Friday, June 25, 2010

Crow with White Feather

Once I started watching birds, I look at all birds. About one month ago I was driving down Elizabeth Avenue when I spotted a crow with some white on it. I wanted to stop but traffic was backed up on both sides of the road. By the time I found a place to turn around and return the different crow was gone.

Having forgotten about it, I was driving down Elizabeth Ave. on Wednesday when I spotted a crow with a white feather picking at garbage. This time there was no one behind me and I pulled into a driveway and grabbed my camera.

I got a couple of shots but this unusual specimen did not want to pose. I think he was more interested in the trash. I got two shots on the ground and then it flew up on a house where I was able to get a couple of shots of the different markings.

I ran a Google search and came up a discussion on similar birds found in the U.S.

If you have any insight on this aberration, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Photo Updates

I have a number of photos that were taken after I posted info about the species. However, with a lens upgrade, a little more experience and some occasional sunshine, I have gathered some better shots and some female gender shots of some species that I would like to share.

I will name all of the birds at the end of this post. See if you can identify them.

Hint: This is the male of the species and it is a warbler.
The second image offers a little more detail on the wing tips.
Hint:  This is a female of the species shown above.
Hint:  This is not a warbler. I only had one picture of it in my earlier post. Note that it is walking around very comfortably on duck weed. It doesn' weigh very much.
This is a type of warbler and is the female of the species.
This is one of the recent Spring arrivals and is one of the easiest gulls to identify.
Now, let's see if you were able to identify all of these birds. They are in the order top to bottom:  Boreal Chickadee; Blackpoll Warbler (male and female); Northern Watertrush; Yellow-rumped Warbler (female) and Ring-billed Gull.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I was just browsing through many unprocessed photos and found this Yellow-rumped Warbler. He has three flies in his mouth - count them!

How did he do that?

Nesting Box

How fitting that I just posted photos of the Tree Swallow! I looked out my window Sunday morning and what should I see but a pair of Tree Swallows checking out my nesting box. I have had the box up for two summers with no activity at all. This summer I relocated the box according to the reference materials and voila, there were my first nesting box visitors.

The pair of swallows sat on the power line for a while then the male swallow flew into the box to check it out. The female continued sitting as if waiting for directions from her mate. Then the male peeped out and seemed to call her to come have a look. He disappeared back into the box and she went to have a look for herself.

She looked in and then joined her mate and they stayed inside together for a while. There was a noise in the neighborhood and the two of them popped out and flew away. What kind of bird conversation must they have had? What do they say to each other to decide to move in or move on? They certainly seemed to know exactly what they were looking for and it also seemed to be a joint decision. So far, they have not returned.
I must be doing something right to have at least attracted them to have a look. I will continue reading and make adjustments in the yard as needed to bring new life and many birds into my territory. This was the first pair of Tree Swallows that I have seen in this area. How amazing it is that a bird just passing by can spot a potential nesting area! It is similar to the Bluejay. I never see him in the neighborhood until I put peanuts in my feeder and right out of the blue, there he is. I am determined to create a bird friendly yard that will attract many species. This week I am adding a water feature to the yard. If it ever stops raining and the ground and pools can dry up, that should help.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tree Swallow

Since the Tree Swallow returned about six weeks (or more) ago, I have been trying to capture a picture of them.  Tree Swallows, as with other types of swallows, fly in groups of three or more. One group of 100 plus was spotted at Second Pond, Goulds.  They zip through the air in sophisticated aerial maneuvers that defy gravity. They are fast, very fast! To try to focus on one bird is almost impossible, much like trying to catch a bullet by hand from mid-air.

This is the typical scene, with swallows zipping in all directions. It is amazing that they don't collide! In this picture there is at least one swallow that is not a Tree Swallow. Can you identify the different bird? Hint: Check the shape of the tail.
This is one of the better flight shots that I got of a Tree Swallow. Even the shape of the head is somewhat like a bullet. This image does reveal the blue-green iridescent color of the head and back. The white under parts stand out against most any background. The Tree Swallow will fly close to allow for good viewing but they don't hang around. This morning, I saw three at Mundy Pond. They often flew over my head but there was no chance to catch them with my camera.
I have included the flight shots because it was such a challenge to get these, as poor as they are. I have been holding on to these shots because they were too poor to post alone. Then, about two weeks ago, I got my opportunity.
I went fishing late one afternoon. I have learned my lesson about going anywhere without my camera, so I hung it around my neck and started the short walk into the fishing spot. Totally unexpectedly, I found eight Tree Swallows sitting on the ground and on a rock. They did not flush easily and I got a really good look at them. As usual the lighting was not great but I have seen worse.
I was lucky to come across these birds at all but even more so to have found a juvenile, as well. The juvenile has a mix of green and brown on the back and a hint of a breast band on the front. These are very common and very striking birds. It is very entertaining to observe them.

