Sunday 19 August 2018

Peregrine Falcon: A New Breeding Species for the Island of Newfoundland

Peregrine Falcon was once an endangered species across North America. In the mid 1960's to 70's they were on the brink of extinction in our continent, largely due to the use of DDT - an insecticide. Thanks to the work of Rachel Carson through her book Silent Spring, and the efforts of many others, DDT was banned from use in 1972. Since then, with the help of recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons have made a remarkable comeback across the entire continent. They now breed in all states, provinces, and territories (expect, maybe, PEI?)

Despite being a regular breeder in the mountains of Labrador, there was never a confirmed breeding record for the island of Newfoundland, until now.

Laura King first reported a pair near a seabird colony in early May, 2018. A couple weeks later Brendan Kelly found them at the same location and noted their "nesty" behaviour. In mid August, while out on a hike with Mike (a childhood friend), we came across a single adult feeding 2 begging juveniles. A long-overdue first breeding record for the island, but nonetheless exciting. The site will be monitored in the coming years, and hopefully there'll be more Peregrine nests discovered in the not too distant future. There certainly is no lack of cliffs and food in the way of seabirds for these birds to spread across the island.

Adult Peregrine with a juvenile Common Tern in its talons:

Note that this adult has already begun its pre-basic molt. Falcons are unusual in that their wing molt begins with p4 and s5 (the midpoint of the primaries and secondaries) rather than the more conventional innermost primary as with most other bird species. No one knows why this is.

The adult delivers a juvenile Common Tern to its freshly fledged youngster. 

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon enjoying a freshly delivered Common Tern:

A complete fresh coat of feathers - made right here in Newfoundland:

Sunday 8 July 2018

July Weekend Warrior

This blog is low on the list of priorities these days and probably forever...

Weekends are my main opportunity to get out and explore. Here are some recent photos:

This Little Egret was only the 11th record for the province. It has been reliably seen at Spaniard's Bay for over 4 weeks now.

An unusually early Lesser Scaup was back at the local moulting pond. In previous years they returned in late August or September.

For the 5th year running we've had a Tufted Duck spend the entire summer season in St. John's.
The Iceland migrants start coming back in the first few days of August.

Another unusual mid-summer bird was this American Coot. We still don't have a confirmed breeding record for the island of Newfoundland:

This flock of kittiwakes at Trepassey this morning included one smaller gull with a sooty mantle.

Based on its relatively small size I was sure it was a Franklin's Gull 

It eventually did one fly-by revealing its true identity as the more expected, but still rare, Laughing Gull.

It is in first summer plumage. Distinguished from Franklin's Gull by the complete dark tail-band, and slightly drooping bill.

Nearby a small forest fire was giving the water bomber some early summer practice:

The true aerial experts were showing off at Ferryland:

Arctic Terns are an uncommon breeding species around the Avalon. There must be a decent sized colony on one of the offshore islands at Ferryland as they almost always seem to be doing rounds of the main beach:

Today they were taking advantage of the rolling capelin:

Tuesday 12 June 2018

The Twillicks - 2018 Birdathon

For the fourth year running, Catherine Barrett and I took part in the annual Great Canadian Birdathon.

We started on Saturday evening (9 June) in the greater St. John's area, before heading 'down' the Southern shore on Sunday at 4am. We finished at 6pm on Sunday.

Our species list is below including the first location each species was recorded.

We broke our previous record of 96 species, recording .... 97 species! A new record big day for the Avalon peninsula.

2015: 92
2016: 95
2017: 90
2018: 97

Some obvious misses this year include:
Greater Scaup, Willow Ptarmigan, Great Cormorant, Willet, Downy Woodpecker,  Northern Saw-whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Alder Flycatcher, and Mourning Warbler.

With more time to scout out some of those species we could have easily seen 100 and then some. It'll have to wait for another year!

We've raised ~$1300 for Bird Studies Canada and Nature NL. If you'd like to contribute, here is the link to donate:

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
St. John's--Bowring Park
Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Gadwall (Mareca strepera)
St. John's--Virginia Lake
American Wigeon (Mareca americana)
Paradise--Neville's Pond
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
St. John's--Bowring Park
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
St. John's--Kent's Pond
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
St. John's--Kent's Pond
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)NL--Trepassey
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)NL--Biscay Bay
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)NL--Biscay Bay
Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)NL--Biscay Bay
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)NL--Biscay Bay
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)NL--Trepassey
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
NL--La Manche PP
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata)NL--Trepassey
Common Loon (Gavia immer)
NL--La Manche PP
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
NL--St. Michael's
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
NL--Bear Cove Point
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)NL--Cape Broyle
American Bittern
Goulds--Third Pond
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)NL--Biscay Bay
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)
NL--Cappahayden barrens
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Sora (Porzana carolina)
St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)NL--Cape Broyle
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)NL--Renews
Common Murre (Uria aalge)
NL--Bear Cove Point
Razorbill (Alca torda)
NL--Bear Cove Point
Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)
NL--Bear Cove Point
Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)
NL--The Rookery
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
NL--Bear Cove Point
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)
NL--Portugal Cove South
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)NL--Trepassey
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)NL--Renews
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Goulds--Second Pond
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
NL--La Manche PP
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
NL--La Manche PP
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
NL--La Manche PP
Merlin (Falco columbarius)NL--Ferryland
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)NL--Stick Pond
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)NL--Ferryland
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
NL--La Manche PP
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)NL--Cape Broyle
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Common Raven (Corvus corax)NL--Biscay Bay
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
NL--The Rookery
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
NL--La Manche PP
Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus)
NL--La Manche PP
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
NL--La Manche PP
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
NL--La Manche PP
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
NL--La Manche PP
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)
NL--La Manche PP
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
NL--La Manche PP
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Gray Catbird
Goulds--Murphy's Pond
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
NL--The Rookery
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
NL--La Manche PP
Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)
NL--La Manche PP
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
NL--La Manche PP
Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina)
NL--La Manche PP
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
NL--La Manche PP
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
NL--La Manche PP
Magnolia Warbler
Goulds--Murphy's Pond
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
NL--La Manche PP
Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)
NL--La Manche PP
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
NL--La Manche PP
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
St. John's--Stick Pond
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
St. John's--Quidi Vidi
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)NL--Trepassey
Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)
NL--La Manche PP
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)
NL--La Manche PP
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)NL--Renews
White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera)NL--Bear Cove
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)NL--Cape Broyle
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
NL--La Manche PP
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)NL--Renews

