Birding Cape Sable Island and Surrounding Area, Nova Scotia - Part 1

September 9, 2016

This past spring, more specifically late-May, I took advantage of an opportunity to meet up with a good birding friend of mine, Mark Dennis, and bird his (new) local patches, including Cape Sable Island, Lower West Pubnico and Baccaro Peninsula, Nova Scotia. The timing was very good for me as I was on my way to Newfoundland at the time and thus it only required me to take a four-hour detour (one way). I spent the better part of three days birding with Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The weather, especially the fog and strong winds, was a challenge at times, yet by the end of my visit I came away with several good photos that were either first time photos of a species (e.g., Boreal Chickadee) or, in some cases, better quality photos of species I already had in my photo library. Cape Sable Island is considered one of the better places to bird in Nova Scotia and I would highly recommend it to any interested birders or bird photographers. I know I'll definitely be coming back. 

Yellow Warbler - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 800mm

Today’s post focuses on some of the smaller species I saw and photographed, namely warblers, pewees and chickadees. To begin with I’ll start with the relatively common, yet beautiful Yellow Warbler. Although this is a common warbler, for some reason I’ve had difficulty obtaining high quality images of it. More often than not, it seems as if lighting conditions are very poor when I’m around a Yellow Warbler or the background is extremely busy or twigs are in the way. I felt very satisfied when, with patience, I successfully photographed this particular individual in good light with a nice background and with no twigs in the way. These are two of my favourite Yellow Warbler images (see above and below) in my library. I really like the way the bird pops out of both of the two photos below.

Yellow Warbler - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 800mm

The next warbler, a Black-and-white Warbler, shown below was perched about eye level and I was able to capture a good view from above, so to speak, as it crept its way down a small tree trunk, which is a distinctive behaviour of this species. This is one of easiest warblers to identify in the field. Its black-and-white striped crown and back are readily visible from the angle in the photo below. You can also see the white-wing bars, which meet the white tertial edgings.

Black-and-white Warbler - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

This next photo provides a good frontal view of the same Black-and-white Warbler. Although the bill is fairly long for a warbler, it is only slightly curved. The wide black streaks are clearly evident here.

Black-and-white Warbler - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

I have been fortunate to capture a number of good photos in the past, in my opinion, of a Northern Parula, yet this next image certainly ranks right up there with the best of them. The blue back and yellow throat and breast are shown well here as well as the orange breast patch, which is variable on this species. Also of note here are the broken eye-arcs and black lores, which are easily seen from this angle.

Northern Parula - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 400, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

Another common warbler seen during spring migration is Yellow-rumped Warbler, and, much like was the case with the Yellow Warbler, I was pleased with the images I captured of this bright and colourful individual. Showing well here are the yellow crown patch and yellow shoulder patches with black breast streaking. The white throat makes this an Audubon’s Warbler subspecies as Myrtle Warbler has a yellow throat.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1250, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

These next two photos highlight Alder Flycatcher, which happen to be the first images that I've captured of this species. In general I have much difficulty identifying flycatchers. For example Alder Flycatcher is similar to Willow Flycatcher. In fact, Willow and Alder were once considered the same species (Traill's Flycatcher) so it's not surprizing that it is very difficult to separate these two species. One minor difference is that Alder Flycatcher has a moderate primary projection while Willow Flycatcher has a short to moderate primary projection. In general, Flycatchers are best identified by voice.

Alder Flycatcher - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc
Alder Flycatcher - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

The remaining three photos that make up this blog post are of a Boreal Chickadee. Fortunately Mark had a good idea of where we might find one. Although not a lifer for me (previously I had very fleeting looks at this species at Algonquin Park in Ontario) I was really looking forward to seeing this species and with Mark’s help, I was not disappointed. On this occasion, not only did I get close looks at one, I had time to capture some decent photos. I like getting different perspectives and in this case I cashed in on a trifecta, getting a view from above, one from slightly below and a third from behind.

Boreal Chickadee - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

Compared with Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee is darker overall and it has a brown cap, mostly gray nape and brown flanks. Interestingly, for such a small bird, chickadees have strong legs and feet, which allow them to hang upside down while foraging.

Boreal Chickadee - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 640, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc
Boreal Chickadee - Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 320, 7D Mark II, 400mm DO II + 1.4x tc

New Gallery Photos Added                       Gallery

Yellow Warbler                                           Wood Warblers (Part 4)

Black-and-white Warbler                             Wood Warblers (Part 4)

Northern Parula                                          Wood Warblers (Part 4)

Yellow-rumped Warbler                                Wood Warblers (Part 4)

Alder Flycatcher                                             Kingbirds and Flycatchers

Boreal Chickadee                                          Chickadees and Titmice

 

References:

Stephenson, Tom, Whittle, Scott, 2013. The Warbler Guide, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey

Sibley, David, 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Chanticleer Press, Inc., New York

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

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