Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bumble Bee

 While hunting for dragonflies, I came across this bumble bee. The large orange pockets caught my eye. I have never seen this before.
When I reached home, I looked it up and found these to be pollen  sacs. Bumble bees gather much pollen, compress it and store it in the baskets attached to their hind legs. For a better explanation of this process, visit:
Despite appearing to have a very full load, it continued to gather pollen, continuously flitting around making it difficult to photograph.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cape St. Mary's: A Sensory Overload

 As we drove into Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, the wind was high and sprinkles threatened to change to a heavier downpour, but that did not deter our crew from heading down the 1 km footpath to get close to the action.
 As we descended to the viewing area, the sound and smell heralded our arrival. There, just feet before us, were thousands of Northern Gannets, Murres and Kittiwake. If one felt cold before, not any more. The body either warmed amid all of the spectacular confusion or the sense of feeling took a backseat to the visual, auditory and olfactory senses.
 There was so much to see it was hard to focus on any one thing. My camera forced me to do that, and the images tell the story of the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. Varying stages of breeding were evident. This gannet was delivering some fresh nesting material to the rock.
 It appears this gannet is turning its egg, while numerous other gannets were nestling with their young already.
 Mating behaviour was occurring, but not nearly as prevalent as earlier in the season.
 At first glance, it was hard to see just how many young there were on the rock, but there were many.
 Parents were lovingly tending the needs of their young in very close proximity to so many others. There were no executive suites here.
 It struck me the head and face of the baby gannet somewhat resembled a young lamb with a black face and lots of fuzziness on the head.
 Some of the hatchlings were larger than others. This particular one was already strengthening its wings, with its mom's encouragement and support.
The gentle nature of the female gannet changes on a dime another female gets into her space.  Her fierce nature kicks in to protect the young.
All of this happens with the mother staying stationary. It is not going to leave the side of the baby.
The gannets were not alone. Along the cliff face, Black-legged Kittiwake were also protecting their young. There seemed to be many two-hatchling families. Note the broken egg in the bottom right corner of this shot.
 Like the gannets, the kittiwakes also offer a tender reassurance to their young. It was odd to me that there was no feeding going on with any of the birds we observed. Maybe we were too late in the day or too early?

In all of my photos, I only captured one young murre. From this shot, it seems the breeding season is not over. 

On our walk back to the parking lot, we came upon this broken egg in a trail some distance from "the rock." It seems to be a murre egg. However, at the time, I thought it might be a gannet egg because is was so large. 
Along the trail, a small herd of sheep ran past us. Don't know what set them off, but they were not coming toward us. This is just another part of the great experience in the area.

With a little extra effort, we were able to rustle up two Horned Larks. Typically, they can easily be seen in the area. It is possible the weather had them hiding away on that day.

Weather aside, any day at Cape St. Mary's is a good day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mammals of the Sea - Part II

 While at Bear Cove Beach about a week ago, this large Humpback Whale was skimming the fish along the coastline.
 It would make a pass in one direction and then, turn and go the other way like a vacuum cleaner trying to pick up every fish it could. As it surfaced, the water would stream out through its teeth and the caplin would stay in.
 At one point, it headed toward the beach to our excitement, but quickly turned and went on about its business. Once again, it was spellbinding.
 Closer to home, Cape Spear also delights. Despite the drizzle, fog and distance, my trusty camera captured some action for me to bring home and enjoy and study.
 At least one pod of dolphins swam by. I don't know enough about them to know what species they were.
Closer to shore was this seal. With the help of Ed Hayden, I learned a Gray Seal has a flat bridge from the head to the nose versus a Harp Seal that has a greater indentation making it look a lot like a dog face.
 Well, I didn't get enough photos to really be able to tell what I saw. Was it a Gray or a Harp or were there two.
 One image above looks more like a Harp while this one looks like a Gray. Maybe it is the same seal with the different angles creating a slightly different look.
 There were also regular flashes of whale tails, unfortunately too far offshore to instill the greatest appreciation.
 Most of the Humpbacked whales I have seen so far this year have been small. This large one was particularly welcome. It headed in towards shore where it began to put on a show.
 It rolled on its side and began slapping its pectoral fin. Pec slapping most often occurs when the whale is relaxed and may serve to signal its presence in the area. Tail slapping, on the other hand, it considered to be a very aggressive, territorial behaviour.
This whale was in no hurry to leave as this action continued for nearly a minute.
 It then righted itself and began to swim away.
 Then, there was a series a anomalies. There was this small whale with white on its dorsal fin.
 This tail appeared to have part of its fluke lobbed off.
 There were these two smaller whales that appeared to have dark dorsal fins...maybe small Humpback Whale. I really can't tell. My library of resources is clearly under stocked.
 There was this whale with a blunt dorsal fin and a white mark below it.
And last, but not least was this larger whale with a crumpled dorsal fin. I think it would be really nice is Nature NL were able to conduct a whale watching outing at Cape Spear with an expert to share some info about the sea mammals surrounding the coastline. To me, it is intriguing. The capelin have yet to really roll around the province, so maybe there will be considerable more whale action.

Mammals of the Sea - Part I

 While birding Cape St. Mary's, we were treated to the antics of a small Humpback Whale that skirted around the edge of the rocks.
 Its sudden appearance energized the onlookers. Each time it surfaced, a gasp of delight drowned out the loud "urrah" calls of the gannets. Then, the whale disappeared.
But, not for long. It leaped out of the water or breached right in front of us.
I was lucky to get my camera on it quickly, but the passing gannet threw it out of focus.
That's okay. I have waited five years to get any nearby shots of a whale breaching. It was awesome.
All over in a second or two, the whale hit the water with a splash. This was not a large whale, but it sure displaced a lot of water. To me, there is something really hypnotic about watching whales. At this time of the year, I am drawn to sea watching as much for the sea mammals as for the birds.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Surprise of the Day: Chimney Swift

 Like any hardy Newfoundland birder, Ethel Dempsey, Alison Mews and I headed to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve yesterday in pursuit of the possible Pacific Golden Plover seen earlier at that location.
 The balmy 10 degrees centigrade, nor the gentle breeze of 50 km Easterly gusts couldn't stop us from walking the mile out to "the rock." As usual it was bustling with activity which I will share in a future posts.
 The sweetest find of the day actually occurred in Branch where Alison spotted a dark, swallow-like bird. Determined to get a shot to secure an ID of this bird sent me rushing this way and that at the whim of the flighty little bird.
Deleting many blurry images and focusing on the silhouette captures as well as a little detail in this last shot, we were able to identify this bird with a short tail, stubby body and short beak to be a Chimney Swift. What a great surprise!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Short-eared Owl Do-over!

 Being left with feeling less than satisfied with my distant, shadowy look at the Short-eared Owl last week in St. Shott's, I just had to try again. It paid off.
 While none of my photos do justice to the great views I had of this bird, they do serve as a reminder of the day.
 This owl was sitting on a short post near the side of the road. As we drove by, this owl looked us straight in the eye....less than five feet away. Wow! That is what I waited five years to see. Naturally, it took to flight shortly after we stopped.
 Having already completed the mission, it was on to St. Shott's to see if the other two owls might be there. After a walk and a short wait, this one blew in from the hill below. It flew straight toward us. Again, it was spectacular. I blame my poor shots on the heavy fog that surrounded us.
 You see, this is what all of the pictures looked like until I did a little doctoring to be able to see some detail. Literally, out of the fog, flew in Short-eared Owl #3.
 Image has undergone major adjustments.
Shortly after flying out to us, it swung around and flew back whence it came. How exciting to see such an awesome bird! It was well worth the wait.