It was a very good year....2015. As my bird sightings in Newfoundland grow, it gets harder and harder to see birds I have never seen here before. That is to be expected, but some of the birds that showed up on the Avalon were not expected.
The first birds shown here, the Bobolink, Baird's Sandpiper, Piping Plover, Short-eared Owl and Chipping Sparrow have been on my radar for quite some time. These species are seen regularly on the Avalon, I just hadn't seen them before. Well, the Bobolink and Piping Plover are common to the west coast and not the east so they were truly unexpected bonuses. The Bobolink was found by Alvan Buckley and Catherine Barrett on their annual 24-hour bird-a-thon. The Baird's Sandpiper (second photo) was my jewel.
I have tried several years in a row to see this bird at St. Shotts and failed miserably. I was so excited to see one and actually identify it at Renews. That was a true highlight of my year. What was depressing was I missed the Little Stint that was there the same day:(
The Piping Plover was a one-day-wonder that just dropped in at Cape Spear. A non-birder saw the bird and told me. I went looking for it, but dipped. Telling Paul L. who was heading up there was a good thing. He found it and came to get Ethel D. and me to see it. That, too, was very special.
The Short-eared Owl was another new and special bird for me. I have heard of several sightings in previous years, but had never been so lucky. This year there were three or four seen regularly at St. Shotts and Cape Pine. I was able to see them well during several visits.
Cliff D. of Trepassey has a history of attracting special birds to his feeder. Among them this year was this Chipping Sparrow.
While I have seen Chipping Sparrows, Brown Thrashers and Purple Martin in Arkansas many times I had never seen them here. It was pretty exciting when Alvan B. reported seeing this Brown Thrasher just a km from my home.
While some birds are close, others require driving and patience. This Summer Tanager reported by David S. in Portugal Cove South was one of those. I cannot fully explain how excruciatingly cold it was the day Ethel D. and I struggled to see this bird. We could only stay out of the car for minutes before we froze up and had to retreat. What a relief when the tanager finally showed up.
The Ibis is another bird common to Arkansas, but I had never seen one here. It was Bruce M. who first found a pair of Glossy Ibis at Third Pond, Goulds. It was a treat. However, a short time later, two showed up at the Ruby Line Pond where I was able to see them very well.
We had both a Little Egret and Snowy Egret land in Newfoundland this year. I had seen the Little Egret (much rarer here) before, so it was the Snowy Egret I wanted to see. Again, Portugal Cove South yielded this bird reported by David S. It is always a good after driving a long way to actually see the target bird.
The Least Bittern found by Alison M. at Virginia Lake created quite a stir. This very rare bird, often hidden by the reeds, could have easily gone undetected.
Another big rarity showed up at the Long Pond yacht club. This White-winged Tern was found by Paul L. It stayed in the area and was seen by many, many birders.
Two Purple Martins were spotted this year. The first was found by Brendan K. in Witless by in the early spring. A second was found by Catherine B at Bidgood Park during the bird-a-thon. Both were great finds, and the second bird stayed around long enough for many birders to enjoy.
My best find of the year was this Orchard Oriole. I made an attempt to get it identified early, but when that didn't happen, I assumed it must have just been a Baltimore Oriole. Unfortunately, the bird got away before seen by others. Honestly, there is no sweeter birding feeling than finding a rare, new-for-me bird!
There were other new birds I saw this year, but did not get suitable photos. These include Wilson's Phalarope and Pacific Loon. Both birds were seen at quite a distance.
Beyond all my expectations, I saw 15 new species this year bringing my life-list for Newfoundland up to 283 species. During the year, even though I birded a lot less, I saw 215 species. While 215 is the highest number of species I have seen in one year, it is only 76% of the 283 species reported for the province. I typically aspire to reach 80%.
That could have easily happened if I had pursued a number of birds that I just didn't chase including a Solitary Sandpiper and a Cardinal.
I don't know if my count was influenced by good luck or smart birding. Of course, I like to think it was smart birding.
Aside from seeing new birds, there were several other highlights in my birding year. The Eastern Wood Pewee was one of those. Found by Ethel D. and me in Renews, it marked only the second time I have seen that species.
During Spring, I had some other treats including this Olive-sided Flycatcher I found at Bidgood Park. This is the third such bird I have seen on the Avalon over the years, despite its rare visits here.
Fall was a very productive time for me. I was able to see FIVE Black-throated Blue Warblers and THREE Yellow-throated Vireos (near Cape Spear, Lamanche and Bear Cove Point Road).
I spent more time hiking this year which I attribute to much of my success with spotting. However, there are times when driving is a given. I only went to Cape Race once and have never been to Cape St. Francis. As a result, there were a lot of sea birds I missed this year, but now is not the time to dwell on the misses, but to reflect on the many exciting moments of seeing such a great variety of birds. What in the world will 2016 bring?