Friday, September 30, 2011
I sent the picture to two people, not knowing who would have time to reply to me. Both responded that this was a baby Cedar Waxwing. Then one changed his mind because it doesn't have a yellow tail.
This ID would fit the time and place as Cedar Waxwings were present at the park for at least a 4-week period over the summer. Unfortunately, I took this picture so long ago that I can't remember what other activity that I saw around this bird. There are often many clues that help with the identification, in addition to the "look" of the bird. Time, place and surroundings can help. Next time I see something that is totally new to me, I will surely take account of additional info that will help when I try to figure out what it is.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaAntevXM0g Check out this little Cedar Waxwing having a bath.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I drew the tenuous conclusion that this was a Swamp Sparrow but doubting myself, I sent the pictures to someone who would surely know. I got confirmation that it is a Swamp Sparrow and likely an adult because a juvenile doesn't yet have the reddish cap. So what happened to all of the other standard facial and throat plumage? Who knows but this really illustrates that this identification thing is a skill that will evolve over time with experience and lots of reading and looking. That's why I take so many field trips. There is no better way to learn than to get out there and see the differences.
(I'm sure there will come a time when I can spot and identify a Swamp Sparrow in the moment. Sometimes I can do that now but other times it requires more "looking.")
The bird then popped out in the open and I got a better look. I am now able to see a faint line behind the eye and a grayish/white throat. When I combine these descriptors to the ones above, it turns out that the only bird it can be is a Swamp Sparrow.
As if identifying the standard plumage of birds in breeding plumage, winter plumage, female, male, juvenile and adult plumage, there are still the unusual variables that come into play. It is also relevant to mention that the Swamp Sparrow undergoes two adult molts per year.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Whohooo! It worked. It came near me and continued to be active at first moving from tree to tree and then it settled in for a studio photo shoot. It was a stunning little bird and is a perfect example of what a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher looks like.
The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is the most common flycatcher found in Newfoundland and is among our breeders. Since we do get some other visiting flycatchers it is good to be able to identify the Yellow-bellied so that it can be quickly eliminated when another flycatcher does turn up. The Yellow-bellied is the only eastern flycatcher that has a yellow throat. That is the first and deciding factor of weather it is a Yellow-bellied.
According to resources this bird is supposed to be secretive, staying low in the thicket making it very difficult to see. This one was not like that at all. It seemed to enjoy having company as it was all alone in the woods on this day. It was so close that I can almost see my reflection in its eye.
Monday, September 26, 2011
On Saturday another birder and I decided to make a trip to the southern shore as far as Renews. We used the entire day and I don't know how the time went so quickly. Our ultimate destination was Bear Cove Point Road.
On our way out we stopped very often and began to do some "pishing." Little by little some birds began to show up. We saw many Yellow-rumped Warblers (very common at this time), several White-throated Sparrows, a Fox Sparrows, a Northern Flicker, a raptor (probably a Sharp-shinned Hawk) and alas, a little yellow and gray bird - a Philadelphia Vireo.
Newfoundland falls within the breeding range of this bird but I had not seen one ever before in my last two years of searching the woods high and low. Where do they stay all of the time?
This Philadelphia Vireo was flipping about at around eye level and below staying in the alders. Sometimes it was near the road and sometimes it was about ten feet from the edge of the road. As I moved to get closer it would move up the road always keeping a distance of about 20 to 30 feet ahead of me. It didn't seem spooked but just liked to have its distance.
Other than this little bird, we did not find any of the other rarities that had been reported on this road. In all likelihood we arrived too late (just after noon) to catch the great action. It is a real challenge to drive straight to Renews without stopping in to check out so many good birding spots along the way.
In reality a day of birding is so relaxing and exciting all at the same time that is really is okay to not see any special or new bird. When that does happen it is off the charts!
Sunday, September 25, 2011
On a day-trip to Renews and back yesterday we had a great day. After two days of very few birds moving around, they seemed to have found their wings yesterday. We made several stops on the way to Renews and one of the most special stop was at La Manche. It is there where I found this Northern Parula (a first for me.)
