 list is at 212 species and my Nova Scotia life list is at 263. I'm sure this fall will bring me a few more lifers.


  1. Some great birds Alix. Looks like it was a great Brier adventure. The photography is, of course, stellar.

  2. Thanks Peter. I was very happy with my finds for the weekend. I'll have to go again in late September or early October.

  3. Thanks Alix for a great site and links and maps and posts like this Brier Island one. Jane Alexander

  4. Thanks Jane. I'm very happy to see some people enjoying my blog. Happy birding.