Thursday, January 24, 2019

White-winged Crossbills

 I headed to Cape Spear early this morning in the hopes of scanning eider. They were not there, but I was. I decided to make the most of it and walk around. There were several Snow Buntings and this sturdy Ipswich continues to survive on of the harshest environments. It looks happy and never seems to be alone.
 Having seen basically nothing on the water and facing the newly falling snow, I decided to head out. Despite the snow, I detoured through Blackhead. On first look it was very quiet.
 It was at the bus turnaround where I flushed a large flock of White-winged Crossbills. There were at least 100, maybe more. These two shots were caught after many had already flown by.
 When I turned around, they began landing in the trees. So many and so bright...
This is one of the few places around where there are cones. After this invasion, rest assured, there won't be one cone left.

There is always something new to see: A new bird, a different bird behaviour or just numbers. This is the largest flock of this species I have every seen. Nice.

Red-tailed Hawk at Signal Hill

 Needing a break mid-day yesterday, I headed to Signal Hill to see if I could catch a glimpse of the lingering Red-tailed Hawk. This rare visitor has been around for more than a month delighting many birders.
 I forced myself to get out of the protection of the car and face the ice and wind in my effort to see this bird. I pulled myself up the icy trail by holding onto the barrier wall. At the top of the hill, the wind was even more daunting. Encountering another birder there, I was distracted enough to ignore the wind for a few minutes, long enough to scan the open area for the hawk. There were no good views of what seemed to be the distant bird flying below the battery.
 I headed down the hill back toward my car. There, hovering near the parking lot, was this great bird.
 With ice under my feet and the power of the wind at play, I braced against the retaining walk to prevent a "great slide."
 The Red-tailed Hawk put on a spectacular show of hovering, hunting and even provided a fly-by. This was much more than I was hoping for.... a true delight!
Now, morning dawns. How do I beat that today? Who knows? What I do know is you have to look, or you are guaranteed to see nothing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Gulling" Quidi Vidi Lake

 QV Lake has a long history as a catchment for rare gulls. Gull enthusiast hang around the area as they battle the harsh elements of winter. An annual workshop is held lake side to orient new gull watchers to the variety of gulls that flock there.
 Each year, with anticipation, binoculars scan the thousands the gulls sitting on the ice. Without fail, just as an interesting one is spotted, along comes an eagle, a Peregrine Falcon, a Northern Goshawk or this year... a Red-tailed Hawk fly in and flush the thousands into the air. The hope of relocating a target bird diminishes. The bird-of-fame this year, so far, is this Slaty-backed Gull.
 For many birders, seeing this bird is a first-time experience. For other, long-term birders the joy of seeing this great gull never fades.
 While waiting for the target bird to show up, I spent several hours scanning the many, many gulls.
 They come in all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. Around the lake yesterday, I saw at five Lesser Back-backed Gulls. Not one was like the other.
 This particular one would frequently come close, strutting and posing for the camera.
 It is in a very interesting state of transition.
 Others were more typical looking. Common among most of them is the distinct gray mantle, a cross between a Herring gray and a Black-backed Gulls dark black mantle.
 It is this gray color, that caused my eyes to lock on them at every turn.

 Then, there is this immature, 2nd cycle (thanks Dave Brown) Lesser Black-backed Gull.
 It stood out because of its small size.
 Then, hidden away was this interesting small, dark-backed gull.
 The mantle was not totally black. Given the clean head, dark gray mantle and small size, I looked it over closely with the hope it just might be something "special."
 Pictures helped to get an ID on the bird which was confirmed to be a small Great Black-backed Gull.
 For some, sitting for hours staring at a moving puzzle of gulls would be just too much. For others, it is never boring and could go on all day.
 As I scanned I watched this Herring Gull begin to bully another. Without provocation, it just went right up to a resting gull and grabbed its wing. It pulled the bird across the ice.
The poor victim got up several times and tried to pull away with no avail. It would sit again, only to be pulled over the ice.
At last, it gave its best effort and managed to pull away. It wasted no time getting away from the bully. There is a bevy of gulls and a full-time show of gull behaviour. It really never gets old.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fine Grey Day

 Grey as it was, there was little wind which made the trip to Renews with Ethel D. a fine opportunity to enjoy some of the birds recently found down the southern shore. Top of the list was this Eastern Towhee that has been hanging around just off the main drag in Renews.
With luck on our side, the bird was present when we arrived. While we had good looks at the bird, it was not easy to photograph it. It stayed safely nestled in behind a batch of twigs in a low shrub.
 It flew around to a couple of different locations while we were there, but I was unable to catch it in the open. Such a thrill to see this bird I have missed for several years.

 Just up the road at Renews Beach, this little Dovekie was being pushed into shore by the steady waves. Being as small as it is, it was tossed about like a leaf.
 Little by little it came in closer and closer.
 Then, one good-sized wave lifted the Dovekie and tossed it on shore. It floundered about a bit, in a futile effort to get back in the water.
 Soon, it calmed down and let nature takes its course. While waiting for the next wave to wash over it and take it away, I was able to have some great eye-to-eye views of this tiny little bird.
 When a rare opportunity like this arises, it is best to just take it all in and enjoy.
 Also in Renews, a small flock of Common Redpolls put in a brief showing at Clara's famous feeder. Only one species among many there.
 It was Calvert where we revisited a Bufflehead found during the Christmas Bird Count.
Stopping at several locations along the way, we saw numerous Mergansers, Loons and Dovekies. When we came upon this last bird at Cape Broyle, I mistook it for a Dovekie at the time. However, with closer scrutiny of this one picture, I now believe it to be a Common Murre. You just never know was a grey ole day might bring:)