Sunday, September 30, 2012

Indigo Bunting - Blackhead

It wasn't very long ago that I went to Middle Pond and sat near a feeder for three hours waiting for a "blue" Indigo Bunting to appear. It was a no-show, but the homeowner's pictures from the day before were great.

Well, at Blackhead, I saw the next best thing - a fall Indigo Bunting. The remnants of blue are still very clear. It was amazing this bird was not daunted by the many on-lookers and their gear.
It stayed busy and would disappear from time to time, but it continued to return to the edge of the road to eat the dried foliage. We were all delighted.
I thought this picture was interesting because it showed the back very well. When I get a look at a bird, it most often doesn't provide a full-bodied pose, so it helps to study the bird from every angle.
It seems this little bird appeared earlier this year than last.  I know I didn't see it as soon as it was spotted last year, but my pictures of that visit are dated October 17, along with the Blue Grosbeak, I should add. Maybe there will be a Blue Grosbeak at Blackhead today. I will look for one.

This is another view of the Indigo Bunting.  Without the side view, it is easy to mistake this pose as being another species. Hopefully, all of these images, will help other new birders like me to spot the Indigo Bunting a little easier.  It is exciting times now with all of the migrating birds dropping in all over the place. Anywhere my produce something special.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Well, at last a picture of a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  I missed the picture last year, and I missed the picture of the male last week, but this female didn't escape my lens this time.  I have to be really honest and report that I did not identify this bird.  It was Super Dave who helped me out with that.
These shots were taken in Tor's Cove in a flurry of very interesting activity.  There were Cedar Waxwings and three more different birds that were very interesting. I got pictures that are so poor  no ID can be made.  There is a real disadvantage to not being able to identify a bird on the spot.
Try as I might, I don't always get the picture. I miss a lot of birds, and I really feel awful when that happens.

In fact, Margie and I were also at La Manche when a probable Great Blue Heron flew overhead. I got pictures, but I went from shooting in the dark undergrowth straight to a shot in the sky, needless to say, the shots were so bad no ID could be made on that either.

Here is an example of just how bad it can be.  In the middle of this picture is a very olive-colored bird with a white streak on its face and a very white belly. It got away without an ID:-(
Here is another example:  Look for the yellow in the middle of the picture. Above that is the head and you can trace the form from there. ID:-(

Then there was the one with the sunshine yellow belly that totally got away. I keep looking, shooting and hoping for a clear enough rendition to be able to study and identify later, when the feathers have settled. This was one of those rare moments when there are so many different birds around you, it is hard to know where to look.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Swainson's Thrush - Blackhead

 Having had a really good look at a Northern Mockingbird yesterday, I felt pretty good.  After all, I had chased one through much of the winter without luck. On my way home from Cape Spear, I darted into Blackhead one more time.  Seeing a little junco activity, I got out to have a look.  In flew two birds, one was this Hermit Thrush. Note the reddish tones, especially on the tail.
Curious about what the other bird was, I watched intently for it to show itself. Then, I heard a flute-like whistle that I had never heard before.  I really perked up. What was that? I watched for movement and listened as the call went on.
Suddenly, both birds burst out from the cover of the trees. One flew into another tree and this one headed for a shady, covered area.  It was there that I got a look at it.  It was not a Hermit.  There was more a rich brown and creamy color about this bird. The eye ring was cream colored, as was the breast. There was a larger patch in front of the eye and on the lower cheek.
This bird wasn't flicking its tail. While I didn't see this bird call, the sound I heard surely came from this bird. There was no time to waste looking it up at the moment. I watched and grabbed every moment to try to get pictures.

I had only seen one Swainson's Thrush and that was two years ago, and it only stayed around long enough for me to get two pictures. This was shaping up to be a better opportunity than before.
When the session with this bird ended, I began my research right there in the bus turnaround.  The pictures looked good for a Swainson's but the clincher was when I listened to the call of this species. This was surely a Swainson's. While this bird is considered a common breeder here, it is seldom seen or, at least, reported on the Avalon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Red-eyed Vireo - Virginia River

