Friday, June 29, 2012

Yellow-rumped Warbler with Black Chin

Every once in a while I come across a bird that is just different, like the Black and White Warbler with a crossed bill. This time it is a Yellow-rumped Warbler with a black chin. This is a female, I think.  I considered a juvenile, but its movement seemed to be that of a mature bird.
I further considered an immature bird because of the black chin.  I have run numerous searches on the net and just can't find another Yellow-rumped Warbler with a black chin.
I enlarged the picture to see this is might be an injury of some sort. No, I don't think so. It is just a different Yellow-rumped Warbler!

Tame Spotted Sandpiper

This Spotted Sandpiper arrived at Second Pond more than a month ago.  At that time, I found him to be very skittish and stand-offish. Not anymore! Well, maybe this is a different bird, but I don't think so.
One squeak of my bird call, and this bird came flying in immediately. He looked at me a lot, he sang to me a lot.
It was too good to be true, only four feet from me and sticking close.
When I walked, he followed.
When I turned and went the other way, so did he. What was this?  Has this bird gotten lonely waiting for other shore birds to arrive.
He even dined with me.  I'm sure he offered to share, but clearly this is not my favorite southern meal.
He worked hard at getting this hard-shelled beetle in to his mouth.  He opened his gullet and continued to work away.
Little by little, in it went. By the way, this may be a female as the belly spots appear large.  Unfortunately, there wasn't another bird about for me to compare.  The white patch on the shoulder is a good identifying mark for this bird when seen from a distance, with other shorebirds, or in its winter plumage. Rapid teetering suggests the bird is nervous.
Even when eating, it bobs up and down. Its steady teetering motion is also another good way to identify this bird. Honestly, I think my tail would curl up too if I had just eaten a beetle!
At last, the beetle disappeared, but judging by the widened throat, I think it is still just sitting there and probably wiggling.

It was particularly nice to enjoy this quiet time with this Spotted Sandpiper. Opportunities like this do not happen everyday.

Black-backed Woodpecker - Bauline Line

 From time to time, I take a drive through Bauline Line Extension, to Bauline Line to Pouch Cove Extension, Pouch Cove and Flatrock. Sometimes, the woods are filled with crossbills and siskins.  On my last trip around a week ago, I stopped every so often to search for warblers.  While I found some, they were not plentiful.
Sometimes, I wonder why I keep doing this route. Well, there are often enough surprises to lure me back over and over again.  On this drive over the last three years, I have seen an American Pipit, Dickcissel, a While-eyed Vireo, and on my latest trip I came across this Black-backed Woodpecker.  It is the unexpected surprises that entice me to take the slow drive along this path less travelled.
The Black-backed Woodpecker is common to Newfoundland, but I have only seen three - one each year of my birding life.  This one was a great surprise.  There is a pond on this road that is mostly hidden by the trees.  I have always thought I would stop to see if there were any special ducks in it. On this particular day, I did stop and walked toward the pond.  All of a sudden, I heard a loud "kik" coming from above. I stopped, looked around, looked up and to my delight - there was the BB Woodpecker.
There is no surpise quite as good as a totally unexpected surprise. I watched as it began to drill. Its head was in constant movement and I didn't want to get too close so my pictures don't do justice to this great bird. All my care didn't matter much, because this bird only stayed about two minutes and flew away. Nevertheless, I was quite satisfied that my drive along this northern route had once again paid off. 
Another interesting spot I will share is the road to the school and the Lion's Club in Pouch Cove.  I have found quite a bit of bird activity in this area, and I really expect something very special to show up along this road.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Yellow Warbler Nest

