Monday 14 October 2013

Monday morning seawatch

Returned to Cape St. Francis this morning with John Wells and Dave Brown (eBird checklist here). With 3 scopes eyeing the seas, we were bound to find something interesting. Turns out that the two best sightings were found with the naked eye!

Generally there were several hundred shearwaters, with many going East around the cape from Conception Bay South, and many going West from the East side of the cape. In other words, they were flying in all directions. Interestingly, the CBS shearwaters were mostly Sooty, and the open ocean shearwaters were mostly Great.

Our first bit of excitement came from a small pod of Orcas that swam by the cape going East, and then returned, going West, about 15 minutes later. This is only the 2nd time I've seen this species in Newfoundland!

Not long after that, John got on a passerine that luckily landed about 15 meters in front of us. As soon as he called it a redpoll I put my scope on it and immediately noticed the very pale flanks. The bill was also very stubby, making me confident that it was a Hoary Redpoll. In fact, of the 20-30 Hoary Redpolls I've seen, I've never been so confident identifying one. We all agreed that this bird was strikingly pale. There was a faint pinkish wash on the breast, indicating that it was a male. Unfortunately, as soon as I reached for my camera it vanished, just like a wheatear does. Based on the ~10s look, the bird seemed larger than any redpoll I've seen before, and considering how pale the bird was, it seems likely that this bird was a Hornemanni's Redpoll. I just wish I had a photo!

There have been strong winds straight from Greenland and Labrador to Newfoundland lately, so it makes sense that this bird showed up. What else is out there? Barnacle Goose? Fieldfare? How many more Northern Wheatears?

Here's a super poor quality video of some Sooty Shearwaters flying by the cape - next time I'll remember to take video with better quality settings!