Sunday 21 September 2014

Signs of an Incoming Storm

With plans coming together for storm birding tomorrow, I was planning to sit down and work on my research project this afternoon. After two hours I got a message from Ian who was planning to check out Cape St. Francis in the afternoon. CSF is easily one of the most under-birded locations along the Eastern avalon and I've made it my intent to put it on the birding map since I moved back to NFLD in 2013. I've now visited 12 times, and have seen Great Skua on two visits, several jaegers, 3 Northern Wheatears, and a hornemanni's Hoary Redpoll! Although we didn't see any real rarities today we did have the opportunity to a close study of two adult Red Phalaropes.

During a 30 minute sea watch we saw about 100 phalaropes flying in all directions, and another 100 feeding on the ocean surface. Despite the strong offshore winds several were flying right by the point giving exceptional views. On one occasion an adult Red Phalarope and one juvenile Red-necked Phalarope flew by giving good looks at their different sizes and general upper-side coloration (a juvenile RNPH is quite dark). Would have made for a great comparison photo!

On our walk back to the car we noticed 2 Red Phalaropes clinging to the cliff feeding on invertebrates. A behaviour I've never seen before, and I suspect is partly associated with the strong offshore winds. These birds found this sheltered cove and an abundance of food and broke the rules to capitalize on an unexploited niche.

They appeared to be inexperienced cliffside feeders, looking very out of place, especially considering their webbed feet!

Pale base on a relatively thick bill is probably the most reliable way to identify this species in the winter. Although these ones aren't completely into their non-breeding plumage, they are getting there.

 They really are tiny birds. With the sun behind you they glisten against the dark ocean background and can be visible from several kilometres away.

Also had great looks at an adult Goshawk this morning before sunrise!


Hopes are high for a seabird show tomorrow. The storm is straight from the South punching out at 100km/h +

Storms from this direction are basically unexplored from a birding point of view in Newfoundland. I can only recall reading about one such event that got birded (see post here) - which ended up being an enviable day. Expectations are high that tomorrow will deliver.

Should be plenty more of these tomorrow: