Hartlen Point (HRM-F7)

eBird Hotspot "Eastern Passage--Hartlen Point", Halifax County, Nova Scotia, CA

This area should be a destination for those visiting the Halifax area with a few hours to spare. It is regarded as one of the best mainland migrant traps in Nova Scotia comprised of open areas, fairways of the golf course, mud flats, spruce thickets, cobble and kelp-covered beaches, cattail marshes, ponds, bogs and alders that are used as breeding areas for some and a magnet for migrant songbirds to rest and forage. Over 250 species of birds have been documented here. This area is "birder friendly" where Nova Scotia Bird Society members, guests and visiting birders can enjoy it despite signs limiting access. Commissionaires and security at this radar facility/Golf course could ask you to leave certain areas if there is a safety concern. All visitors must comply with instructions from personnel on duty. Stay off the open fairways and walk briefly when necessary along the edges when golfers are present. Being considerate will go a long way to allow us continued birding in a very special and significant area.

To Get There

Follow Rte 322 (Pleasant Street) from Dartmouth south to Eastern Passage, turn right onto Shore Road and continue on it until you reach the Hartlen Point Golf Course at the end of the road. Alternatively, from the MacKay Bridge on the Dartmouth side of the Harbour, follow Hwy 111 through to its end at Woodside. Turn left onto Hwy 322 to Eastern Passage as described above.

Birding the Area

Upon entering the Hartlen Point Golf Course area, you will see a few yellow concrete barriers just off the right shoulder of the paved road. Stop where safe and park as far off the pavement as possible and follow the packed down trails to the shore. This is what some refer to as the "Harbourside Beach" or "West Beach" and is a prime area for shorebirds, sea ducks, sparrows, gulls, and owls. Do not forget to scope Devil's Island that is easily seen from here for raptors. Watch for Savannah (Ipswich) Sparrows in early Spring and Fall along here. Continue along the shore for a half kilometer or more and then work your way along the meagre pathways inland to circle back to your vehicle. This may take an hour in all.

Once back in the car, continue to drive along the paved road until you enter the Golf Course parking lot.During golf season you can park your car in the lot or leave your car on the shoulder of the road if the gate is closed off season. Recently (2015, 2016), there have been Commissionaires parked and guarding another gate just a few meters from the parking lot entrance and sign. Nova Scotia Bird Society members and visiting birders have special privileges to use this property for recreation and you will do well to check in with the on-duty commissionaire to get beyond that closed gate. There may be times, although rarely, that birders would be restricted for safety concerns so keep that in mind.

Once beyond the commissionaire, this road with its bordering power-lines, alder, cranberry and bayberry is the start of fabulous Fall birding at Hartlen Point. Check all along the roadways, follow them to the radar towers checking the thickets and watching. Osprey have been nesting on the tower for many years and in some years there are two nests within a quarter kilometer. Near the end of the roadway to the East, you will be able to have great vantage points for sea watching. Gannets, gulls, eiders, alcids, loons, and shearwaters can often be seen from here this area. At this spot, you will see that the road takes a 90 degree turn to the North toward a high communications tower. This is an excellent area for migrants especially in Fall.

North of the tower is a small path that will lead you to the edge of one of the golfing fairways. Please respect the golfers by holding up and staying quiet while they are playing through for their enjoyment and your safety. Follow the edge of the fairway eastward and downhill and feel free to use the trails and small roadways that we refer to as "Back Cove." This area not only contains a lovely mixed woodland, but also has a cove with cattail marsh and a small mudflat area exposed at low tide.

Once finished this area, you can go back the way you came or follow the cobble beach at water's edge at the cove which will take you back to the sea watch area and road with the osprey nests then ending with the commissionaire and back to your vehicle. This trek would normally take about 2 hours but Fall birding may take you half a day.


Aside from the security issues and shared access with golfers, the best times to visit here are as early in the morning as possible during migration. Often birds are coming in off the ocean and flying into the low trees, shrubs and grasses here. Watch the fairways for shorebirds, raptors and geese. The main roadway trails are easily negotiated but depending on abilities, smaller footpaths may be a challenge as these are not maintained. Waterproof footwear is a necessity to get to and enjoy the Back Cove area in particular.

Contributed by David Currie


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