Sunday 6 April 2014

Spring is Trickling in

Lancy and I did part of the southern shore this morning before the rain came in. It was my first time down there since January 25th! I imagine I'll be down there much more regularly over the next few months.

The first sign of spring that we came across was the Great Blue Heron in Renews - apparently there are two of them there now... We only saw one, but we made sure to check for red thighs to rule out Gray Heron, which wouldn't be totally mind-boggling considering that Common Shelduck earlier this week...

Next up was a small flock of Horned Larks mixed in with Snow Buntings. This male Horned Lark appears to be of the expected alpestris subspecies. A member of the "Eastern Dark Group". The species has only 1 complete molt per year which occurs in the fall just before they migrate. So the feathers we see on them now are not fresh, they're actually from last autumn!

Some of the Snow Buntings were well on the way towards their breeding plumage, this one still has part of its winter coat on:

This week the Cape Race road was plowed, meaning it was open for the first time since late January! Hopefully with the rain and mild temperatures forecasted it will remain open for the rest of the season. 
Some of the snow walls were easily taller than my car:

Lots of snow still at Long Beach:

At Cape Race we were rewarded with our first Northern Gannets of the year. 2 of them made close passes - I look forward to seeing many thousands more over the next few months!

Ferryland is where these 2 snipe were photographed this morning. A Common Snipe was seen at the same location earlier in the winter, and although Common Snipe isn't a straightforward ID, neither of these two snipe fit the description for Common Snipe. I've had many people send me photos of what I'm fairly certain are these two birds - the first one is paler than the second one, and they have noticeably different tertials and facial patterns among other things. I think these are simply related to the under-appreciated variation in this species rather than different species!

The obvious highlight of the day was a beached Sperm Whale! It has been floating in Biscay Bay for the last few days, and apparently the tide/waves pushed it to shore sometime in the last 24 hours.

I've never seen a Sperm Whale before, and this certainly wasn't the way I expected to see my first one. Getting an up close look at the teeth and jaws was amazing:

Ontario, you might get Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, and may have more seabird species on your checklist than Newfoundland - but good luck finding one of these suckers on the shores of Lake Ontario...