Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fast and Furious Five Days

 It all started on Friday when I made a jaunt to Renews for a day of relaxation and walking. My first stop that morning was Bear Cove Point Road.
 By the time I got there I was still queasy from a very close encounter I had with a large moose standing right in the middle of the road in Middle Pond. It was shrouded in darkness until the last moment when I was nearly on it. Thank goodness for the shoulder of the road. Hitting the gravel hard, I dodged a near hit.
 It was a relief to get out of the car and walk. The trip in toward the lighthouse didn't yield much, but I took more time on the way out and was able to enjoy a good flock of warblers, thrushes, and robins.
 Of the birds I saw in this bunch, this very dull Yellow Warbler stumped me. With a consultation, I learned what it is.
 In fact, every partial, distant or blurry image has been filtered by someone who is better able to puzzle the images into an identification.
 The most challenging birds seen on Point Rd. that morning were these two distant birds. I birded around the lighthouse and came up with very little. I then drove to the top of the hill to look around. When I got out, I looked back down toward the lighthouse and what should I see but birds that were not there just seconds ago. The distant bird on the wire basking in the glow of the rising red sun turned out to be a Bobolink. I couldn't tell at the time.
 Further out in the woods was this bird with a large beak. At the time I pretty much gave up on it.
 Closer looks at the sad images reveal it was not a Pine Grosbeak but a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
 It was several days after the sighting I remembered the bird and asked for help. Hence the absence of reporting.
 The last troublesome bird of the day was this fly-by seen on the road past Renews. I still do not know what this was.
 Birding with an old friend on Saturday offered up some more challenges. A little flurry of activity at the top of Warbler Alley off Blackhead Road offered up this Orange-crowned Warbler, a Philadelphia Vireo and a few common Warblers.
 Heading down the trail we encountered this bird calling loudly. It was below us on a bright and glorious morning. The only problem with that is the sun created this difficult image to identify. After one second on the wire, it was gone. Consultation suggested it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler.
 A little further down the difficult trail we encountered a much larger, brown bird. We both noted the stout beak and with great difficulty, I managed to get a few photos through thirty feet of branches and leaves.
 The bird would not come close or stay still.
 Closer examination of the bird by someone who knows birds very well identified this one as a Brown-headed Cowbird. I would never have thought of that species. The only ones I have ever seen before have not been deep in the woods.
 This bird also seen at the top of the alley is probably a thrush. No confirmation of the species on this wire.
 Eager to see the Chestnut-sided Warbler more closely, I headed out to Blackhead Road again early the next morning. Upon arriving at the bus shelter, I found this bird with a large beak sitting in a distant tree in the dark.
 With cropping and lightening up the image, I wondered if this might be the cowbird. I sent the pic off again.
 Determination: It is possible, but it is also possible it is another Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
 This bird remains unidentified. Hunting for rarities is like that. You win some and you lose some, but the hunt is always exciting and fun.
 I have seen birds and watched the beautiful sunrise for five days straight. The calm winds have made it much easier to spot birds moving around.
 Heading back to Warbler Alley to look for the Chestnut-sided Warbler, I was lucky. I had a good look at it for about a minute as it worked its way up a tree.
 However, that wasn't all I saw. There was this yellow bird, a warbler. It was actually too close to me for the camera to focus.
 I am convinced this bird was not a Yellow Warbler. There is another much more exciting possibility, but my shots are so poor this bird remains unidentified. Drat!
 The next morning, Monday, I headed back to try to find the jewel above. No luck. But in the bus shelter trail, I came across one bird only. It would not cooperate.
 I got a quick look at it as it flew across the trail and hid behind some leaves. From this bad shot (lots of bad pics over these days), I can see it has some white on its belly. At the time, I thought Nashville Warbler. A little more of the bird can be seen above. That is it! The bird worked its way into the foliage not to be seen again by me. Another birder came in after me and got a pic of the back of a yellow bird. I have been eagerly waiting for him to post his sighting to see if it is the same bird. Another good bird lost!
 Hoping to relocate this lost bird, I returned to the same area early Tuesday morning. It was another beautiful day dawning as a flock of seven Canada Geese flew in low over my head. Wow! Is it any wonder I enjoy the early morning hours so much. While in the pit, I saw five birds: One kinglet, two Yellow-rumped Warblers and two unidentified birds that disappeared quickly. Oh well, there was no nicer place to be with a little flurry of activity and amazing birding conditions.
 On the walk out I stopped to chat with another birder. This Oriole flew in and landed on a distant tree. Primed to look for rarities now, I thought this oriole looked a little large. I checked old images I have of the Baltimore Oriole and found some present with a very long tail and others seem to have a shorter tail.
 Hmmm. I have to settle for a Baltimore Oriole. It is always nice to see them. I checked several more spots along the road and found just enough activity with Yellow-rumped Warblers to convince me it was worth a walk through Cape Spear Path.
 As I walked the trail, I saw a flash of white on a bird that disappeared into the low growth. It vanished. I decided to walk in and look for it on the way out. Along the trail and at the end I found seven Yellow-rumped Warblers and one Common Yellow-throat.
As I slowly walked out, I kept an eye on the low alders hoping the see the missed bird with white. I saw a little movement in the alders and raised my camera. Through the lens I was surprised to see yellow! Wow! These were the only two shots I got before the bird lifted off and flew directly over me to the other side of the trail. It is the combination of what I saw and these pictures that I made the ID of a Hooded Warbler,.

