Thursday, September 14, 2017

Special Butterfly Sightings of 2017

 Birding is what gets me out walking in the mornings, but I always stop and enjoy the butterflies along the way. I am now familiar enough with the common butterflies to quickly recognize something out of the ordinary.
 It was this Atlantis Flitillary that stopped me in my tracks. I pursued the butterfly doggedly until it landed long enough to get some photos.
 It was August 5 on the bus shelter trail when I saw it. The only other one I have seen was in late Summer at Chance Cove Provincial Park. I think that is an area where this species frequents, not in St. John's which is what makes this butterfly special.
 Unlike the only other one I saw, this Flitillary was in good condition.

 It was a couple of weeks later in August I came upon this Comma-like butterfly in the same area. I had no idea what it was but was pretty sure I had never seen one before.
 Once again, I stayed with it until it landed. Both butterflies gave me a real chase. Once I snapped the pics I knew this was a new butterfly for me.
With the help of Alvan Buckley and Rick Cavasin of the insect discussion group:!forum/nfinsects

 I quickly had answers. This is a Compton Tortoiseshell. I have searched around the internet quite a bit, but could not find any other sightings of this butterfly reported in our province.
Then, there were these caterpillars. Yikes! Drawing from my own frame of reference, when I first saw these distant, strange-colored creatures wrapped around a branch I stopped dead in my tracks.
Honestly, they looked like one small snake. I quickly got a closer look through my binoculars and realized I was safe. There were about 20 caterpillars swarming the tree's branch.
Again, with the help of the discussion group, I have learned these are most likely Mourning Cloak butterflies. Let me assure you, they are much more appealing when they are butterflies.

Note: I will be updating my page dedicated to Butterflies of Newfoundland very soon. I will also create a page to include pics and names of all the butterflies I have seen to make it easier. As the page stands now, one would have to either know the name of the butterfly or go into multiple pages to search for it. I will fix that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Population Burst

 In early July it is common to see the small birds with loads of food in their mouths. These bugs/insects are gathered for delivery to the newborns anxiously waiting in the nests.
 Adult birds become extremely excited at this time of the year. They have work to do to protect and raise their young. After all, that is the main reason they return to Newfoundland each year.
 Spotted Sandpipers are a mainstay at water's edges, mostly fresh water or brackish. They, too, are there to raise a family.
 When one is seen putting on a distracting show, there is sure to be young nearby.
 With a little extra looking, the little one showed up. How tiny and sweet it was! This is the little "spotlet" seen in Cape Broyle on Canada Day where a bonfire and fireworks show was planned for the night. I wondered how this little guy made out.

The young have grown up now, and amazingly many have left already.  Hope this one survived to make the journey.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rainy Days and Pictures

 With the amazing warm and sunny days of this summer, I swapped out routine maintenance and chores with seizing the day. Who knows when we will see a grand summer like this one again?
 Now, with the onslaught of four back-to-back days of steady rainfall, I am catching up on a lot of things. One of my daily activities has been spending a couple of hours deleting a lot of blurry pictures.
 However, not all of my shots are discards. Some serve to remind me of the few times I got out to bird over the last month. My daughter calls my pictures "loot." She is right. These photos provide for me another layer of enjoyment and the opportunity to revisit my few days spent quietly in the woods.
 I have selected a series of photos to share that depict the variety of species and plumage on the birds of summer and early fall. Some shots show the more playful side of our little woodland birds.
 Although common, it is not everyday I get to see an American Redstart. Maybe it is because of this that I like this little bird so much, or perhaps it is because of the soft colors of the female and the bold, vibrant colors of the male.
 Whatever it is, I am pretty happy when I find one. This little female was seen near Fermeuse. As you can see, I was birding in scattered showers.
 The Wilson's Warbler like other species is becoming more scarce. Since last year's visit of the Hooded Warbler in the St. John's area, I find myself looking more closely at the Wilson's to make sure it is not a Hooded Warbler hiding away in a common flock.
 The Magnolia Warbler like the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher have been more plentiful this year. I am sure I have seen more than two dozen Magnolia Warblers this year, and right now is the time they are everywhere. They also appear in good mixed flocks where a more rare species may be found.
 Not to be out done, the Common Yellowthroat is also present in large numbers at this time of the year. Their look ranges from bright to very dull plumage.
 The confounding Blackpoll Warbler seems to present with the most variation in plumage. With moulting males and females and juveniles, it is very easy to misidentify this warbler. These two shots show one such bird in heavy moult.

 Juvenile birds abound. They are everywhere fattening up and building up their flying power for a journey ahead. Find the berries and you are likely to find a Cedar Waxwing or a Pine Grosbeak.
 When Pine Grosbeak aren't munching on weed seeds or berries, they can often be found sitting at the top of a tree singing away.
 The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is flocking with the warblers. Getting them to stay still long enough to get a photo is always a challenge.
 Among the common birds gathering now are also some uncommon species. This Cape May Warbler has been seen recently in Cappahayden.
 This type of encounter is the big lure for birders at this time of the year. Birding is kind of like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. No matter what you find, the indulgence of birding is usually rewarding.
One of the prizes found in sorting my photos is the Gray-cheeked Thrush. This one was seen on the roadside before Fermeuse in early August. It is not typical to see one in this area, so I hadn't realized what it was until this weekend.
 This bird has the grayest cheek I have ever seen on this species. It lives up to its name. Also note the near absence of an eye ring.
 Saying goodbye to our little birds is not easy. For a while everywhere you looked you could see or hear a Northern Waterthrush. Not any more. Most of them seem to be gone for about a week now.
The Wilson's Warblers are also going quickly, and the ones that remain behind have become very secretive. I have spent a lot of time chasing unknown yellow birds in the thicket only to finally realize it is just a Wilson's.
When the rain passes, I shall leap into my car and hope to find some remaining birds trapped by the cloud cover. Hopefully, this spell of bad weather has grounded their flights.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Interesting Dowitchers

 Renews Beach is definitely an interesting spot to bird. Sometimes it is crawling with little birds, sometimes it's not, and sometimes it offers up extremely rare delights. Earlier this week the areat was quite calm. I did see a flock of about 20 peeps flying about as I first drove by the beach, but when I returned later they were gone.
 What I did find were three very tame Short-billed Dowitchers chowing down on whatever mixed in with the fresh seaweed.
 They stayed put as I walked down the beach. Of course, there were the typical yellowlegs, about 20 I think. Of those I can confidently say 6 of them were Lesser Yellowlegs.
 A lone Ruddy Turnstone was flipping stones looking for a meal.
 Just to make sure I hadn't missed anything, I walked down the road to the bridge. As I went, I was surprised by another lone Dowitcher. It bolted as soon as I got near. Why was it alone? Why was it so skittish?
 I got these pics in the hopes it might turn out to be a Long-billed Dowitcher. Unfortunately, I have since learned it would take more than these shots to confirm a Long-Billed.
I share this info in the hopes that anyone traveling down that way and has the knowledge, to check out the beach for a lone Dowitcher. Maybe there is a surprise there.