Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year In Review - The Rarities

This post is a synopsis of the interesting birds that I saw in 2016 as well as a list of the lifers for the year.

We had our first confirmed provincial record of Kamchatka Gull that stayed in Meteghan during February and March. Spring of 2016 was notable due to the large number and variety of shorebirds, for example, I saw my first spring Stilt Sandpiper and American Golden Plover. I found my first singing Northern Waterthrush likely on territory in Yarmouth County. We confirmed another pocket of breeding Veerys for Yarmouth County at the Hebron Recreation Complex. The number of sites that I know of with Canada Warblers during breeding season in my end of the province continues to rise (I just wasn't paying enough attention before). Fall 2016 didn't see an influx of western birds like the previous year. My father photographed the provinces 2nd record of Calliope Hummingbird in my yard, a bird that I didn't get to see. I was witness to the unprecedented numbers of Cory's Shearwaters near the mainland during September and October. A photo that I had taken back in 2012 in my yard was identified this year as a Rock Wren representing only the 2nd record for the province.

Lifers that were long overdue were Green Heron, Black Tern and Pine Grosbeak (I still don't have Spruce Grouse!). My total lifers this year was 13, down from the 22 during 2015 (see 2015 review here). I ended the year seeing 260 species in Nova Scotia.

Here is the list of the 13 lifers for 2016. Self-found birds are annotated with an asterisk (*). The links associated with the items in the list bring you to the appropriate blog post or if I didn't blog about it - the eBird Checklist.

1. Green Heron
2. Curlew Sandpiper
3. Gray-cheeked Thrush
4. Common Gallinule
5. Sandwich Tern
6. Black Tern
7. Northern Rough-winged Swallow*
8. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
9. Cerulean Warbler (*, sort-of)
10. Least Bittern
11. South Polar Skua
12. Pine Grosbeak
13. Pink-footed Goose

Below are some of the memorable birds that I photographed during the year.

Mountain Bluebird, Cape Sable Island, Jan 1, 2016.
Snow Goose in Yarmouth, January 8, 2016.
Abnormally coloured Common Grackle, Tusket, Feb 5, 2016.
Red-shouldered Hawk, Pleasant Lake, February 7, 2016.
Abnormally coloured European Starling, Yarmouth,  Feb 7, 2016.
Snowy Owl, Cape Sable, March 28, 2016.
Wintering Cape May Warbler, Argyle, April 4, 2016.
Pine Warbler, Pubnico, April 16, 2016.
Summer Tanager, Woods Harbour, May 6, 2016.
Green Heron, Pubnico, May 6, 2016.
Stilt Sandpiper, Cape Sable Island, May 7, 2016.
One of two Curlew Sandpipers, Cape Sable Island, May 7, 2016.

Gray-cheeked Thrush, Chebogue, May 8, 2016.
Indigo Bunting, Cape Sable Island, May 15, 2016.
Orchard Oriole, Cape Sable Island, May 15, 2016.
Little Blue Heron, Pubnico, May 15, 2016.
Common Gallinule, Cape Sable Island, May 25, 2016.
Glossy Ibis, Cape Sable Island, May 25, 2016.
Willow Flycatcher, Yarmouth, June 6, 2016.
Red-necked Phalarope, Pubnico, May 17, 2016.
Sandwich Tern, Pubnico, July 13, 2016.
Black-billed Cuckoo, Pubnico, July 13, 2016.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, West Green Harbour, July 13, 2016.
Ruff, Amherst, July 22, 2016.
Black Tern, Amherst, July 22, 2016.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Chebogue Pt, August 3, 2016.
Cory's Shearwater, German Bank, August 13, 2016.
Manx Shearwater, German Bank, August 13, 2016.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Cape Sable, August 27, 2016.
Cape May Warblers, Bon Portage Island, August 28, 2016.
Cerulean Warbler, Bon Portage Island, September 3, 2016.
Red Knot, Peases Island, September 4, 2016.
Philedelphia Vireo, John's Island, September 10, 2016.
Least Bittern, CSI, September 16, 2016.
South Polar Skua, Bay of Fundy, September 24, 2016.
American Golden Plover, Cape Sable, October 1, 2016.
Yellow-breasted Chat, Pubnico Pt, October 2, 2016.
Prairie Warbler, Pubnico Pt, October 2, 2016.
Cooper's Hawk, Pubnico Pt, October 31, 2016.
Clay-colored Sparrow, Pubnico Pt, November 2, 2016.
Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tusket, November 18, 2016.
Red-headed Woodpecker, West Pubnico, November 19, 2016.
Black-headed Gull, Meteghan, November 20, 2016.
Pink-footed Goose, Cape Jon, November 24, 2016.
Lark Sparrow, Canso, November 25, 2016.
Greater White-fronted Goose, Yarmouth, December 19, 2016.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nova Scotia's Second Calliope Hummingbird

