Bird enthusiasts searched the skies in Pictou County on New Year’s Day to see how many and what species of birds nest in the area.
Ken McKenna, who organizes the annual Pictou Harbour Bird Count, said a high number of species was counted – 75 – but the overall number of birds seen was normal.
The count began at dawn with McKenna and about 30 others scanning for birds from north of the George Street bridge in New Glasgow to Caribou including Pictou Landing, Trenton, the west side of New Glasgow and most of the harbours.
The count is associated with the annual Audubon count that happens across the western hemisphere over the holiday season.
“The most common bird observed was red-breasted merganser, 3843, as the Pictou Harbour was abundant with this species. In the area of the Trenton NSPC outflow, hooded mergansers, 125, were counted in record numbers for the count,” he said in an email. “This area had a nice variety of waterfowl including the teal, pintail, gadwall, and both species of wigeon.”
McKenna said he expects high numbers of waterfowl were seen because of the overnight freezing of the harbours.
“But there were still enough open areas elsewhere to keep the scaup out of the count circle so the greater scaup numbers were lower than normal,” he said.
It was a record count in terms of pheasants with 61 counted. He said the number of pheasants has been increasing each year. Another species that had a high count number was finches: 677 common redpoll finches and 357 evening grosbeaks were spotted during the count. McKenna said white-breasted nuthatches, with a count of 14, seem to be on an upswing in the last couple of years and out-numbered their red-breasted cousins, which had a count of 10.
“One of the more unusual birds and first for this count was a semipalmated plover at Green's Point studied well and photographed by Randy Lauff and Krista DeCoste,” he said. “The photos were analyzed by Dr. Ian McLaren and common ringed plover from Europe was ruled out.”
Another first for this bird count was the yellow-breasted chat, which was observed near the Pictou Armouries by Steve and Amber Vines.
Species that were in low numbers included DC cormorants and bald eagles.
“Missing in action once again this year is the elusive boreal chickadee, which now appears to be in very low numbers in the count circle,” McKenna said.
Also spotted were five northern harriers and a daylight great horned owl “eating crow.”