Monday, August 31, 2015

Red-eyed Vireo - Cape Spear Road

 Right on schedule, a Red-eyed Vireo showed up near Cape Spear. This affirms just how predictable birding can be. Of course, this is not true all the time. The surprising appearance of the Piping Plover just up the road proves that.
 The Cape Spear cabin location can also offer up some very nice, unexpected species as well. Last year, a Hooded Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Black-billed Cuckoo were spotted in the area. There have too many rarities found there to list.
 Birders often annually visit common locations to ferret out uncommon birds. This is, indeed, the most exciting time of the year to bird.
There have already been some very rare, great birds show up in the province. To add to the new White-winged Tern, another first-record bird was reported yesterday...a Broad-winged Hawk. What else is coming? It is important to cover as many locations as possible to find other hidden gems.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Piping Plover at Cape Spear

 At this time of the year, birding along side the road is often engaging enough. However, an out-of-the blue report from a non-birder spiced things up a lot this morning.
Ethel D. and I had bumped into each other along the road and ended up in Blackhead. We had just hit a good band of birds when an unknown gentleman drove up and asked if I were a birder. He went on to tell me about a small bird running around the parking lot at Cape Spear. He didn't know what it was, but knew he had never seen one before.
Ethel and I rushed to Cape Spear and searched the lot and area but found nothing. Seeing Paul L. later, I told him the story. He headed to Cape Spear. Ethel and I returned to Blackhead.
 It wasn't long before Paul drove up and announced the unknown bird was a Piping Plover. I couldn't believe my ears. We followed Paul back who pointed out this great, friendly little bird picking at the gravel before the parking lot.
 Wow! I was just talking about this species last week, saying I would have to wait until I make it to the west coast before I can see this bird. I guess if you wait long enough they will all come to St. John's. Although, I think this might be the first ever for the Northeast Avalon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Snagged a Mag

 Just one month ago, I saw my last Magnolia Warbler. This one was on Power's Road in Goulds in the same location it has been since Spring.
 I was taken by how bright it remained, but it is clear its streaking is dulled.
 On Saturday morning, I had a quick walk near home and came upon this terrific immature Magnolia Warbler. There is such a difference between a Spring and a Fall Magnolia, I really had to look closely to make sure it was not something else.
 Luckily, it stayed in the area quite a while as it was looking for breakfast.
 It finally found this little caterpillar and began pulling it from its hiding place.
 Being new at this, it had a little trouble. The caterpillar won this battle and leaped to safety. Poor Magnolia, it couldn't believe its eyes.
 It hopped over to get a better look at the disappearing bug.
It looked and it looked, but couldn't find it again. This bird stayed on that branch for more than a minute trying figure out what just happened. It sure has to refine this skill, or it won't grow big and strong enough to travel south. It was really interesting to watch it try to figure out what to do next.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Giant Greater Yellowlegs

This is absolutely the largest Greater Yellowlegs I have ever seen. Good enough for Thanksgiving dinner, I think.

Friday, August 21, 2015

White-winged Tern: A First for Newfoundland

 Close enough to see well, but not close enough to photograph properly.
 Paul Linegar is the man of the hour for his find of a White-winged Tern in Manuels, a first-ever record for the province. As expected, every birder in the region dropped everything and headed to the boat basin near the yacht club to see this Eurasian species.
There is no mistaking this bird. When I first saw it, it flew into the boat channel, and the black "popped" against the sky.
As it came closer and more detail emerged, I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  What a beautiful bird!
 In 2011, a Black Tern appeared in the same area; not nearly as rare as the White-winged Tern, but strikingly similar in appearance.
This tern seems to be resting in the safety of the inner harbour in Manuels and feeding in a small pond about two minutes away in Chamberlains.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Phantom Crane Fly at Bidgood Park

 The Phantom Crane Fly is such an interesting critter. The most consistent sightings I have had of this fly is around the boardwalk at Bidgood Park.
It takes a moment to train the eye to find and follow this insect. They are soooo small and tricky. It is thought that the coloring of this fly is instrumental in its ability to disappear right before you eyes.
Without a camera or high-powered binoculars to enlarge this tiny bug, it is impossible to see it at all. It floats through the air, not appearing to fly at all. It just drifts.
The female is larger than the male and is usually the one at the top of the chain when mating. I continue to marvel at the detail on small insects that we typically never see.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Plentiful European Skippers

 Most anywhere you go now, if there are woods and wild flowers....there are European Skippers. It can be tricky to see this small butterfly as it is only about 1 inch in size and seems to fly low to the ground. However, at this time in July they are plentiful, and they are flitting around in search of a mate as well as a meal.
 The European Skipper was accidentally introduced to Canada in 1910 when it arrived with a shipment of glass packed in swamp grass. It has since spread across much of North America and is not only thriving but also expanding its range.
 This rusty orange butterfly was named "skipper" because of its practice of skipping along the flowers and low grass looking for nectar.

 The European Skipper is considered an invasive species as it does quite a lot of damage to timothy grass and other grass types. Natural fungus will often keep their spread in check.

The next three images clearly show the proboscis, the drinking straw. This is actually considered a flexible tongue used to drink the nectar.
 In order to drink, the proboscis uncoils for eating and rolls back up when not eating. See the face image above of the skipper sitting on the white flower. It shows the coiled tube.
For me, it was impossible to see the detail of this species without the photos. It takes an enormous amount of time to photograph these and other very small insects.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

American Emerald Dragonfly

With the "bummer Summer" we have had this year, it has been very difficult to find and photograph dragonflies and butterflies. Persistent efforts have yielded a couple of new species for my collection.
 These few shots of an American Emerald were taken on Parker's Pond Road. It made many flybys, circled me and even landed on my shoulder, but landed only briefly where I could get a couple of shots.
I have a number of other images of darners, but they are very difficult for me to identify. Nevertheless, I will continue my effort and get them posted in good time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shades of Yellow and Brown

It is time now to savour all the little birds in the woods. Soon, they will begin gathering and before you know it, they will lift off leaving us for warmer zones. They are probably wondering why they ever chose to spend a summer in the North Atlantic. We had the coldest July ever recorded...bad for birds and bad for birders.
Yesterday, with gentle winds and plenty of time, I strolled down some trails and enjoyed every appearance of each little bird that greeted me.
Yellow was the predominant color of the birds that showed up. Some were bright yellow and others were pale shades.
All were welcome.
 There has been some cutting along the power lines. It was there I chose to walk, and it proved to be a good choice.
 The Yellow Warbler which has been so prevalent during the summer seems to be getting scarce now.
 Persistently present and easily found by its song or chip, the Northern Waterthrush has been everywhere this summer.
 When a thrush pops out, it is a little more exciting because of the need to get a good look (in the absence of song) to get an accurate ID. The possibilities are: Hermit Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, or Swainson's Thrush are the most likely possibilities.
 The most common is the Hermit Thrush which is what this one turned out to be. Its head and body was a particularly dark brown, but its red tail left no doubt about its ID.
 This Ruffed Grouse was standing in the middle of the road when I first saw it. Then, from the side, a tiny little grouse scurried along behind it. At one point, I saw the little on on a low branch, but it wasn't possible to get a picture.
Off in a distant field, there was another moose. I have seen so many this year, more than ever. This, I think, is #5. Never a dull moment in the woods!