Nova Scotia Part I: Margaretsville

White-crowned Sparrow

In late October Doran and I spent nearly a week in Nova Scotia to visit his family and spend some time at Hal-Con, the huge sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention held in Halifax. We spent the first part of our trip at a cottage in Margaretsville, a small town on the Bay of Fundy only a short drive from Doran’s home town of Kingston. The cottage was beautiful with a large second floor loft that looked out over the water. It sat on a wide expanse of lawn with a grove of trees between the house and the road. On our first day there I saw a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow on the gravel driveway just outside the cottage, a couple of crows and a raven flying over, five Herring Gulls and a single Ring-billed Gull, and a Common Loon swimming along the bay. The cottage was close enough to the shore that I could set up my travel scope in the large picture window and watch the birds from the comfort of indoors!

The trip was off to a good start when I spotted another Common Loon on the bay and an adult Bald Eagle flying south along the shoreline on our first morning. Doran went to Kingston to do some visiting, so I spent most of my day walking around the small town of Margaretsville. Near the lighthouse I found the usual songbirds – Blue Jay, chickadees, a goldfinch and a crow – then heard a Pine Siskin calling as it flew over. This was a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting any “winter finches” to be present.

Margaretsville Lighthouse

From there I walked down to the wharf. The tide was in, so I wasn’t able to go for a ramble over the rocky beach, but I did see a Spotted Sandpiper working its way along shore, a Common Eider out in the bay, a Double-crested Cormorant, and a Bald Eagle flying over the water. It was an adult bird, making me wonder if it was the same one I had seen from the cottage west of town.


A White-crowned Sparrow was hanging around the fish traps at the top of the wharf; this species was new for my Nova Scotia provincial list.

White-crowned Sparrow

A walk around town produced some interesting songbirds: a White-throated Sparrow, some juncos and a couple of Song Sparrows hanging out in a weedy lot; a flock of about 10 Pine Siskins seen multiple times; a Common Redpoll seen on top of a conifer, all alone and not associating with any other finches; a Brown Creeper winding its way up a tree on the outskirts of town, and three Yellow-rumped Warblers seen and heard in the conifers. One was investigating the steeple of a church on the outskirts, then flew down to the porch railing.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I returned to the cottage for lunch after walking about 5 km, then went back out later in the afternoon as the tide was going out. There were a few more birds present on the rocks beneath the lighthouse, including one cormorant and several gulls. I counted five Herring Gulls and nine Ring-billed Gulls altogether; the Ring-billed Gulls used to be rare in Nova Scotia, but are now appearing along the Bay of Fundy more regularly. This trip was the first time I’d seen them here.

Herring and Ring-billed Gulls

They are common back home in Ottawa, however, so I focused my attention on the gigantic Herring Gulls. One was doing a wing-stretch, while another was keeping a close eye on the sea.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

A Red-throated Loon was bobbing in the water, too far out to take any photos. Its small, upturned bill and extensive white head, cheeks and throat bordered by a dark “mohawk” extending from the top of the bill, over head and down the back of the neck marked it as an adult in non-breeding plumage and ruled out the larger Common Loon. These are always good birds to see in Nova Scotia, as I had gotten my lifer here in Margaretsville back in August 2008.

A single Common Eider was floating on the waves, and to my surprise it swam in close enough to get some photos. Common Eiders are common along the Bay of Fundy coastline, but the only time I’ve seen them right in the harbour or on the rocky shore was during our trip to Harbourville back in August 2010. Most of the eiders that I’ve seen along the coast are single birds, and this was no exception.

Common Eider

Common Eider

I saw the same flock of Pine Siskins on my walk, and heard the “tink” of a Purple Finch flying over. The juvenile White-crowned Sparrow was still hanging out at the fish traps on the wharf, and I saw only one Yellow-rumped Warbler on my walk before heading home.

I saw most of the same birds the following day when I headed back out to the lighthouse and wharf. The winds were stronger, as were the waves. The tide was in, and because the waves were crashing right onto the lighthouse deck I decided to keep away from the shore.

Margaretsville Lighthouse

My best birds that day were a juvenile Bald Eagle flying over, followed by a Merlin flying high over shoreline heading south. The Red-throated Loon, Common Eider and the Double-crested Cormorant were all still present, as was the flock of Pine Siskins. This time I was able to get a photo of one preening in a tree.

Pine Siskin

Although late October isn’t the best time of year for staying in a cottage on the Bay of Fundy, there were more birds around than I expected. There really isn’t much to do in Margaretsville in the off-season, as there are no shops or stores, but nature always has been and always will be my entertainment. I enjoyed the birds of the coast and was happy when we had one good night for photographing the spectacular Nova Scotia sunset!

Sunset along the Bay of Fundy

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