Monday, 27 June 2016

Salmonier River Conservation Area

The Nature Conservancy of Canada recently acquired a beautiful tract of land on the Eastern side of the Salmonier river valley. It is probably one of the richest woodland habitats on the Avalon peninsula thanks to the deep valley, relatively sheltered area from the ocean, and lack of forestation!

To help get a solid baseline on the breeding birds of the area the NCC organized a bird survey for this  past weekend. 11 birders split up into 4 groups to cover all 4 plots that make up this NCC site. I don't have the final species list and numbers to share - but I will share some of many highlights from the site.

The river itself is a well-known Atlantic Salmon river popular for fishing:

Juvenile Gray Jays seem to have an ingrained sense of curiosity, often swooping in quietly out of nowhere and watching our every move:

Mourning Warblers are an uncommon breeder on the Avalon, so I was surprised to come across at least 5 on our plot:

Roundleaf Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) were out in good numbers in the appropriate habitat:

Not sure about this one:

Green Frogs - no amphibian is native to the island. Green Frogs have managed to establish themselves throughout the entire island!

Coral Lichen - very cool looking species!

Wasp sp. 

We accidentally flushed a Hermit Thrush from its nest and were excited to see 3 bright blue eggs - one of which was freshly hatched:

My first bolete mushroom of the year - I couldn't figure out which type though:


After finishing up at the valley Ed and I went on to Cape St. Mary's.
This reserve is famous for its easy to view gannet colony.
It's a great spot to observe them up close while they interact at their nests.
It's also an amazing opportunity for photographing them in flight.

This gannet seems to have a dark outer secondary. I can't quite figure out how this would fit into the moult pattern of these birds. It's not the only individual I've photographed with one or few secondaries that are black in seemingly random locations of the wing.



We had a great opportunity to watch this juvenile Horned Lark as it enjoyed its first days of independence:

A beetle I couldn't figure out the ID of - seemed to be fairly distinctive:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Recent Rash of Rarities

It is thanks to the eBird hotspot pages that I started visiting Quidi Vidi more regularly this Spring. I was keen to bump up the year list for what is one of the best known hotspots on the island - so have been seeking spring migrants passing by the lake. Consistent with previous years, there seems to be a surprising lack of diversity in warblers around the lake. But it has made up for that with a great list of rarities!

The first bird that started the domino-effect were 2 Purple Martins flying around the Southeast area of the lake. My first self-found PUMAs, and a great addition for my QV list :)


While trying to relocate the martins a few days later I was shocked to hear and briefly see an Eastern Phoebe. This species often goes unrecorded on the Newfoundland year list. It was also another first self-found for me on the island!

Then the real business started! After watching my brother take part in a road race I walked home along the Southside of the lake mostly in hopes of re-finding the phoebe as most people didn't get a chance to see it.

There were a number of swallows flying over the lake. A Cliff Swallow was reported from here the week before so I searched for it. It didn't take long to find a pale-rumped swallow - oddly it didn't have the blazing white forehead despite relatively close looks. I decided to take a few photos and noticed that the photos clearly showed a pale throat....
I quickly pulled up the Sibley app and everything seemed consistent with Cave Swallow... except of course the time of year and location! I wasn't even excited at this point, mostly because I recently learned to be more cautious after embarrassingly identifying an Am. Coot as the eurasian variety :S

I went home and sent the photos around to a few people and headed back to the lake to try and document the bird a little better.



Five hours later the bird was thankfully still flying around the lake allowing Bruce to seal some excellent photos of the bird in flight:

A second record for the island and possibly the first of the Caribbean sub-species which may or may not be a future split.

The patagonia picnic table effect didn't stop there!
A few days later while trying to help some locals get on the swallow a plover flew in and landed on a small field next to the lake. It was a European Golden-Plover!


The bird moved to the other side of the road offering amazing looks from the car: 



Looking forward to the next find at the lake!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Weekend Warrior - June 11-12

A photo dump of some of the birds and scenery I saw over the weekend:

Arctic Terns are back at their breeding site in St. Vincent's. This is probably the best site I know of for studying the differences between Common & Arctic Tern on the ground and in flight. Someone needs to write a book on this difficult group of birds!

A mixed flock of White-winged & Surf Scoters mostly consisted of 1st summer males:

One of very few 1st summer Gannets I've seen. This age group could easily have something think they have an immature Booby! Brown Booby doesn't show the white-rump as in this bird. But beware of Red-footed Booby! ;)

An adult female Red Phalarope near Portugal Cove South was a treat! We rarely see this plumage, let alone up close looks. This bird was injured explaining why it was walking around in a small marsh.



A Little Blue Heron was an obvious highlight from a days birding yesterday. Lancy first spotted this bird just before it flew away and landed by a small pool of water in someones yard where we had excellent looks at it while it fed on tadpoles!

This was a lifer for me! The dark blue and purple sheen to the neck & head were stunning!

This morning I woke up unusually early so decided to check out Cape Spear for sunrise.
It ended up being one of the most exciting mornings I've experienced out there.

There was a lot of Rose root growing in the cracks of the rocky coastline.

A huge gannet feeding frenzy was just offshore during the early morning sunshine:


There are currently 3 large icebergs very close to shore in this area. They made for great photograph subjects in the early morning light:


A stunning sight along the Cape Spear road:


I've always wanted to get a nice photo of a gannet gliding against an iceberg backdrop. Not quite up to the quality I want, but it'll do for now:

Mourning Warblers - always an exciting bird to come across. It is an uncommon but widespread breeding on the island. This was my 5th one this month - the most I've seen during Spring singing season on the Avalon.