In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Island bird report

The air is getting crowded around McNutt's Island as seasonal birds make landing and year-round birds grow more lively.  Here's a report of the past week's highlights.  I'll only add pictures of birds I haven't shown in earlier posts. 

Greg first noted the Double-crested Cormorants on the Horseshoe as he made a harbour crossing on April 14th. On April 25th we watched one standing on a dock in the cove. He spread his imposing Gothic wings and held them wide for a long time. It was definitely an "Aren't I the prettiest thing you ever saw?" kind of pose. As I saw no lady Cormorants in the vicinity I guess he was showing off for the universe. The local name for the Cormorant is Shag. As in Shag Harbour, just down the coast. 

The Osprey have been quite active, wheeling across the sky with their incongruous little chirp, chirp. On the afternoon of April 28th we watched an Osprey hovering high above the cove, his head craned downward, searching with his keen eyes. Three times he folded his huge wings against his body and transformed himself into a hurtling bolt of doom for some poor fish.Twice he came up empty-taloned, but the third time he flew off with take-out for the missus, chirping exultantly. 

We see the Great Blue Heron every day. Our house is on their flight pattern, so as we are working outside we hear their distinctive cry and look up to watch them glide across the sky. We often see them flying in a pair, which means it's mating time. The sound of the Great Blue Heron is a harsh rusty metallic squawk. I think they are saying "I love you" to each other as they fly past.  In their own way, of course.  

The Common Loon remains in the harbour during the winter, but I think it is silent during that season. Now we hear it regularly, both day and night. At 2:30 this morning a loon woke me up with its haunting, beautiful call, which went on and on. 

A Northern Flicker is still on the island. We have watched him pecking the ground along the stone walls, and I saw him on the main road, about half way to the lighthouse, on April 24th. 

We first saw the Purple Finch on April 19th. I saw three males in an apple tree on April 25th, and one near the bird seed on April 29th.   Roger Tory Peterson said it looks like a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice. They apparently like to nest in spruce trees, and we have a few they can choose from.

On April 26th I watched two Ravens performing a spectacular synchronized air show. Their every move was in tandem. We have recently heard them making a fuss in the Skeleton Forest, either attacking something or defending something. Now that I have been able to watch and listen to them I am learning to distinguish them from the Crows. We have both.  

We identified a Red-winged Blackbird on April 29th. Although they could be over-wintering birds, we have not seen any until now. 

Greg met up with a Myrtle Warbler on April 29th. We also saw one of these birds during the winter, up in the spruce forest toward the middle of the island. Myrtle Warblers love bayberries and we will have plenty of them along the shore.  But there will be other varieties of Warblers here during the summer too, and we will only catch a glimpse of their bright yellow markings as they zoom through the bog or twitter among the bayberry thickets near the shore.  

As far as we know the Indigo Bunting is still here, though elusive. We most recently saw him on April 26th eating bird seed. The ranks of the Robins have swelled to about twice their winter population.  The Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are mainstays, too. And our dear friends the White Throated Sparrows are in full voice from dawn to dusk. What a joy.

Bird images are from Robie Tuft's Birds of Nova Scotia, courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. I use the Cornell University All About Birds web site for additional information. 

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