Thursday, 12 November 2015

Port-aux-Basques Half Time Update

I've been based out of the Southwest corner of Newfoundland for the past 3-4 weeks, and will be here for another 4 weeks. The birding has been satisfying, but not as thrilling as my daydreams of rare raptors and geese.

There are a lot of birds around wherever I go, not like the barren Avalon peninsula, but there aren't rarities found on every trip like I've come to expect further East.

But how can I complain when there's birds like Harlequin Ducks within 1km of my house:

This adult male Black Scoter has been hanging out in town as well:

Dovekies are found everywhere along the coast and are, as usual, quite tame

My first ever photo of an American Crow?!

The big story has been the huge numbers of redpolls in the last 2 weeks. I started seeing them on Nov 1 and have seen them pretty well everywhere I go since then.

Yesterday, however, was my first time getting a chance to take in good looks at these beautiful birds.
A flock of about 200 was gorging on alder cones allowing me to study the wide variation in their plumage. With so many birds there was bound to be a few that had limited flank streaking, clear white undertails, and no sign of streaking on the rumps. I came across about 4-5 birds that would have easily passed as a Hoary Redpoll on Sibley's character index, but I only saw one bird that I was convinced was frosty enough, and had the punched in bill.

If anything, the huge variation in these "two" species with no obvious boundaries really does lend support to the genetic evidence that they're the same species.

One of 5 Eurasian Wigeon seen yesterday!

A Gadwall was a nice surprise:

I started seeing White-winged Crossbills on Nov 11th. Hoping they become more common over the next few weeks.

Stormy Point on a not so stormy evening:

Monday, 2 November 2015

Saturday Storm ... a washout?

I had high hopes for Saturdays strong winds during what should be the peak of alcid migration here in Newfoundland. Did see a few hundred alcids, mostly Dovekies, but not the hoped for thousands of large alcids flying very close to shore. No jaegers either!

The story of the day was kittiwakes. Thousands of them were flying West all day. I'd say at least 10K flew past my view point throughout the day, not that I stayed there all day though.

The swells were pretty impressive, and the birds handling the swells were even more impressive:

Imm. Herring Gull:

1st year Great Black-backed Gull:

A gang of DC Cormorants:

Dovekies were numerous on Saturday - and several seeked out sheltered coves and hung out very very close to shore:

Iceland Gulls started showing up in the area during the last week of October. I'm expecting a big push of this species this coming weekend:

Black Guillemots are all in their winter coats by now:

Bobbing for dovekies?

A juvenile N. Harrier was working the coast - wonder how many more I'll see this year?

Snow Buntings have been frustratingly timid - I'm hoping to build up a database of SNBU photos this trip but it's not going as well as planned.

My best looks at an adult male Black Scoter - who needs a fog light when you got a honker like that!

Red-necked Grebes are common in this area, whereas on the Avalon they can be quite rare away from the few known wintering sites.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

An Interesting Weekend Ahead?

Right now there's strong Southerly winds in Newfoundland originating from the Eastern US. These are the winds that bring exciting warblers to our alders in September.

What birds are migrating now that I should be considering?
Nelson's Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Eastern Towhee all come to mind. Rails are always a default group of birds I think about at this time of year. There should be an egret or two found somewhere on the island over the next week.

By Saturday, the winds will be quite strong out of the WSW. 70+km/h according to the current forecasts. This will be good for a seawatch from Cape Ray, near Port-aux-Basques on the SW corner of the island.

Alcid migration is in full swing at this time of year. I'll be surprised if I don't see a good smattering of them on Saturday morning.

By Sunday the winds will be calm in my area of Newfoundland allowing me to focus on searching for flycatchers :p

Should be lots of new birds for my eBird "county" lists this weekend!
And who knows, those Westerly winds on Saturday might convince a hawk or two to fly over the St. Lawrence...