Sunday 7 January 2018

Killdeer "fallout" of January 2018

Killdeer sightings for Newfoundland and Labrador in the first week of January 2018:

A distinct influx of Killdeer occurred in Newfoundland around January 5-6th, 2018 associated with a fast moving powerful winter storm. This storm was often referred to as a "bomb cyclone". Checkout this screen shot of the winds at 14:30 on January 5th:

In all of January for 2012 - 2017 there were 0 Killdeer sightings on the island:

In January of 2011 we had a similar influx of Killdeer:

And Bermuda in January 2018 vs January 2017:

Who said there was no migration in January!

Monday 1 January 2018

A Quidi Vidi Big Year - 2017

Sometime in late 2016 I day-dreamed of doing a "big year" at one of my local patches: Quidi Vidi lake in St. John's. It's a well-known hotspot for gulls throughout the winter and has attracted an impressive list of vagrants over the decades. I always felt that the lake was neglected through the Spring, Summer, and Autumn and a big year would motivate me to check the area throughout the year.

Christmas day, 2016, came along and bestowed upon us a Kelp Gull at the lake which kept many of us busy studying the gull flocks throughout early 2017. Then I had a placement at a nearby hospital meaning I was "forced" to walk by the lake every morning in January. In the end, I had no choice but to do a pseudo big year at the lake.

The unofficial borders of the patch are drawn out by the surrounding road which has a total circumference of 4.1 km (see blue line in picture below). Luckily, I live a mere 1.1km from the lake and it takes me less than 3 minutes to get there by bike.

In total, I visited the lake over 120 times. In a real big year, I really should have been there 300+ days in the year but I was out of the province for at least 100 days so a true big year wasn't feasible.

My year list ended at 90, and in total an even 100 species were recorded at the lake in 2017. I was really hoping for 100 on my personal list, and it really would be possible. My excuse is that I missed the key months of the year (May, June, and Oct). This brought my QV life list to 113.

15 species were added to the overall Quidi Vidi list, bringing it to a respectable 162 species. Of those 15 new species, I self-found 12 of them :)

Although I saw less than I had hoped I did learn a lot about several key micro-habitats around the lake, particularly on the South side of the lake which is rarely walked by birders. This is where I came across most of the more unusual species: Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Lapland Longspur, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat (x2), and Lincoln's Sparrow.

The rarest bird of the bunch was easily the Common Swift found by Ian Jones & Jeannine Winkel on May 20th. I was lucky to be flying back from Vienna the next day and managed to get several excellent looks of the bird myself. Not only was this the best bird for the lake in 2017 but I would say it was easily the best bird of 2017 for the entire island! It was last seen on the 25th of May.

Common Swift - 21 May 2017 @ QV lake

My favourite sighting though was an adult Northern Gannet! This bird flew low over the path on the South side of the lake flying right above the heads of Sebastian Pardo and myself. I couldn't believe my eyes! Although it is a very common species a mere 800m away I never expected to see one flying over the lake, let alone flying directly inland. We watched it fly towards the Dominion grocery store and out of sight.

Buddy v2.0
The "original" Buddy is a Lesser Black-backed Gull that has returned to the West end of QV since its first year of life in 2009. It continues to beg for bread to this day. Buddy v2.0 first arrived in the Autumn of 2016 and not only spent the entire winter with the original buddy, but also over-summered at this location - the only record I'm aware of of a LBBG over-summering in St. John's.

QV is by far the best spot for Yellow Warblers that I've ever birded on the island. 

Song Sparrows have an interesting story on the Avalon peninsula. 30 years ago they were an uncommon species with summer breeding records being a notable observation. Their numbers have since steadily grown and they're now an expected species in all suitable locations. Quidi Vidi, for unknown reasons, is the "stronghold" of this species and has consistently had at least 10+ singing males in the Spring and early Summer. A far higher concentration than anywhere else I've experienced.

A pretty obvious trend!

Two Black-bellied Plovers spent 20 days at the lake and became very tame allowing for an excellent opportunity to study this otherwise wary species.

Most visits to the lake were during the early morning hours. I was rewarded with many spectacular sunrises :)

A Palm Warbler at the lake was my only observation of this species for 2017.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher with a flock of 3 warblers in late November was a surprise addition to my QV list.

This Lincoln's Sparrow, found by Frank King, was only the second ever seen at the lake.

Quidi Vidi has the largest concentration of dabbling ducks in the city, most of which live out the year at the West end awaiting handouts. This flock of hybrid, mutants, and farmyard varities draws in other more "genuine" dabblers including Northern Pintails...

... and both American and Eurasian (shown) Wigeon

White-throated Sparrow

An Iceland Gull cruises through the first snowstorm of the 2017/2018 winter.

The real question is what will I do in 2018?!
Perhaps this will give a clue into what I'm thinking about:
An early summer Herring Gull