Monday 30 May 2016

The Twillicks 2016 Birdathon - Part I

On Friday, May 27th, Catherine Barrett and I began our effort to see as many species of bird as possible on the Avalon peninsula in a 24-hour period. This is an annual event we do as part of the "Great Canadian Birdathon" to raise money for Bird Studies Canada & Nature Newfoundland & Labrador.

Check out our team page here: "The Twillicks"

Last year we saw a record 92 species on this count along with several great rarities! That was the number to beat this year, but we had two major factors against us: the weather was miserable at best, and there were relatively fewer rarities staked out this year. So we made a modest goal of 75 species for the day and started the clock at 17:30 on Friday evening.

Our strategy in both years has been to tick all the local rarities or city birds on the first evening and start the next day half way down the Southern shore by sunrise.

We started on Friday in the Goulds, just South of St. John's where Catherine had found a stunning male Ruff the day before. Last year we had a Ruff within the first 5 minutes of the count, so we were hoping to repeat that this year. We searched the entire area very thoroughly but dipped. We did see this beautiful male Northern Pintail in a small pool of water:

We continued on to Third Pond where we saw our first species that we missed last year... Canada Goose! By the end of this count we saw 15 individuals.

Nearby, Catherine picked out a small flock of White-winged Crossbills! A small flock leftover from this past winters invasion. A great bird for the count as I hadn't seen any for over 2 weeks!

While scanning the pond we noticed a large flock of swallows milling around on the far side of the pond near a dairy farm so we decided to check out the area in hopes of finding a few species of swallow for our list.

Our best bird at this location was a single Bank Swallow with the 100+ Tree Swallows:

After sifting through the large flock of swallows we headed straight for the Murphy's pond area where there is a known pair of Rusty Blackbirds and a family of Great Horned Owls. Last year we ticked both of these species without even getting out of the car! This year we dipped on both so felt a little defeated.

We did find some of the common breeders here including Hermit Thrush, and Wilson's Warbler:

By the time we finished there it was already 19:30 and we had hoped to get to Lundrigan's Marsh in town by 20:00 to listen for Sora. We swung by Kenny's Pond on the way but dipped again on our target bird - a Greater Scaup that Catherine had seen there earlier in the day. Our chances of beating last years record were looking dim but we pressed on to Lundrigan's Marsh.

Immediately upon arriving at the marsh we spotted one of the pairs of Northern Shoveler:

A few minutes later we heard the distinctive whinny call of a Sora!

We spent the next 50 minutes searching in vain for the American Coot that had been there for almost a week.
Finally, when we were about to pack up and leave it showed its face on the far side of the "car wreck" pond:

With the sun well below the horizon and a dark sky overhead we zipped over to Quidi Vidi to tick the American Wigeon that had been there throughout the month. It was right where it was supposed to be so we decided to rush back to Kenny's Pond to see if we could find the Greater Scaup. Amazingly it was right there and we were able to find it no problem :)

We finished the first part of the day with 47 species on our list! Remarkably, this was 2 species ahead of our list from the previous year after the first portion so maybe we weren't doing so bad after all ;)

Part II to come shortly!
EDIT: .... Here it is :)