Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Late April & early May Prophecies

As migration picks up in momentum as will the frequency of these posts... perhaps.

Here are some of the changes we can expect in the bird world over the next few weeks on the Avalon peninsula.

Canada Goose - numbers will continue to increase at known stopover sites and more will be reported from areas closer to town. Keep an eye out for any different species of goose!

Tufted Duck - they typically leave by the first week of May. Enjoy them while you still can and try to keep track of when your last one of the season is!

Common Eider - numbers will start to drop off more noticeably. They already have been actually, and most King Eiders have all but left by now.

Manx Shearwater - start looking now from Cape Spear and Cape Race and you might get lucky. They're uncommon though so it'll take time for one to be seen.

Leach's Storm-Petrel - ditto ^ except that they're more likely in a strong onshore wind. Speaking of which, we have a Northeaster coming our way - strongest one I can remember for several months at least! Only problem is that it'll bring fog.

Double-crested Cormorant - only 1 has been reported so far. They should be regular by end of the first week of May.

American Bittern - they usually start to show up in the first week of May. Listen for them at dawn or dusk at Long Pond or Lundrigan's Marsh.

Osprey - the first ones should show up this week - actually they did (this was pre-written)! And it'll take another week or two for them to be regular at the local ponds.

Northern Harrier - a few have already been seen, but give it another week and they'll be more regular on the barrens.

Greater Yellowlegs - a handful have shown up a week ahead of schedule already. This is the week they're supposed to start arriving. Expect to see more this coming weekend!

Wilson's Snipe - they go from being very difficult to find now that the snow has melted and they aren't concentrated in small feeding areas to being a common component of the chorus in boggy habitats. This will happen over the next couple weeks. A few have already started to return.

Pomarine Jaeger - this is the most common species of Jaeger here. They're offshore, but the odd one could stray towards land or if there's a strong onshore wind you might see one if there's no fog!

Black-headed Gulls - they've silently disappeared from town. Just over a week ago it was easy to see 40+ at Pier 17, now you have to work hard to see one in the city.

Alcids - they're already moving in towards the cliffs, but haven't taken up residence yet - that should become more evident as the next couple weeks progress. The first Atlantic Puffins are usually found by the end of the month! 7 days to go!

Iceland & Glaucous Gull - you should make an extra effort to look for these now that the vast majority have left.

Arctic Tern - our local breeding terms typically arrive in the second week of May; however, those that breed further North and East are occasionally pushed off course and end up on our shores in late April, a couple weeks ahead of the locals.

Common Tern - first couple weeks of May is when they start to show up.

Owls - has anyone been out owling?! Get out there. They're signing tonight! We need to learn more about the ongoings of these birds!

Short-eared Owl - don't try to listen for these ones because you might never hear them. But keep an extra eye out if you're driving across some barren landscapes. They seem to arrive around late April but they're not common enough for an obvious trend to be established.

American Kestrel - the first sightings should be in by the end of the month. They're uncommon though so don't expect it to be easy.

Merlin - migrants have already started to show up. They should be easier to find than kestrel.

Tree Swallow - second week of May is when they typically start arriving, but there's always a chance of an earlier migrant.

Barn Swallow - despite being considered a vagrant, they are quite regular on the avalon peninsula. Who will see the first one, and where? Third Pond & Bidgood's Park in the Goulds have been good places to check in previous years ;)

Winter Wren - first week of May is when the first ones start to arrive. They're very uncommon though, so you have to go to the right spots (salmonier line, La Manche also seems like it'd be good) and put the time in.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - someone will hear one singing in Newfoundland by the end of the month!

Thrushes: Hermit, Gray-cheeked, Swainson's, & Wood Thrush and Veery have all shown up in this time period. Hermit Thrush is the only real 'widespread' breeder. I'd be excited by anything beyond a Hermit Thrush!

Yellow-rumped Warbler - first week of May is when we can expect them to arrive in numbers. Won't be much longer after that and they'll be ignored by most people.

Palm & Black-and-white Warbler are the next species of warbler that show up. Palm Warbler isn't really a breeder on the avalon though, so they're hard to come by.

Savannah Sparrow - expect the first reports to come this week. By the end of the month they could already be common in most areas where they're usually found.

