On Saturday, July 31st my fiancé and I took two days to make the long drive to Nova Scotia. We planned to stay two weeks, although we were both working remotely at a cottage on the shore of Scot’s Bay, Kings County during the first week and used the second week as a true vacation week in Greenwood. By then there were no restrictions to enter Quebec or New Brunswick, although we had to show proof of vaccines and a travel permit at the Nova Scotia border. Once inside the border we were still subject to gathering regulations, mask mandates, and contact tracing protocols to dine indoor at restaurants, something we hadn’t done in Ontario since last fall.
Scot’s Bay is a community on Cape Split. The cape juts out into the Bay of Fundy, separating it from the Minas Basin. This continuation of Nova Scotia’s North Mountain range is 7 kilometres long and ranges between several kilometres to several dozen metres in width. It reaches 200 metres above sea-level at the scenic Look-Off halfway along the highway, and terminates in the relatively new (2019) Cape Split Provincial Park at the end. It also has a second provincial park, Blomidon, on the Minas Basin side, and a tiny access point to the beach on the Bay of Fundy side called Scot’s Bay Provincial Park. This is where I got my lifer Sanderling in 2008.
While our cottage was lovely and located only steps from the Bay of Fundy, it had no trees surrounding it; indeed, it appeared to be the only spot on Scot’s Bay with some sort of crop growing on its property.
This resulted in a lack of warblers and other songbirds directly on the property, although I made some great finds on the first day there: Savannah Sparrows loved the cropfield!
There were also Bank Swallows nesting in the seven or eight-foot sandbanks along the edge of the beach. About four of the cavities had active nests, and it was a delight to see the parents feeding overhead and bringing food to the nestlings. Barn Swallows nested in several barns nearby and often hawked for insects with the Bank Swallows over the property.
Bald Eagles and Ravens were near-daily visitors. The eagles often sat on rocks along the shoreline while the tide was out. Twice a juvenile Bald Eagle set up shop on a rock directly outside of our door – the first time in the bright sun, the second time in the thick fog so I never did get any decent photos of it. Another time I watched four (4!!!) eagles – two adults tumbling together in mid-air, followed by a third adult and a juvenile – fly in from the water and land in adjacent trees along the treeline that separated the cottages on our road from the cottages over on the next road. They were too far to photograph, but we had great views through the scope.
Other birds around the cottage included Alder Flycatchers heard along the treelines, crows, goldfinches, Song Sparrows, and the gulls and cormorants along the shore. There weren’t as many shorebirds as I would have liked; we only observed a couple of Semipalmated Plovers at the cottage. Sea birds and waterfowl were also sadly lacking – we only saw Common Loons once, a pair swimming in the bay. Except for one extremely distant diving bird, those were the only “sea” birds we saw. Three different gull species inhabited the shore: Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls were daily visitors when the tide was low, and once we saw a Peregrine Falcon chasing them from their favoured perches.
My fiancé Doran alerted me to an usual bird on the beach; when he said it had a black cap I rushed in from the front where I was taking a lunch break and found a Caspian Tern on the beach! It came up as rare in eBird, so I got a couple of distant photos to document it.
We had great weather on most days, but rain and fog made for poor birding or hiking conditions on other days. On August 3rd we had a spectacular sunset:
A storm came in on August 5th:
I liked walking along the beach on my lunch hours, despite the drizzly weather, checking out the few tide pools along our portion of the beach. My best find was this deceased sculpin:
I didn’t find any crabs, though there were lots of shells present, including living Atlantic Dogwhelks and Common Periwinkles:
These squishy mats were common at low tide, and when uploading them to iNaturalist I had literally no idea whether they were plant or animal material. iNaturalist’s AI computer vision suggested squid, but it wasn’t until a user pointed out that they were the eggs of a Longfin Inshore Squid that this made any sense. It would have been a real thrill to have seen a live adult!
My best birding find occurred further along the shore, toward Scot’s Bay Provincial Park. There is a marsh there with lots of sedges where I’ve seen at least four Great Blue Herons flying in and out of, as well as some mallards and black ducks. On my first walk up I also heard the distinct insect-like song of two Nelson’s Sparrows! Although I tried to see them, they disappeared into the vegetation whenever I approached.
The only bird I managed to photograph on this occasion was a pair of Least Sandpipers.
However, on my second attempt during one particularly foggy lunch hour, I noticed a Northern Harrier coursing low over the marsh! It was chased by a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds toward the cottage, where I was able to capture this image of it flying over the cropfield!
In terms of insects, there weren’t many odes around. I saw two darners (both on the wing) while walking on the highway, and one bluet at the Nelson’s Sparrow marsh. Orbweaver spiders were plentiful (including one inside the cottage), and the usual Cabbage Whites and Common Sulphurs enjoyed the flowers growing along the road. My best find was this Common Wood Nymph – unlike the ones in Ottawa, it has a yellow patch on the forewing:
This same flower patch hosted a number of bees and flower flies, the most interesting of which was this Black-shouldered Drone Fly:
These are just a few of the sights seen around the cottage on my daily walks – I discovered a couple of great birding spots as well, and will post separate entries on those soon!