The Yellow Warbler is one of the brightest summer birds.  Their warm colors and cheerful songs would cause anyone to stop and enjoy.  Although, this year their numbers seem to be down compared to last year.
One of the most reliable places to see and photograph the Yellow Warbler is at Mundy Pond. They appear in this area in greater numbers than any other location I have been.
There is a lot of variation in the yellows of these birds. Some males are very golden with bold reddish stripes on the breast.  Some are less striking.  The female, on the other hand, is more of a mellow yellow.
The first-year Yellow Warbler is even more brownish.  It may not be too long before the fledgling begin to appear as recent pictures of Yellow Warblers show them with their mouths chock-full of food for the young.
I came upon this Yellow Warbler nest in early April, left over from last year. When I returned to the area, several weeks later to show it to my granddaughter, someone had broken the limb off and torn up the nest.  What a shame! Apparently, the weather usually does the job on these little nests during the winter, but this one at Kenny's Pond was in a sheltered area. With the leaves on the trees, it is not likely that the nests will be visible. Nevertheless, I thought I would share this picture just in case anyone finds a cone-shaped nest and wonders about it.

Judging by the amount of warblers I have seen carrying food, there will soon be many newcomers appearing in the woods. Maybe the birds will begin to sing a little more when their work of child rearing is complete.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blackpoll Warblers Everywhere

 For more than a month, the warblers have been filling up the woods with sound and color. This year there seem to be so many Blackpoll warblers.  I have records of Blackpolls on most every day that I have ventured out.  Interesting, though, is that most of them are male.  I have only seen one female Blackpoll, and that was very early in the season.  I guess they are busy.

Up till now the males are still singing and are very inquisitive. Pish once and the male jumps out from the cover of the trees and sits high atop a tree to sing a high-pitched, thin tsi  sound.
Not only have there been an abundance of Blackpoll warblers, but also Wilson's Warblers. Particularly early in the season, they were everywhere.  When you couldn't see them, their on-going song gave them away.
American Redstarts are all around when I had only seen them once a year in the preceding two years: Once in my backyard and several days at Bidgood's Park. Never anywhere else.  This year, I have seen them on Blackhead Road, heard them on Maddox Cove Road, seen them on Power's Road and Cochrane Pond Road. Again, it is the male of the species that I have seen. Only a few females along the way.
Northern Harriers seem to be more abundant this year, as well a Mourning Warblers.  What accounts for this fluctuation from year to year? We have had a remarkably warmer, more bird-friendly and people-friendly spring. Could that be it?  Is the the time and intensity of the winds?
I guess sometimes it is better to just enjoy what nature has brought us and not question its origins.
As I sit here this morning, tapping away at the keyboard, the sun is getting stronger and the winds are low - ideal conditions to get out to enjoy the morning flurry of feathered activity. I must give this up and get out to walk, listen  and learn more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

House Wren

Here is my first wren of any kind seen in Newfoundland. This one, a House Wren, was first heard and reported by Anne Hughes.  Yesterday, I dropped by in the hope of seeing the bird and was advised to return in the morning. It is that time of the day the bird is in full song.
Being an early riser has it benefits. By 6:45 a.m., I was on my way to Rennie's River to search for the House Wren. I didn't have to do any searching, just show up.  The wren was singing loudly in the upper limbs of a large tree along the river. With all of the leaves on the trees, it was impossible to see it from either side.  I ended up directly underneath the bird and shot straight up every time it appeared in an opening.
It seemed to be feeding, but it must sing with its mouth full because song was continuous. As often happens in public places, a dog off a leash came charging up the trail and began to bark at me. Some time while I stood quaking in my boots, the House Wren flew.
I could hear it, but it was some distance away.  I waited for a while but decided to move on just as John Wells showed up around 8 a.m. I tagged along with him and sure enough, I got to see the bird again.
Try as I might, I couldn't adjust my camera quickly enough to account for bright and dark areas and these pictures really illustrate that problem.  However, I included them in the post because they reflect such typical wren poses.
For a little guy, the House Wren is something of a bully. It has been know to destroy nests of other birds and even toss the young out of the nest. This territorial bird is usually found from southern Canada across to the NE U. S. and southward, not in Newfoundland. To learn more about the occurrences of the House Wren in this province, I went to Jared Clarke's web site, link provided on the right side of my page. 

