August 30th – Walkin’ The Dog

A huge surprise: Lark Sparrow (left) and Lark Bunting (right) – neither of which are real larks. -D. Ingersoll

My wife Marg and I bought a small cabin about 9 years ago out on Grand Manan Island. This island, which is at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy and not very far off the coast of Maine, is a bird magnet, noteworthy for the many vagrants that show up there. For example, last August there was a Burrowing Owl that hung around on the breakwater at Castalia Marsh. This is just one of many examples. (Check out Grand Manan Birders on Facebook to whet your appetite.)

This Burrowing Owl stayed for several weeks in the Summer of 2017. -M. Morse

We were just out there for a week – getting a little R&R before the onset of the Fall Banding season at Ruthven on Saturday….and then 68 days in a row.

A juvenile or female Lark Bunting (note the white flash along the wing). Supposedly only the 5th or 6th record for the province of New Brunswick. -D. Ingersoll

We took along my son’s dog to give him a change of scenery. It’s a good thing we did! On Tuesday afternoon I decided to take him for a walk to deal with his bodily functions (and, yes….I scoop!). He wanted to go down Cook Road which takes you to old lobster pounds surrounded by scrubby grasses and wildflowers. We were approaching the end of the road when 2 small tan/brown birds flew up, each showing a flash of white. Hmmmmm…..that’s interesting (says I to myself). Up go the ever-present binos and I got a good look at them. One was obviously a Lark Sparrow – the flash of white was from its tail. But the other caused some consternation: white running along the wing. Plus it was slightly larger than the sparrow. I was pretty sure it was a Lark Bunting but I wanted to get a guide book just to confirm…..and to let local birders know of the possibility….so I whipped back to the cabin. The guide book confirmed my hunch. So I let local guru Durlan Ingersoll know figuring he would pass on the news. It wasn’t long after I returned and refound the birds that a contingent arrived – as excited as I was. I mean what are the chances of getting a western species like this so far east let alone two?! And just think: here were two prairie birds together at the same time and in the same place. Had they been travelling together? And why east!? I used to be a lister but that has sort of gone by the wayside over the years. But I was pleased to learn that it was Durlan’s 302nd bird just for the island of Grand Manan!

August is a great time for migrants on Grand Manan and when I’m there I set up 4 mist nets which I’ve cut into the edge of the 35 acres of boreal forest which came with the cabin. In 6 days I banded 160 birds of 29 species:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Least Flycatcher
2 Alder Flycatchers
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
4 Blue Jays
8 Black-capped Chickadees
9 Red-breasted Nuthatches
6 Swainson’s thrushes
1 Hermit Thrush
3 Cedar Waxwings
1 Red-eyed Vireo
7 Tennessee Warblers
1 Nashville Warbler
4 Northern Parulas
20 Cape May Warblers
1 Yellow Warbler
7 Myrtle Warblers
50 Black-throated Green Warblers
1 Blackburnian Warbler
9 Bay-breasted Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
3 Black and White Warblers
1 American Redstart
2 Ovenbirds
12 Common Yellowthroats
1 Song Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco

It’s a real learning experience to catch and examine boreal-breeding birds at a time when many juveniles are just moulting into their basic (Winter) plumages. Talk about “confusing fall warblers”. Check out these pictures of young Cape May and Myrtle Warblers. Cape Mays show such great variation in their colouring, from bright yellow to the dullest gray.

Two young (HY) Cape May Warblers. This species can be a real headache to identify in the field, especially the left-hand bird. -DOL

A young Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler. At this stage the drab colouration and speckling can be quite confusing. -DOL

Another look at a young Myrtle Warbler. -DOL


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