Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fire and Ice

 From my window this morning the world was glazed, and the sun shimmered off the ice-laded branches. It was too lovely to stay home, so I headed out to take pictures. Much to my surprise, there was very little ice south of Newfoundland Drive.
 Never fear, there is always something to see at Quidi Vidi Lake. Lots of seagulls sat on the ice there, regularly launching themselves into the air and settling back down again. There had to be something spooking them. I couldn't see anything in the air, so I scoured the ice and the trees. There it was a huge, healthy juvenile Bald Eagle sitting in the Peregrine's tree.
 I wonder if this could be one of the young eagles raised in the nest along Cuckhold's Cove trail.  If so, it would likely be from summer before last given the markings of this bird. It can take a Bald Eagle about five years to reach its full adult plumage with many variations in between.
 While there is great fire in the eagle eyes, it is the hooked beak that is really the most frightening feature of the Bald Eagle's face.
 The powerful, pointed, hooked beak is capable of ripping into meals of all sizes. However, our eagles of QV have grown a bit lazy as they mostly just sit around and wait for a seagull to expire. Then, a group of eagles sweep in and fight over most every morsel.
 There is a pretty good sized tongue in the Bald Eagle's mouth. I wonder if they have taste buds. Do they have food preferences because of flavour or is their preferred menu just related to ease to catch?
 In search of the silver thaw, I headed to Cape Spear. By the time I reached Shea Heights, it was everywhere. It was hard to not stop the car every few feet, but out of respect for the others who were making the same drive for the same purpose, I kept rolling along....enjoying every sparkling  tree.
 The spectacle of ice has lasted the whole day and into another night. That is unusual as it typically melts away by mid-day.
More freezing rain is forecast for tonight, so tomorrow is likely to be a repeat of today's luster. Charge your batteries.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wigeons of Power's Pond

 On my first visit to Power's Pond in Mount Pearl, I encountered the brightest and best wigeons I have ever seen. These birds showed remarkable color and approach-ability.
 There didn't seem to be as many wigeons in St. John's this year. Perhaps, it was because they found a great home in Mount Pearl.
 Resident walkers regularly feed the ducks and geese in this little pond, and it must be just the right mix. I say that because I have never seen such vibrant color on any wigeons before.
 The morning sun helped to showcase their beauty.
 Now that the area is frozen, it is unclear where these ducks have gone. A walker told me the town relocates the geese to another area when the small pond freezes.
For a while, wigeons were seen at Kent's Pond in the small opening of water. I really don't know if they might still be there. I should check that out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quidi Vidi Stuff

 I don't always see a new bird when I make routine stops at "giving" locations, but I often see irregularities. When I pulled off on the side of the road at Quidi Vidi Lake, I spotted a small gull with a lot of color on its forehead. I had to get out to check it out.  It turned out to be a pink-bellied Black-headed Gull with what might be a bit of oil on its head. The feathers appear to be somewhat matted.
 Nearby, I found a Black-headed gull that is further along than most in the transition to Spring plumage. Looking over all of the small gulls, it is really remarkable how varied the head markings are.
While enjoying the sights at the lake, the calm was shattered by this bully Iceland Gull who for no reason at all jumped up and grabbed the wing of a Black-headed Gull. He hung on to the little bird for about 30 seconds before it freed itself. What was that all about?
At the Virginia River outlet, I was surprised to find FIVE Song Sparrows picking at the seed in the parking lot. Two immature Bald Eagles were at the far side of the lake working on a late breakfast, and the usual flurry of gulls and ducks were bathing in the small swatch of open water. Nope, no rarities were present, but plenty of enjoyment was derived from watching and experiences the little, unexpected surprises unfolding before me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pipers Galore!

 With a little help of this juvenile Bald Eagle, I was able to see just how many Purple Sandpipers there really are at Cape Spear. Driving them out of the crevices, this eagle dislodged three separate flocks that joined to create one huge flock.
 In one of my photos I counted 96 individual, and there were still a few stragglers not photographed.
 It is always a sight to behold as they weave along the edge of the rocks, eventually coming in for a landing. These birds were first seen below the main lookout and below the canon. It is very hard to count them on the rocks, because of the many hiding places and constant movement.
 Flight shots always give a better count.
 It is also quite easy to pick out the odd ones. In this case, a Sanderling has joined the group. I looked the photos over closely and saw no other different species. If you haven't been to Cape Spear to see this natural show, it is worth standing in the freezing temps and high winds to experience it first hand.
While at the Cape for about an hour and a half, this lone duck flew by. I watched it come in from the distance and was able to get a few shots as it drew nearer. It turned out to be yet another female King Eider. In both cases when I have seen Kings over the last month, the female King was alone. It worth keeping a close eye out for any and everything flying and for single birds sitting in the distance..

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Female Red-winged Blackbird

 In Arkansas, Red-winged Blackbirds are as plentiful as ants at a picnic. There is such a big difference between the male and female of this species it is easy to miss the ID of the female.
 I first encountered a female Red-winged Blackbird while walking along the edge of a Cyprus swamp. Torn between scouring the ground for snakes and looking at the bird, I chose the bird. It flew right in and landed at eye level in front of me. Back in 2010, I had no idea what it was. I know I would do better now.
 This great blackbird showed up in Goulds and was first reported by Ian Winter on January 9.
Since then, the bird has been staying in the area as feed has been in regular supply.
 In good light it is easy to see the numerous variations of rich color on this bird.
 Someone placed seed on the top of this post creating a great viewing station.
For nearly 20 minutes, I watched as it picked at the seed. At this particular time, there were only three juncos around. That could likely be attributed to the hawk I saw being chased off by the crows as I drove up. Glad the Red-winged Blackbird was no sissy and stuck around to finish breakfast.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bonaparte's Gull Blows In

 While standing along the west end of Q.V. Lake having a chat with Dave Hawkings, in blew this Bonaparte's Gull.
 It made quite a splash. For at least five minutes it washed itself from head to toe. Had it just come from the salt water wishing a fresh bath? Who knows?
 It was, indeed, a spectacle as it put on a big, wet show. It was hard to take your eyes off of it.
 This species of gull is known breed in Alaska and west and central Canada. During the winter it should be anywhere in the northern U.S. to Mexico or Cuba. Yet, year over year, a Bonaparte's Gull or two show up in St. John's, Newfoundland.
 It is a welcome visitor!

 Once clean, this gull flapped its wings a bit, seemed to try to dry them and then lifted off to go to the ice.

 This bird doesn't need much running space to get airborne. One hop, and it was up.
 On the ice it continued to spruce up before moving in with the flock of Black-headed Gulls.
I included this shot because it illustrates a couple of good comparison field marks to help new birders to identify it in the flock. Often times, the most distinct feature (the black bill) is tucked in when it is resting. Nonetheless, it is still possible to ID this bird without seeing the bill. The Bonaparte's is 1" to 2" smaller than the Black-headed Gull. In the center of the shot is the Bonaparte's. To its left is a Black-headed Gull on the small side, and to its right is a larger Black-headed Gull.

Note the shorter legs on the Bonaparte's Gull and the lighter leg color. Pick out the smallest bird in the flock and look it over closely. It may be the Bonaparte's.