Sunday 8 May 2016

Gray Heron - Bonavista

Yesterday evening photos were posted on the local Facebook group of a heron that was very suggestive of a Gray Heron. The photos were a little distant and blurry so left some details to be desired. Today, Ken Knowles and I arrived in Bonavista in the late morning and spent 3 hours searching for the bird before finding it where it was originally found: Beaver Pond - which is right in the centre of Bonavista town.

This is Newfoundlands third or fourth record, depending on how you look at it. The first record is from Oct 1996 of a bird that was collected and originally identified as a Great Blue Heron only to be re-identified by a keen grad student at MUN as a Gray Heron! A ship-assisted bird arrived in Sept 2002. And a widely seen bird was in Little Hearts Ease from at least March to June of 2013.

Todays bird was fairly easily identified as a Gray Heron based on the white thighs and white "shoulders". Studying the bird in the scope revealed a bill that was a brighter orange than what I can remember for Great Blue Herons. The sides of the necks were a pale gray and the streaking on the front of the neck was quite distinct from what I've ever seen for GBHEs: the streaking consisted of a few long dark vertical stripes.

I was surprised to see some cinnamon/rufous colouration mixed in with the gray of the covert feathers - although this was very limited.

The cap seemed to have a base colour of white - but had several "splotches" of dark markings throughout giving a pale gray appearance to the cap from a distance.

Based on these and other features I would identify this bird as a second year bird. Adult plumage is attained in the 3rd year of life for Great Blue & Gray Herons.

Below are a number of photos and a short video clip of the bird feeding. Note that all of these are taken with my Samsung S7 phone through a Swarovski Scope. The quality far surpassed any of the photos I got with my "real" camera.