Saturday 25 January 2014

Late January at the Cape

We thought we'd be lucky to be able to get to Cape Race by late April. Late afternoon January 25 and 3 birders had made it out, the first since about Dec 14.

As everyone probably knows, mid to late December dumped record amounts of snow on Newfoundland so it was reasonable to expect that the 20km dirt road that isn't plowed wouldn't be accessible for several months. But after a prolonged warm spell with a lot of rain, and the dedication of a backhoe driver the road is now free... we just don't know how much longer it'll last (could be another 12 months, could be 12 days)... In Newfoundland you just don't know.

Today I was with Liz Southworth (from Massachusetts), and Barb Carlson (of San Diego birding fame) - their main goals for the day were Willow Ptarmigan, Boreal Chickadee, and Gray Jay. As I've learned before, if you're out looking for ptarmigan you won't see them. Ditto for Gray Jay unless you actually put the effort in - which no one wants to do. But Boreal Chickadee is easy so there were some smiles.

Cape Race news:

The good news is that at least some of the 300+ Snowy Owls have survived what may have been the hardest part of the winter:

3 species of Scoter - 1 photo:

2nd winter male King Eider (95% as satisfying as a full adult):

The Cape Race sentinel - a very similar looking bird was at the exact same spot on Dec 7:

Any ideas on the story that caused these snow prints (ignore my foot prints!)?
I promise an expensive prize if you get it correct:

Tomorrow morning:

Sunday 19 January 2014

Recent stuffs

 River Otter at Quidi Vidi - an annual mainstay of winter birding at the lake (probably the same one over the last few years?)

Great Cormorants think spring is already here and have moved into Quidi Vidi for some fishing free of ocean swells:

The Peregrine Falcon recently returned to its favourite perch of winter 2012/2013

1 Prince Eider, 1 Queen Eider, and 4 Common Eiders. Can you find them all?

A possible Northern Marble I collected this past summer in the Mackenzie Delta (NWT). Do you agree with the ID? Apparently it'd be a first record for the region... only realized a few days ago (exactly 6 months after the fact).

Bird on

Sunday 12 January 2014

A yellow snipe

Yesterday Bruce Mactavish found a very suspicious looking snipe in Ferryland (about an hours drive South of St. John's). Today, Bruce, Lancy Cheng, and myself returned in hopes of re-finding the bird and getting photos to determine whether it truly was the hoped for Common Snipe. Truth is that Bruce already got great photos yesterday, see here, and personally I think the ID was already nailed based on those pictures.

After getting less than 2 hours of sleep, we were parked in Ferryland before sunrise at the spot. Even though it was still quite dark we were able to see a Wilson's Snipe foraging in one of few open green patches. 40 minutes of searching from within the car revealed only 1 more Wilson's Snipe and no sign of a yellow snipe. Lancy and I decided to stealthily walk around the grassy patch to make sure the Common Snipe wasn't tucked away. We couldn't find anymore snipes. Just as we returned to the car a 3rd snipe flew in and landed about 15m away. Even without my binoculars I could tell that it was a much more buffy looking snipe. I never expected it to be that obvious!

Over the next 90 minutes we enjoyed very close looks at the bird in direct comparison with the very similar looking Wilson's Snipe, and we feel very confident that the yellow snipe found by Bruce is a Common Snipe!

I was planning to write a something about how to identify the bird, but I need to study and sleep so I'll save that for another day...

WISN on right, COSN on left:

Common Snipe:

Wilson's Snipe:

Common Snipe on right:

Common Snipe at back:

Monday 6 January 2014

2014 Birding Goals

I'm really only making this a blog post so that I have it permanently written down somewhere. Don't even bother reading this!

But if you do read you'll find that everything here is very eBird and Newfoundland orientated ;)

Become the top eBirder for the Cape Spear hotspot for both species and checklists (currently at 65)
Become the top eBirder for the Quidi Vidi hotspot for species (currently at 54 species)

Submit 1500 checklists in Newfoundland this year - an average of 125 a month, or 4.1 per day... yikes

See 200 species in NL this year - not off to a great start with this frigid winter

Bring my NL life list up to 240...
Self find 170 species in NL this year.

Bike 2000km... I did it in 2012 and 2013, so no excuses not to do it again this year.

Find a bird that has less than 5 previous records on the island... or multiple of them :p

Target birds:
European Golden-Plover... weather dependent
Slaty-backed Gull... wtf, why haven't I seen one yet
A rare autumn migrant shorebird (Curlew Sandpiper or better please!)
A rare autumn warbler (Golden-winged Warbler or better)

What are you hoping to see this year?

Sunday 5 January 2014

Birds Need Electricity

These Tufted Ducks were photographed yesterday at Burton's Pond in St. John's. As a result of the extended power outages the 'bubbler' got turned off. This tiny pond would be long frozen over if it weren't for the bubbler - a kind of underwater fountain/sprinkler. When it got shut off yesterday the ice moved in and it appears that one female Tufted Duck got unlucky:

Friday 3 January 2014

3 days into 2014

Enjoying my last few days before school begins again on Monday and while ~30cm of snow are being dumped on the avalon as I type.

Yesterday I joined Bruce M and John W for a southern shore birding trip. I don't imagine that I'll be doing many more over the next 2-3 months, not necessarily because I won't have much time but because the weather has been terrible for birds and therefore birding.

One of Thursdays highlights were 3 distant Willow Ptarmigan. For some reason the white birds stood out from the white background when I was scanning the distant hills for a Snowy Owl:

We did get to see 1 Snowy Owl on the day. A far cry from the 100+ that we would have seen on the same route 3 or 4 weeks ago. The state of this bird is probably a good indication of how the others are doing - not very well!

Continuing with the theme of desperate looking birds, here's a Wilson's Snipe in one of few remaining 'wet' spots:

This Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow found the jackpot on January 1st when it found a bird feeder in the backyard of two local birders. Since then it has been a regular visitor which is good news for St. John's birders because White-crowned Sparrows are actually quite rare on the Avalon Peninsula. I'm sure it'll be able to rely on a steady supply of food and friends over the next few months before things warm up again: