Friday, August 29, 2014

Plentiful Cabbage White Butterflies

 Most anywhere, anytime, there are Cabbage White Butterflies....especially on a sunny day.
 I parked downtown in a private lot while my sister ran into the Chocolate Factory to get some goodies to take home with her. Unable to just sit without doing something, I noticed many Cabbage White Butterflies flitting around the back of the lot.
Most always prepared, my camera was in the trunk. Within a minute, I was out of the car photographing butterflies.
I was particularly interested, because these all seemed to have three dots on each side rather than two. Hmmm..I wonder why. Well, it seems the female is more likely to have more and darker spots. She is also smaller than the male.

It is easy to just look the other way when a Cabbage White flies by because they are so common and typically plain. However, there is often so much more than we see with the naked eye.
I visited this
which provides a really good overview of the Small White vs. the Large White vs. the southern version of the Cabbage White. It is really interesting. The key field marks to notice are the size of the butterfly, the darkness of the dots and the size of the outer dark marks on the topside of the forewing. There will likely be more opportunities this season to see more.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Beautiful Red Admiral Butterfly

 The Red Admiral is a common sight in the woods of Newfoundland. They are often seen on trails or rural roadways.
 I never really thought of butterflies as aggressive, but this one is so described. It is a territorial butterfly and will defend its zone with vigor.
 This species migrates in May, and it is also likely we may see some fresh migrants in October.
 It is thought this species has at least two, possibly three, broods a year. They will lay their eggs on the underside of stinging nettles. That is certainly a deterrent for predators.
 The Red Admiral has a particular affinity for flowers, as well as being drawn to fruit. One way to attract them into the yard is to put fruit in a suet feeder.
 In 2012 there was an irruption of Red Admirals in Ontario.
 The best time to see these butterflies and most other species is on a sunny day where there are a lot of flowers. Dragonflies tend to appear even on the grayest day, but not butterflies.
Because I am not quick in identifying most of the butterfly species, I always take the time to stop and look each one over. The most abundant butterflies of the last week have been extremely fresh-looking Mourning Cloaks.

Immature Gray Jay

The Gray Jay is not a bird I see all the time around St. John's, but this year I seem to have seen more. There has been a group of three on Power's Road, where I have seen them on several different occasions.

This immature Gray Jay was travelling with two other young ones on Blackhead Road on August 16. This is only the second immature Gray Jay I have seen.

It was in 2011 when I saw my first. Of course, I snapped a few pictures of it and thought I might have a treasure. Later in the day, I ran into Bruce Mactavish where I eagerly showed him my photo. He dashed my hopes when it told me it was an immature Gray. Funny how I can remember almost each first sighting of each species.

As I reflect on that day, I still feel the excitement of having a photo of an unidentified bird, filled with anticipation to learn what it is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eastern Kingbird...Briefly

On Monday the 25th, I got a brief glimpse of an Eastern Kingbird near Blackhead. Ironically, I had walked over 4 km in search of anything unusual. I turned up nothing. On my way home, I took one last turn through Blackhead, only to find it very quiet.
As I was driving out of the community, I spotted this large bird sitting atop a tree in the distance. It just wasn't the shape of a robin. I took a couple of pictures that didn't show anything.

Driving across the road, I was able to get this shot through the passenger-side window. I had a record shot, so I hurried to park my car and rushed back to better see the bird. It was gone. I had to wait until I got home to scrutinize the photo as I couldn't pick anything out on my camera. There it was, complete with a red crown, an Eastern Kingbird. A thorough check of the area yesterday turned up nothing. Where did it go? Two years ago, I found two such birds sitting on a wire in Maddox Cove. Maybe it went "thataway."

Yesterday, I found birds off Blackhead Road to be less prevalent. However, when I did find flocks, there were plenty of birds together. I saw an interesting bird between Blackhead and the top of the hill. I was able to have about a 5 second look, but twigs prevented my camera from focusing. Then, it flew. The bird was alone, looked like a relatively small flycatcher, but the color was a dark brown, seemingly ruling out one of the common flycatchers. I fought my way through a very rough trail into the woods searching for it with no luck. Maybe it will turn up again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Indigo Bunting - The Debate is On

It was Alvan Buckley who asked if I had considered an Indigo Bunting.
 I hadn't. It wasn't on the radar. I went back to other photos I have of  Indigo Buntings to make a comparison.
 While it is quite early for an Indigo Bunting to show up here (like a month early,) I actually see some blue on this bird. An Indigo Bunting has never been reported at Bidgood's Park before.
 The beak is right, the coloring is right, and the size in relationship to the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is right. (An Indigo Bunting is 5½" and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is 5½".)
 Stranger things have happened.
There comes a time when a birder has to make the final call. I am doing that now. This is an immature Indigo Bunting. Thanks Alvan for pointing me in the right direction. This bird was located in a dead tree, across a large field on the side of the park closest to Backline Road. It was fairly close to Power's Road. On the trail opposite the field there is a sign reminding dog owners to keep their pets on a leash.

Bruce is leaning toward a Swamp Sparrow but doesn't see a perfect match for that either. The questions remain: Why is the face plain? Why are there no streaks on the back? The beak looks too long for an Indigo Bunting. Anticipating this debate, I never entered the bird into eBird. It is likely this bird will remain unidentified.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Birding Goulds in Late August

 Splashes of color filled the woods in Goulds on Sunday morning.
 Many of these shots need no commentary. Hope you can enjoy them almost as much as I did while on the spot.
 This odd looking brown bird was sitting on a branch near at Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. While it is probably an immature sparrow of some sort, there were several confusing aspects of the bird.
 Its color was pale, the beak seems large, and the tail is notched. Its breast is not streaked and wing bars are not really evident. My best guess on this is a White-throated Sparrow, but I'm not convinced. Hopefully, it can be identified.

 This immature Mourning Warbler was the highlight of the birds I saw. It was along the side of Power's Road. I thought there were two, and as I compare the pictures, I think these are two different birds.

 I tried to turn it into something more exotic, but the broken eye ring can only mean Mourning Warbler.
 Ruby-crowned Kinglets are plentiful this year. I have seen many, many of them along the way.

 I think this is an immature Swam Sparrow based on the reddish tail.

It is important to enjoy all of these little birds now, because they will surely disappear soon.

Yellowish Purple Finch

 Seeing a common bird with an uncommon look always catches my attention. Two weeks ago, I came across this yellowish Purple Finch on Blackhead Road. The yellow really stood out. I looked it up and found this article about this occurrence:

The closest I have seen to the yellow look was this finch photographed in December 2011. I thought it was quite yellow at the time, but now that I have seen the one pictured above, it really isn't yellow at all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Yellow-rumped Warbler Variations

 Over four seasons of birding, I have seen a lot of variations of Yellow-rumped Warblers. The one pictured here is a first. This must be a fledgling right out of the nest. Heavy streaking and gray tones still can't disguise this little "yump." Note the body shape, the white throat and the distinct tail markings.
 This series of photos, all taken this year, show the Yellow-rumped Warblers in Spring and Summer, from their crisp breeding plumage to the scruffy, fluffy look brought on by molting. Soon, these birds will transition to their drab brown, winter plumage.

 For now, it is interesting to observe how each one goes through the transition just a little differently from another.
 Yellow-rumped Warblers molt twice a year. The molt into breeding plumage can begin as early as January so that by spring, they are looking their best.
 They remain in breeding plumage through July. By August the winter molt begins.
 This species is quite variable with the color of some birds being much brighter than others. Some are more "streaky" than others.
 Some are just cuter than others.

The single most important field mark of this species is the yellow rump. Even if the overall look of the bird is different, it is pretty easy to catch sight of the consistently-present yellow rump as it flies away.

Just came up with another one. This male looks quite different from most Yellow-rumped Warblers.