 As the spring, summer and fall birding seasons slip into history, I have set a goal of seeing a particular bird on each trip out.  More often than not, I don't find my "target" bird, but in the process sometimes uncover some really unexpected finds.  For nearly three weeks, I had the Red-eyed Vireo in mind as my bird-of-choice.  It took a while.
Then, on August 13th while looking for warblers around Virginia River, in flew an interesting bird from deep in the woods.  It didn't readily pop out and say, "here I am." Instead, it hid among the leaves, and seeing it clearly was very difficult. However, I could knew right away, I had found my Red-eyed Vireo.
I got the camera on it quickly and snapped several record shots before it disappeared back into the foliage. I looked and looked but couldn't find it.
Then, for no reason, I looked over my should to see if anything else had flown in. There, much to my surprise, sat the Red-eyed Vireo, not three feet away. I was ill-prepared with my camera set for the bright sunlight and the distance across the river. 
 Instinctively, I began snapping shots as is, where is.  They didn't turn out very good, but I was still quite happy. It seemed this bird was as curious about me as I was about him.
A number of Red-eyed Vireos manage to make their way to Newfoundland each year.  They have obstacles to overcome as their natural habitat is slowly disappearing, but one of their greatest challenges to proliferation is presented by the Brown-headed Cowbird.  The Cowbird is known for laying eggs in the nests of other species to leave the hatching and care of the young to others. The Red-eyed Vireo is the surragate of choice for the Cowbird.  This routine practice often means at least one of the Vireo's eggs gets neglected and doesn't make it. Between the practices of man and the Cowbird, this species has seen a decline. Yet, it is a spirited little bird with a big song that brings a smile to my face each time I see one.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Predictable Birds of Fall

While being quite predictable, there is often good variety among the birds seen in the fall.  Over the last few days, I have seen all of these different birds.  Tucked away in this tree are three Baltimore Orioles.  Initially, two were seen in Blackhead and another on the Cape Spear - Maddox Cove East Coast Trail.  It looks like they found each other.
In Pouch Cove, I came upon this immature Cedar Waxwing.  It is a far cry from the smooth, picture-perfect bird that will emerge at maturity. Interesting, it seems birds are sitting on wires a little more these days.
The Golden-crowned Kinglet is popping up all around.  They seem to be in small groups of three or four, and pose quite a challenge for a photographer, as they usually flip around (a lot) in and among the branches that obscure view.  While they seem curious at first, they don't stick around very long.  It is always worth checking out any common flock of birds because other, more unusual, species may be travelling with them.  This was the case on the weekend when a Black-throated Blue Warbler was found by Clyde Thornhill and Dave Smith on Blackhead Road hanging with a small group of kinglets.
The American Goldfinch are looking a little worse for wear these days. They can often be found in large groups gathering around thistle.  I was watching such a group in Pouch Cove when a Sharp-shinned Hawk swept in and quickly dispersed them all.
From Bauline Line Extension to Flatrock, I recently saw five different Gray Jays. It is not that common for this species to be so close to St. John's. Nevertheless, I have seen this species regularly on Blackhead Road.
This great little Hermit Thrush popped out of the woods on Bauline Line Extension on Friday.  I tried to turn it into another type of thrush, but its flicking tail confirmed it is a Hermit.  They are the only thrush (robins aside) that flick their tail regularly.  I also recently saw a Hermit Thrush in the community of Blackhead.
So far this year, I have seen four Red-eyed Vireos.  They tend to be alone or on the edges of other flocks of birds.  They also tend to stay tight into the undergrowth. However, this year, I have seen two (this one included) that popped up fairly high in a tree and stayed for a few moments.
Anywhere you look these days, there are sparrows.  The fields are filled with them. Nevertheless, it is wise to look them all over closely, because ocassionaly an uncommon one can appear, such as the Lark Sparrow.
The most abundant bird, sparrows excepted, these days is the Yellow-rumped Warbler.  I have recently come across three flocks of thirty or more of this species.  I look and look in the hopes that a more unusual species may be with them. Most of the other warblers have already disappeared. Often hanging out in the same vicinity as the Yellow-rumps are the kinglets and both species of chickadees. The Boreals Chickadees seem to be really plentiful.
Always ready to upset the calm are the very-present predators.  I have decided that this is a Northern Goshawk because of the rounded tail, the stripe above the eye and the vertical breast streaks vs. the horizontal streaks of the Sharp-shinned Hawk. One thing confuses me about this bird, and that is the brownish face.

I saw two Sharp-shinned hawks yesterday, with one being in my backyard. 
Then, there is the Northern Harrier. I have seen one, sometimes more, nearly every day of the summer. I don't remember them being this plentiful last year, but there are lots this year. They swoop in quite close, even when people are around.

