Friday, December 8, 2017

Southern Shore Highlights

 The one that got away happened even before daybreak. In the dark a pale brown, medium-size bird flew across the road in front of me. My camera was in my bag from the day before, so I scrambled with my binoculars to try to get a look. Just as I was settling on the bird on the branch, some helpful moose hunters pulled up in between me and the bird to ask if I was alright. With mixed feelings of knowing there is someone looking out for me and a bird that got away, I told them I was fine. After they left, I pulled out my camera and shot in the direction I last saw the bird. Much to my surprise, I found a bird sitting on the branch in my one and only shot. Still don't know what it is!
 I made several stops on my way to Cape Race to see the Grasshopper Sparrow. It was around 9:45 when I arrived. Wow! What a difference a paved/semi-paved road made. Such an easy trip! When I arrived, Cliff knew right where the sparrow was. He flushed it out of the blind, and it flew into the field below. As I tramped through the dry, multi-coloured ground cover, I came to realize the bird was the same colour as the ground, and I was not going to find it. While looking, this grand Peregrine Falcon flew in so close over my head, I couldn't get a picture until it moved farther away. Well, I thought, that cinched it... the sparrow was not going to come out with that guy around. I moved on.
 I stopped again along the way. When leaving Trepassey after a quick look at the beach, I saw this bird sitting on a wire. Shooting back over my shoulder into the light and all of a sudden surrounded by cars, these were the best shots I got.
 Looking them over, I guess it is a House Sparrow. I didn't see any others around, but this one stuck pretty close to the starling moving about the area.
 On to St. Shott's... With Harlequin Duck on my mind, I was surprised to see the many Common Eider sitting in the glare just below the point. The light made it very difficult to pick out detail on the mass of birds, so I began shooting all across the flock in the hopes of catching a Harlequin Duck.
 After checking out the cabbage patch, I returned to the point to look again. It was at that time I caught sight of five Harlequin. I thought that was all there were. However, when I scanned my pictures I have one shot where there are six males. Best guess now is there were a total of eight Harlequin Ducks.
 On the drive out of St. Shott's, the light was perfect to reflect a bright white object sitting atop a mound. Had to pull over to have a look. Sure enough, it was a Snowy Owl. Nice.
Just to show how obscure this bird can be or not be, this is the shot of white gleaming in the distance. Always worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Snowy Owl at Cape Spear

 On Saturday morning before all of the traffic stirred, I headed to Cape Spear for a walkabout. My plan was to hike the trail until I saw a Snowy Owl, even if I had to go all the way to Petty Harbour.
 Well, I didn't have to go far at all. There on a rock below the old lighthouse sat my first Snowy Owl of the season. I watched it as it watched me.
 This bird was very skittish and alert. After finishing my walk into the path, I was not surprised to hear from other birders the bird had up and flown away.
 A wild thing like a Snowy Owl is not accustomed to posing for pics. If we are lucky enough to get another one or two at the Cape, it might be best to enjoy it from a distance. This bird still has lots of streaking.
 Working the puddle along the trail is the same White-rumped Sandpiper. This guy may stay around for a long time. To me, it was surprising it didn't leave with the other two sandpipers of last weekend.
Of course no morning of birding is complete without getting only a partial look and pic of a warbler. Another one gets away!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Not Always the Same

 One advantage of few birds being around is the willingness to take lingering looks at common birds. Conditions are not always ideal, but you take what you can get. At 8 a.m. the world was still dark in Newfoundland, overcast and complicated by thick fog. It really is a wonder you can see anything.
 When I neared the parking lot at Cape Spear  last Saturday, two shore birds flew up from the side of the road. The quick look I got clearly showed white rumps. That took the mystery out of the ID. The birds moved around a lot and crossed my path a few more times. Note the first picture above. The two birds in close proximity to each other show differently. One has longer legs than the other. That interested me, so I made a point of getting closer shots of each bird.
 The first individual is the taller one. Its wings also extend out further beyond the tail than the second individual. There is also variation in the coloring, but that is pretty common. Hmmm, I wondered if there were a difference in size of female and male. I never noticed it before.  Peterson indicates a size range from 7" to 8". That probably accounts for it.
 Thinking I was finished with White-rumped Sandpipers, I continued my walk toward the Cape Spear Path. I encountered about 15 Snow Buntings along the way. Nice distraction. Then, I saw movement on the trail in the distance. A closer look yielded this White-rumped Sandpiper.
 I am pretty sure this is the same individual I saw in the same spot nearly a month ago. This bird had become more accustomed to passersby. It seemed quite comfortable moving closer to me.
 Fog, darkness and distance add up to confusion. This was the case with this finch. Checking its beak, it certainly looks like a Pine Grosbeak, but as I look at the markings on the back and wings of this bird I see what is an atypical pattern. Can't think of any other species it could be.
 It was almost a relief to find a typical looking Orange-crowned Warbler hiding away along the trail. I was just about to leave when I caught sight of a grayish-looking bird fly down.
Sticking around for a while longer, I was able to get identifying looks at this bird. Fall birding requires a lot of walking and looking, often finding nothing. This time of the year also presents birds of a different feather and the potential for species that do not belong hear. The longer we get into the season, the stranger the list of appearing birds like the Black Vulture in Burgeo and the Yellow-breasted Bunting in Labrador. The wonder of nature!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Compton Tortoiseshell

 Confession: I don't know much about butterflies, but I know I enjoy looking and photographing them. I also know when I am seeing something I haven't seen before. This was the case when the Compton Tortoiseshell appeared in front of me on a trail off Blackhead Road. Oddly, it appeared around the same time as an Atlantis Fritillary which also showed up in the same area for the first time.
When seeing a new butterfly, it is often difficult to identify them. I have several books, but none is a complete reference of our local butterflies. The one very helpful resource is a local Google group set up for insect reports. Those who participate in this group are very helpful in sharing info about a species.  Visit:!forum/nfinsects

From there I learned this is a very common species in Ontario. As it turns out 2017 was an extremely good year for them. How did it get here, I wonder.....

