Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ross's Gull Lights Up a Dreary Day on the Avalon

 It was around 2:30 yesterday when I got the first text: "Ross's Gull in Torbay. Go now. It won't stay." Text style by Alvan Buckley was reminiscent of the days of the telegram. Like any important telegram, it sent me scurrying out the door.
When I arrived in Torbay, I was the fourth car in line to see the Ross's. First shot shows the distance involved in trying to see this bird.

I was able to get one record shot from this distance, but was not really satisfied with that. Had to make a move to see the bird better.
 Here is a timeline of events as I experienced them. 11:00 a.m. - Ed Hayden found the bird on the beach in Torbay. In the early afternoon, he posted his find on the Discussion Group. While he wasn't sure of the ID, he described it so well that Bruce Mactavish, suspected it was a Ross's Gull. This set the birding world on fire!

 Alvan Buckley began sending messages, and birders began to gather at Torbay Beach. Thank goodness for the many who shared their scopes so we all could get a glimpse of the endangered, rare species.
 Around 3:30, Lancy Chang and Ed Hayden led the way to the path to the point shown in the first picture. Down we went.
 The route through the field wasn't bad; the tangle through the woods was a bit tricky; balancing on the wet rocks and seaweed amid the bitter NW winds was brutal....but worth it.
 Within five minutes, Ed caught sight of the Ross's Gull, and we could see its amazing color even without binoculars.
 Phenomenal! It put on quite a show for us. The PINK was almost red!
 I selected a series of photos to best show the field marks of this great little gull. I should add that no color or lighting has been adjusted on these shots, only a little sharpening.
How exciting! I am only waiting out the morning rush hour before I go out to see if there is anything else out there this morning. I just saw two birds that looked like shorebirds fly over my house in Airport Heights. They seemed too small to be European Golden Plovers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This and That

 How do you create a post suitable to follow on the heels of the two great birds reported this week? With difficulty. Perhaps this wonky little playhouse is a good place to start.
 The Saturday trip "down the shore," was exciting in many ways. Luckily, Margie M. and I were able to see the rarities very quickly. This gave us some time to continue to Biscay Bay to see what we may find there.
 I was hoping to see the Horned Grebe at Biscay Bay. However, identifying birds in the distance is not easy without a scope. We looked and looked. At last we spotted four birds we were sure were grebe, but the binoculars offered very little definition. Thanks to my trusty camera, I was able to identify at least two of them as Horned Grebe. That was a nice bonus for the day.
After enjoying the Long-tailed Ducks near shore, we decided to stroll down a trail to see if we might find any small birds. None were present yet, but the trail offered, potentially, great habitat for warblers, when the season is right.
 Walking back out of the trail, I noticed four birds flying overhead. They looked much like gulls in the distance, fog and light. Yet, they seemed a little different.
That prompted me to raise my camera and fire two shots. One was way under exposed, so I made one quick adjustment and was able to get only this shot to review. What? Pomarine Jaegers? I couldn't believe my eyes. Other than the mass of jaegers seen at Holyrood during a storm last year (thanks to Bruce M.), I had never seen any jaegers. What were they doing flying over land? They were, indeed, among the birds I least expected to see on that day. Birding is always and ever filled with surprises.

Monday, April 28, 2014

European Golden Plover

 What a bonus! On the way to Renews to see the vagrant Black-tailed Godwit, Margie M. and I had a brief chat with Jared Clark. He told us of the presence of a European Golden Plover just 100 feet away from the godwits.
 Wow! It had been four years since I had seen one. It was a b-line we made straight to Renews to try to catch a glimpse of the best European invasion I have seen since the Beatles.
 Spending ample time with the godwits, we headed up the hill and around the bend to find two birders with scopes trained on this lone European Golden Plover.
 There it was, large as life, looking very alert and busily feeding. Keeping a wary eye on the spectators, the bird seemed quite comfortable.
 This is the best look I have had of this species. Back in 2010 when several appeared off Cochrane Pond Rd. in Goulds, they were quite some distance away. This bird is really beautiful.
We watched for a while until it decided to fly off to higher ground. As it turned out this was one of 12 European Golden Plovers located on that day in Newfoundland. More were reported on the following day.  These two species may just be the beginning of other European vagrants lurking around, just waiting to be found. The local birding population is certainly doing due diligence in searching the nooks and crannies in the hopes of turning up others.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Stunning Pair of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

 For days now, birders of the Avalon Peninsula, NL have been tracking the winds. Excitement grew as the conditions continued to develop a positive flow from Europe to Newfoundland during migration.
 When a report came from the Dunne's in Renews that two Black-tailed Godwit were foraging in a small pool of water in the community, the alerts went out. The windfall had started.
 The two beautiful male Black-tailed Godwit in high breeding plumage sparked a flow of traffic down the Southern Shore highway.
 While the people of Renews slept comfortably in their beds on an early Saturday morning, the population of this small town nearly doubled as one-by-one birders began to arrive to see these rare European Vagrants.
 What a perfect place for them to land! They were seen; they were reported; and they were and still are being enjoyed by many.
 Sitting in the comfort of the car, it was easy to view these birds without disturbing them. One slept most of the time, and the other was feeding and quite active. One marched over and poked the other.
 As if to say, "Hey, what are you doing sleeping all the time?"
 "Wake up! Wake up! We have places to go!"
 "Now, let me see.... Which way do we go?"   Nowhere soon, I hope. It would be great to see them stick around awhile.

