Friday, 29 August 2014

Cristobal Amazes!!!

Today was one of those days I can see myself telling my grandchildren about in 50 years.

After seeing 10000 Leach's Storm-Petrels, 3 jaeger species, and 1 probable South Polar Skua, Ian Jones and I headed to Cape St. Francis where we had great looks (or at least as good as they get from land) at a young Great Skua exiting Conception Bay South!
Who can say they've seen 5 species of jaeger/skua in one day from land!? Well, I can't, but we sure came close!

2 adult Long-tailed Jaegers hidden in here:


Stunning looks at storm-petrels:

Absolute carnage:

Adult dark-morph Pomarine Jaeger:

But where were the birders!!??

More to come tomorrow or Sunday!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cristobal Expectations

In short, I'm not expecting much tomorrow in CBS. The winds are too weak (<50km/h), have too much of an Easterly component for most of the night, and won't be strong until early morning to drive large numbers of seabirds into the bottom of CBS (Holyrood). We need stronger winds with a more Northerly component that last for longer throughout the night to push concentrations of seabirds into Holyrood for a bit of morning fun.

That being said, seabirds should be passing by Cape Spear & Cape St. Francis - but visibility will be hampered by the 30mm+ of rain that is expected over the next 24 hours!

Right now winds are peaking around 21 km/h from an ENE direction. By midnight it's expected to be around 44 km/h (NE) and around sunrise winds should have picked up to 50 km/h (NNE).

Generally, for a notable seabird event to occur in CBS we would need winds of at least 60km/h gusting to 80km/h for multiple hours. This storm will produce weaker winds, and for too short a time period. So I don't think there'll be many thousands of storm-petrels in Holyrood tomorrow morning, but there should be a few and hopefully some kittiwakes and phalaropes as well. I'm not expecting to see many or any jaegers at the bottom of the bay.

However, as the day progresses winds should increase and peak to about 60 km/h. This may force birds to fly by Cape Spear and Cape St. Francis - only problem is that there'll be a lot of rain, so visibility will be poor.

What's interesting about this storm is the time of year. I can't recall or find any late August Northeast storms in recent NL birding history - so this storm could result in a different mix of species than usual. The combination of a strong and far-reaching North wind along the labrador coast, and strong onshore winds along the northern Avalon Peninsula associated with Cristobal may produce an opportunity to see Sabine's Gull and Long-tailed Jaeger. Both of these species are quite hard to see in Newfoundland, rarely being seen from land and almost never hanging around in one area for long. However, the peak migration period of both species is between mid-August to mid-September meaning that this is around the most likely time of year to see them if they do get pushed close to shore.

My plan of action is to check out Holyrood at sunrise just in case there is a decent concentration of seabirds. I suspect there won't be and so I will make my way to Cape Spear or Cape St. Francis and hope that the driving rain will be manageable for a seawatch.

Should be some alcids around...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Cristobal - 3 Days Out

Hurricane Cristobal is currently Southwest of Bermuda as a category 1 storm. By Friday it is expected to be well Southeast of the Avalon. Although this storm is very unlikely to bring southern vagrants to Newfoundland there is a good chance it will push local seabirds close to shore in good numbers.

Over the next 24 hours it is forecasted to travel North past Bermuda before swinging Northeast - the eye of the storm will be pretty much as far away from any land meaning that coastal seabirds like the abundant Laughing Gull are unlikely to be caught in the storm and carried to Newfoundland. There will also be limited winds with a southerly component from Thursday to Saturday because the storm will be passing too far to the East of us. However, a by-product of the storm will be strong and prolonged winds with a northerly component beginning on Thursday and peaking on Friday, and much weaker by Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon winds will have switched to the West.

Here's the expected route the storm will take over the next few days:

The following wind maps give in indication of which direction the wind will be in, and how far-reaching those winds are. Click here to see the animation of these winds (once you open that page, click the word "earth" at the bottom left of the screen and then click the arrows next to "control" to see the forecasted winds for the coming days).

Winds will be from the Southwest on Wednesday but likely too weak to make any significant seabird movement into Placentia Bay. There should be shearwaters, kittiwakes, and a few storm-petrels there though.

By Thursday around noon there will be Northeast winds going straight into Conception Bay South. These winds will build in strength throughout the day and Thursday night before peaking around Friday afternoon. 

 Nice strong winds coming from the North- Northeast headed directly for Cape St. Francis and straight into Conception Bay South.

Winds on Friday are forecasted to be approximately 25-35 knots (~ 50 - 70km/h)

What does all this mean? Well it's always difficult to predict seabird events with much accuracy but with such strong winds I would be surprised if there are no Leach's Storm-Petrels in Holyrood on Friday morning. The hope is that the first Red Phalaropes of the season will be there, along with a few jaegers. In other words I'm hoping for one of those good ol' Holyrood seabird events!

A storm with similar strength in late September last year brought several hundred jaegers, a Sabine's Gull and thousands of storm-petrels to Holyrood:
See Bruce's nf.birds post here.
Lisa's blog for Jaeger pics here.

Another storm in late May of this year with similarly strong winds brought about 20 phalaropes and a few hundred leach's storm-petrels to Holyrood.

Check out these links for some fun nf.birds postings:
October 9, 2009
October 14, 2009

I couldn't seem to find any reports of seabird events in late August to help give us an idea of what the composition of species might be like for a late August Northeast storm - however, we know that skuas, jaegers, shearwaters, fulmars, storm-petrels, and phalaropes should all be around. We just have to hope that the winds will be strong enough for any or all of them!

The current plan is to be at Holyrood on Friday morning for sunrise. Depending on how things are there I will make my way to Cape St. Francis...

... I do like Cape St. Francis:

I'll be keeping a close eye on this storm over the next few days and will probably post an update on Wednesday or Thursday.