Thursday 31 December 2015

Some Memories from 2015

Another year of birding in Newfoundland has come and gone!
In total there were over 275 species of birds seen on the island this year, which is about average for us.

The year started off rather mild with little snow accumulation until February.

The following photo was taken in early February! Quidi Vidi lake, usually frozen by early January was opened up after a warm spell - note the lack of snow on the ground...

A Brown Thrasher was a pleasant surprise in February:

This Pine Warbler managed to survive the winter thanks to the generosity of local birders.

Spring in Newfoundland doesn't really exist, but for us it does signify the arrival of thousands of eiders driven further South by the approaching sea ice.

Finally Spring arrived and birds began their long journeys northward through Newfoundland:

As soon as the local breeders returned I was off to Germany for a month of school, and of course birding.

In August I finally spent some time studying the local moths. 2016 promises to be better ;)

A White-winged Tern in August was easily the highlight of the year for many of the local birders.

The first half of fall migration in Newfoundland involves time spent in the alder patches looking for small gems from further afield.

This Little Stint was seen by a few lucky birders - another amazing record for the island:

I crossed the province in October for an 8-week placement in the town of Port-aux-Basques. Weekends allowed me to explore the local birding hotspots.

One of my favourite birds, the Harlequin Duck, is a regular species in this area:

Then the finches started to arrive - this has probably been the best finch Autumn/Winter in several years. Redpolls were the first species to arrive in large numbers:

And White-winged Crossbills weren't far behind:

Winter is now back and we have another year to look forward to :-)

Happy New Year!

Sunday 27 December 2015

St. John's Christmas Bird Count Results

The St. John's CBC was held yesterday, December 26th for the 50th straight year.
A total of 78 species have been reported which is above the 10 year average of 72 species. However, only 19500 individual birds were recorded, down from our 10 year average of 25000 - likely reflecting the fact that there are many birds in the woods eating the abundant cone and berry crop of 2015.

Highlights were a Northern Mockingbird, and 5 species of warbler including this Yellow-breasted Chat:

Finches were well represented with 7 species, including our highest ever count of Am. Goldfinch (543).

42 Red Crossbills were reported, our 5th highest count ever. Presumably they are from the "Newfoundland" sub-species.

Song Sparrows continue to adapt to life on the Avalon with our highest yet count of 24 individuals. It was only 25 years ago that they became a regular species on this count!

Thanks to the 35+ people who took part in this years count!

Sunday 6 December 2015

A Fantastic Start to Winter Birding!

We're six days into the winter "season" and I've already seen some great birds!

The Field Sparrow that I found in late November has been easy to see. Even after a light snowfall the bird continued to ignore my nearby feeder and eat seeds from the remaining grass.

I also managed to see the continuing adult male Summer Tanager:

The third great bird of the month was an adult Red-tailed Hawk! A new bird for me in Newfoundland. A species I spent a fair bit of time looking for in October & November during what exists of hawk migration here. I definitely wasn't expecting to come across one today: 

Here are some other birds I've seen this week:

male Downy Woodpecker:

juvenile Common Merganser:

adult "kumlien's" Iceland Gull:

adult Common Loon still sporting most of its breeding plumage:

A small flock of White-winged Crossbills was feeding in some big spruce trees that were on a hill below where I was birding offering my best looks and photos ever of this species.

This photo stood out to me: a male White-winged Crossbill in a sea of cones
Probably one of my favourite photos I've ever taken

White-winged Crossbills continue to be very common all around the province.

This Gadwall flew in with a flock of wigeon (including the Eurasian Wigeon seen in this photo) and made a crash landing on the ice. After regaining their balance they stood up and looked around to make sure no one had seen them make that embarrassing landing!

Monday 30 November 2015

Field Sparrow & Summer Tanager

Sunday morning started off great with my best bird of the trip: a rare Field Sparrow. My first sighting of this species in the province, 

The sun hadn't fully risen and I was in a dark valley when I found this bird so the photos were taken at 1/15th of a second! Blurrrry

Only about the 10th record for the island, and the first since 2009?

The other highlight for the day was the continuing Summer Tanager:

Later in the day the snow started to fall and the wind picked up making birding a difficult task. I decided to walk one of the beaches after hearing about recent finds of whale bones in the area.

I wasn't really expecting much, so I was quite surprised when I came across this vertebrae from a whale's back:

Nearby was a deceased gannet

A Lapland Longspur was playing hard to see with a small flock of Snow Buntings along the beach:

The longspur and buntings were busy feeding on seeds from the grasses that grow on the sandy beach:

Click for larger view of the Table Mountains that are in the tanagers neighbourhood:

Saturday 28 November 2015

Update from Port-aux-Basques

Time has been flying by here in the Southwest of Newfoundland. I only have 2 weeks left before heading back to the Avalon for the next 9 months.
My birding time has been entirely limited to weekends, but I've still managed to find time to see and photograph some fun birds in the area:

One of my favourite species - the Harlequin Duck. I was excited to finally have the chance to photograph a full adult male that was unaware of my presence while it was diving and feeding on crustaceans:

A nearby Purple Sandpiper was my first for the area. This juvenile watched my closely as I approached it in hopes of photographing it:

The only warbler I've seen this month... I find it hard to believe that there aren't any in this area, while St. John's alone has had 7+ species in the last couple weeks!

Finches continue to be a mainstay in the area. Pine Grosbeaks, as usual, are seen in small flocks throughout the area - never in large flocks.

Whereas flocks of White-winged Crossbills seem to be everywhere nowadays. A had a single flock of over 200 today!

One of the obvious highlights was was adult male Summer Tanager found near Port-aux-Basques a couple weeks ago. It continues to be seen every day feeding on dogberries and sunflower seeds:

Thank you to the homeowners for sharing this great find!

A late Greater Yellowlegs near my home was a nice surprise on my way home from work the other day:

Stunning sunsets over the ocean are an almost daily fixture in this area. Something we don't get on the Avalon!

Still no snow in this area. I'm cautiously hopeful for a snowstorm as that might drive birds out of the woods closer to where I am.