Monday, 31 December 2012

One last day...

... and one last bird.

This morning I checked the marine forecast and noticed that there were sea swells in the range of 6-8 meters. Great for waves! So my friend and I went to Flatrock to check out the waves and approach them at dangerously close distances.

Just as I was parking I noticed an unusual dark bird in flight. My first instinct was some sort of very large alcid. After getting out of the car it was obvious that it was the Brant goose that has been in the area for over a month. It eventually turned around and flew right over our heads giving us a great look before disappearing over the hill.

This was my 571st bird species of the year! A personal best I'll probably never beat again...
It was also my 295th species in Canada this year. Last year I had 294 in the country, so I was happy to beat last years mark...

I often see Purple Sandpipers at Flatrock and they're usually fairly tame. Today was no exception:

Trying to keep out of sight:

Some of the wave action:

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Beach babes and snow birds

A flock of 4 Pine Grosbeaks were intently feeding along a beach the other day in NL. They were super tame and the sun was shining bright from a low angle:

Not a typical bird feeding in kelp beds!

The Yellow-breasted Chat was also out in the open (in my yard!) feeding on seeds found in the snow. Not a typical bird feeding from snow covered ground!

Filmed from my living room window:

Thursday, 27 December 2012

St. John's CBC

Did the St. John's CBC on Boxing Day for the 4th year in a row. This was my 3rd year doing the lower Rennies river area which happens to include my neighbourhood. It's a good area for me to do the count because I'm familiar with all the side trails and locations of many of the feeders, which helped manage our group of 5 people to ensure that we covered a fair bit of decent ground...

Within the first couple hours we had cashed in on the known Nashville Warbler, a previously unknown Baltimore Oriole and the Yellow-breasted Chat was in my yard. Feeling pretty good with all these birds we felt we needed something to add to the winter list...

I'm pretty sure that the topic of Mockingbirds on the lower Rennies river comes up on every St. John's CBC I've been on. This year was no different, except that we actually found one!

Our group of 5 had split into 3 separate groups with me on my own. The others were already waiting for me at our regrouping area. As I was approaching I noticed a bird with a long tail sitting on a tree. A quick look and shouted "Mockingbird!" to the others who were standing more or less directly below it!

A neat bird which was a NL lifer for 4 out of the 5 people in my group! Conveniently it was just up the street from where I live.

Further upstream (technically the upper Rennies river area), while we were enjoying our first Boreal Chickadees of the day I noticed a somewhat larger bird fly through the dark undergrowth. Not expecting much, I stuck my head in the bushes and pished a bit. To my surprise a thrush landed within 2 metres of my face right out in the open. It took me a couple seconds to clue in on what I was seeing. Conveniently it turned around and showed off its reddish tail making the identification straightforward.
A pretty exciting winter bird for Newfoundland (last one was in December 2007).

The rest of my group had wonderful looks at this bird as it fed right out in the open!

Here's a photo by local birder Lancy Cheng who was in my group:

Hermit Thrush is actually a new species for any Newfoundland CBC!

Feeling pretty happy about ourselves, we were pretty confident that we had the bird of the day. But we were easily shafted by a Townsend's Warbler found that same day in the Waterford valley... (where else?)
Hopefully I'll get the chance to see that tomorrow!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Owls

A Christmas card I made for a birder friend:
 Based on the 2nd last Snowy Owl photo on Brandon's page here.

A short walk at Cape Spear this morning yielded an unexpected Short-eared Owl flying over the ocean:

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Cape Race CBC

This was my first time doing this count - and I have to say, I really enjoyed it!

As usual the day started early, but we were quickly delayed when our key to the Chance Cove Provincial Park gate wouldn't work. I elected to make the 6km trek to the beach, and let the rest of my group check other more accessible areas. I'm happy I made the decision to do the walk because it was a rare day with no wind in the area, making it easy to hear the birds.

Right away I had a couple of male Pine Grosbeaks:

Later down the road were Gray Jays:

A Black-backed Woodpecker was also along the road giving me a nice list of boreal species.

A view of the road that I hiked to get to Chance Cove:

Some highlights from the cove itself include 5 Bufflehead (previous high for the count was 4), and a female Mallard (a new species for the count, believe it or not!) Here's the list of all the species seen here.

The Cape Race lighthouse was visible from the cove:

On my return walk I found a Shrike and a Hairy Woodpecker, both species I had never seen in Newfoundland before. I have more embarrassing ones that I still haven't seen...

Back at Portugal Cove South there were a few neat birds kicking around.

A Red-throated Loon wasn't too far offshore:

Dovekies were plentiful:

And a single Purple Sandpiper allowed a close approach:

Check out Bruce Mactavish's summary of the day here.

A short clip of some of the birds:
I'm not sure why the quality is terrible... the version I have looks way better...

Friday, 21 December 2012

Cape Spear

Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America, and as with many unique geographic locations, it attracts unusual birds. Today there was a notable lack of birds - just a few Iceland Gulls flying offshore, the odd Great Cormorant commuting by the point, and a single passerine.

Yesterday I found an unusually tame Lapland Longspur at the point. I returned today, hoping I would get a chance to photograph the bird and maybe turn it into something else. I've never really had a good look at this species before, so that was another good excuse to go as well.

It was pretty late in the day when I got a chance to get out there, so it was a bit dark to get great photos.

Cape Spear lighthouse:

There have been some pretty big swells these past few days, and the erosion is very noticeable below the lighthouse. Only a matter of time before it'll no longer be there!


Tomorrow is the Cape Race CBC. I've never been on this count, so I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Neglected birds

With all the interesting birds around I've been neglecting some of the more common ones.