When one of these predators streaks into the scene, all of the little birds vanish. It sure can break up a nice little viewing session. It is just as well to move on, too, because sometimes, the little birds don't return.

Any short outing can yield a wide variety of species these days. With the weather and the fall birds, I can hardly stay indoors.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sick Great Black-backed Gulls

 Yesterday, two beautiful cruise ships brightened up our harbor on a beautiful sunny day.  I darted out to the Southside Road to get a better look at the vessels. While there, I saw a very unpleasant sight.  This Great Black-backed Gull was floating on its back. Every now and then, its head would sink below the water line, and it would muster enough strength to shake his head and raise it up again.  This bird wasn't going to last long. I wondered what could have caused this.
I walked around the dock to look for a good angle to photograph the ships. It was then I came upon two more distressed Great Black-backed Gulls.  I had nearly walked right over them as I was looking elsewhere. They  flopped around a bit, and the movement caught my attention.
They, too, were incapacitated. What was going on? Their eyes looked bright, but they didn't have the strength to even stand up, let alone fly.
I couldn't see any oil on either of the birds, and there were no apparent injuries.Were there more birds in the same condition?
Clearly, these birds are not going to survive as they are unable to feed themselves. This is very unusual, curious and very sad.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eastern Kingbirds - Maddox Cove

 After a failed attempt to find the Dickcissel in Blackhead on Monday morning, I decided to go to Goulds to see the Dunlin. The shortest distance between Blackhead and Goulds is to go through Maddox Cove and Petty Harbour. 
I rarely see anything special on this route, so I really wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings.  However, just before I reached Maddox Cove, I spotted two birds sitting on a wire on the right side of the road.
I opened my sunroof and began to ease myself into position to be able to see what the birds were by looking through the opening.  I was afraid that getting out of the car might spook them, and then, I might never know what they were.
I got a good look, albeit straight up. They were Eastern Kingbirds. What a surprise!  One of the birds was much smaller than the other, and at first, I thought I might have two species sitting on the wire. However, when I uploaded my pictures on the computer, it was clear - TWO Eastern Kingbirds.
This was really nice because I missed the Kingbird in Renews when I went down to check out the Great Blue Heron. In Arkansas, this species is almost as prevelent as the Robin is here.

So, there in Maddox Cove (right out of the blue) I was able to get a little taste of home. Hmm, I wondered if there might also be a kite or two, or a Brown Headed Cowbird, or a Cardinal about. Not yet.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lapland Longspur

These two Lapland Longspur were a part of my splendid birding expedition around Cape Spear last Sunday morning.  I must have driven to the cape on at least a dozen occasions over the last two years in an attempt to see this species. I read a report and I drove. Unable to find the bird, I drove home, time and time again. 
This time I was pleasantly caught off guard.  I was walking "down" from the East Coast Trail, a welcome relief. There was a bit of a spring in my step because I had just seen my first male Common Yellowthroat.  I thought that was the prize of the day.  Still struggling to see through the lingering fog, I locked my binoculars on anything that moved.
I got a great surprise when I spied these two Lapland Longspur. They were picking at the gravel with another sparrow and would have stayed for a while, I'm sure. However, a dog came loping up the trail and everything with wings lifted off.  On the next day, 25 Lapland Longspur were reported, but they didn't seem to stay very long.

While this bird is an uncommon species in Newfoundland, there are still good chances that it will appear again at the Cape as the warm weather is replaced by cold. This bird breeds on the Arctic Tundra, so it is well-equipped to survive our winters.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tennessee Warbler - East Coast Trail

Sometimes you just don't know what you've got 'till its gone. This was the case with this Tennessee Warbler found on the Cape Spear-Maddox Cove trail last Tuesday. There weren't many birds around, but I finally saw something interesting.  This buff colored warbler was some distance away, but I just started taking pictures.  Got four shots of it in these two poses.  My first guess was a Tennessee Warbler because of the totally "blah" look of it.
However, it didn't look just like in the guide by any means.  Another possible ID was offered me that it may be a Common Yellowthroat.  Well, the shape seemed OK, but this bird looked bigger. Anyway, what do I know?  It was a real surprise to get word this morning that it is, indeed, a Tennessee Warbler. This helps a little, having been unable to locate so many recently reported birds on Blackhead Road. Gotta just keep looking - there are good birds around.