Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Mew Lesson

 In my last post I included two pictures of what I thought was a strange-looking Mew Gull. Well, it was so strange because it doesn't seem to be a Mew at all.
 In fact, at first I thought it might be something other than a Mew or Ring-billed Gull because it was so different from both species.

 I concluded it was a Mew (Common) Gull for these reasons: It was smaller than the nearby Ring-billed Gull; its beak was thinner and no well-defined ring, and its legs were greenish. The very dark, streaky head did not fit with either of the species I considered.
 Yesterday, Jared Clarke sent me an e-mail asking for more pictures. He was leaning toward this being a Ring-billed Gull or on an outside reach - "a race of COGU from Asia (Kamchatka Gull) that can have denser head streaking, pale eye and larger eye - but still doesn't look right."
 That possibility sent me back to my pictures and Sibley's to see if I could figure this out.
 I have several flight shots making it easy to study the wing patterns. Without doubt, the wing tips indicate this is a Ring-billed Gull, not a Common Gull.
 Puzzling. This picture show the Common in the right forefront and a Ring-billed in the center back. The size differentiation is clear. I began to wonder if it might be a hybrid of both species. Probably not.
 This shot clearly shows the markings on the wing tips.
 This shot shows both species in flight. My streaky gull is a very odd-looking Ring-billed Gull.
I included this shot of a typical Ring-billed Gull just for comparison. This made for an interesting study. There is certainly plenty of time for study this winter.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Year- Over-Year

 There seems to be a new Mew Gull in town. Over the last several months, I have seen at least three Mew Gulls hanging around Quidi Vidi Lake. Late this last week, I saw one I didn't recognize. This little Mew has very dark streaking and was really skittish compared to the others. I also saw four on the ice at the same time. I wonder....
Actually, it's not the Mew that I wanted to talk about today, but rather the difference of my sightings year-over-year. It seems that I have seen a lot less birds during the first two months of 2014 than in 2013. To verify this, I checked my eBird reports for this period this morning.

While I found there wasn't a great difference (only 8 species), there is a huge difference in sightings of vagrants. Last year, we had a gentler winter enabling numerous vagrants to survive. Among them were the Pink-footed Goose, Brant, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lincoln's Sparrow and Baltimore Oriole. Other birds seen in January-February 2013, not seen during the same period of 2014 include: Gadwall, King Eider, Ruffed Grouse, Merlin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Scoter, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, Common Redpoll and IVORY GULL.

That are a lot birds missing from my 2014 sightings. Hopefully, many of these will show up during the year. Birds seen in the first two months of  2014, not seen in Jan. Feb. 2013, include: Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Black Scoter, Barrow's Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Ruddy Turnstone, Morning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, White-winged Crossbill, Snowy Owl, COMMON SNIPE and YELLOW-LEGGED GULL.

It is very easy to see the shortage of star-power  so far this year. Yet, we have had winds enough to blow a bird off our east coast 360 degrees around the world and back to the west coast of the province. But where are the birds?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yellow-legged Gull - Quidi Vidi Lake

 Everything was perfect. First, came the post on NF Birds about the Yellow-legged Gull being at Quidi Vidi Lake.
 I was free and made a quick dash to the lake.
 When I arrived, I went to the area where the Yellow-legged Gull was seen earlier.
 Settling in my car, I cleaned my binoculars and began the scan. Well, the glare was so severe I couldn't see any color variations among the gulls.
 Giving up on that, I decided to walk to the Virginia River inflow and get the sun behind me in order to get a better look.
 I didn't expect to see what I found wading around in the shallow water....THE Yellow-legged Gull!
There right in front of me, prancing around, splashing and preening.
 I had about ten minutes to watch it and wow! What yellow legs!
 Then, without notice, every bird on the water lifted off.
 I locked onto the Yellow-legs and followed them as far as I could before the gull vanished into the mob of swirling gulls.
 What a great and unexpected surprise today. Thanks to Bruce for his early post that made this possible.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tufted Ducks: Our Winter Treasure

 It is easy to take certain winter birds for granted, like they will always be here.
 There is certainly no guarantee. The Tufted Duck is considered rare in Newfoundland. Yet, every year they show up. I think the high number reported this year is as many as 50.

 That means there are probably 50 miserable birds! The weather has been unkind this year with record-breaking winds, snow and cold temps.
 Having to move around all over the city looking for open water may make them rethink this stop next year.
 It can happen that no Tufted Ducks come our way. An example of that is the American Coot. Each year, we have had several coots around the city. This year, there are none. I guess it was a good year for them to bypass us considering harsh winter of 2013-14. However, I do miss them.
For now, it is good to get out to enjoy these great little ducks at every opportunity. Wish I could go today, but I have a backlog of things to do with this rare sunny day - the first in five days!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rock Stars

 I can only imagine how they look today in the maddening winds!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Common Mergansers in St. John's

 In the throes of yet another storm, I am glad to have all of the pictures I took last Thursday.
 Never have I had such a good opportunity to see Common Merganser so well.
 Three Common Mergansers (two female and one male) have made Quidi Vidi Lake their temporary home while waiting for the ice to move back off shore.
 This little detour provided up-close and personal views of this usually skittish species.
 Mind you, they don't swim right up to you and ask of any kind of hand-out. However, they do swim about comfortably only feet from shore.
 The color that makes them striking from a distance makes them awesome from nearby.
 After Thursday at Quidi Vidi, I have gone through my collection of photos of all the diving ducks and the mergansers and deleted them all!
 Nothing I had could compare to the shots of the last week.
 With little to say today, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
 Addendum: This may just be the worst weather ever during the Backyard Bird Count. I have been housebound for three consecutive days, and my biggest report will be the presence of 10 juncos at my feeder today. I feel bad for them as are getting pelted by the freezing rain. Maybe I should invite them in to break the boredom of the day.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just Interesting Photos of Diving Ducks

 Thursday's good weather is only a distant memory now, but it was really good while it lasted.
 A mild day and a small area of open water created an ideal day to observe and photograph the Tufted Ducks, Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks.
 So nice was it that I visited Quidi Vidi Lake twice during the day to enjoy all of the diving duck activity.
 Taking more pictures than usual, I came up with some interesting ones to share here today.
No further commentary is needed. Please click on images to enlarge and enjoy.