Having to go to Holyrood last Sunday, I made a detour to Kelligrews. As I drove in Pond Road, I was surprised to see the two visiting pale-bellied Brant grazing next to the road.
It was actually a little surprising as this species is known to prefer seaside delicacies over pond side fare.
It was also surprising to see how tame these two birds are. Since the area is a bustling duck pond, these birds may have become a little lazy as there are regular deliveries of seed and bread offered at this location.
Word has it that the Brant have not been seen over the last couple of days. Did they fatten up and take off? Did they land on someone's dinner table? Have they found a new home in the surrounding area? There was one spotted in recent years in Chamberlain's Pond. It is possible these two Brant have just moved around the area.
Whatever the outcome, it was a treat to be able to see two Brant together. and just in the nick of time.
It just felt like a birding day. Yes, there was rain in the forecast, but the temp was high and the winds were low. I just had to give it a try. First stop: Ball field. Just as I pulled up there in the early morning, the Great Egret made a quick fly over. It was headed for the ball field, but turned around and went back up Virginia River. Second Stop: The Legion. There, I saw the resident Prairie Warbler, but also caught sight of another bird. After 30 minutes of following it, nearly walking in the river in the process, out popped this bright Yellow-breasted Chat. I was surprised, because all I had seen of it was the dark, top body. The yellow was brilliant. I also think I saw another small bird, but I could not get a look at it at all.
Third Stop: Quidi Vidi Lake. Warm and relaxed, I headed around the lake. There were no birds whatsoever until I reached the last bend before the end of the East End. Several sparrows were flying around the low growth. Then, something quite greenish looking bolted. I raised my camera and was able to capture this second YB Chat. I was really surprised. So enthralled was I with this development, I failed to notice the big storm moving in. I hurried to the gazebo to take cover from the pouring rain and lightening. As the storm got closer, I shut off all of my electronics and waited the storm out. Once the sky cleared I headed back to "the spot." Not one single bird showed itself.
Dripping wet, I headed to my car. I took one more look around the Legion greenery.
While scanning the area, my eye landed on the Great Egret sitting on a rooftop. Please forgive the excessive number of photos, but I am not used to seeing this profile on our skyline.
When the egret flew off, it headed back toward Virginia River. It was nice to talk with some walkers who were just as excited about seeing this bird as I was. It never gets old.
I checked out a few more places before heading home to dry off. Later in the afternoon, I checked Kelly's Brook and Rennie's River. The last shot in this series is of a small bird I saw at the brook. It was with kinglets and may very well be a kinglet. However, it looks too yellow. This one remains a puzzle.
As if identifying shorebirds were not challenging enough, throw in an aberration or two, and it is downright confounding. I spent a lot of time staring at this bird on the St. Shott's Beach.
The bird seemed to have all the markings of a Least Sandpiper, but I could see no yellow legs. I kept taking photos and checking them over and over. Sometimes light plays big tricks on beaches.
No matter what, I could not turn these black legs yellow. Yes, this is a Least Sandpiper with black legs! Images were taken in August.
This image of a Least with the proper yellow legs was photographed at Bear Cove Beach. These shots were taken in September. Time really does make a difference as the shorebirds are making a continuous transition into winter plumage.
Also at this beach were several Semipalmated Sandpipers. Their legs looked yellowish. This is not that uncommon, and in this case, I think the color was affected by the color of the surroundings.
As confused as I often am when looking at shorebirds, I have made progress. I do spend time looking at the color of the legs, the shape of the feet, the length and shape of the beak, length of tail and wings, underarm color, rump color and overall size and shape. Despite all this as well as studying the coloring of the bird, I am often left shaking my head. Is it any wonder when I come across a Least Sandpiper with black legs?
This Greater Yellowlegs is still hanging around at Virginia Lake. In the early morning hours it was feeding feverishly, showing more urgency than in the summer months. Perhaps, it is fattening up for an upcoming journey.
Extremely apt, it grabbed this little stickleback-like fish on its first attempt. The fish did not go easily.
A futile struggle ensued.
Adept, the Yellowlegs continued to manage its meal until it was turned in just the right direction for swallowing.
Birds ingest fish head first to prevent the fins from opening up on the way down. Head first means smooth sailing down the throat.
I assume the Prairie Warbler I saw several times this week is the same one reported near the Legion in St. John's more than two weeks ago. If so, it is staying around a long time, perhaps enjoying the warm weather and ample food supply.
Not all glimpses of this bird were at the same time, nor at the same angle. On one occasion this was the look I got. The sighting was brief and distant. Taking away three sad photos, it looked like the undertail coverts were yellow. For a while I thought I had a different bird. With help, the ID is confirmed: Prairie Warbler in weird light only making the coverts look yellow.
At another time, I got this quick look. This bird flew in front of me and landed on a nearby branch. It looked extremely green. Again, snapping what I could, I got this shot. Clearly the coverts are white like the Prairie, but I could not see the wing bars. Again, I thought it might be a different bird. Three different views; three different shots all added up to be the same bird. Imagine I only had my mind's eye to review. I'm sure I would easily have thought I saw three different birds. Oh, so much to learn.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society just named the Gray Jay as Canada's National Bird. Now, this was not by popular vote as the Common Loon, Snowy Owl and Canada Goose all received more votes. Hmmm, where have we heard that before? Perhaps there was an electoral college involved.
The justifications cited for the selection of the "Whiskey Jack" were mostly related to the prevalence and nature of this species.
Anyone who has spent any time around the Gray Jay knows this bird is particularly social and friendly. That, perhaps, is due to its appetite for human food. Toss out anything and the bird will fly in. It will circle picnic tables waiting for a handout. It also has been known to land on a person's hand or shoulder to encourage more food donations.
Is that smart or just instinctive? I have seen numerous other species do this as well.
In addition to its friendly and "smart" nature, the bird was also selected because of its presence in all Canadian provinces and territories..
And..... it is hardy enough to stick around all year thriving in the cold, winter environment.
There is a hardiness and surviving nature about his species. That, I think, is quite Canadian. While this species did not win my vote, I have no objection to its selection.
The next time I see a Gray Jay on my birding outings, I will watch it more carefully and maybe, even see it more differently.
Seeing a new bird never gets old. On the day this Forster's Tern was found, I had chosen to bird another area. I really figured I had missed this brid.
On the off chance it might still be around, I drove to Renews the next day. Even then, if it were not for Ed Hayden, I still would have missed it. I was looking in all the wrong places.
When I finally found it, I saw it very well. In fact, it flew so close to me I could have reached out and touched it. It put on an entertaining display of fishing and playing with its food. It tossed this little fish in the air and caught it again mid-flight. Thanks to Bruce M. for reporting this bird.
Of course, you can't go to Renews without birding other areas. While checking the roadside near Bear Cove Beach, I came across this lingering Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Also on Bear Cove Pt. Road, I am pretty sure I saw an Ovenbird. I flushed it as I drove up the road, but could not relocate it to verify. It was the ONLY bird on the road.
Recently, I came across the lingering Black and White Warbler. It won't be long before he regrets it, I'm sure.
Many times I go birding with a specific bird in mind. I may find it, and I may not. With wide eyes, I take in anything that moves. This often nets unexpected sightings. This was the case at the end of September when I was looking for migratory birds in Blackhead. While sitting in my car checking over a flock of small birds in Blackhead, this Brown Creeper zoomed in and locked on to the pole only feet away from me. This is sometimes a troublesome bird to see annually. The best place is typically at Bowring Park, but I have strolled the full length of the park many times in freezing temps only to leave disappointed - no creeper.
This is the second fall sighting of a Brown Creeper in Blackhead for me. I really don't expect to see one there, but twice I have been surprised.
Stopping by Kenny's Pond is routine. It has often yielded some good birds. Late in the summer I was surprised to find two very young Common Tern perched on a rock platform at the pond's edge.
The two were tame and quite calm creating the absolutely best opportunity to get a good look at the young birds. One seemed to be younger than the other.
These birds were still being fed by their parents and didn't seem to be able to fly yet. That begs the question about how they got there.
What was most surprising about this encounter was the adults remained calm. Common Tern are well known for dive bombing people coming into close proximity with their young. I was quite close to both the young and mature, and the adults were totally unperturbed.
Evening Grosbeaks are common in Newfoundland, but are often seen in the same locations year-over-year, often around feeders. With the feeders taken down this year because of the dangers they pose birds with disease transmission, the Evening Grosbeaks are moving around. Looking at this photo, the grosbeak is so prominent.
Virginia Lake beach was alive with noise and grackles late in the summer. There must have been 40 Common Grackles on hand.
The noise was probably driven by protective parents who kept a watchful eye over their young. There were also some starling families mixed in.
There were times when the young of both species seemed to be playing together. The parents of both species seemed not to approve.
It was also interesting to see the male feeding the young while the female appeared to be the protector.
Once the rowdy birds moved on and the area calmed, this Wilson's Snipe became brave and ventured out. From time to time, it would scoot back into the reeds, but not for long. It was more interested in eating than hiding.
It is easy to see why I usually come home from birding quite satisfied, even when I do not find the bird on my mind.