Nova Scotia

We've joined forces with some of Nova Scotia's bird enthusiasts to bring you a collection of sites around the province that capture the essence of the East Coast's avifauna.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


18-year-old high school student Angela Thibodeau explains why this is a great tour at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite3.htm.

The sewer stroll is a tour of sewage outlet sites around Halifax, organized by the Halifax Field Naturalists and the Nova Scotia Bird Society.  You can visit a lot of good birding sites in a single morning. You can go on a guided group tour with expert birders and look through their spotting scopes.

What time of year is the best time to go?
The sewer strolls are usually held during the winter months, between December and February.

What can you expect to see?
A lot of seabirds come down from the Arctic to winter along our coast. There are many species of gulls, alcids and ducks that aren’t around during other times of the year. Most winters, a few Dovekies, King Eiders or Harlequin Ducks show up. You can also choose to swing up into the city and look around for out of season sparrows or finches.

How does one get there?
The route runs from Dartmouth to Halifax so there are several locations that you can st Read More

18-year-old high school student Angela Thibodeau explains why this is a great tour at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite3.htm.

The sewer stroll is a tour of sewage outlet sites around Halifax, organized by the Halifax Field Naturalists and the Nova Scotia Bird Society.  You can visit a lot of good birding sites in a single morning. You can go on a guided group tour with expert birders and look through their spotting scopes.

What time of year is the best time to go?
The sewer strolls are usually held during the winter months, between December and February.

What can you expect to see?
A lot of seabirds come down from the Arctic to winter along our coast. There are many species of gulls, alcids and ducks that aren’t around during other times of the year. Most winters, a few Dovekies, King Eiders or Harlequin Ducks show up. You can also choose to swing up into the city and look around for out of season sparrows or finches.

How does one get there?
The route runs from Dartmouth to Halifax so there are several locations that you can start from. Normally it starts from Hartlen Point Golf Club in Dartmouth, runs along the coast line of Bedford Basin and Purcell’s Cove and winds up in Herring Cove.

Where can we get more information?
Both the Nova Scotia Bird Society and the Halifax Field Naturalists organize sewer strolls anually.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Halifax Harbour

Map of Halifax Harbour.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


50-year-old ex-Brit Robert Stern explains why this is a good place to visit at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite1.htm.

Why is this a good place to visit?
It has a wide variety of birds at all times of the year, including many rarities, and many birds that are hard to see otherwise, for example pelagics in summer. Plus the birds are easy to find.

What time of year is the best time to go?
Spring is a good time to spot arriving migrants and rarities, summer is great for breeding Terns and taking trips to see pelagic seabirds. Fall is a good time for everything, but especially the hawk migration, and winter for coastal birds (sea ducks, loons, grebes etc.)

What can you expect to see?
I’ve seen 243 species there in the last 15 years, including all sorts of rarities, and all of the above-mentioned birds.

How does one get there?
Take the Digby Neck road west from Digby, then a ferry to Long Island and a second ferry to Brier Island. The ferries, though short, are an adventure for non-maritimers, and often yield good birds.
Read More

50-year-old ex-Brit Robert Stern explains why this is a good place to visit at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite1.htm.

Why is this a good place to visit?
It has a wide variety of birds at all times of the year, including many rarities, and many birds that are hard to see otherwise, for example pelagics in summer. Plus the birds are easy to find.

What time of year is the best time to go?
Spring is a good time to spot arriving migrants and rarities, summer is great for breeding Terns and taking trips to see pelagic seabirds. Fall is a good time for everything, but especially the hawk migration, and winter for coastal birds (sea ducks, loons, grebes etc.)

What can you expect to see?
I’ve seen 243 species there in the last 15 years, including all sorts of rarities, and all of the above-mentioned birds.

How does one get there?
Take the Digby Neck road west from Digby, then a ferry to Long Island and a second ferry to Brier Island. The ferries, though short, are an adventure for non-maritimers, and often yield good birds.

Where can we get more information?
Eric Mills wrote a detailed article in Birding, 1988, vol.20, #1, p.31.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Brier Island

Map of Brier Island.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


50-year-old ex-Brit Robert Stern explains why this is a good place to visit at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite1.htm.