Over the summer there will likely be many opportunities to see the swallows. There are three different kinds often found in Newfoundland. The Tree Swallow can be distinguished by its blue-green head and back, white breast and its notched tail.
I have seen them at Kent's Pond, Kenny's Pond, Long Pond, Mundy Pond and several of the ponds in Goulds. The best photo op with this bird is to find it perched on a wire, a tree, a rock or on the ground. Good luck trying to photograph it in flight!
A Violet Green Swallow recently visited Virginia Lake and set the bird world in St. John's in a tizzy. It was the first sighting of its kind in the province. It is that unpredictable nature of this hobby that keeps it fresh and makes each sighting a special event, even for the seasoned bird enthusiasts.

No, I didn't catch any fish but my catch of the day was just as good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Savannah Sparrow

You may have read in one of my earlier posts about getting my tires buried deep in the mud in an effort to see the European Golden Plover. It is hard to believe that was over a month ago. Well, the day after that episode, I returned to the scene in the hopes of getting some better shots. I stayed on the gravel road this time and walked. There were no plovers, but I did find this Savannah Sparrow singing his Spring song. This is the last sparrow in my current collection.

The Savannah Sparrow is common in Newfoundland but it was my first time to knowingly see one.  They tend to live in marshes, wet meadows and cultivated fields. This is exactly where I found this one. I have also seen this bird in the grass around Third Pond in Goulds. It tends to stay on the ground and run away under the brush and through the grasses rather than fly up when disturbed. I was lucky that this Savannah Sparrow chose to sit in a low Alder. He seemed more interested in singing than in me.

The Savannah has yellow or whitish supercilium (eyebrow) with a white stripe that runs through it crown. It seems to have a white eye ring with dark brown streaks on the upper parts. Much like the Song Sparrow it also has a "stickpin" on the chest where the brown streaks meet. Its tail is short and notched.

There are two more sparrows that frequent Newfoundland that I have yet to see. These are the Lincoln's Sparrow and the White-Crowned Sparrow. I will continue to keep an eye open for these two species and will share them when I find them.

The sun is beaming today and the sky is a beautiful blue with no clouds. It is such a temptation to head to the woods. However, my garden is calling me to finish some projects that I started. I am motivated to finish them quickly and save some of the daylight for exploration.

Note:  The last five pictures were added in October 2010 and were taken in August at Cape Spear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eastern Wood Peewee

The arrival of the Eastern Wood Peewee brought out all of the birders eager to see this flycatcher that makes an appearance in Newfoundland about once every two or three years. This Peewee was spotted in Goulds among the tall pines. It is likely because of this visitor that many of the other warblers were spotted in the same area. Otherwise, they may have gone unnoticed.

This is one of the most difficult areas to get a good photo. It was very frustrating. When the Peewee would finally show himself in an unobstructed way, it would always be in one of the darkest areas of the heavily overcast sky and tree cover. At any rate I was able to at least get record shots. I was hoping for more.
The shape of flycatcher's heads is different from other small birds.  Often their heads appear large for the body and seem to be somewhat flat. The Eastern Wood Peewee has grayish olive color upper parts with a pale underpart tinged with yellow. The beak is dark on the top and yellow-orange on the bottom. It tends to perch in an open area of well-covered trees and fly out briefly to catch insects in the air.
It is one thing to see the bird, it is quite another to get a good photo. That is one of the things that makes this hobby interesting. Unless all the elements come together at the same time, the first time (not likely), I will find myself chasing the bird again and again until I make a suitable digital capture.

Over the next week or so, I will be updating photos on some previously posted birds. As I do I will note these changes in the current postings. Yesterday, I added some shots of the female Yellow-rumped Warbler which I posted in April.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tennessee Warbler

When I learned that the name of this bird is a Tennessee Warbler, my interest peaked. With Tennessee a neighboring state to my home of Arkansas, I thought there must be an interesting story here. Well, the story is this warbler mostly stays in Canada and only travels to Tennessee during Winter. Knowing the temps there and the temps here during the winter months, maybe I should follow this little bird south each year.

The Tennessee Warbler is stocky and short and is not nearly as colorful as many of the other warblers that come to Newfoundland. However, better lighting may have revealed the olive green color of its upper parts. You may recognize the same tree in the surroundings. This is one of the many warblers that were found in the huge pine trees in Goulds. It is too bad that the height of the trees and the persistently bad weather combined to hinder good picture taking of these many warblers.
As the flies get thicker it is a reminder that all of these birds that feed on insects, like this one, play a very important part in the ecological balance and making it more tolerable for us to be in the woods. I think we need more insect-eating birds as the flies are getting pretty thick out there.
I am making some good progress on my garden and still finding time to get out to locate a new bird almost everyday. My camera is loaded with fresh, bright new pictures of the new species that I have found. With the rain and winds dominating the day, I hope to get them unloaded today and cropped soon.
 The shore birds are beginning to make regular appearances, now.  There were two at Kenny's Pond yesterday evening and there is an American Bittern hiding away near the bird blind at Long Pond. I am hoping to catch a glimpse of that one soon. Where ever you are, take time to get outdoors to soak in the amazing nature that surrounds you and don't forget to look up!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mourning Warbler

A couple of weeks ago I went on a morning bird tour around Goulds. It was very interesting to watch a professional birdwatcher do his job. He was patient, knowledgeable and excited for us to see every bird. We went to three spots on Cochrane Pond Road. At each of these locations, Dave Brown heard and identified the song of each bird long before we saw them.
 It is easy to be dubious when someone tells you they hear five different species of birds in the woods when I don't hear a thing. That soon faded. Dave heard a bird, showed us a picture on his iPod Touch screen, called the bird and right on cue - the bird appeared.