My father, Arthur d'Entremont, photographed a hummingbird at our house in Pubnico, Yarmouth County, on October 21, 2016. I was at work at the time and when I arrived I set up the feeder to see if it would appear again. As I write this, it is two days later and the bird hasn't reappeared.

I had noted the short-looking tail and had asked David Bell and Dominic Cormier for their opinions. They both said that at first look it reminded them of a Calliope Hummingbird, a western species. I then posted photos of the bird to the 'Advanced Bird ID' Facebook page for comments. Sheri L. Williamson quickly wrote back with this response.

"Good call on the tail, Alix. Ruby-throateds often appear quite portly in fall, but this bird's short tail, proportionally large head, and pale face ID it as a Calliope."

Figure 1. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

Sheri is an ornithologist and author of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America in the Peterson Field Guide Series. She went on to mention that other supporting features are the pale loral spot at the base of the bill and what appears to be dark R1s. I inquired about age/sex and she said that these hummingbirds are even tough to age/sex in the hand and that this one was a female-type.

A second-year male Calliope present briefly at a feeder in Lunenburg on September 16, 2010 is the only other record in Nova Scotia, making this Pubnico bird the second record for the province (McLaren 2012). Photos of this 2010 record can be seen in Nova Scotia Birds Vol 53, No 1. This bird is a long-distant migrant, and records of accidentals during fall migration and winter are increasingly common in the southeast and south-central US (Calder and Calder 1994).

Figure 2 shows the Calliope in comparison to our default Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Note how the Calliope is very compact, with a short tail and large head. I've added arrows to allow easier visualization of the relative size of the body parts. In fact, the Calliope is North America's smallest breeding bird (length of 3.25"). The tail on a perched Calliope do not reach the folded wing tip. (Calder and Calder 1994)

Figure 2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (left) and Calliope Hummingbird (right). Photos by Alix d'Entremont (left, August 26, 2014) and Arthur d'Entremont (right, October 21, 2016).

Even though proportions are enough to confidently identify this hummingbird to species, there are a couple other supporting features. The pale loral area near the base of the bill (Fig. 1) and the apparent dark central tail feathers (Figs. 1, 3 & 4) are characteristic of Calliope. The apparent change in amount of buffy colouration between photos is likely just a result of the poor photography conditions. The photos were taken with a point-and-shoot through a window on a rainy day.

Figure 3. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

Figure 4. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

It was recently discovered through old photos that our house had Nova Scotia's second Rock Wren back in 2012, now we have this Calliope Hummingbird, also a second for the province. Too bad I wasn't able to see the hummingbird, but at least my father did and was able to get identifiable photos through a window with his brand new point-and-shoot camera.

McLaren, I.A. 2012. All the Birds of Nova Scotia: status & critical identification. Gaspereau Press Ltd, Kentville, N.S., Canada

Calder, William A. and Lorene L. Calder. (1994). Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America:
DOI: 10.2173/bna.135