Sunday, November 28, 2010

White-winged Dove

 Alas, I got a good view of the White-winged Dove. The White-winged Dove typically breeds in the southwest U.S. and Mexico. However, by some twist of wind or fate, this one finds itself on an island in the North Atlantic. This WWD located in the village of Quidi Vidi is not the first to land here and probably won't be the last. Last year one took up residency in Pouch Cove and stayed for quite a while.  I made numerous trips to Pouch Cove during that snowy time to get a good look at this bird, but it didn't happen. I saw it in flight on two
different occasions but never got a good look.

I was really pleased when the call went out that another WWD had come calling, this time even closer. It is so nice when birders who make these great finds share the information with the whole birding community.  Yet, don't be fooled into thinking that the bird will be sitting in a spot just waiting and posing for you.

I made at least five visits to the place where the dove was seen and got no glimpse of it. This, I think, is one of the dimensions of birding that makes birdwatching so challenging and, at the
same time, rewarding. It seems to be a lot about the hunt and then the satisfying find.

 Typical after actually locating the bird is the work required to get an unobstructed view. When I first saw the White-winged Dove this morning, it was hiding behind multiple twigs leaving only a patchwork of the bird visible. (See the second picture.)

This can sometimes provide needed time to test the camera settings and try to get the electronics ready for the clear view. Then it is the maneuvering required to put yourself in a position to see the bird without spooking it and losing the whole opportunity.

 This morning, I enjoyed the view with other birders. In fact, I know of at least seven birders that were in the area this morning. I'm sure there were more.  After getting a pretty good look at the bird, two of us ventured into the private yard in an attempt to get some clear shots at the dove.

 This White-winged Dove is pretty tame and allowed us to approach fairly close. It finally showed a full face and beak creating the opportunity for some pictures. It is at this time, that I can only hope that my settings are suitable for the conditions. Because it was so cloudy this morning, I had my ISO set at 800 and my shutter speed at 250. That is pretty slow and most any movement of the bird would cause a blur. That made it important for me to try to snap the shots while the dove was still.

 As if to please, the WWD gave a little twirl, fully exposing its back before quickly turning around again to watch what we were doing.

 The brightness of the blue around the eyes is really remarkable.

There is a great similarity between the WWD and the Mourning Dove. In fact, there is a Mourning Dove also frequenting the same yard as our out-of-country visitor. The bold white stripe that runs along the wings is the differential.
After about ten minutes, the WWD decided he had heard enough of my camera clicking and after a few bobs, it lifted off the branch and flew quite a distance away. If the sun ever shines and the wind is not over 25km, I will return to try to get some better pictures. If this bird behaves like the one in Pouch Cove did last year, it may stay around for quite a while. I hope the residents of Quidi Vidi can handle all of the birding tourists.
 Today, December 3, I returned to QV to see if the White Winged Dove was still there. It was and it offered me the best opportunity for pictures today.

 I had a great opportunity to look closely at this bird today without twigs and wing hampering the process. I was surprised at how small it is, much smaller than a Mourning Dove. Its colors are also sharp and it is quite a handsome bird.

I met the homeowner who has been hosting this visitor and he is very pleased that others are enjoying his guest. He tells me that he often has a lot of different birds and often has to look them up in a guide to determine what they are. He was very kind.
I like this bust of the bird because it really shows how blue the eye ring is and the feathery effect above and below the beak. It just goes to show that you have to see a bird multiple times to really get a good look to see all of the features.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Western Kingbird

 I still have several birds from Arkansas that have not yet been identified. This one was among them. I sent the picture to a local birder who confirmed my much researched decision. This is a Western Kingbird. I was hesitant to ID it because it is considered a rare bird for Arkansas.

 I found this bird in Eureka Springs which is in Northwest Arkansas. It was among many other different birds flitting among a grove of about 8 trees. There were so many birds and they were so high that most of my shots from this area are record shots only. It was in the same area where I photographed the Eastern Kingbird.
 It is disappointing that I couldn't get a full head and eyes shot but I was lucky to get this. I was shooting straight up to about 40 to 50 feet. It was an overcast day and the outcome is what it is.
The Western Kingbird is a flycatcher that feeds on insects and berries. Apparently, it is quite an aggressive bird and often sings at night.

