So many times I drop by Quidi Vidi Lake to see what might just "appear" there. While most times, there is nothing exotic, I am rarely disappointed. The river outflows on both the east and west end of the lake are often bustling with black ducks, mallards, diving ducks, several species of seagulls and the ever-present Rock Doves (pigeons).
There are about a dozen pigeons that drop by my yard daily, and they are always welcome. Many people consider these birds, as well as seagulls, to be a nuisance. They are messy, greedy eaters, and pushy but when I really stop and look them in the eye, they have amazing coloring and attractive features. Their rounded shape, typical of doves, seems to soften them and temper my frustration with their aggressiveness.
When I was a child, my grandfather bought my sister and me two fantail pigeons. He built a house for them attached to out playhouse, and for years, they were a joy. They fluttered and cooed their way into our hearts, but they never produced any offspring. Now, I am guessing they were not a pair, just two fantail pigeons.
On a whim, I took a drive Sunday morning not expecting to see much. Well, I didn't see much for that fact, but I did come upon this stunning male Ring-necked Duck. Driving along Petty Harbour Road toward Goulds, I saw this handsome bird shining in the distance on the right side of the road.
I pulled off the road and grabbed my binos. With the bright sun, this bird glistened from top to bottom. The black head shined, the white sides flashed and the yellow eye looked like the burning sun. All of that was through the binoculars, of course. Try, as I did, I could not get a decent picture of this bird from the distance and the bright light. If only I could show you what I saw in the binos....
The ringed neck was visible most of the time. This particular drake looked like he was all dressed up for a wedding. Unfortunately, there was no bride anywhere to be found.
It is really funny how a bird that is relatively common at certain times of the year, looks so impressive when it first returns after a long vacation.
It has been a rare opportunity to be able to walk into the gated area at Pier 17 due to construction. For the last two days, the gate was open, and I ventured in with no difficulty.
There sitting on the railing were the great little Black-headed Gulls already transitioning into their summer plumage. Some were much farther along in the process than others, and it was a great chance to compare the winter and summer bird. It seems that when the head changes, the beak and legs also become darker.
From my reading, I learned that the Black-headed Gull (really chocolate brown-headed) is a two-year gull. I also found that this species can live to be up to 63 years old. That is amazing! I didn't see any decrepit ones among them either.
Each winter a small flock of these gulls come to St. John's to spend the winter. They are readily seen at the St. John's harbour and often at Quidi Vidi Lake. I even found a small group of them in the soccer field on lower Rennie's River. They stay throughout the winter months and then, in March they return to their breeding grounds. These gulls will likely leave anytime.
Despite their small size, this little gull is vocal and quite aggressive when it comes to feeding. It does not let the bigger gulls push it around.
The Black-headed Gulls really keep to them selves. They will share an area but cluster away from the crowd.
Although not easy to see in this picture, I think the second and third bird from the end are juveniles due to the brownish streaks on their backs.
I did some searching to try to find why some of the birds appeared to be very pink. The only thing that I could find was that the birds from Norway often have a pinkish wash on their belly. It is also possible that the pink may be the result of diet. Whatever the reason, it really adds to the striking appearance of this bird.
No, these pictures are not recent but are left over from September. My stockpile of photos has been dwindling quickly. For the last three months, I have been working, and my time for birding has been almost non-existent. That is about to change. By the end of the month, I will be free to venture out to see what I can find.
In the interim, I have attempted to do some reading, get involved with E-Bird and had my blog accepted by Nature Blog. I've followed a number of bird blogs over the last three months and thoroughly enjoyed other's adventures, but I am really ready to have some of my own.
It won't be long now and my regular posts will begin to flow again. Please stay tuned!
For me, winter birding this year was pretty uneventful. I wasn't able to get out very often and when I did, I often came up empty- handed. In fact, this may have been the case for a number of birders this year as it was a very slow parade of birds this year. The ones that I did see came and stayed for quite a while. That was good because most all birders were able to see the Sora, Brant, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Horned Grebe, Cape May and Pine Warbler.
The province's winter bird list ended at 139 while I was only able to see 88. Not a great showing but I was up by three birds over last year.
I started thinking about E-Bird and decided that if it was going to be meaningful to me this year, I should enter my 2012 birds. I spent some time last evening entering in some of the birds and found it to be quite easy, once I found a number of areas on the map. The date and time element is tedious but once, I get on a routine roll, that shouldn't be too bad. For now, I am having to look back at pictures to get the date and remember the location. I've been told that it is a really handy tool, and I am beginning to buy into it.