He has done a lot of work to document the very rare birds, but the House Wren ranks as rare, with sightings occurring less than annually. The work he has done on his web page is very helpful.  For instance, what records are there relevant to the American White Pelican? How uncommon is a Snow Goose?  Check Jared's site to learn more.  Thanks to Jared for all of his work!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baby Confusion

Well, it was just last week when I posted these shots of an immature Fox Sparrow.
I was really taken by the difference between the immature and the adult.
Here are two pictures of a typical immature Dark-eyed Junco. Note the pink beak. For me, that is the key trait when I am trying to quickly identify a junco.
There is significant streaking and even a pinkish tinge on the side of the breast.
Having now provided points of reference, here are two more shots. This bird has the same markings as the junco above but the beak is black. This has to be a very young junco. So this just blows my pink beak identifier right out of the water. Is nothing constant?
Then there is this young bird. Seems to have the makings of wing bars, is much grayer but has the same head, eye and dark beak. Given the under tail coloring and the shape of the tail, this is probably also a Dark-eyed Junco.

Considering that most glimpses of birds are fleeting, it never hurts to build a wide collection of visions in the mind's eye to help with quick, on-the-spot identification. When these different birds appear, it is certainly worth pursuing them to get a picture or reach a level of satisfaction around the ID. At this time of the year, it is possible to see all sorts of unusual renditions of very familiar birds.

Monday, June 18, 2012


All around us are baby ducklings of all sizes and shapes. Even non-birders stop to enjoy the sight of small ducklings being herded by their mom. The variance in size illustrates the berth of time when duck lay their eggs.

Black Ducks may lay 6 to 12 eggs and incubate while Mallards may lay 5 to 14 days and incubate from 25 to 30 days.  As eggs are laid one a day and incubation does not begin until all eggs are laid, there is quite a lot of room for different size ducklings to appear in the ponds and ditches.

It is not easy to differentiate between the female American Black Duck and the female Mallard. There is so much hybridization among ducks that it is difficult to tell if a bird is a Black Duck, a Mallard or a hybrid. I am guessing the female pictured here is a Mallard because of the amount of orange on the beak, only a guess.  If I had paid attention to the sound, I should have been able to identify them on the spot.  The Black Duck says "Quack, Quack" and the Mallard says "Kwek, Kwek, Kwek." That may be the best clue to nail the ID.
With it being so difficult to identify the adult species, it seems totally impossible to identify the species of the ducklings.
Of all of the broods I have seen this year, the numbers are low. Who knows how they meet their demise, but not all baby duckling reach adulthood. I have seen a number of families with only three to five ducklings.  The younger the ducklings, the more there seem to be in the group.
Like all children, the ducklings grow up very fast and soon there will be no sign of the young. I tried to find info about this phenomenon but couldn't - but, even toward the end of the summer an odd family will just appear.  Why the delay? I have no idea, but I have seen late season ducklings. 
I venture a guess that this female is an American Black Duck based on the greenish colored bill and the predominately gray face. Now, all of this begs the question, "How long have I been birding and still can't tell the difference between two of the most common species around?"

Rather than be too hard on myself over this, I have decided to continue to study them and most of all, enjoy the sights and sounds of the fanciful little ducks riding the waves.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gray Jay - Bold and Brave

 On a gray day last week, I came upon this wet, hungry Gray Jay eating the leftovers of a carcass. I am guessing it is a rabbit.

 These scavengers are known to eat anything and are so intent on eating or collecting food for storage, they don't mind people. I approached this one very closely, but didn't stay long because it was drizzling.
I read about an unusual behaviour of the young of this species.  When the 2-5 eggs are hatched and the juveniles grow stronger, they will fight among themselves. Each one attempts to be the dominant child.  When one reigns superior, s/he drives the others off and remains to be with the parents for another year. It is often possible to see three Gray Jays together - two parents and one off-spring.
Gray Jay may hatch their young in early Spring (April), but I came across this juvenile Gray Jay in August of last year. All the reading in the world can't cover all the bases. Of course, I didn't know what this bird was when I found it! I thought this would be a good time to share the photo to provide a reference in case a juvenile just pops up any day.  The one constant is the shape and size. Coloring of juveniles always offers up an identification challenge.

This is a great time of the year to visit the woods in an attempt to see as many young as possible. I think of it as "study hall."