Saturday, November 22, 2014

Birds of No Color

Joe Hiscock of Burgeo, Newfoundland recently sent me this video of a white sparrow in his yard. I have looked at the clip several times and can not tell what kind of sparrow it is. With his permission, I post it here in the hopes someone can provide some info about this bird.

 Yesterday, I had a visit from a washed-out (leucistic) American Goldfinch.
 Where there is supposed to be black, it is white. It's overall body is much paler than usual, as well. Underneath, the bird appeared very white.
 In recent months, there have been several reports of birds without normal color pigment. I tried to locate all of the posts on the Discussion Group, but couldn't narrow in on the posts.
From memory, I know Shawn Fitzpatrick reported a leucistic Black-capped Chickadee and Alison Mews had a leucistic junco at her feeder. I seem to remember a seabird also reported at Cape Race and another possible one in Glovertown. Add to this the above sparrow and this goldfinch, there seems to be more of these birds showing up. That begs the question: "Why?"

Friday, November 21, 2014

Post #1000: Gulls of Newfoundland

 Today's post marks a major milestone of being the one thousandth post on this blog since April 2010. Putting that in perspective, that is an average of 22.2 posts per each of the 45 months since this blog originated.
These posts host about 10,000 photos, many words and represent hours and hours of birding, photography, processing photos and more. Perhaps I have said all that can be said by a novice birder learning about birds the Avalon Peninsula over an extended period of time.
 For today, I chose to showcase the gulls of Newfoundland, given our gull season is well underway. Of course, not all gulls shown here were seen during the winter, but many were. (For more info about when some of our rarities were reported, run a query in the "search box" above.)
We have already had several sightings of Yellow-legged Gulls this year. Will this be the year a Slaty-backed Gull returns to Quidi Vidi Lake? I recently saw where one was reported just west of us.
 In the order of appearance, the gulls included in this post are:

Common Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull
Ivory Gull
Laughing Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
 Little Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Ross's Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Black-headed Gull
Black-tailed Gull
Bonaparte's Gull.
 I have shots of what was pointed out to me as a Glaucous Gull and will add the shot later. It is the Thayer's Gull, not the Glaucous Gull that is the bird debated. Some say they have never been here and there are those who disagree.
 With so many species of gulls frequenting St. John's, it is no wonder winter-birding tourists also flock to the area of Quidi Vidi to enjoy the show.
 While the nesting sites of Elliston, Cape St. Mary's, and Witless Bay garner a lot of splash on the province's tourism promos, there are still many aspects of birding in this province that remain low profile. Gull birding is one of those.
 However, keen birders educate themselves about what is happening here through the many avenues of informal communications put on by the birders of this province.
 There is an extremely high interest in birds in Newfoundland beyond Canadian borders. Thousands of birders from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, China, U.K., Turkey and India have visited my blog since its inception.
 To me, that is remarkable, and I am very happy to have been able to share my NL birding experiences with such a wide audience.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bonaparte's Gull at Quidi Vidi Lake

 In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to get a really good look at a Bonaparte's Gull.
Pier 17 is the usual "haunt" of the Black-headed Gulls and the periodic visiting Bonaparte's Gull. Since the security fence went up around the pier a couple of years back, viewing them can be tricky.
 For some reason, a Bonaparte's Gull and a small flock of Black-headed Gulls have taken a liking to Quidi Vidi Lake. Maybe it is the temporary fence erected around "The Rower" that provides the extra safety they seek.
 While Bonaparte's have been seen at this lake before, it is not an everyday occurrence.  So taking advantage of this turn of events, I spent some time at the lake on the last warm/no-wind day we had.
 I was able to really study this small gull and note how different it is from the Black-headed Gulls.
 Having said that, I must say how much I also enjoyed the Black-headed Gulls, both immature and mature.
These birds are very active and are staying close to shore. While the light of the day was dull, these photos suffice to show just how engaging they really are.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

King of Rennie's River Trail

 About two weeks ago when the temps were mild, the winds were low, the river was raging from a recent deluge and the tree's were dressed in their fall color, I went for a stroll along the Rennie's River trail.
While nature was at its wildest and at its calmest, I found scant birds. Only one Black-capped Chickadee stepped up to greet me.
 The rushing waters had jammed a tethered boat up against a rock, and the waters roared as they rushed to Quidi Vidi Lake.

 Moving away from the noise of the river was a welcome break from the deafening noise.
 The palette of colors from the different deciduous trees provided moving scenery as I meandered back to my car. Without a puff of wind, the colorful leaves draped naturally from each and every tree, each one catching the sun in its own delightful way.
I was glad to have this last look before the onslaught of the crazy-high winds that followed over the next few days. Now, it is a double whammy! No birds and no leaves..., just colder temperatures and steady, gusting winds! Time to buy a book!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cattle Egret: A Curiosity

 While the struggle to identify which species of Meadowlark has landed in our midst continues, I will share my observations of the Cattle Egret in Bay Bulls.
 Upon Chris Ryan's report of a Cattle Egret at a farm in Bay Bulls, I decided to go straight away to see it.
 When I arrived, I found the Cattle Egret exactly where it was reported. It was practically hugging the wall of a building on the fenced-in property.
 I'm sure this egret has seen many varieties of livestock, but it is not likely the sheep, cows or horses of Newfoundland have seen even one Cattle Egret.
 It appeared to be a real curiosity to these sheep, and it seemed they really didn't want to share their space with this small, white creature.
 They watched it from afar, and they moved in closer to get a better look..
 The egret didn't seem to like all of the attention and moved several times in an effort to get away.
 Persistently, the sheep pursued it.
 It was quite interesting to watch as one-by-one the sheep tried to figure out what this two-legged creature was.
 It became a game as they would flush it, it would circle and return to the grounds.
 The egret was really white and really healthy. There were no signs of wear or tear on it after its long journey that brought it to us.
 When the bird returned to the field after one flush, it seemed to appeal to this docile sheep for help. Getting nowhere and receiving yet-another nudge, it lifted off.
 This time, it went high, circled around a time or two and then apparently decided it needed to move on.
Flying south, it headed back up to the larger farm where it was later seen by several other birders later in the day. What a thrill it was to watch all of this unfold. The wonder of bird watching never grows old.