This was the case with this Mourning Warbler. Dave cautioned us that the Mourning Warbler doesn't often show itself and that we might not see it. Nevertheless, there is was right before us all. It didn't stay long but I did manage to get a couple of shots, albeit not great ones but definitely good record shots.

The Mourning Warbler was named for its dark hood and upper breast. It is a common bird in Newfoundland and is more often found in areas of deep woods, where it frequents low areas around a water source. I just read that there are a number of warblers and a flycatcher at Long Pond this morning. That means it's time for me to go for a walk!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Magnolia Warbler

I photographed this Magnolia Warbler on May 30, 2010 on Cochrane Pond Road. I really like this little bird. Maybe because it resembles the Yellow-rumped Warbler which was the first warbler that I saw. Maybe it's because of its name. When I grew up we had the grandest Magnolia Tree in our front yard that had flowers that spanned at least 12 inches. When I saw this little bird, I almost expected to smell the sweet nectar of that old Magnolia tree. In fact, this bird was named Magnolia because it was first spotted in a Magnolia tree in 1810 by Alexander Wilson. (Birds of Newfoundland Field Guide)

This Magnolia Warbler appeared briefly but chose to show up in a rare moment of brightness and stayed long enough to sing us a song. This species is fairly common in the province and can be most often found in coniferous forests. It tends to perch atop the tree making it easy to observe. It, like other warblers, feeds on insects and if you have been out lately, you know that we have a lot of those.

I mentioned that this bird was in fine voice when he stopped over but who knew just how full his voice could be.  He started to croon a tune that any warbler could be proud of, but then he went into a full rendition of the loudest and longest song that I have heard any little bird sing. He sang his heart out for us. It was a full-blown concert!
I posted this evening because tomorrow promises to be a really nice day, and I haven't been birding in two days. I will be out the door nice and early in the morning to catch the golden hour and any little birds that cross my path.

Black-throated Green Warbler

I made progress with the gardening yesterday, but there is still much to do. It is a good thing that I have a backlog of photos to share during this time.

Today, I am featuring the Black-throated Green Warbler. This warbler tends to eat along the middle of the branch and rarely moves to the tips which makes getting a good picture very difficult.The lighting, distance,  tree cover and bird behaviour has affected the quality of my photos, so I am uploading several shots in the hope that you will be able to see the markings of this little bird.

The Green Warbler is common to Newfoundland and tends to appear in coniferous trees such as this where they feed on insects. It has a bright yellow face with an olive green patch over its ear. Its upper parts are olive-green and has a grey tail and has grey wings with two white bars. The crown of its head is olive-green and it also has a distinct black bib.

I have seen this bird twice in Goulds on two different days. Every time I go to Goulds I find myself wondering what it is that attracts so many birds there. Each trip seems to produce a new bird. Of course, being a new birder it is not difficult to find new birds.  My annual list has grown to 105 species since January.

You may have noticed that the fly population has come alive. Perhaps there are more insects in Goulds than here in East St. John's. That is a real comfort trade-off - flies for birds!

Today, I need to complete some more chores and will not likely get out for birding. However, tomorrow is supposed to be a sunny, warm day - perfect conditions to find little birds and get my Canon snapping.

"Look up, waaaaay up!"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Northern Waterthrush

 Photos updated in October 2010. Please see blog below.
 Over the summer, I have only seen one Northern Waterthrush, each time in the same location. I found it very entertaining to watch this little bird, all 23 grams of it, march over the top of this Duck Weed. They are known to stay in areas of slow-flowing water and bog. That is exactly where I saw this one regularly.

It finally feels like summer is breaking through! The sun is out and the day is shaping up to be a nice one. Since I have a lot of gardening to do today,  birding will have to slip into the background.

Today, I am introducing the Northern Waterthrush. This little bird appeared very briefly at a small water hole on Cochrane Pond Road. When I say briefly, I really mean briefly. I had one shot only to capture it and this is it.

The Northern Waterthrush is common in Newfoundland and tends to be found around calm and/or standing waters. It's face and underparts markings are a dull yellowish color. Some adults may also show with white instead of yellow. When feeding, this bird will often bob its tail up and down. The Northern Waterthrush feeds on the ground among all of the fallen trees and budding leaves making it difficult to see. It is very easy to mistake this bird for a sparrow at first glace. I think the most important feature to separate it from a sparrow (with only a brief glance) is the shape of the beak.

I don't imagine I will see any new birds today from my back yard but one of my priorities is to make my yard more bird-friendly. There are trees and plants that are attractive to birds as well as feeders, water supply and nesting places. This is one of the main reasons that I have to get out my work gloves and gardening tools. If I could only have the birds come to me instead of me going to the birds!