Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 - Year in Review

 By January 2010 I was ready to incorporate bird watching into my regular schedule. During the Fall of 2009 I did some hiking, photographing birds along the way. That whet my appetite for birdwatching. I decided to join one of Dave Brown's birding tours to the Southern Shore in December. That trip clinched it - I had found a new and rewarding hobby.

When I first started birdwatching, I could safely say that I could identify a Blue Jay, but I soon learned that a Blue Jay doesn't look the same all year. When this molting jay visited by feeder, I thought I should call the bird doctor. He looked so sick, but I soon learned that jays molt and this is a normal occurrence. I didn't know that. There is so much that I didn't know and still don't, but as I set out to do, I am still learning all along the way.
I thought that I knew the difference between an American Crow (pictured here) and a Raven. Well, as soon as I tried to ID them on the fly, I quickly found out that I really didn't know the different features of each one at all. In addition to a notable size difference, I learned that the tail of the Raven is shaped quite differently (a wedge) from a Crow. It takes me a moment now to glean all of the features, but I think I can safely say that I can identify each of the birds fairly accurately.
I had no idea that there were birds with red on them in this province. Over the year, I have delighted in seeing at least three different ones. The White-winged Crossbill (pictured left) is such an interesting bird and really shows its red well against the snow-covered trees. (I wonder if we will have any snow-covered trees this year.)
I got a real thrill when I found this Scarlet Tanager. It was in its full breeding plumage and was a show-stopper. Although this is not a resident Newfoundlander, the ST does occasionally visit the province and much to my surprise, I got a really good look at it.

Then, there is the Pine Grosbeak. I have seen both male and female of this species all throughout the year. They seem to be larger than they are because of their great coloring and the confidence of their carriage.

 I once thought a sparrow was a sparrow. During this year I have seen a Clay-coloured Sparrow, Fox Sparrows (pictured here) Swamp Sparrows, House Sparrows, Chipping Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow (pictured below), Song Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows.  They are not all the same.
Some are much easier to identify than others. For me to have a chance at accurately identifying sparrows, I have to photograph them and then study the books. Even then, I can't always come up with the ID and have to ask for help. Who knew that identifying birds was so challenging.
Seagulls have also presented some amazing challenging. I never knew there were so many kinds. Newfoundland is considered by many and "the" place to go to see the many species of seagulls. During this year I have seen the Ring-billed Gull (pictured here), Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Glaucaus Gull, Black-headed Gull, and the less common Laughing Gull, Common Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Slaty-backed Gull and the very rare Black-tailed Gull. During the year I missed seeing one of the all-time favorites - the Ivory Gull and the Thayer Gull. I certainly look at the huge flocks of gulls on Quidi Vidi Lake and area in a totally different light.

Raptors have also provided a great deal of entertainment over the year, particularly the Bald Eagles that were daily visitors to Quidi Vidi Lake over the winter. In December of last year, I also witnessed a Bald Eagle snatch an Eider right out of the water on the Southern Shore.
Other raptors appear when you least expect them. This one flew out of nowhere and spooked a flock of European Startling and then very adeptly, it snagged one out of the air and rushed to a yard where it guarded it with its wings from a prying and fussy American Crow. At this time of year the Sharp-shinned Hawk is quite a common sight.

Birdwatching has brought me a great deal of pleasure this year as I watched and learned about the many avian species that share our space.  In Newfoundland my 2010 bird list has reached 148 to date. Different species of visitors in my backyard this year tallied of 28. I never would have dreamed this could happen. I continue to try to make my yard bird-friendly and hope to top this list next year. When in Arkansas, I saw another 27 species that I had not seen in this province. By birdwatching standards this is not a great list but by my standard as a starting birder, I am delighted. Among the species on my Newfoundland list are several rarities that I have listed this year. My next post will be dedicated to the rarities that I saw and the mention of some I missed.

It has been a wonderful year and I am really looking forward to learning as much next year as I did this year. As a bonus spin-off of this activity, I have walked many of the Grand Concourse trails on a regular basis amassing over 150 kilometers of activity. This is likely matched by hiking areas that are not tracked on the Concourse website. I am adapting to the high winds and cold temperatures. It it funny how those discomforts just fade away once I spot a bird.

Note:  Since I began this little blog in April, I have had over 3000 visitors from over 20 countries around the world. Thank you for sharing your time and interest in birds with me.

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