The male Lesser Scaup has a more peaked head, the bill appears more blue and the head is often purple. The beak is more tapered and has a smaller nail.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Considering this, I took a dart out to Power's Road yesterday to see what I could find. I didn't go very far up the road before I turned around. Coming down over the hill, flanked by two fields, I spotted this bird in the distance. I kind of thought it was just a crow, but I watched it. As it drew nearer, I saw the brown. Grabbing the camera, I was able to get this shot as it flew over the road directly in front of me.
Also yesterday, Allison Mews and Ed Hayden spotted one on the barrens of the Southern Shore near Portugal Cove South. I think it is safe to say - they are back. The closest place to see one is in Goulds. I had several on Power's Road last year and one that hung around the field before the entrance to Cochrane Pond Road. As I write this, I also recall the snow was completely gone in these areas last year. That is not the case in 2013!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Why is this Sharp-shinned Hawk so plump? Well, I think he is the one who ate all the Purple Finches, Pine Siskins and most of the American Goldfinch!
Monday, April 22, 2013
It is very difficult to see them without a scope at Biscay Bay which makes this shot particularly special for me. Distance and conditions dictate the situation. This shot taken earlier this week was taken on a dull, overcast day, but still clearly shows the distinctive golden ear tufts.
There will likely never be an opportunity to see one so close, albeit winter plumage, as the day in January 2011 when this stray appeared at Quidi Vidi Lake. While it didn't stay too long, it did stay close to shore and provided amazing views. There is such a big difference between the winter and the breeding plumage of the Horned Grebe. Like so many of the sea birds, the window of opportunity to see this species is limited as they will soon head off to their breeding grounds west of us.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Nothing compared to this stunning male Willow Ptarmigan in breeding plumage. It was remarkable. Its colors blend in very well with the Cape Race terrain. If it weren't for Margie Macmillan spotting this one, I would have missed this opportunity altogether.
She alerted me. I stopped, backed up and put the window down. All the while, the bird froze in place. I was able to take this one picture before it bolted and flew out of sight very quickly. Short as the viewing was, it left quite an impression on me! For more info about Willow Ptarmigan in Newfoundland, visit this site: http://www.partridgeforeversociety.com/ptarmigan%20of%20newfoundland.htm
Saturday, April 20, 2013
For more information about the origin and rarity of this Greater White-fronted Goose currently in Biscay Bay, NL, please visit The Bruce Mactavish Birding Blog or BirdtheRock Blog by Jared Clarke. Both are linked on the right side of this page under Blog List.
With a quick decision on Friday morning, I decided to make the two-hour drive to Biscay Bay in the hopes of seeing yet another new bird. The day was overcast and on the whole drive down, I had this nagging worry that the dark skies might be a bad omen. Maybe the bird would be gone. That is always a concern when travelling some distance to see one specific bird: Will it be there? Flown off into another area? Gone for good?
It is a build-in risk when birding. There are no guarantees! I am sure I let out an audible sigh of relief when we rounded the last bend to find the Greater White-fronted Goose contentedly working the field.
The goose looked very healthy and quite alert. Margie M. and I watched it for about 30 minutes and drew some conclusions. Like most tourists to Newfoundland, this goose was settling in. It didn't seem to be at all disturbed by passing cars. We watched as several other cars pulled off the road to get a better look at the goose.
Oddly enough, the goose seemed to react differently to different cars. Has this bird got a preference for colors? It appeared to be very comfortable with black. In no time, it perked up and actually walked toward the car, shortening the distance between us.
While the White-fronted Goose was ever-vigilant, it didn't seem distracted from its mission to eat plenty and seemingly pick at the gravel in the field.
During our observation, it moved across a wide area of the field, stopping every now and again to check to see if we were still watching.
When other cars would pull over, it would stop, look and listen, and then settled back to graze the field.
Checking out all sides and not demonstrating any behaviour suggesting it felt threatened, it would go on about its business.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
While I had planned to share images of black and white diving ducks today, I realized I don't have any really good images of Lesser Scaup. I will have to work on that. In the meantime, I was looking at pictures of scaup on the "Internet of Everything" and concluded I am not the only one struggling with differentiating a Greater from a Lesser Scaup. Under scaup images, I found Tufted Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and mislabeled Greater and Lesser Scaup. You just can't believe everything you see/read on the Internet.
In light of a relatively warm and windless morning, I took a drive out to Cape Spear yesterday and came across this great little Hairy Woodpecker. This bird and other "Hairys" have been regularly seen along about a half km stretch of the road around the bus stop.
On the same trip, I also caught a brief glimpse, supported by a picture, of an adult Northern Goshawk flying over the area of Blackhead Crescent. It was so far away, it was a challenge to get an ID, but with the help of those in-the-know, it was determined it was a Goshawk. I can't miss an opportunity to shoot upward, because one of these days, it is going to turn up something really special.