This one may be an immature bird given the short length of its tail. However, this is hard to tell because of the angle of the shot. If the opportunity arises, I will return to this area and get a cabin in the woods that will serve as a point of eating and sleeping. The rest of the time, I will be out in search of all of the grand birds in the area.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yellow-legged Gull - November 2010

 Not every day is suitable for photographing birds, but that doesn't stop me from winging it.

On Tuesday, we had our first minor snowfall. There were eight traffic accidents during the rush hour and many close calls. Many, like me, have not found the time to get our snow tires on so for us, driving has to be a particularly cautious venture. Since I had to go out anyway for an errand, I decided to squeeze in a little birdwatching.

 I started in the village of Quidi Vidi where a White-winged Dove had been located. When I got there, I was shocked and disappointed to find a large city crew was ripping up the road. Big machines roared and growled and few birds sang. I looked around and was able to find the Mourning Dove but not the White-winged Dove on that occasion.
 I left the area wondering if I would ever see the White-winged Dove. On my way home I decided to detour through Pleasantville to have a look at the hundreds of seagulls that often rest on a field in that area. I pulled off to the edge of the road where there was another car parked. I immediately saw the big lens of the camera and thought there must be something special sitting in the field. Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled up beside the other driver and asked if he could see anything special.

 He told me that he had spotted a Yellow-legged Gull among the 750 gulls on the field. I pulled ahead of him and began scanning. Soon, the seasoned birder came to my car to see if I had located it. He quickly pointed it out to me. The snow began to fall with more intensity. At my distance I was only getting a blurry vision of the bird through all of the flakes.

I waited until the other helpful birder left before I got out of my car and began to work my way closer to the bird.

I crept ever so slowly and quietly until I got within a better range of the gull. The snow was sticking to my lens and my eyelids. I still figured a poor shot was better than no shot. The gulls all remained calm and I got fairly close. I have added one shot of the Yellow-legged Gull with its wings outstretched to better show its wing markings. I also included one shot of the YLG with a Herring Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull in the background for comparison. The YLG has a grey mantle that is shaded between the light grey of the Herring Gull and the dark black mantle of the BBG. The YLG is also significantly smaller than both of these other gulls.

This gull is likely one of two that were spotted earlier in the Fall. There seems to be a consistent pattern of visits by the YLG to this province. Many birders travel great distances to see this particular gull, and it is well worth it. Note:  The remaining smudges of dark color on its head will soon disappear and the head of this gull will be snow white throughout the winter.

I finished my looking and my picture-taking and walked just as slowly back to my car. I thought the other birder might post the sighting, and I wanted to leave the gull right where it was so that other birders could have a chance to view this YLG.

Additional note:  The sun is popping out and the temp is reasonable. It would be a great day for birding around the city, but not for me - my car is in the shop getting the snow tires installed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tattered Mourning Dove

 On Friday, I added one more bird to my Backyard List. For a brief moment this haggared Mourning Dove perched on my fence., looking beleagured.

I was confused about what exactly it was. While this bird has the distinct blotchy Mourning Dove markings such as the dark spot below and behind the eye, the dark brown marks on the wing feathers and the shape of the wing, I wasn't convenienced that it was an MD.

Its color is much darker than the usual Mourning Dove and the tail was the big problem. It didn't have the two long tail feathers that make the MD look sleek and streamlined. Instead, it has a grey feather with a white tip. I sent the pictures off to two different birding experts in town and they confirmed that it was a Mourning Dove that had likely been attacked by a cat or a raptor.

Well, I guess this is as good a time as any for my rant about my neighbor's cat that is running free day and night. Although I didn't see the cat hurt this bird, I have watched it daily enter my yard and stalk the birds in my yard. It hides under the shrubs and pounces at first opportunity. It has been more than two months now that I have had to go into the yard and wave a newspaper to get this cat out of my yard. I am really tired of it. It is so hungry for attention it will even head towards me when I shoooo it away.