This morning I sit at home trying to convince myself to stay here. The higher winds out there will make it harder to see birds and after all, life requires some attending. Nevertheless, there are good birds out there hiding away. They are getting harder to find day by day as more and more birds leave us.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Special Butterfly Sightings of 2017

 Birding is what gets me out walking in the mornings, but I always stop and enjoy the butterflies along the way. I am now familiar enough with the common butterflies to quickly recognize something out of the ordinary.
 It was this Atlantis Flitillary that stopped me in my tracks. I pursued the butterfly doggedly until it landed long enough to get some photos.
 It was August 5 on the bus shelter trail when I saw it. The only other one I have seen was in late Summer at Chance Cove Provincial Park. I think that is an area where this species frequents, not in St. John's which is what makes this butterfly special.
 Unlike the only other one I saw, this Flitillary was in good condition.

 It was a couple of weeks later in August I came upon this Comma-like butterfly in the same area. I had no idea what it was but was pretty sure I had never seen one before.
 Once again, I stayed with it until it landed. Both butterflies gave me a real chase. Once I snapped the pics I knew this was a new butterfly for me.
With the help of Alvan Buckley and Rick Cavasin of the insect discussion group:!forum/nfinsects

 I quickly had answers. This is a Compton Tortoiseshell. I have searched around the internet quite a bit, but could not find any other sightings of this butterfly reported in our province.
Then, there were these caterpillars. Yikes! Drawing from my own frame of reference, when I first saw these distant, strange-colored creatures wrapped around a branch I stopped dead in my tracks.
Honestly, they looked like one small snake. I quickly got a closer look through my binoculars and realized I was safe. There were about 20 caterpillars swarming the tree's branch.
Again, with the help of the discussion group, I have learned these are most likely Mourning Cloak butterflies. Let me assure you, they are much more appealing when they are butterflies.

Note: I will be updating my page dedicated to Butterflies of Newfoundland very soon. I will also create a page to include pics and names of all the butterflies I have seen to make it easier. As the page stands now, one would have to either know the name of the butterfly or go into multiple pages to search for it. I will fix that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Population Burst

 In early July it is common to see the small birds with loads of food in their mouths. These bugs/insects are gathered for delivery to the newborns anxiously waiting in the nests.
 Adult birds become extremely excited at this time of the year. They have work to do to protect and raise their young. After all, that is the main reason they return to Newfoundland each year.
 Spotted Sandpipers are a mainstay at water's edges, mostly fresh water or brackish. They, too, are there to raise a family.
 When one is seen putting on a distracting show, there is sure to be young nearby.
 With a little extra looking, the little one showed up. How tiny and sweet it was! This is the little "spotlet" seen in Cape Broyle on Canada Day where a bonfire and fireworks show was planned for the night. I wondered how this little guy made out.

The young have grown up now, and amazingly many have left already.  Hope this one survived to make the journey.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rainy Days and Pictures

 With the amazing warm and sunny days of this summer, I swapped out routine maintenance and chores with seizing the day. Who knows when we will see a grand summer like this one again?
 Now, with the onslaught of four back-to-back days of steady rainfall, I am catching up on a lot of things. One of my daily activities has been spending a couple of hours deleting a lot of blurry pictures.
 However, not all of my shots are discards. Some serve to remind me of the few times I got out to bird over the last month. My daughter calls my pictures "loot." She is right. These photos provide for me another layer of enjoyment and the opportunity to revisit my few days spent quietly in the woods.
 I have selected a series of photos to share that depict the variety of species and plumage on the birds of summer and early fall. Some shots show the more playful side of our little woodland birds.
 Although common, it is not everyday I get to see an American Redstart. Maybe it is because of this that I like this little bird so much, or perhaps it is because of the soft colors of the female and the bold, vibrant colors of the male.
 Whatever it is, I am pretty happy when I find one. This little female was seen near Fermeuse. As you can see, I was birding in scattered showers.
 The Wilson's Warbler like other species is becoming more scarce. Since last year's visit of the Hooded Warbler in the St. John's area, I find myself looking more closely at the Wilson's to make sure it is not a Hooded Warbler hiding away in a common flock.
 The Magnolia Warbler like the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher have been more plentiful this year. I am sure I have seen more than two dozen Magnolia Warblers this year, and right now is the time they are everywhere. They also appear in good mixed flocks where a more rare species may be found.
 Not to be out done, the Common Yellowthroat is also present in large numbers at this time of the year. Their look ranges from bright to very dull plumage.
 The confounding Blackpoll Warbler seems to present with the most variation in plumage. With moulting males and females and juveniles, it is very easy to misidentify this warbler. These two shots show one such bird in heavy moult.

 Juvenile birds abound. They are everywhere fattening up and building up their flying power for a journey ahead. Find the berries and you are likely to find a Cedar Waxwing or a Pine Grosbeak.
 When Pine Grosbeak aren't munching on weed seeds or berries, they can often be found sitting at the top of a tree singing away.
 The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is flocking with the warblers. Getting them to stay still long enough to get a photo is always a challenge.
 Among the common birds gathering now are also some uncommon species. This Cape May Warbler has been seen recently in Cappahayden.
 This type of encounter is the big lure for birders at this time of the year. Birding is kind of like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. No matter what you find, the indulgence of birding is usually rewarding.
One of the prizes found in sorting my photos is the Gray-cheeked Thrush. This one was seen on the roadside before Fermeuse in early August. It is not typical to see one in this area, so I hadn't realized what it was until this weekend.
 This bird has the grayest cheek I have ever seen on this species. It lives up to its name. Also note the near absence of an eye ring.
 Saying goodbye to our little birds is not easy. For a while everywhere you looked you could see or hear a Northern Waterthrush. Not any more. Most of them seem to be gone for about a week now.
The Wilson's Warblers are also going quickly, and the ones that remain behind have become very secretive. I have spent a lot of time chasing unknown yellow birds in the thicket only to finally realize it is just a Wilson's.
When the rain passes, I shall leap into my car and hope to find some remaining birds trapped by the cloud cover. Hopefully, this spell of bad weather has grounded their flights.