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.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Port-aux-Basques Half Time Update

I've been based out of the Southwest corner of Newfoundland for the past 3-4 weeks, and will be here for another 4 weeks. The birding has been satisfying, but not as thrilling as my daydreams of rare raptors and geese.

There are a lot of birds around wherever I go, not like the barren Avalon peninsula, but there aren't rarities found on every trip like I've come to expect further East.

But how can I complain when there's birds like Harlequin Ducks within 1km of my house:

This adult male Black Scoter has been hanging out in town as well:

Dovekies are found everywhere along the coast and are, as usual, quite tame

My first ever photo of an American Crow?!

The big story has been the huge numbers of redpolls in the last 2 weeks. I started seeing them on Nov 1 and have seen them pretty well everywhere I go since then.

Yesterday, however, was my first time getting a chance to take in good looks at these beautiful birds.
A flock of about 200 was gorging on alder cones allowing me to study the wide variation in their plumage. With so many birds there was bound to be a few that had limited flank streaking, clear white undertails, and no sign of streaking on the rumps. I came across about 4-5 birds that would have easily passed as a Hoary Redpoll on Sibley's character index, but I only saw one bird that I was convinced was frosty enough, and had the punched in bill.

If anything, the huge variation in these "two" species with no obvious boundaries really does lend support to the genetic evidence that they're the same species.

One of 5 Eurasian Wigeon seen yesterday!

A Gadwall was a nice surprise:

I started seeing White-winged Crossbills on Nov 11th. Hoping they become more common over the next few weeks.

Stormy Point on a not so stormy evening:

Monday 2 November 2015

Saturday Storm ... a washout?

I had high hopes for Saturdays strong winds during what should be the peak of alcid migration here in Newfoundland. Did see a few hundred alcids, mostly Dovekies, but not the hoped for thousands of large alcids flying very close to shore. No jaegers either!

The story of the day was kittiwakes. Thousands of them were flying West all day. I'd say at least 10K flew past my view point throughout the day, not that I stayed there all day though.

The swells were pretty impressive, and the birds handling the swells were even more impressive:

Imm. Herring Gull:

1st year Great Black-backed Gull:

A gang of DC Cormorants:

Dovekies were numerous on Saturday - and several seeked out sheltered coves and hung out very very close to shore:

Iceland Gulls started showing up in the area during the last week of October. I'm expecting a big push of this species this coming weekend:

Black Guillemots are all in their winter coats by now:

Bobbing for dovekies?

A juvenile N. Harrier was working the coast - wonder how many more I'll see this year?

Snow Buntings have been frustratingly timid - I'm hoping to build up a database of SNBU photos this trip but it's not going as well as planned.

My best looks at an adult male Black Scoter - who needs a fog light when you got a honker like that!

Red-necked Grebes are common in this area, whereas on the Avalon they can be quite rare away from the few known wintering sites.