Friday, April 12, 2013
I think it was that I just got caught up in how many different kinds of ducks we are able to see here and just how amazingly colorful and striking they are. In the meantime, it is good to note from these pictures the difference between the beaks of the American Black Duck and the Mallard. These are ducks we see in every pond and stream. Sometimes it is easy to confuse the female mallard with the male and female Black Duck. The images in these two sets show a striking difference between the beaks of each species.
American Wigeons and Eurasian Wigeons are also a mainstay in St. John's throughout the winter and early spring. Their beaks seem to be be exactly alike as is their overall body shape. However, there is no mistaking their different colors. In the American Wigeon plate, I have included a picture of what appears to be an immature American Wigeon. This juvenile bird resembles the female; however, there are signs of green appearing on the head. That made me wonder if these wigeons may have bred here. Probably not. I read that wigeons reach reproductive maturity at one year but may not molt into full adult plumage at that time.
The Gadwall is not a bird we see often, but this year we were treated to one female Gadwall staying around all winter. The female can very easily get lost among a flock of Black Ducks and Mallards. It is indeed the beak of the female Gadwall that helps to differentiate it from the others. Note the male Gadwall does not have the distinctive beak coloring of the female. In fact, there seems to be very little similarity between these two birds.
The Green-winged Teal flock that often inhabits Kelly's Brook provides a sure-fired sighting most any time. However, that is not the only place in town where they can be seen. More often than flocks, single birds can be seen at Virginia River, Bowring Park, QV Lake and Kent's Pond. Frequently, a small flock can be seen at Mundy Pond. I have a picture of an immature bird in the last photo plate in this post that I suspect is an immature Green-winged Teal. However, its beak seems to be bigger than these shown here. Yet another puzzle!
Each year for the last three years, we have had visits from Wood Ducks, both genders It is certainly easy to while away a lot of time looking at these very different and beautiful ducks.
Getting back to my intended focus, no duck has a beak so large as the Northern Shoveller. It swims like it is front-loaded as it skims the water filtering for food. This late edition picture on the right is the duck I think is a teal. However, the beak gives me pause.
This short post actually showcases thirteen species of ducks I have seen on inland waters on the Avalon Peninsula. I really hadn't thought about how many there are, and I haven't even brought the black and white ducks to the discussion or other sea ducks like the Hooded Merganser or the Red-breasted Merganser that have been seen in fresh or brackish waters around St. John's.
My next post will look more closely at the black and white diving ducks.
Note: It will help to click on any image to see enlarged versions.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
I dipped back into my pictures from Spring in previous years and came up with a few to share today. There have been sightings of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. I believe in the past the grosbeak has been seen in St. John's while the bunting has been reported on the west coast of the province. I recall one spring grosbeak reported at Kent's Pond, two years ago I think.
The special rarity was the European Golden Plover seen in Goulds on May 15, 2010. I included it here because this is one we should be watching for every time we get a strong NE wind.
The Ivory Gull showed up at QV on Feb. 27, but has been sighted as recently as March 31st. It is still possible there may be more out there to be found.
While the Laughing Gull has been reported in the province as early as April, it was in June 2010 when one showed up at Kenny's Pond and July 2012 when one was spotted on Pond Road in CBS. Anything goes with rarities, that is what makes them so exciting when they do appear.
This Garganey arrived at Mundy Pond on April 30, 2010 and stayed only one day. I recall the day to be cold and blustery, hardly tolerable. Nevertheless, I was glad I pushed through it because this bird did not linger.
It was on April 25, 2011 in Trepassey when I first saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This is really a great bird! There are reports of at least two that regularly frequent Trepassey during the spring. In fact, signs on trees in the area suggest there may be more than two and that they have been very busy.
It was on May 10, 2010 that I was able to see this great Red-necked Phalarope in the Ruby Line Pond. This bird stayed around for several days.
There was this Great Egret that flew into Long Pond in April 2011 and stayed long enough to wow birders and non-birders alike.
Last year, it was a White Pelican that teased us at about this time of the year. I made two trips in an effort to see that very active bird but was unsuccessful. This year there have been reports of possibly three Greater White-fronted Geese in Central NL. The Gray Heron still lingers in Little Heart's Ease, and who knows what else is out there. Of course, also possible to see at this time of the year are the owls. This is a group of birds that I have only seen the Great-horned Owl and the Snowy Owl. The thought of seeing the small owls that breed in our province is pretty exciting.
Even though it seems quiet on the bird front, the possibilities keep me engaged enough to get out there looking for the next unexpected rarity. Good places to check at this time of the year are fields and ponds in Goulds, Long Pond, Mundy Pond, and all feeders. Anticipation is a great motivator to get out and explore the many areas, even though the weather-of-the-month is not shaping up to be that great.
For more information about birds of Spring, check Jared Clarke's blog: Birdtherock to read his spring summaries. (Linked under My Blog List.)