Purple Finches are in low numbers this winter in Newfoundland, but 4 of them have been visiting my neighbourhood feeders regularly over the last few days:

Somewhat surprisingly, House Finch has never been recorded in Newfoundland! One of these days...

I've found over 10 Song Sparrows already this week! Any wet patch along the ponds and lakes, among big flocks of juncos and at feeders is where I've been finding them.

Iceland Gull is probably one of the most numerous species in town. Especially at the harbour.

Compare the wingtips of the previous Iceland Gull with this next one.
On page 252 of the "Gulls of the Americas" book is a sketch showing the variation in Iceland Gull wingtip patterns. The previous Iceland Gull seems good for a "stage 4", but the next one seems to go off the charts beyond "stage 5".
The book suggests that this may be a possible Iceland X Thayer's gull hybrid! Probably impossible to ever know, but I'm going to assume that it's 'just' an ICGU.
Still neat to see the variation.

Cape Spear today:

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Yellow-breasted Chat - Yard bird!

This morning I joined Doug to search for a Brant that has been around Flatrock, just North of St. John's. We didn't find it, and we didn't find much else either...

This Glaucous Gull eating a Dovekie was probably the best sighting of the morning:

Then, just as I walked in the door at home, I noticed a very bright yellow bird feeding from one of the oranges I had put up.
Another new yard bird, and a year bird :)

I guess I'll be putting up some more oranges!

I like when the birds come to me :)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tuesday birding

Made my way around town again this morning - but this time in the other direction.

First birds I saw were the 10 Evening Grosbeaks from yesterday:

Down the trail was a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings:

The flock of Tufted Ducks were at the harbour including the leucistic one. What species do you think it is?
The lack of tuft may indicate something other than Tufted Duck, but the black on the bill tip, and head shape don't fit well with Lesser Scaup...

2 adult Common Gulls were also at the harbour - no sign of the 2nd winter Common Gull today:

The Ruddy Duck was easy to find at Quidi Vidi:

A few Greater Scaups were around Quidi Vidi as well:

Another day, another Coot:

The only Lesser Black-backed Gull I saw today was this 3rd winter gull:

Best bird of the day came just as I was returning home, this Black-and-white Warbler was busily foraging in my neighbours trees:

Monday, 17 December 2012

St. John's birding

Amazingly my plane landed on Saturday night in the middle of a snow storm that dropped over 20cm of snow.
Thankfully it did because one of the first birds I saw was a Baltimore Oriole that cruised past my window! Not a bad start.

View from my backyard:

The three regular European waterfowl have been accounted for:
Common/Eurasian Green-winged Teal:

Eurasian + American Wigeon:

Tufted Duck:

American Coot - the red knob above the bill, and dark bill tip rule out Eurasian Coot:

Biggest surprise so far were a flock of 10 Evening Grosbeaks visiting my neighbours feeders - those pink legs get me every time:

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Kitchener CBC

After finishing my last exam for the term I headed over to Columbia Lake to count the birds with Mira and a local birder.

The Cackling Goose was along our route:

Second most notable bird (while I was there) was this adult Glaucous Gull which has been around for over 2 weeks:

Currently I'm enroute to Newfoundland. Unfortunately it looks like there's going to be a snow storm out that way tonight so who knows where I'll end up...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Snow Goose in Waterloo!

This morning Ken Burrell texted me to say he re-found the Cackling Goose at Columbia Lake that was found earlier this month.
I was already headed in that direction so I conveniently stopped by to get the species for my month list :p

Then this afternoon I was surprised by another text from a local birder about a Snow Goose on campus! I quickly jumped on my bike and found it right where it was supposed to be:

A beautiful adult blue-morph Lesser Snow Goose :)

Lesser and Greater Snow Geese are difficult to distinguish. Of course, there is a difference in size, but it isn't significant and is unreliable unless comparing directly with other geese. Check out Jean Iron's article about the two sub-species here.

The blue-morph is predominant in the Lesser subspecies, while the blue-morph is very rare in the Greater subspecies. The Greater subspecies rarely, if ever, migrates through South Western Ontario. They stick to a very well defined route along the St Lawrence river.
Considering the time of year, location and colour morph, it's safe to say that this is a lesser Snow Goose.

This was a new year bird for me and a great bird before my last full day in Waterloo for the year!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The locals

Finally finished my major exams for the year!

Did some celebratory birding this afternoon...
Didn't turn up too much, just the usual gulls and geese.

Saw all three of the local Glaucous Gulls (2 juveniles, 1 adult) today...

Mallard... I was getting desperate for something to photograph :p

Saturday is the Kitchener CBC. I'll have a couple hours to spare to help count birds at Columbia Lake (not that there's very many to count) and then I'm back to Newfoundland for 3 weeks.

Some things I have a decent chance of seeing in NL and still need for my year list:

Pink-footed Goose
Purple Sandpiper
Red Crossbill

and maybe Yellow-throated Warbler if it's still around?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gullzzz @ Columbia Lake

Can't get enough of them!

But first...
My first CANG with a neck collar - already sent in the info:

There were a lot of new geese at Columbia Lake today!

My first GBBG for the year in the county...finally! This guy brought me to my goal of 190 for the year in the county!

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was nearby - I haven't seen it (assuming it's the same one) since Nov 2:

This 1st winter gull stood out with its neatly checkered mantle:

It had a mostly black bill, somewhat whitish tips to the primaries, and mostly brown tertials:

I didn't see the spreadwing or underwing...
And the head shape seems somewhat intermediate between Herring and Thayer's.

What are your thoughts? Herring or Thayer's?

A Northern Shrike has been at Columbia Lake lately - hopefully it'll overwinter here: