Monday, September 10, 2018

Least Flycatcher

 When the usual birding "hotspots" become overcrowded like a Costco parking lot, I have a tendency to go check out less travelled areas. For me, birding is not so much about seeing birds others have been lucky enough to find, but rather "the hunt."
 The time in the woods, the quiet and fresh air are often enough to satisfy me. Yet, I have to say, I really do enjoy finding unexpected birds. After 11,000 steps yesterday and checking many out-of-the-way locations, I heard a lone bird calling. Thought it might be a flycatcher, but not a Yellow-bellied or Alder. Their calls are familiar.
 I flipped through my birding program on my phone and listened to the call of a Least Flycatcher. That was it. As I played the call, out popped this guy! It was a Least Flycatcher.
 Having never seen nor heard one before, I checked the ID before posting. I would have been really disappointed if it turned out to be an Alder. You see, by the time I heard back, I had already finished my celebratory beer:)

 Checking the records on eBird, a Least Flycatcher has not been reported in the area of St. John's since 1996.
 It is this kind of intermittent reinforcement, that keeps me ever vigilant and hopeful as I roam the woods.
Note: During my many trail walks over the last couple of weeks, I have seen many signs of foxes in the areas. I have also seen two crossing Cape Spear Road. Good to be aware.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Canada Warbler and Orioles

 This morning, like so many others, I walked my usual trails and checked typical locations. What was different this morning was the presence of a few good birds. Naturally, the day started with two birds getting away. I managed one flight shot. I suppose they are a Blackpoll and a Yellow-rumped. However, I don't say that with confidence.
 I happened upon several good flocks, but it was the one by the Cape Spear cabin that yielded the most and best bird of the day. This Canada Warbler was mixed in with a number of warblers and chickadees.
 There was a bright Yellow Warbler present, but the yellow of the Canada stood out. I followed it through the leaves and hoped it would pop out and give me a moment.
 As you can see, it didn't. Nevertheless, I got enough shots to confirm the ID.

 Since I started a little late this morning, I didn't walk the lower trail at Cape Spear. The number of tourists was growing.
 Instead, I headed up toward the East Coast Trail. On the way up, I saw only a couple of sparrows. I stayed in the trail for about an hour and a half. On my walk down, I got a brief glimpse of a Baltimore Oriole in a tree by the trail. Light was not in my favor. It disappeared into the tree and was gone.
 Yet, there were many sparrows flying around, so I inched my way down the trail. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a tree dripping in orioles.  Well, maybe not dripping, but there were four in there at one time. I could not get them all in one picture.
 I don't know what it is about Orioles, but I never seem to get a decent shot. I was really more concerned this morning about getting a shot of every bird. With little time to work with, I thought the bird on the lower left in this shot was a little different from the others. Note: The birds did not linger. In just moments, they moved on and I didn't see them again.
 It is most probable that all four are just drab, first year Baltimore Orioles, but maybe they should be looked at by fresh eyes.
It is this bird that struck me as being different. Comments are welcome.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Cape

 Summertime and mornings, two of my favorite things. Put VOWR on the radio, and it just doesn't get much better. As I topped the hill at Cape Spear, this beautiful sunrise greeted me. Odd though, at 6 a.m. the road was busy with cars racing in both directions. I really expected to have some quiet time to view the Orchard Oriole found by Ethel D. a couple of days before. I was astounded to find the parking lot full, and the lookout crowded with about 50 people. Must have been some kind of sunrise service.
 With those numbers of people around, I was not surprised the Orchard was not readily seen. My first try did not yield the bird. However, knowing the bird had been around for a while and seen earlier in the morning, I was not concerned.
 I put the Orchard on hold and went for my morning walk. It was waiting for me when I returned.
 Its bright lemon color was hard to miss in the morning sun. I was lucky to get great views of the bird and able to snap a few shots.
 I think it has been reported this bird is only the fifth sighting of an Orchard Oriole. Two of these have been in the area of Cape Spear. The last sighting was brief, and the bird was on its way.
 This one stayed around allowing many birders to get a look.
 I think it was likely the small berries growing low to the ground at the Cape that made this bird contented to stay awhile.
 Earlier as I birded the trails, I noted a slight uptake in sightings of woodland birds. For a while the woods were extremely quiet.
 It seems the birds are beginning to move around. I got only one shot of this sparrow and not a great look at it, but I believe it to be a Fox Sparrow. Usually, the chip of a Fox is easily identified, but I didn't hear it at all.
 Along the road, I found some tourists looking at this bird. They indicated it was a Hermit Thrush, so I didn't spend much time looking at it. However, as I look at the couple of pictures I took from a distance, I now wonder if this is not the Gray-cheeked Thrush that has been frequenting the area.
 There were other common warblers that crossed my path, but nothing out of the ordinary.
 The bright colors have faded, and the young are joining the flocks. Nice to see. Better look now, because this is the start of the last hoorah. Before we know it, the birds will begin to leave us.
Notable, were the large numbers of sparrows to be seen. White-throated Sparrows, Savannah's, Swamp and Song Sparrows dotted the area. By mid-morning on the bright August day, the heat and humidity began to parch the air making it hard to linger in my search. Not complaining, mind you. That, too, will be gone too soon.

Now, off to do some of my other favorite things. A game of tennis and some golf at Clovelly are on docket. Hard to fit everything I enjoy into our short summer.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bonavista Bound!

 With the great find by Alison Mews of the Forked-tailed Flycatcher, numerous birders headed to Bonavista to view it. I joined Ethel D. for an exciting trip. It has been seven years since a Forked-tail Flycatcher has been reported on the island of Newfoundland.
 There were no worries finding the bird. It remained in the same area very actively flitting around from place to place in a 50 yard square area.
 It even flew circles around us and landed right in front of us. How nice.
 The bird looks healthy, showing no signs of wear after itslong trip, probably in rough conditions, to get here.
 Having seen the bird well and photographed it resting, the challenge to capture its flight began.
 It is very difficult to get flight shots of this one. It flew fast and low, always among the tall grass causing many blurry attempts at me shots.
 At one point it abandoned the grass and flew into a rock garden. With less interference, I was able to get sharper images. While the tail shows well, these are not the ideal shots.
 The effort continued to get just the right one.
 Images were improving, but never really yielding just what I wanted. The nice thing is there was no "hot" pursuit of this bird as it just continued to circle the area.
 Staying in one spot and rotating with it offered up the best opportunities.
 Still not getting the shot I wanted, I was not disappointed. This one interestingly show how it uses it fancy tail to maneuver through the tall grass. Very interesting.
 Routinely, it returned to the fence to perch. That is where we left it and moved on.
 It was nice to see this little immature American Pipit sitting on the rocks in Eliston.
 When in Bonavista, it is a must to go the little extra distance to Eliston to view the Puffins breeding on a small island just off shore.
 When we arrived, the birds were mostly on the water and actively feeding. The food they were gathering was not the typical capelin, but a smaller fish.
 Moving on, we explored the Dungeon on the way back. What a beautiful area with rugged landscape and free-range cows and horses. All of that was enhanced by the appearance of a flock of 19 Whimbrel flying around. Nice!
 We finished our day near Come-by-Chance with a great view of this Merlin (probably a juvenile) spotted by Ethel.
 Because of its lightness and plain face, we watched it as long as it would allow.
It had to be a Merlin, we thought, as we did a mental check of other field marks. This was a really nice bird.

 It cooperated and stayed around for about five minutes before taking off.
As is said, "All good things must come to an end." With the departure of the Merlin, our day of birding ended, and we headed to St. John's. Yet another nice day in the great outdoors, magnificent scenery and exciting birds.