Notes from a Birder: Birch Cove Lakes Area
With thanks to the author, Bob McDonald, Halifax NW Trails

My initial excursions into the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area were on field trips sponsored by the NS Bird Society along a historic logging road off Kearney Lake Rd near the site of a former drive-in. (Does anyone else recall a drive-in here?) These field trips took place in the early 1980’s before any development in Kingswood, Bedford West or off Kearney Lake Rd. The trips took place in spring and summer with a focus on warblers and flycatchers.

A few years later, when there was the pressure of development in “our” birding area, several of us assembled a bird list of 103 species which had been sighted during these outings.

During the second Maritime Breeding Bird Atlas (2006-2010), my 10X10-km square included much of the BMBCL area and I censused birds along many of the existing trails into Susies and Charlies Lakes and into Blue Mountain. There were fewer trails then than there is now.  The BMBCL Wilderness Area was designated in 2009, the same year that a BioBlitz, sponsored and organized by St Mary’s University, took place. This BioBlitz was a one-day inventory of all flora and fauna which we could find.

The “Bird Twig” which consisted of ornithologists (and their students) from local universities as well as many members of the NS Bird Society were able to detect (see or hear) 75 bird species during this 24-hour period! As part of the BioBlitz, two of us spent several hours doing a nocturnal owl survey along the Blue Mountain trail where we heard Northern Saw-whet, Barred and Long-eared Owls.

In September 2017, the Ecology Action Centre organized a second BioBlitz in BMBCL and although the timing was not the best for bird surveys, more species were counted.

Loon with young
Loon with young

Currently, many keen birders use an “app” called ebird to keep personal lists of species seen, as well as location lists. Significant locations for birds are designated as “hotspots”. 

HOTSPOTS: I checked recently and it looks as though there are only 2 hotspots so far in BMBCL, one along the Blue Mountain and surrounding trails (54 species) and the other is the trail into Susies lake from Bayers Lake Business Park (11 species).  I encourage others to post their bird sightings on either of these hotspots or at other user-specified locations within BMBCL.

I have attempted to compile a master list of birds which have been observed (by me or others) in the BMBCL area, and I came up with a collection of some 114 species. It is worth noting that this list includes several species-at-risk and uncommon species including Common Nighthawk, Black-backed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Canada Warbler and Rusty Blackbird.


Below is a partial list of the many bird species found in the BMBCL.

Birders are invited to contact us with updates and recent sightings.

Bird Species recorded in the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area & Buffer Lands (partial list)

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker, © Brittany Crossman
  1. Mallard
  2. Mallard x Black Duck cross
  3. Common Merganser
  4. Ring-necked Pheasant
  5. Ruffed Grouse
  6. Common Loon
  7. Osprey
  8. American Kestrel
  9. American Woodcock
  10. Herring Gull
  11. Great Black-backed Gull
  12. Rock Dove
  13. Mourning Dove
  14. Barred Owl
  15. Long-eared Owl
  16. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  17. Common Nighthawk
  18. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  19. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Hairy Woodpecker
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. Pileated Woodpecker
  24. Eastern Wood-Peewee
  25. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  26. Alder Flycatcher
  27. Blue-headed Vireo
  28. Red-eyed Vireo
  29. Grey Jay
  30. Blue Jay
  31. American Crow
  32. Common Raven
  33. Tree Swallow
  34. Black-capped Chickadee
  35. Boreal Chickadee
  36. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  37. Brown Creeper
  38. Winter Wren
  39. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  40. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  41. Swainson’s Thrush
  42. Hermit Thrush
  43. American Robin
  44. European Starling
  45. Cedar Waxwing
  46. Nashville Warbler
  47. Northern Parula
  48. Yellow Warbler
  49. Chestnut-sided warbler
  50. Magnolia Warbler
  51. Cape May Warbler
  52. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  53. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  54. Black-throated Green Warbler
  55. Blackburnian Warbler
  56. Palm Warbler
  57. Black and White Warbler
  58. American Redstart
  59. Ovenbird
  60. Mourning Warbler
  61. Common Yellowthroat
  62. Song Sparrow
  63. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  64. Swamp Sparrow
  65. White-throated Sparrow
  66. Dark-eyed Junco
  67. Red-winged Blackbird
  68. Common Grackle
  69. Pine Grosbeak
  70. Purple Finch
  71. Red Crossbill
  72. White-winged Crossbill
  73. Pine Siskin
  74. American Goldfinch