There are bylaws in this town, but I don't want to report anyone but this has to end soon. Today, I will be looking up ideas to discourage this cat from entering my yard!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Backyard Activity

 Monday morning I watched as 63 Dark-eyed Juncos flew into the tree behind my house. I have been seeing many juncos on a daily basis, but I never counted them before. I was astounded at how many there were. I was afraid to leave the window because many other vagrant birds will join flocks of juncos. I didn't want to miss anything special. Nevertheless, after regular gawking, I didn't find anything unusual this week.

In the past they have had several
special birds like the American Redstart and several varieties of sparrows with them. I will continue to scan the flock as they move in and out of my yard.

On any given day, I will see several Blue Jays. Some consider this bird to be a nuisance, but it is so bright and commanding, that it puts on a show every time it appears.
Not as frequent but a regular visitor, the Northern Flicker comes to my yard on a daily basis. The flashing yellow shaft displayed in flight is spectacular. There have been so many Northern Flickers around this year. On almost every trip that I have made into the woods, I have seen one or more flickers. They appear to be coming to the yard most often to enjoy the suet and the black-oil sunflower seeds. I have also noticed the Blue Jay and the Northern Flicker flicking the food out of the feeder onto the ground. They are the cause of a lot of wasted food.

 While I have seen the juncos, jays and flicker visit my yard regularly over the last three years, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is a new arrival this year. At times, I have had at least three in the yard garnering their share of the sunflower seeds. These are tiny little birds that are very interesting to watch.  I am delighted that they have joined the regular ranks.
 The Black-capped Chickadee is always a "pleaser." There have been up to three in the yard at a time visiting the suet, but their menu of choice also seems to be the sunflower seeds. It is odd because the chickadees don't come every day but appear more often on a weekly basis.
Among they other daily visits from Rock Pigeons, American Crows, and Ravens, I can always count on the European Starlings to show up. As described in an earlier post about the starlings, it it sheer entertainment to watch them undergo the transition from juvenile to adult.

More recently, I have had a raptor (unidentified) show up in my yard twice within the last three weeks. It is clearly stalking the junco tree. On both occasions I was not fast enough with my camera to document its visit nor identify it.

My yard is in constant motion with the flitting, jumping and calling of all of these different birds. There seems to be a real shortage of cones and berries in the woods this year. Maybe  that is a result of all of the rain we had this summer, just guessing. At any rate, it is quite likely that backyard bird feeders are going to play a very important role in the survival of many of the small birds that will over-winter in Newfoundland this year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Common Teal

The Common Teal or Eurasian Teal, as it is sometimes called, is the "old world" counterpart of the Green-winged Teal of North America.

This Common Teal has been staying put at Kelly's Brook for quite some time. I have had pictures for a while, but I didn't post them because I was hoping to get better shots due to the availability of the bird. That is not going to happen.

Photography conditions at Kelly's Brook leave a lot to be desired. There has been a lot of leaf cover, but that is disappearing. I thought that would help with getting a some sharp pictures. I thought wrong. There are so many little branches, twigs and water plant growth that it just seems impossible to get a good focus on this bird. We have had some sunshine for the last week, and I have tried to take advantage of that. So far, no great picture so I am posting anyway.

 The Common Teal looks very much like the Green-winged Teal which I have pictured below. Yet, the light colored, distinctive streak of cream that runs along the wing sets the Common Teal apart. In all lighting conditions this whitish streak really stands out.
 The Green-winged Teal, pictured here, does not have the white streak along the wing but rather has two white smudges on the upper side of both breast. Both of these teals are quite small.
In this image of the Green-winged Teal both white bars on the sides of the breast are clearly showing. Among the teals at Kelly's Brook, there are about 8 pair of Green-winged Teal and at least one male Common Teal. The females of both species look the same so I cannot tell if there is a female Common Teal in the area.

