Nova Scotia

'Sewer stroll' bird tour of Sydney Harbour on Sunday

Organizers are hoping for a big turnout at this weekend's "Sewer Stroll" in Sydney, a chance for birdwatchers to catch a glimpse of some of the many birds that flock to Cape Breton during the winter.

David McCorquodale to guide birdwatchers on tour of sewage outfalls

Dave McCorquodale has a flock of birds in his sights on Sydney Harbour. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

It may not be the most alluring name for a weekend event, but organizers are hoping for a big turnout at this weekend's "Sewer Stroll" around Sydney Harbour.

Otherwise billed as the "Harbour Hop," it's a chance for birdwatchers to catch a glimpse of some of the many birds that flock to Cape Breton during the winter. 

They gather at sewage outfalls, where there's an abundance of food.

"Not so much directly for the food from the sewer outlet," said David McCorquodale, a biology professor at Cape Breton University. "But around it, there's mussels, periwinkles, barnacles, all sorts of things that are helping decompose the sewage. 

"There's kitchen waste, all sorts of things are in there, and the ducks and the gulls are coming because they're feeding on those things."

'As many birds as in June'

McCorquodale has been leading birdwatching tours of Cape Breton's sewer outfalls for 25 years, along with retired wildlife biologist Dave Harris.

Atlantic Coastal Action Program Cape Breton is also involved in this weekend's tour and is helping promote it.

McCorquodale said this is a good time of year to spot some unusual visitors. 

"There's all kinds of species that nest further north, and they're down here for the winter," he said. 

He said people can expect to see lots of gulls and ducks, including American black ducks, Iceland gulls, the Common goldeneye, and the Barrow's goldeneye.

The Barrow's goldeneye normally nests in central Labrador and the Ungava Peninsula of Quebec. There are only 1,000 to 1,500 of them, McCorquodale said, and about 30 winter in Sydney Harbour.

The birdwatching tour begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Sobey's parking lot in Sydney River.

"January in Cape Breton we probably have as many birds as in June," McCorquodale said. "It's just they're different kinds."

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