Why is this a good place to visit?
It’s easy to access, it’s a beautiful part of the province, and there are lots of good birds.

What time of year is the best time to go, and what can you expect to see?
During the winter around Sheffield Mills, Woodside, Kingsport and W. Grand Pre you can see hundreds of Bald Eagles, Red-tails etc. The Grand Pre Dykes are good for Short-eared Owls, Lapland Longspurs etc. Late spring and summer you’ll find breeding woodland birds, including some "Valley specialties" such as Scarlet Tanagers and Northern Goshawks. In the late summer you can see huge flocks of shorebirds at Grand Pre, and the Avonport to Windsor mud-flats.

How does one get there?
Everything is fairly accessible from Wolfville. Try contacting one of the local birders for specific directions to specific birds.

Any anecdotes, legends, unusual sightings?
This was Robie Tufts’ "stompi Read More

50-year-old ex-Brit Robert Stern explains why this is a good place to visit at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite1.htm.

Why is this a good place to visit?
It’s easy to access, it’s a beautiful part of the province, and there are lots of good birds.

What time of year is the best time to go, and what can you expect to see?
During the winter around Sheffield Mills, Woodside, Kingsport and W. Grand Pre you can see hundreds of Bald Eagles, Red-tails etc. The Grand Pre Dykes are good for Short-eared Owls, Lapland Longspurs etc. Late spring and summer you’ll find breeding woodland birds, including some "Valley specialties" such as Scarlet Tanagers and Northern Goshawks. In the late summer you can see huge flocks of shorebirds at Grand Pre, and the Avonport to Windsor mud-flats.

How does one get there?
Everything is fairly accessible from Wolfville. Try contacting one of the local birders for specific directions to specific birds.

Any anecdotes, legends, unusual sightings?
This was Robie Tufts’ "stomping ground" and there are lots of references to it in Birds of Nova Scotia, especially the early editions.

What else is interesting about this spot?
Acadian history, the Apple Blossom Festival in late spring.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Eastern King's County

Map of Eastern King's County.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Biologist Randy Lauff explains why this is a great place to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite4.htm

There is a good diversity of birds here; the species composition changes from Spring through Autumn (it’s frozen over in winter). This area is nutrient-rich and therefore attracts a variety of animals, but birds are the most obvious.

What time of year is the best time to go?
Spring through late Fall. It’s frozen in winter, so that makes winter bad. There is a diversity of habitats which are exploited during the time when the water is open.

What can you expect to see?
You’ll find a variety of waterfowl, and Great Blue Herons. Other notable species around the park include Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Kingfishers.

How does one get there?
Follow Main St. (downtown Antigonish), east. Immediately after crossing the railroad tracks, turn right. Drive right into the area.

Where can we get more information?
I can always be reached at rlauff@stfx.ca. Norm Seymour ha Read More

Biologist Randy Lauff explains why this is a great place to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite4.htm

There is a good diversity of birds here; the species composition changes from Spring through Autumn (it’s frozen over in winter). This area is nutrient-rich and therefore attracts a variety of animals, but birds are the most obvious.

What time of year is the best time to go?
Spring through late Fall. It’s frozen in winter, so that makes winter bad. There is a diversity of habitats which are exploited during the time when the water is open.

What can you expect to see?
You’ll find a variety of waterfowl, and Great Blue Herons. Other notable species around the park include Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Kingfishers.

How does one get there?
Follow Main St. (downtown Antigonish), east. Immediately after crossing the railroad tracks, turn right. Drive right into the area.

Where can we get more information?
I can always be reached at rlauff@stfx.ca. Norm Seymour has been studying ducks there since the 70s.

Any anecdotes, legends, unusual sightings?
Tall ships used to be able to sail right in here, until current farming practices silted up the upper end of the harbour. We’ve had a White Pelican here. Over 20 pairs of Bald Eagles nest around the Antigonish Harbour.

