Monday 22 September 2014

Storm Driven Birds = 0

Sir Ed and I made our way around the southern shore today. We had high hopes to capitalize on seabirds driven close to shore due to the high winds. Unfortunately, visibility was too good (meaning birds knew where the land was and could steer clear), and, probably more importantly, the winds weren't strong enough.

Nevertheless, we had a great day and saw some great birds.

I've been seeing Common Eiders semi-regularly this month. I'm not sure if all of them have been over-summering or if they're recent migrants to the area. Of the 20+ I've seen this was the only one I got close enough to photograph:

This bird appears to be of the dresseri sub-species, which breeds in the maritimes and some places around Newfoundland. In the winter most of our eiders are of the borealis sub-species, which breeds further to the North.

Another highlight from today was a flock of phalaropes close to shore that contained both Red & Red-necked Phalaropes.
The size difference between the two species is evident in the above photo (the 2 Red-neckeds are noticeably smaller, while also being darker).

Red Phalarope peaking over a wave at the RNPH:

In the field I thought the RNPHs were juveniles because of their dark backs and the golden stripe along the inner scapulars. But now that I've looked at the photos it's obvious that these are adult Red-necked Phalaropes that still have much of their breeding plumage retained.

It was interesting to note that the Red Phalaropes appear much further advanced in their moult having replaced the majority of their coverts, scapulars, and mantle feathers. Whereas, the RNPHs had replaced fewer of those feathers.

The water was very choppy and the phalaropes were very adept at managing the constant wave action:

juvenile Sanderlings were along most beaches we checked:

The most unexpected species of the day was a Horned Grebe in winter plumage!
It was at Biscay Bay which happens to be the only location in NL known to have regularly occurring Horned Grebes in the winter. Perhaps this one was a failed breeder and knew exactly where it wanted to be for the next 8 or 9 months. Or it could have been there all summer?

On our way home we came across a freshly tilled field that attracted hundreds of gulls. Among them were 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. This one still has its outer 2 primary feathers (P9 & P10) from its summer plumage: