Sunday, 17 May 2015

Mistaken Point Fossils

Made a long overdue trip to Mistaken Point today with 2 friends from Ontario.

This site is home to the worlds oldest fossils of complex lifeforms - 575 million years old! It is on the Southern Avalon along the Cape Race road. Daily guided hikes (free of charge) take you to the impressive display of literally thousands of exposed fossils.

I've seen many photos and videos of these fossils, but in real life they were much more impactful. Although photos can pick up the details of a single specimen, it's the number of fossils in the area that is truly breath taking and make the walk to the point worthwhile. Not to mention the good birds we saw along the way: Willow Ptarmigan (on a nest!), Merlin, American Pipit, among others.

This last fossil shows a ring like structure that is thought to be the base of the "leaf" that extends upwards, similar to seaweed this base would have held the organism to the seafloor.

Here's a short clip narrated by none other than David Attenborough about these very fossils:

Rusty Blackbirds have returned to the Avalon recently:

Also saw my lifer Brown Elphin the other day - poor photo but a beautiful butterfly!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

May 12 Pelagic Trip

Things lined up today to finally allow me to join Ian Jones on one of his semi-regular pelagic extravaganzas. We spent the day, with Neil Aitken, roaming the high seas looking for any sort of wildlife and cool scenery.

The seabird colonies in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve were teaming with alcids. Other highlights included 2 small icebergs, amazing coastal scenery, and 16 Red-necked Phalaropes.

Here's the route we took:

Razorbills were concentrated around Pee Pee and Ship island, whereas Common Murres were more numerous around the larger islands (Great & Gull Island):

Bridled Common Murres were nice to see:

The average Common Murre:

Hard to mis-identify this one:

Total fluke photograph of one of the RN Phalarope flocks we came across:

Surprisingly few BL Kittiwakes on the cliff faces.

View of Bay Bulls lighthouse from offshore:

One of the breeding islands in the background here:

Sunday, 10 May 2015

May 10, 2015

Some photos from a days birding between St. John's and St. Shott's.

Highlight was this Snowy Egret found earlier in the week by Dave Shepherd:
It was looking forlorn with all the rain and fog throughout the day.

Runner-up for the highlight were 2 Rough-legged Hawks we came across:
This species has bred on the Avalon before - maybe they will again this summer!

Two Red Crossbills seen today at different feeders were unexpected. I've only had one previous observation of this species this year:

2 Common Mergansers were relatively tame: 

We were happy to see 4 Willow Ptarmigan:

I've never had such a great look at a breeding plumaged male Long-tailed Duck before today:

Not more than 100m from the Snowy Egret was this Snowy Owl: 

Renews harbour is always worth a stop:

Greater Yellowlegs were in abundance today: 

Note the subtle up-turn to the bill. Something often mentioned in field guides - but not always easy to observe: