Before retiring for the evening from my first day of birding, I took the time to drink in the wonders of the sky on a clear night. Without the city lights, layer upon layer of sparkling lights against the deep blue sky is absolutely mesmerizing. While city dwelling has it perks, it also has a way of blotting out some of nature's finest offerings.
Just as the sun came up on Saturday morning, I planted my feet on the floor. Going outside with my coffee to sit on a windless, crisp morning was intended to be a continuation of the calm of the night before. However, just as I settled into my chair to have my first sip, I spotted movement in the trees above. For a moment, I just watched. Then, I realized there were a lot of warblers - Black and White, Magnolia (pictured here), Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll. What? I rushed inside to get my camera, lest I miss something good. Well, several shots later and cold coffee still sitting in my cup, I had to get going to see what else might be waiting in Gambo.
I checked the bay and found several species of shorebirds, but none so engaging as the 100 Canada Geese stirring around the area. The lazy morning haze still hung in the air.
Checking several possible spots for shorebirds, which by the way yielded Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers and Least Sandpipers, I came upon a flock of very active warblers. Among the usual, were these two Palm Warblers. Well, they didn't look like the two Palms I saw in Spring. They didn't even look like each other. One was quite dark with lots of streaking and the other was not. Confession: I checked the confusing Fall warblers and erroneously concluded that one of them was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Wrong! Suggestion: Run a search for Palm Warbler in the box above to look at the spring variation of this species.
Tearing myself away from all of this was not easy, but my plan was to explore the Gander Bay Loop. I had to move on. Now, I wonder what other warblers I may have left behind. The road from Gambo to Traverse Brook was teeming with birds. I stopped several times on narrow shoulders of the road. I had forgotten how people out and around get up early on a Saturday morning. There is so much to do. Anyway, the traffic was making me nervous, so I gave up the search.
While travelling Route 330, I pulled off the road to check the distance to Cape Freels on my GPS. While sitting in my car with my head down, I heard a strong chip coming from somewhere. I looked up and saw this bird. From the distance, it looked somewhat like a robin, but it didn't sound like one. I got a couple of pictures to study it more closely. It was a blackbird of some sort. The more I looked at the pictures, the beak looked shorter than a Rusty, and the eye line seemed different from a Rusty. I was convinced, I had a Brewer's Blackbird. Nope! It turned out to be a female Rusty Blackbird. Not a bad find, but....
I drove further up the road about three km. when another blackbird (male) flew across the road. I stopped to try to find it. Shortly, a car came flying up the road, and the very- black, blackbird, darted back across the road. I didn't get a chance to see it well, so I assume it, too, was a Rusty. Was this a pair? If so, why were they so far apart?
I drove in and out of several communities along the way to Cape Freels. There were plenty of terns still around, and an odd Semipalmated Plover, but there wasn't much else. I was filled with anticipation when I reached Cape Freels. I found the estuary mentioned by Diane and found several small peeps there. Skirting around the area were many sparrows.
Then, I spotted a man gardening a peat bog. His cabbage and potatoes were remarkable growing only in peat. He shared a meal of vegetables with me and guided me to the walking trail. At the end of the trail there is a bench where people sit and watch the small birds.
I didn't make it that far because I had to go back to move my car. However, I did get a nice surprise. Walking the trail seemed rather routine until out popped a bird. I figured I had flushed a snipe and began to take pictures. It flew to my right, and stretched high to see over the grass. I had never seen a shorebird do this before. This bird also seemed really large. What was this? When I got back to the car, I checked large shorebirds to see what this could be. I quickly ruled out Willet, but when I read the description of the Upland's Sandpiper, the narration described exactly what I had seen - a bird that stays in tall grass, often lands on a rock and stays upright. I then checked the markings on the head and beak. This must be an Upland's! Wrong again! It turned out to be a Pectoral Sandpiper which I never even considered.
More than three years into birding, and on one day I had three strikes - no Orange-crowned Warbler, no Brewer's Blackbird and no Upland's Sandpiper! Nevertheless, I had an exciting rush thinking, if only for a little while, that I had some really good birds for the day. I certainly was not anticipating a Palm Warbler, Rusty Blackbird nor a Pectoral Sandpiper. Studying these birds in a different territory has helped me even more to expand my knowledge of these species. I wonder if I will ID them the next time I see them.. or not!
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