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CBC Radio One Information Morning Cape Breton
Columnists: The Bird Hour

Fly to the phone and dial us with your questions, comments and observations about birds.

Bird Experts Dave Harris and Dave McCorquodale take up their regular perch in our studio to take your calls from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on the first Monday of each month.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Susan King of Sydney reports: "My hummers came home a few days ago, this is a picture of the female, I took on the first day."

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Snowy Egret, photographed by Eric Boutilier at Dominion, NS, on May 1st, 2009.

Another photo taken at Day's Bridge (near Dominion beach) end of April, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

From The Bird Hour:

Varied Thrush in Cape Breton

Photos of a Varied Thrush that Lynn Baechler and friends saw on the weekend.


Northern Gannet
On the Bird Hour, Monday, September 08, 2008, News Editor Laurel Munroe mentioned seeing a Northern Gannet at Inverness Beach. Here are two pictures that were taken.

These photos courtesy of Ralph Dillon, Sydney.


Merlin has lunch at Cape Breton University
About 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 02, 2008, a couple of people noticed this Merlin chasing a Rock Pigeon over the delivery area behind the cafeteria, then in a swirl of feathers they were both on the pavement. Photos courtesy of Dr. Tim Rawlings, Assistant Professor in Biology School of Science & Technology, Cape Breton University.


Pine Grosbeaks

The autumn of 2007 brought more Pine Grosbeaks to Nova Scotia than any of the past 20 years. The Sydneys Christmas Bird Count recorded more on 22 December 2007 than had been counted on the previous 25 counts. Literally every group counting out in the woods found a few Pine Grosbeaks this year, when in past years it was a highlight of the day to find one. Other counts on Cape Breton and indeed throughout Nova Scotia produced similar results.

Most of the Pine Grosbeaks we are seeing this winter have arrived from the north and west. A few Pine Grosbeaks nest in Cape Breton, usually in spruce woods or in mature deciduous forests with a few large spruces. During the winter they feed on both fruits (for example apples, mountain-ash berries) and seeds. Relatively little food was available in northern Ontario and further west last fall, so they kept moving east and south until they found food. This is typical of movements of many finches, such as Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll. When food is available near the nesting areas, they do not move.  When food is scarce they move until they find some. They do not have regular migration routes or wintering areas in the same way many of our warblers or flycatchers do in South and Central America.

Male Pine Grosbeaks are a little smaller than a robin, bright pinky-red, with some gray in the underparts and prominent white wingbars. They are superficially similar to the smaller White-winged Crossbill, however the bill is bulkier and does not have the tips that cross. Females are gray/brown, with a heavy bill and the white wingbars. Young males and females may have a rusty or coppery tinge to the head and rump.

These photos of male Pine Grosbeaks were taken by Jennifer Rae Dingwall on the campus of Cape Breton University in January 2008. They show some of the contortions they get up to while they feed. When food is very scarce they sometimes come to feeders for sunflower seeds.


Recent Sightings in Cape Breton:

Baltimore Oriole:
  The autumn of 2007 brought several Baltimore Orioles to Cape Breton.  With the onset of winter weather in late November some found feeders where they feed on suet mixtures, oranges, grapes and a seemingly particular favourite, grape jelly.  Most orioles we see can be recognized by the long straight bill, orange tones throughout and the white wingbars, all captured in this photo.  Only occasionally do we see the iconic bright orange and black adult males, like the one visiting feeders in Port Hawkesbury now.

Photo by Les and Lydia Urban, Sydney, early December 2007.

Red Crossbill:  For the first time in more than 15 years Red Crossbills were found on The Sydneys Christmas Bird Count on 21 December 2007.  Their normal food is seeds on pine or other conifers.  There are several forms of this species in North America, each one specializing in cones of different sizes and shapes.  Occasionally they come to feeders for nyger or black oil sunflower seeds.  This male was part of a flock of about 20 that fed on seeds from planted Mugho Pines in Sydney Mines.

Photo by Camillus Cavanaugh, Sydney Mines, late December 2007.


Christmas Bird Counts in Cape Breton 2007

St Anns Bay, Bethsheila Kent, 295-1749
14  Baddeck, Jim Nunn, 295-1099
15  Louisbourg, Bill Bussey, 733-2799
17 Cheticamp, Gordon Delaney, 224-2490
21 The Sydneys, David McCorquodale, 563-1260
26  Eskasoni/Big Pond, Jack MacNeil, 828-2282
27 St Peters, Billy Digout, 535-3516
28  Strait of Canso, David Johnston, 625-1534
29 Highlands (Ingonish), Sheldon Lambert, 285-3023
29 Glace Bay, Allan and Cathy Murrant, 737-2684

To be announced:
Margaree, Frances Hart, 248-2433

For more information contact: David McCorquodale, email

Also, see Blake Maybank's WEBPAGE on winter birding in Nova Scotia.  It includes a list of Christmas Bird Counts and contact details for compilers.


Rare bird at a Westmount Feeder: Dickcissel

Most of us feed birds so that we can enjoy our Black-capped Chickadees or Blue Jays or American Goldfinches everyday. Once in a while a rarer bird may pop in for a visit. Dickcissels nest in long-grass prairie in the Midwest US and into the southern Canadian prairies. They spend the winter in grasslands in northern South America. However every fall a few get their directions wrong and end up on the east coast, including Cape Breton. Janice Beresford took this photo of a rather nondescript female Dickcissel in Westmount in October 2007.


Birds and fish congregate at the Canso Causeway

Last month on the Bird Hour listeners commented on the large numbers of Northern Gannets, Bald Eagles and gulls at the Canso Causeway.  Each year Atlantic Saury (a.k.a. billfish, needlefish, skipjack) migrate from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the eastern seaboard of the US.  Don MacLean wrote about the travels of this fish in his November 21 column in the Cape Breton Post.  Historically many used the Strait of Canso but now the causeway blocks their route.  When northwest winds, from late October through late November, drive the migrating fish against the causeway thousands of birds converge and feast. Routinely there are several hundred and peaks of several thousand Northern Gannets, more than 100 Bald Eagles and thousands of gulls, mostly Herring and Great Black-backed, but also Ring-billed, Bonaparte's and Iceland.

Annamarie Hatcher of Sydney took these photos of immature Northern Gannets and Bald Eagles at the causeway in November 2007.  The photo of dozens of Northern Gannets, adults white with black wing-tips and the mottled brownish immatures, was taken by Rod Beresford near the end of October 2006.


Friendly Hummingbirds

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