Sunday, 20 April 2014

Good Birds = Good Times

On Friday I joined local birders Peter Shelton, Edmund Hayden, and Lancy Cheng to do the southern shore loop. The day got continuously better with plenty of new year birds (and life birds for some of us!) and lots of new migrants.

One of our targets were 2 Blue-winged Teal found by Bruce Mactavish and co last weekend. I didn't think they'd stick around for a whole week - but apparently they did!
They were surprisingly tame allowing us to study their plumage in detail:

While watching the ducks I noticed a small cormorant swimming around about 30m offshore. It was the first Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO) for the season! Although I've seen hundreds of thousands of DCCOs, it was nice to see my first one for the year.

Our next stop was at Point La Haye where we picked up some lifers for Peter:

It's always exciting birding with people who have a higher chance of seeing a lifer! It's an extra motivation to scan the surroundings more thoroughly and work harder to find target species.

At St. Shott's we had our only Snow Bunting for the day - I was expecting to see a lot more during the day but I suppose they've spread out now that most of the snow has melted?

We also had what I believe is a hybrid Glaucous X Great Black-backed Gull:

In the afternoon we found our first Greater Yellowlegs for the year in Portugal Cove South:

And in Renews there were a couple more:
Hearing these guys give their obnoxious calls for the first time in the year was nostalgic, and bitter sweet knowing that I'll be sick of it within a few weeks!

The biggest surprise of the day was this American Bittern - a very early record for Newfoundland, but not the earliest ever! It was in a roadside ditch just North of Renews:

I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to watch a bittern hunt before. This guy was successful in catching 2 small fish during the short time that we watched it:

On Saturday I joined a non-birding friend for a hike near Point Lance. During the ride down we saw a lynx cross the road, and then stop to watch us for 30 seconds! It was my first lynx I've seen in Newfoundland and by far the best look I've ever gotten... Unfortunately my camera was in the trunk at the time so I have no evidence of its existence :(

On our way home we came across this Red Crossbill:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Get your game face on

This just in, from St. Pierre:

It's a White-eyed Vireo!! Seen yesterday... :S

The real excitement though is Fridays winds! It's a perfect long-reaching wind straight from SE USA to Newfoundland, the winds even bypass Nova Scotia and St. Pierre at night and essentially point straight to the Southern Avalon!!

Speculation at best, but I would be surprised if an egret at minimum isn't found this weekend. At the very least we can expect more Fox Sparrows, Ring-billed Gulls, Robins, the first Harriers?, Barn Swallow is also possible! Lots of potential here...

Noon on Friday:

Friday at sunset:

Saturday at sunrise:

Click on the pictures so you can actually see them ;)

Expect to hear these guys everywhere in the woods this weekend... finally!

Don't expect this, but be ready to recognize it!!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spring is Trickling in

Lancy and I did part of the southern shore this morning before the rain came in. It was my first time down there since January 25th! I imagine I'll be down there much more regularly over the next few months.

The first sign of spring that we came across was the Great Blue Heron in Renews - apparently there are two of them there now... We only saw one, but we made sure to check for red thighs to rule out Gray Heron, which wouldn't be totally mind-boggling considering that Common Shelduck earlier this week...

Next up was a small flock of Horned Larks mixed in with Snow Buntings. This male Horned Lark appears to be of the expected alpestris subspecies. A member of the "Eastern Dark Group". The species has only 1 complete molt per year which occurs in the fall just before they migrate. So the feathers we see on them now are not fresh, they're actually from last autumn!

Some of the Snow Buntings were well on the way towards their breeding plumage, this one still has part of its winter coat on:

This week the Cape Race road was plowed, meaning it was open for the first time since late January! Hopefully with the rain and mild temperatures forecasted it will remain open for the rest of the season. 
Some of the snow walls were easily taller than my car:

Lots of snow still at Long Beach:

At Cape Race we were rewarded with our first Northern Gannets of the year. 2 of them made close passes - I look forward to seeing many thousands more over the next few months!

Ferryland is where these 2 snipe were photographed this morning. A Common Snipe was seen at the same location earlier in the winter, and although Common Snipe isn't a straightforward ID, neither of these two snipe fit the description for Common Snipe. I've had many people send me photos of what I'm fairly certain are these two birds - the first one is paler than the second one, and they have noticeably different tertials and facial patterns among other things. I think these are simply related to the under-appreciated variation in this species rather than different species!

The obvious highlight of the day was a beached Sperm Whale! It has been floating in Biscay Bay for the last few days, and apparently the tide/waves pushed it to shore sometime in the last 24 hours.

I've never seen a Sperm Whale before, and this certainly wasn't the way I expected to see my first one. Getting an up close look at the teeth and jaws was amazing:

Ontario, you might get Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, and may have more seabird species on your checklist than Newfoundland - but good luck finding one of these suckers on the shores of Lake Ontario...