Friday 26 February 2016

Feb 25th, 2016 Birding

No one seems to be talking about the exceptionally mild winter we're having!
I can't recall any late February where there was absolutely no snow - and after todays 10-20mm of rain and 10+ degrees Quidi Vidi and other ponds are probably largely open if not entirely.

Despite the mild temps much of yesterdays birding was focused on the typical winter species for us in St. John's: gulls, sea ducks, and finches.

First up, this young male White-winged Crossbill was busy feeding on cones with his posse:

This Iceland Gull had a noticeably paler mantle in direct comparison to the usual riffraff of Kumlien's Gulls suggesting that it was more from the "glaucoides" side of the spectrum. It did have a pale eye and apparently clean white primaries in flight. Maybe some day we won't be able to count any of our usual Kumlien's Gulls as they will officially be considered a hybrid between pure Iceland Gulls and Thayer's Gulls. The palest of the pale will become highly sought after ;)

This is one of the two adult Common Gulls (aka European Mew Gull) in St. John's right now.
This is the "one with the band" - it hatched in 2010, and was banded in St. John's in the winter of 2011/2012 as a 2nd winter bird. So it is now in its 6th winter, or 7th calendar year of life.

At Cape Spear I was happy to see the traditional late February/March flock of eiders not far offshore.
I was even happier when they flew directly towards my perch in the rocks and fed no more than 50 meters away. Always an amazing spectacle to see so many eiders swimming in tight formation. Check out this video:

In the above video there is a pause near the end when the camera happens upon two different sub-species of Common Eider. Can you tell the differences?

The male further to the right has a wider bill lobe that extends higher up onto the face and is a more olive-green colour. The forehead is more peaked, and the faded green colour on the nape has a subtle extension onto the side of the face just below the black cap.
Compare those differences with the male borealis Common Eider that is just up and to the left. It has a brighter orange and smaller bill.

This Snowy Owl has been at Cape Spear for a week or more. While I was hidden away in the rocks watching the eiders it flew in and landed right in front of me!

While searching for the Gyrfalcon that has been in the area I came across this freshly consumed
The question is, was it eaten by the gyr or by the snowy?!

And, of course, the St. John's Yellow-legged Gull
What would a day of gull watching be if you didn't come across that blazing white head with a bluish gray mantle.