|The Bald Eagles in and around Wolfville, Nova Scotia [N45°08'W64°36'] may be one of the best-kept secrets of our Winter. Several hundred BEs have wintered here, just south of the Bay of Fundy, and Redtail counts have been in the hundreds as well. Interestingly, Roughleg numbers are very low considering the build-up of these other species.
There are Bald Eagle festival-like activities in this area on the last weekend in January and the first weekend in February -- 2002 being no exception. There are international road signs in the core area: a Bald Eagle head outline and an arrow with the text "next 9km" underneath. A raptor survey, coordinated by retired biology prof. Jim Wolford, is conducted on one weekend day usually during this period. They employ an interesting count strategy: everyone get's to their area and counts for the same hour in the morning... counting all spp., but hoping especially to get a snapshot of the eagles. Then, like a Christmas Count, they gather to compile the totals and share their observations.
I picked out an area similar in size to two other Winter Counts I do, and while the snow squalls were a bit of a problem, there were Bald Eagles "everywhere" by any standard. The Redtail numbers were in line with the NY and VT census areas for this Winter and the Roughleg were few.
For the geographers, I covered the Grand Pre dykelands [3K+ acres of farmland below sea level created around 1800], farmlands from Wolfville to Sheffield Mills [there are additional dyked areas here too], and I birded along the Gaspereau River just south of Wolfville.
The temperature ranged from -11°C up to -4°C and while there was only a dusting to an inch of snow in Halifax, some 90km to the south, this area had nearly a foot of snow on the ground with more coming down while I was there. It was a lake effect-type snow -- huge, beautiful flakes coming down at a pretty good clip -- being generated by moist air coming in off the ocean, rising into the NS highlands and snowing. Get out into an open area and the wind was blowing and drifting the snow around at a pretty good clip, by any standard. This area, northeast on a line to New Brunswick, is notorious for hazardous winter driving conditions due to the rise in elevation.
While I did not have "hundreds" of any raptor, it was great! A raptor sitting in a tree over a house was likely to be a Bald Eagle and you could drive right under it. In addition, Bald Eagles were in the air, sitting on the ground, and in groups of 2, 3, and 12-24 in and around area chicken farms [locally referred to as 'feeding stations']. I was especially interested in Redtail plumages and while the numbers were lower than I hoped, I snapped some digital images through the scope and well as going through a couple of rolls of film.
My quick visit: 82 BE, 28 RT[26a, 2i], 3 RL[2l, 1d]; no AK or NH.
A survey of the birds sitting in trees around a few of the area farms produced the following eagle ages:
The eagles were always attended by several hundred ravens and crows [each of the corvid species congregating amongst themselves]. Also: a 150 Horned Lark/Lapland Longspur flock, several small groups of Pine Grosbeaks and Snow Buntings, 1 Northern Shrike, and a Coyote.
And at the end of the day, with the call of the Bald Eagle and Raven still in my head, I washed it all down with a couple of pints of Chimney Swift Stout at Paddy's Brew Pub in Wolfville. It doesn't get any better than that.