What else is interesting about this spot?
Three rivers (West, South and Rights) feed into this Harbour.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Antigonish Harbour

Map of Antigonish Harbour.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Biologist Randy Lauff explains why this is a great place to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite4.htm

Why is this a good place to visit?
During autumn and early winter this is a great spot to see lots of migrants and winter residents.

What time of year is best to go and why?
Autumn, early winter -- it’s quite pretty most of the year. Migrants and winter residents are attracted to the good fishing in this area.

What can you expect to see?
A large variety of gulls, many of the waterfowl, grebes, loons and Dovekies. Gannets and Bald Eagles congregate here for several weeks while the Needlefish (Atlantic Saury) are migrating.

How does one get there?
This is the causeway that joins the mainland to Cape Breton Island; it is part of the TransCanada Highway.

Any anecdotes, legends, unusual sightings?
On this year’s Strait of Canso Christmas Bird Count, May Goring and I found an Ivory Gull (rare winter visitor). This was the first time this species has ever been recorded on a Nova Scotian Christmas Bird C Read More

Biologist Randy Lauff explains why this is a great place to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite4.htm

Why is this a good place to visit?
During autumn and early winter this is a great spot to see lots of migrants and winter residents.

What time of year is best to go and why?
Autumn, early winter -- it’s quite pretty most of the year. Migrants and winter residents are attracted to the good fishing in this area.

What can you expect to see?
A large variety of gulls, many of the waterfowl, grebes, loons and Dovekies. Gannets and Bald Eagles congregate here for several weeks while the Needlefish (Atlantic Saury) are migrating.

How does one get there?
This is the causeway that joins the mainland to Cape Breton Island; it is part of the TransCanada Highway.

Any anecdotes, legends, unusual sightings?
On this year’s Strait of Canso Christmas Bird Count, May Goring and I found an Ivory Gull (rare winter visitor). This was the first time this species has ever been recorded on a Nova Scotian Christmas Bird Count.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Canso Causeway

Map of Canso Causeway.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Biologist David McCorquodale explains where to go on Cape Breton to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite2.htm

French Mountain: Cape Breton Highlands
This area, including the Bog Trail, Benjies Lake Trail and the highway is good for Boreal birds including Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee and Blackpoll Warbler. The most intriguing bird is the recently discerned Bicknell’s Thrush. This is probably the easiest (right next to a highway) place to hear them.

Ingonish:
There is a good variety of forest birds (warblers, thrushes, etc.) that nest here. I think the best time for birding here is in the late fall and early winter. Highlights then include Purple Sandpiper, Dovekie, Northern Gannet, Thick-billed Murre and a variety of sea ducks.
More information about these sites is available through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.


Bird Islands, Victoria County:
Home of most of Nova Scotia’s nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and lots of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots and Great Cormorants.

Read More

Biologist David McCorquodale explains where to go on Cape Breton to bird watch at: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bsite2.htm

French Mountain: Cape Breton Highlands
This area, including the Bog Trail, Benjies Lake Trail and the highway is good for Boreal birds including Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee and Blackpoll Warbler. The most intriguing bird is the recently discerned Bicknell’s Thrush. This is probably the easiest (right next to a highway) place to hear them.

Ingonish:
There is a good variety of forest birds (warblers, thrushes, etc.) that nest here. I think the best time for birding here is in the late fall and early winter. Highlights then include Purple Sandpiper, Dovekie, Northern Gannet, Thick-billed Murre and a variety of sea ducks.
More information about these sites is available through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.


Bird Islands, Victoria County:
Home of most of Nova Scotia’s nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and lots of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots and Great Cormorants.

Louisbourg:
There are lots of nesting Boreal birds here such as Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Blackpoll Warbler. Again the late fall is a great time for birds. Vagrants show up at feeders in town (Painted Bunting, Lark Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat, Dickcissel) and the sea birds can be great, depending on the wind. Dovekies, Purple Sandpiper, Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, scoters, and other sea ducks are regularly seen. More information is available through the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.


© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Cape Breton

Map of Cape Breton.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© 1998, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Relate geographic location to ecology and occurrence of bird species in Nova Scotia
  • Identify one’s immediate surroundings with ecology and biodiversity of birds

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