Butterflies Photographed in NL - Quick Image Reference

 I created this summary page of images of butterflies I have photographed on the Avalon Peninsula, NL. When first learning the butterflies, I found it difficult to find any easily-accessible images for me to compare my photos. As a result, I created the page Butterflies of NL in this blog. However, if you don't know what you are looking for, it is necessary to open a lot of unnecessary pages during the search.
 To remedy that, I have provided a sample of each species I have seen here. Further detail of these species can be found by following the links on the Butterfly Page.

First two images: American Lady
I included two images of this species because it is so similar to the Painted Lady seen below. This species is more uncommon than the Painted Lady and is easy to overlook in the field due to the similarities.
 Atlantis Frtillary 

This butterfly is not often seen. The one place on the Avalon where it is most likely to appear is Chance Cove Provincial Park. However, I photographed this on off Blackhead Road near Cape Spear. It is the first one I have seen in this area.
 Bog Copper

A common, small butterfly found near bogs as its name implies.
 Cabbage White

Frequently seen around the Avalon. Not easy to photograph as it remains in constant motion, as do many of the species.
 Clouded Sulphur

Seen frequently in Goulds.
 Common Ringlet

This is another quite small butterfly. I have seen them regularly throughout the season.
 Compton Tortoiseshell

This butterfly was a surprise addition to my collection this year. It is the first I have seen. I could not find any other reported record of one in the province.
 European Skipper

Easy to see and easy to photograph. this species is seen all around. One good spot is on the grounds of Cape Spear.
 Green Comma

This is the most common angle wing found on the Avalon. I look closely when I see this butterfly as I am always on the lookout for a Question Mark or Gray Comma. So far, I have seen neither of these.
 Milbert's Tortoiseshell

I have seen this species frequently on the Avalon. Typically, find the flowers and find the butterflies.
 Monarch Butterfly

No common to the province, it is always exciting to see a Monarch. This cluster is part of a Monarch event that occurred in the province several years ago. The are more often seen on the southern Avalon.
 Mourning Cloak

This species seems to be more prevalent in Central NL than the Avalon, but they are easily seen later in the season.
 Northern Blue

I have only seen this species at Cape Spear.  Numerous species thrive in that area. It makes for a good day of photography.
 Painted Lady

As mentioned above, I have included two images of this species to show the clear difference between the similar species American Lady.

 Pink-edged Sulphur

The sulphur butterflies are a bit of a challenge to identify. The similarities are many.
 Red Admiral

Easily seen all around the Avalon.
 Short-tailed Swallowtail

I have not seen many of this species. This image was taken this year in Bay Bulls when I stopped to check for birds. It was laying eggs, so it might be a good place to check in the future.
 Spring Azure

This species is extremely plentiful. They are very small and very difficult to photograph with spread wings.
 Tiger Swallowtail

Always a garden favorite. Easily found across the Avalon.
White Admiral

This is one of the nicest butterflies. Frequently found around the Avalon.

Note: I have images of what I think might be an Orange Sulfur linked on the main Butterflies Page. However, I must say I am not sure of the ID on that one.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Flycatcher Conundrum

 What is this bird? That is the question that has kept NL birders busy observing, photographing, recording and reading. Regardless of all of the effort, the mystery remains: We have an unidentified flycatcher in St. John's, NL.
 Well, I should say we "had" because the last time this bird was seen was on November 11. By all accounts any flycatcher seen in late fall is a great find. There was, in fact, another flycatcher reported at Cape Spear, some 15 km away from this one at about the same time this bird was first reported by Lancy Chang.
 This flycatcher is not very talkative. I spent nearly an hour observing it on the 10th, not to get these pictures but to try to record its call. That proved to be a very difficult task.
 Our bird took a liking to an area of willows overhanging a rushing Virginia River where Brown Trout were flipping around during spawning. The wind was roaring through the area as well as landing aircraft.
 What the pictures do reveal is that it didn't have its mouth open very much. It just sat looking at all of the birders and scouting out its surroundings.
 Will the pictures and the sad recordings be enough to identify this errant bird or will it go down in the annals as a forever mystery?
 Yesterday, while others watched the legion location, another birder and I walked many other possible nearby locations in an effort to relocate this bird. That did not happen.
 My personal observation, even though I have never seen a flycatcher at this time of the year, is this bird seems really dark. Other than that, I will await the final determination by those in the know.
 It is not possible to become bored while waiting for the flycatcher. This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher provides lots of entertainment. It is constantly in motion, curious and confiding.
 This little vagrant found by Bruce MacTavish has been around for quite a while now. It moves around but, so far, has stuck to the Virginia River Trail.
 In previous years, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers that appear this late in the year, tend to stay. Perhaps they stay too long.
Yesterday this Orange-crowned Warbler joined the group by the river. Who know what will show up next. It is interesting the birds have gathered here rather than Kelly's Brook which has a similar habitat. The Brook has been empty for two days now. I also noticed yesterday the water is very low there now.

So... we still don't know what species the flycatcher is, but the effort continues. When a final determination comes in, I will update this entry.