Today, I have uploaded some images of a juvenile Bald Eagle photographed in February on a trip to Harbour Grace. There were three of them by the shoreline and they were actively hunting. When they flew low over the car, the sheer size of them is awesome. In the first image the young bird seems to be sizing me up for a possible meal.
A "snow day" has given me the opportunity to rejig my blog a little and to look into E-Bird. I added their gadget to the top of my blog as a way of monitoring posts made about birds on the Avalon. It seems not too many people are using the system, but I can really see the benefits of it if everyone were posting their sightings. Imagine if all backyard birders would post their feathered visitors on the site.
It seems very easy to use, but for me, I think I will just start now. It would be too much work for me to go back in time and try to enter all of my birds seen to date. I haven't made any entries yet so I'm not sure how much work is involved. My first steps were to read about the tool and sign up.
My next steps are to find some good birds and attempt to enter the data into the program. I will report on that experience once I have been though it.
It is hard to imagine that we are so close to the arrival of Daylight Savings Time. That means that the evenings will be longer and the opportunity to get out and try to see some birds is just around the corner. I wonder if anything interesting has blown in on the wind...
"Snow Day" backyard activity: Typically, on snowy days, my feeders are very busy but I guess the wind is just too high today. Of course, most of the feeders are blown empty or covered in snow. Once things calm down a bit, I will take care of that and hope some finches find their way in.
Yesterday, I saw a flock of Pine Siskins in the treetops near my home. That is the first time since last year. Perhaps activity at my feeder will improve.
I don't think I had anything in mind when I first started compiling this routine bird report, other than having a place to put my pictures. Over time, many benefit and surprises have sprung from it. For me, it is a "talking out loud" way of learning about the many species that surround us on a daily basis. I didn't expect it to grow as large as it has, and I certainly didn't anticipate the number of visitors the site would draw, nor the special surprises that have arisen because of it.
The most recent surprise came yesterday afternoon when I opened my e-mail and found a request to put a number of my waterfowl pictures on an album section of the Watervogelbond Waterfowl Association in Belgium My appreciation goes out to Chris Cornelissen who took the time to look at my pictures and sort them to develop a waterfowl collection that he has posted on his album page: http://watervogelbond.jalbum.net/
His kind remarks are appreciated.
To welcome any new visitors who may pop into my site as a result of his posting, I have sorted back through a few of my folders for pictures of waterfowl taken from November 2011 to date.
When out bird watching, I may not have gone to a location to find ducks, but when there, I am so taken by their beauty that I can't help but photograph them. It is because of this fascination that I often have numerous pictures of many species of waterfowl sitting on my hard drive.
I found Bruce McTavish's Evening Telegram article very interesting this week as he wrote about the abundance of ducks that are sitting comfortably on our ponds and inshore waters. It seems that the urbanization of the Avalon Peninsula has actually better enabled us to see so many different kinds of waterfowl.
According to Bruce, the upshot of residential properties has encroached on former fowl hunting areas and has provided a safe haven for numerous species of water birds.
There are no birders complaining about this. There is one area though in Goulds where hunters haven't quite got the picture that it is dangerous to hunt in populated areas. It seems that an uncommon pair of Blue-winged Teal fell victim to a bullet in a people-busy area.
In the same area a very large flock of Red-breasted Mergansers dropped in for a two-minute stopover before moving on. It was wonderful to see them, but frankly, I was glad that got away.
Kelly's Brook which is a very small marshy area right in the middle of town seems to draw at least one small rare bird a year but is an annual wintering ground for both Common and Eurasian Teal. Though quite shy, they can be seen on most any day in the same area.
Burton's Pond, a small pond on the university campus, has been hosting a number of Tufted Ducks this year. When so many of the ponds are frozen, this little one seems to always have an open area when the ducks can gather until the next thaw.
I can't help but think that the university students who take the time to look must really enjoy the ponytail sported by these great little diving ducks.
How fortunate we are to be able to see so many different kinds of waterfowl. Among the rare and uncommon visitors that have dropped in are the Ruddy Duck, Northern Shoveller, Bufflehead, Pink-footed Goose, Brant Goose, Gadwall, Redhead, and so many more. It is always a good idea to check out the ponds to see if any new species have stopped off for a rest.