Nova Scotia

Storm-tossed 'lifer' draws adoring crowds to Nova Scotia marsh

This glossy ibis was likely heading to Maine to breed before it got blown into a storm, which hauled it far north of its destination before depositing it in Nova Scotia.

Photographers of a feather flock together for a glimpse of the glossy ibis, a bird rarely seen on these shores

Jason Dain caught this dramatic in-flight moment as the glossy ibis hunted for marsh prey. (Submitted by Jason Dain)

A storm-tossed "lifer" is drawing crowds to a Nova Scotia marsh, leading to some stunning photography.

The glossy ibis usually lives around the Gulf of Mexico, but it flies as far north as Maine to breed. One glossy ibis was likely heading that way before it got sucked into a storm, which hauled it far north of its destination before depositing it in Nova Scotia.

"Sometimes a storm will bring them, and then they'll sort of leapfrog until they find some habitat that they like," said Jason Dain, a member of the Nova Scotia Bird Society.

It's not unheard of for a glossy ibis to find itself blown into Nova Scotia and, because the climate and habitat aren't that different from Maine, it may stay awhile.

"Some of these vagrants — that's the term we use for them — will stick around for the summer," Dain told CBC's Maritime Noon. "If their drive to find a mate doesn't overcome their desire to eat, they can stick around for a while."

Dain trekked to the marsh in Brookfield, a community situated between Stewiacke and Truro, on Saturday. He joined the banks of photographers gathered on a path that circles the marsh, but never draws closer than 100 metres from the bird.

Cheryl C. Williams travelled to the marsh to get a photo of the glossy ibis, but noticed a flock of photographers reflected in the water as they waited for the perfect moment. 

Cheryl C. Williams went to the marsh to photograph the glossy ibis on Sunday, but noticed she wasn't alone. (Submitted by Cheryl C. Williams)

Dain's patience was rewarded with a shot of the bird in flight.

He said the bird didn't seem bothered by the human audience, but it was wreaking havoc on the tadpoles and other marsh critters. "It was feeding non-stop and looked to be doing quite well," he said.

Dain said the bird has long legs that let it wade in the water and poke its long, drooping beak into the ground to dig out food.

"Imagine a half-size blue heron with a beak that curves downward. And they're sort of purple, or dark burgundy, with reflective, iridescent greens and blues in their feathers if you see them in the right light," he said.

'An exciting word to say if you're a birder'

Birds not native to Nova Scotia regularly turn in the province. For example, last year, a yellow-throated warbler landed in Nova Scotia in the fall and wintered here. Dain said a bird-loving man in Petite Rivière helped it survive by slipping the bird a steady supply of crickets. It returned to its regular turf in the spring.

The glossy ibis is drawing a crowd of birders hoping to check it off their list of species. The bird is so rare to see in Nova Scotia it often qualifies as a "lifer."

"A lot of people, that would be their first time seeing a glossy ibis in Nova Scotia, so they would use the term 'lifer,' which is an exciting word to say if you're a birder," Dain said.

with files from Maritime Noon


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