Rare bird sighting on campus

A rare bird sighting on the Saint Mary’s grounds last weeks set bird-enthusiasts a-fllutter, drawing several to campus with binoculars, cameras and telescopic photo lenses in tow.

Shannon Doane, a web developer at Saint Mary’s, was coming back from karate practise at the Homburg Centre when something caught her eye.

At first, Doane - who has had a life-long interest in bird-watching - thought the sleeping, brownish bird resting in one of the trees along the Tower Road fence might be a hawk of some kind.

Intrigued, she came back to take a photo. Some quick online research seemed to show that the feathered friend was a whip-poor-will, a rare sight in Nova Scotia.

When Doane posted about her discovery on the Nova Scotia Bird Society’s Facebook page, it caused a stir in the bird-watching community, generating hundreds of likes and many comments from members.

Doane’s discovery was in fact even a rarer find: a female chuck-will's-widow. Often mistaken for the more common whip-poor-will, the bird normally doesn’t stray beyond the southeastern United States, making it an unusual sighting. A nocturnal bird, it remains still during the day, rousing at dusk to catch insects.

Diane LeBlanc, vice-president of the Nova Scotia Bird Society and fellow member Jason Dain both took time from their days to observe the bird and capture some high-quality photos. (Side note: Diane completed her PhD in Industrial /Organizational Psychology at Saint Mary’s in May, so is well familiar with campus!)

Several other enthusiasts stopped by to experience a “lifer” (a term to describe the first time seeing a certain bird), with some coming from as far away as Cape Sable Island, almost a 3-hour drive from Halifax.

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