Note:  This is the same area where the Kentucky Warbler has been residing for about two weeks. I have now seen it twice but have yet to get a picture. I will keep trying.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My weekend birding was more fruitful than I anticipated. Rural roads in and around St. John's are ideal for birding on Saturday or Sunday mornings because very few people are out and about at that time. These conditions coupled with welcome sunshine and warm temps made for a great morning of birding. I could pull off the road and stop to look at any bird activity along the way. It was on Pouch Cove Line that I came across this Dickcissel (a first for me) with a group of Juncos at a feeder located in the front of a house.
When I saw the feeding birds, I stopped and grabbed my binoculars. I could see one different bird among the flock. At first I thought it was a sparrow. Because, at best, I can identify only about four sparrows with any degree of certainty,  I got my camera and struggled to get a shot of this small, sparrow-like bird that was often hidden in the tall grass. When the bird finally raised its head, as shown in the first picture, I knew it wasn't a sparrow, but I didn't know what it was. 
I was hoping for more time to take pictures and watch this bird, but that was not to be. A large flock of European Starlings was sitting on a nearby power line and all at once, they lifted off and flew straight over the top of the feeder. Their motion drove all of the birds from the feeder. I was able to get one quick shot of the Dickcissel and Juncos rushing for cover. They didn't return quickly to the feeder, so I moved on.

When I got home, I began my research to try to ID this bird. There are a lot of birds in the field guides, including images of both genders and immatures. It was a miracle that I was able match my pictures with the pictures in the guide. More and more, I am having more success in identifying the birds, but I always want to seek verification before I share my sightings.

I reviewed the Dickcissel sightings posted on the local Discussion Group. While the Dickcissel is an uncommon visitor to Newfoundland, there have been annual sightings for years. The earliest posting on the group site dates to 1998, which may be when the group started. I can't applaud this forum enough. Bird watchers are one group of collectors that are eager to share their find which makes it much easier for a novice watcher like me to see and learn about so many different species.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

White-eyed Vireo

 It was with a degree of sadness that I stored my lawn chairs, rain barrel and fountain away from my back yard on Friday. It is hard to say goodbye to summer. Then out of the blue, the weather surprised us all on Saturday and Sunday. The temp was in the high teens, the sun was shining and the wind was almost nil. On both days I made a point to get outdoors and do some walking.

I never think that I am going to find my next new bird when I go out. It is really all about enjoying whatever bird chooses
to show itself and breathing in the great fresh air.

 Maybe that is what makes finding a new bird so special: Little expectation - great surprise.

My destination was Jones' Pond in Torbay, but I never miss an opportunity to scan the woods on my way.  Because of the construction on Torbay Road (nightmare), I decided to go through Bauline Line and Pouch Cove Line.

 Once I turned on to Pouch Cove Line, I spotted an active feeder in the front yard of one of the houses. I stopped to have a look where I spotted my first new bird of the day. I will post that one tomorrow. I was already more than contented that I had a new bird to study and learn about.
 I drove further up the road where I came upon a flock of American Goldfinches. There were about 20 of them busily feeding near the road. I pulled off the road to watch and learn more about their habits.

While sitting in my car enjoying the show, I noticed a small, yellowish bird that was different. I was able to get one picture and look at it more closely. I was sure that it wasn't a Goldfinch, but I wasn't sure what it was. I knew that I had never seen a bird like this one before.

While looking at my picture, it disappeared off the branch. I scanned the whole area and spotted the bird flitting around, much lower in the greenery than the American Goldfinches that tend to stay higher in the trees. It was difficult to get a shot because there was so much brush between my lens and the little bird. I kept my camera trained on it and every time it showed itself, I took pictures. At the time I thought it might be a warbler. 
I remained locked on the movement of the little bird with the different colored eye as it played hide and seek with me. When I got a clear shot of its eye, I knew I had something different from a warbler. I had never seen any pictures of a warbler with a light colored eye.
I stayed and watched until the little bird disappeared. Then I headed off to see if there might be any sea birds off Pouch Cove and Flatrock.  When I later returned home, I downloaded my pictures right away. I had a really hard time trying to identify this bird. Eventually, I remembered noticing several posting that mentioned "red-eyed" and "white-eyed" vireos. I began looking through pictures of vireos and there was my bird.
I have since learned that this is an extra rare bird in Newfoundland, never found in the area where I found this one and very rarely photographed because it tends to stay hidden away in the bushes. I got another rare bird! I wonder how many more there are out there....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blue-winged Teal