Just up the road from this location, a European Golden Plover was spotted. That set off a frenzy of searching everywhere to find more and to see what else may have dropped in. Exciting times.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Won't be long now...

 As I watch the calendar and scour the empty trees, I know it won't be long until there will be big and little songs beckoning me to find them.
 The spring arrivals will be back in full force my mid to late May. Until then, it is possible to find an early "arrivant" any time, any place.
 The birds pictured here are ordered as I first saw them last year. I think the first was the Wilson's Warbler seen on Power's Road. They are the most prevalent species in early spring in that area.
 Shortly thereafter, in come the others. Goulds is one of the best areas to see the variety of spring migrants. Nevertheless, Kent's Pond, Cuckhold's Cove, Long Pond, Mundy Pond and Kenny's Pond also yield small birds. I have found Kenny's Pond and Mundy Pond the best places to photograph Yellow Warblers. The brightest and best seem to show up in those two locations.
 The Black and White Warbler and Blackpoll seem to be a little shy when they first arrive. It is often that I hear them several days before I see them. Their call can often be heard low in the shrubs and tangles. That is because the B & W builds is small nest among the leaf litter while the Blackpoll builds its nests a little higher, but low in the trees.
 One of the biggest voices of the returning birds belongs to the Northern Waterthrush. This bird stays near the top one-third of the tree and sings its song, loud and long. It is often heard long before it is seen.
 Quieter and more unassuming is the American Redstart. They can be spotted most anywhere warblers gather, but the best location I have found to see this species is on a small side road off Power's Road in Goulds. It often takes a while to see them as they typically do not come out to greet visitors.
 Another loud and melodious song belongs to the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. In spring, I often hear these birds singing from the tops of the trees. Their song is surprisingly larger than the little bird. Rarely are they right on the roadway or open path. They tend to stay back from the road by about 20 yards. That makes it tricky to get a good picture of them.
 One of my favorites is the Magnolia Warbler who will likely return by the 3rd week of May and show up on Power's Road. There has been one early male return to the area for at least two years in a row. Their song is a total giveaway of their location. Later in the season last year, I came upon a small group of three or four Magnolia's in a different location on Power's Road. What a treat!
Also among my favorites is the Mourning Warbler. I have had the most luck locating this species on Cochrane Pond Road. A very secretive bird, it is imperative to be very quiet, not intrude on their space and hope they come to you in order to get a good look.

I should also mention I have seen the Black-throated Green Warbler (not pictured) in the general vicinity as the Mourning Warblers.

While it is possible, the birds will return to the same area year-over-year, there really is no guarantee. They can vanish from a typical nesting ground if they feel threatened and move to some unknown location where we may not be able to see them.

I am so looking forward to their return and to the lazy days of strolling through the woods to catch a glimpse of any one of them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Year-round Mourning Doves

 Since last Spring a growing flock of Mourning Doves has settled into a northern lifestyle in Goulds. By all accounts, they bred here and stayed throughout the winter. Maybe this is a new trend for this species.
 A single pair of Mourning Doves can have as many as six broods during a season. However, they typically breed in warmer climates than Newfoundland. Over the years, I have come across Mourning Dove eggs right out in the open. They don't seem to be too particular about where they lay them.
 In addition to the Goulds flock, I have seen Mourning Dove along the roadside in Flatrock, in Cape Broyle and Renews.
As the Mourning Dove is a game bird in other areas of North America, they will do well to stay here. It is interesting to note the variation in color that doesn't seem to have anything to do with season. The first two images in this series show two doves photographed in March. One has a distinct rosy color while the other is more tan.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lesser Black-backed Gull Over the Months

 Over the months, it has been hard to miss the Lesser Black-backed Gull hanging out at the west end of Quidi Vidi Lake.
 Any day, it is possible to watch this bird, and it is impossible to miss how its streaking has changed since October.
 These first three shots were taken just days ago (April 4). At this time, its head is streak-free, and he is looking very handsome for breeding. This shot shows him making a sound. His neck thickened right up as he uttered a glottal sound.
 Taken in March, there is still evidence of streaking, but it is clearly fading.
 This is another Lesser that has been at the Virginia River outflow. The legs on this one are much brighter, but the degree of streaking in March is about the same.
 In January our west end Lesser seemed to be at the peak of streaking.
 This shot, taken in October, also shows a lot of heavy streaking, and the back seems to be more pale. It is always hard to compare grays, however, as light has a big impact on how it presents itself.
And so, our clean Lesser Black-backed Gull will probably be leaving us soon to hopefully return again in the Fall.