Swamp & White-throated Sparrows also start showing up by the end of the month, and should become common by the end of the first week of May. I'm looking forward to the added diversity to the woodland chorus that they'll bring.

Rusty Blackbird - they've arrived in previous years during the last week in April. But since they're so uncommon nowadays it may take another week or two before a singing male is found in the woods somewhere. Blackhead rd, Petty Harbour Rd, Powers Rd, Bidgood's Park have been known spots for rusties in previous years.

==========The Rarities==========

We've already had a few vagrants show up. Most notably the Common Shelduck which was only seen by the original finders. Blue-winged Teals, Indigo Bunting, Killdeer and Great Blue Heron are all annual vagrants/rare breeders (in the case of Killdeer) that have shown up in the last few weeks. Here's a list of some of the less-surprising rarities that may show up:

Wood Duck - the overwintering ones have dispersed so they could be refound somewhere else?
Gadwall & Northern Shoveler

Pied-billed Grebe
Red-necked Phalarope
Franklin's Gull
Laughing Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
All thrush species (Veery, Wood Thrush, etc)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting

Eurasian birds - this is the real excitement. April 26 marks European vagrant season in Newfoundland. Or so I've been told. Winds are looking mediocre over the next few days for transatlantic flights. Be on the lookout for Eurasian Whimbrels, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, and the always exciting European Golden-Plover...

Of course, there's many more candidates for this list. Just get out there and see what you can surprise me with :)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Good Birds = Good Times

On Friday I joined local birders Peter Shelton, Edmund Hayden, and Lancy Cheng to do the southern shore loop. The day got continuously better with plenty of new year birds (and life birds for some of us!) and lots of new migrants.

One of our targets were 2 Blue-winged Teal found by Bruce Mactavish and co last weekend. I didn't think they'd stick around for a whole week - but apparently they did!
They were surprisingly tame allowing us to study their plumage in detail:

While watching the ducks I noticed a small cormorant swimming around about 30m offshore. It was the first Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO) for the season! Although I've seen hundreds of thousands of DCCOs, it was nice to see my first one for the year.

Our next stop was at Point La Haye where we picked up some lifers for Peter:

It's always exciting birding with people who have a higher chance of seeing a lifer! It's an extra motivation to scan the surroundings more thoroughly and work harder to find target species.

At St. Shott's we had our only Snow Bunting for the day - I was expecting to see a lot more during the day but I suppose they've spread out now that most of the snow has melted?

We also had what I believe is a hybrid Glaucous X Great Black-backed Gull:

In the afternoon we found our first Greater Yellowlegs for the year in Portugal Cove South:

And in Renews there were a couple more:
Hearing these guys give their obnoxious calls for the first time in the year was nostalgic, and bitter sweet knowing that I'll be sick of it within a few weeks!

The biggest surprise of the day was this American Bittern - a very early record for Newfoundland, but not the earliest ever! It was in a roadside ditch just North of Renews:

I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to watch a bittern hunt before. This guy was successful in catching 2 small fish during the short time that we watched it:

On Saturday I joined a non-birding friend for a hike near Point Lance. During the ride down we saw a lynx cross the road, and then stop to watch us for 30 seconds! It was my first lynx I've seen in Newfoundland and by far the best look I've ever gotten... Unfortunately my camera was in the trunk at the time so I have no evidence of its existence :(

On our way home we came across this Red Crossbill:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Get your game face on

This just in, from St. Pierre:

It's a White-eyed Vireo!! Seen yesterday... :S

The real excitement though is Fridays winds! It's a perfect long-reaching wind straight from SE USA to Newfoundland, the winds even bypass Nova Scotia and St. Pierre at night and essentially point straight to the Southern Avalon!!

Speculation at best, but I would be surprised if an egret at minimum isn't found this weekend. At the very least we can expect more Fox Sparrows, Ring-billed Gulls, Robins, the first Harriers?, Barn Swallow is also possible! Lots of potential here...

Noon on Friday:

Friday at sunset:

Saturday at sunrise:

Click on the pictures so you can actually see them ;)

Expect to hear these guys everywhere in the woods this weekend... finally!

Don't expect this, but be ready to recognize it!!