When we first arrive in La Manche we were inundated with Hermit Thrushes. Contrary to my reading, these birds were not shy. They sat nearby and totally entertained us. I will share more about them at a later post.
I then began to work my way up the road as the flock of thrushes and sparrows moved along. I came across a very busy area of birds fairly high on a hillside. I watched and was sure that there were many warblers among all of the busy birds but I couldn't get a good look at any of them.
Then out popped this little bird with a bright yellow breast. It stayed all of ten seconds and I got only two shots before it was gone. Why did it go? Well, just as everything was getting good, along came a huge, loud oil truck bounding down the gravel road. Everything scattered. I waited a while and walked on with the plan to return to this spot. On the way back birds were beginning to move in again. (I got two very interesting pictures of another bird, parts only, that are being reviewed now in the hopes of making an ID.)
I am sure that I would have been able to get more shots, but the oil truck was now lumbering up the road again on its way out. It is so hard when you are on the edge of something good and circumstances arise that change everything. This pretty well marked the end of the birding on this road for this day. It is a very promising area and it took a lot of self-discipline not to drive back down this morning to check out these birds again. Perhaps later in the week when the wind dies down, I may make a short trip.
The Northern Parula is an uncommon visitor to Newfoundland but is most likely found annually during migration. I recall that one was found in Goulds in May of last year and another was reported on the Cape Spear Road just this week.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I found it very interesting that the young of the species are less apt to stay among their own. The juncos would fly around and "play" with the A. Goldfinch, Purple Finch and Pine Siskins. They chased each other around the yard like old friends. I observed similar behaviour among a group of adult Dark-eyed Juncos yesterday that had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet among them. It, too, was chasing and mingling very nicely.
I read this week that many ground feeding birds have white outer tail feathers and that this is an adaptation over time. When one flees from danger, the white flashes boldly sending warning signals to the others birds around. This must be particularly useful when the neighbor's cat hides under my giant Hostas.
Since July the juvenile juncos have undergone several stages of change as they transition into their mature plumage. The warm browns, streaks and "buffy" colors are being replaced by dark gray and darker brown colors with a stand-out white belly. These birds are among a group of birds often referred to as Snowbirds and they will be around all winter. Just this week I noticed the flock in my yard is beginning to grow again as the numbers of finches diminish. I topped my my feeders with their favorite mix and welcome them home.
Friday, September 23, 2011
On September 8, 2011 I was standing in the lower lookout talking to a tourist who had come to see a Black-legged Kittiwake. All of a sudden we spotted two dark birds in the distance but by the time he redirected his scope, the birds had gone.
We remained looking out to sea watching the Northern Gannets' powerful dives into the water when all of a sudden two White-winged Scoters headed our way from the distance.
While Cape Spear is often a very busy place, there are those rare times when I have happened out to the cape to be the only one there able to drink in all of the magnificence of nature without distraction.
Oh, yes... I forgot to mention the wind. It is usually on the really windy days when I find myself there alone. The reason is obvious...the wind in this area can knock you off your feet!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
It was a really nice surprise to come upon this pair of Long-tailed Ducks of the shore of Bear Cove Beach.
It is interesting that all three times that I have seen this sea duck, it has been in this same area.
There was no sign of the long tail on either of these ducks. The male in the guide shows with a long tail in both winter and breeding plumage. So why is it missing here? It may be possible that it is submerged. Really, the guide is only a starting point for learning about birds. Each bird has its own story that is surely not included in field guides. This require more reading. For me, I am still in such an early stage of learning that it is a sign of progress just to be able to note differences and ask questions. I'm sure time will drive me into deeper reading when I have already developed a basic knowledge base.
This seems to be the female that shows no distinct eye patch. and more white on the neck. The color of the bill is also darker than the male.
It is interesting to watch how sea ducks quickly take note of people nearby and begin to slowly but steadily drift farther from shore. They typically don't take flight but just ride the wave off into the distance. I have also noticed this to be the case with grebes and loons as well. If hoping to get pictures of these birds or get extended looks, it is wise to keep a low profile while watching.