It has been several days since I have seen and photographed a new bird. After a long walk at Octagon Pond yesterday where I got a fairly close shot of a Common Loon in Winter plumage, I decided to take a detour to Mundy Pond to see if there was anything special there. There was!

As soon as I walked to the edge of the pond, I spotted this tiny little duck. It looked very much like the American Black Ducks that it was mingling with but was less than half their size.
 It was also apparent that its bill was different from the others so I began shooting. I wondered if it might be a Blue-winged Teal but I couldn't see any of the blue on its plumage. This bird is known to travel over 11,000 km from its breeding ground to its wintering grounds. This female teal is a bit off course.
 They BW Teal is somewhat tame and will allow humans to approach. This one seemed quite calm while I stood nearby clicking my shutter.
Then, without notice, it just burst into flight at full speed and darted in an odd pattern across to the small lagoon located at the West end of the pond. I uploaded this very blurry shot because it is the only picture that I have that shows the teal's blue wing. I plan to revisit the site today and maybe, I will get a better flight shot.

Update:  I uploaded two new pictures on the Common Loon posting to show its Winter plumage. To access this edited posting: 1) Run a query on the Search Bar at the top of this page or 2) Visit the Bird Index listed on the top Menu Bar and scroll down to Common Loon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Boreal Chickadee update

I just updated a couple of photos in my Boreal Chickadee posting. Please visit the Bird Index and see the new pictures.

What a fright!  I have just recently added a window bird feeder that I filled with black-oil sunflower seeds. It just had its first visitor. Not two feet from me a grand Northern Flicker just landed to have breakfast. What a close view!  This feeder may just turn out to be my favorite.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cattle Egret

 I hadn't been birding for several days now due to a number of other obligations. I would have liked to go on Saturday, but the wind and rain were real deterrents. Alas, Sunday arrived, dry with intermittent clouds and sun. That was good enough for me. However, it was a bit bothersome that we were under a wind warning. It was the wind that accounts for this little Cattle Egret's fashionable hairdo.
This Cattle Egret arrived in Bay Bulls on the Southern Shore about five or six days ago. I felt quite lucky that it was still there when I arrived at the farmer's field yesterday. It was showing signs of being quite at home among the sheep and the numerous on-lookers.

 At one point yesterday morning, there were six bird watchers lined up to watch and enjoy this pasture visitor.  The owner of the land was very kind and invited us to do our viewing  from his driveway which was considerably closer to the bird. It showed no discomfort despite our close proximity.
 The Cattle Egret is a rare visitor to Newfoundland and often raises a stir when it arrives. Previous years' reports indicate that the Cattle Egret has most frequently landed in the Bay Bulls area. It raises the question about how or why this happens. I find it interesting that the field guide reports that this is an insect-eating bird, but in this field at this time, it seemed to be eating seeds. Unless, it was eating some beetle-like bug.
 This is the third long-legged bird that has paid us a visit over the last month: First there was the Great Egret near Cape Spear, then there was the Sandhill Crane that dropped into Goulds for about a week and now this Cattle Egret with lesser long legs. Each one has brought a great deal of pleasure to birders and non-birders alike. I can hardly wait to see what may show up next.
While on the Southern Shore, another birder and I decided to continue our trip into the other known bird-rich areas of the shore. Try as we did, we were unable to find anything else out of the ordinary. However, that never dampens the spirit of a birder because a lot of birding is really all about the hunt. Not to mention that we both added this Cattle Egret to our Life List yesterday. That is particularly special.