Thursday, October 19, 2017

Interesting Winter Ahead

 Last winter it was difficult to see any kind of finch, probably because the woods were void of cones and berries. Now, this year may offer up a much different story. The hillsides are red with dogberries. Everywhere you look branches are hanging heavy with the prize winter berry for birds. Cone crops are also looking good.
 Late last week I came upon two large flocks (40 to 50 individuals each) of White-winged Crossbills in Flatrock and Pouch Cove.  A good sign? Maybe. Evening Grosbeaks were also very hard to come by in the winter of 2017. While I have not seen any yet this season, we just may find them returning for the winter of 2018.
 There is good news and bad news in the story. Yes, there will be plenty of food, but predictions are it is going to be a harsh winter. Let's hope the birds stay around for winter and are hardy enough to survive it.
I have my hopes up to see more than Red-breasted Nuthatch this year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sparrow Blitz

 It is impossible to go to Cape Spear during breeding season and not see lots and lots of Savannah Sparrows. However, it is not that common to come upon a baby Savannah that has yet to take flight. It is this great little one that sparked this post.
 Early in the season Savannah Sparrows dot the landscape, staking out their territory and attracting a mate.
 They sing and sing, often oblivious to the many visitors passing them by.
In just a few short weeks the Savannah is seen gathering food for the likes of the little guy in the first picture.
 Once again they go about their business as if no one were there, even when the wind nearly blows them off their perch.
 During the period of raising a family, one adult will often serve as a distraction from the nest. They guard and protect their young in a very aggressive manner. There have been thousands of tourists at the Cape this year. It didn't seem to affect the breeding going on in the area. Yet, they did move to another location to avoid the foot traffic.
 Cape Spear is not the only place to get a glimpse of this sparrow. Savannah Sparrows are frequently seen at Bidgood Park, though not in the same numbers as Cape Spear.
 For many years, I only noticed Savannah Sparrows at the Cape. In recent years, however, I have been seeing the Swamp Sparrow that is more typically seen at Bidgood Park breeding at Cape Spear.
 During breeding season it is remarkable to see just how red (photos not retouched) the Swamp Sparrows are.Throughout the season the red fades. Spring is the best time to observe the Swamp Sparrow.
 Bidgood Park also serves as a breeding ground for the White-throated Sparrow as well as the whole length of Power's Road.
 I think this is a juvenile because it does not bear the bright, distinctive markings of an adult White-throated. They, too, are quite vibrant in Spring. This is an example of the tan version of the species.
 Why bother to look at all of the common sparrows? Well, because sometimes a rare or unusual bird may appear. This juvenile Junco (sparrow cousin) is an example. I have seen many dark young juncos, but this one was probably the darkest. It may take a little extra time to scan sparrows to verify a species, but the potential to unearth a rare one, especially at this time of the year, is always there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

All the Time!

 This series of photos shows what I struggle with all the time. Not all birds are willing to pop out on a branch for a photo, so I find myself shooting between twigs, branches, leaves, and at birds "on the fly."
 Why bother? Well many, many of these partial images of birds have snagged some rarities. I have frequently pestered birders with a wealth of knowledge and experience to help me identify therm.
 The images here are just a sample of some of the challenging shots. Among them are notable birds: Vireo, Northern Parula and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and what else...
 Here is a classic example. A distant shot of a small bird nestled into a darned-hard area to photograph. Below is the same image enlarged. It reveals an interesting bird. Many times my blurry, distant images go unidentified.
 This one is a curiosity? When I look at these shots, I often wish I could turn back time and try to get a better picture.
Early-morning pictures are often the worst. Lighting conditions are usually terrible, but that is when the best birds seem to get moving.  Have I failed to report a rare bird in a timely manner? Absolutely. I can't just throw an ID out there based on some of my images without getting some help.

What if all photographers used the camera first and binoculars second? Would we have even more reports of rare birds?  Who knows? The reward just might be a Yellow-throated Vireo!



 Sometimes I get a series of only pieces of the bird in the hopes they can all be reassembled into one identification. This is one such series of four shots of the same bird. To date, I still don't know what it was. The pictures just sit in my archives as a reminder to take every picture I can.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What a Rush

 Just when wondering why there were no small birds around, this great Goshawk appeared on a branch. Big Bird!
 Then, it lifts off and heads straight toward the cameras trained on it.
 I couldn't help but remember the story told to owlers at Butterpot Park. During breeding season, a resident Northern Goshawk would attack anyone who came near its nest.
Thankfully, this one pulled up and went on its way.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gotta Love the One You're With

 I did some early-morning walking yesterday around  Long Pond, Pippy Park and Kent's Pond. Birds were just beginning to move. Nothing rare appeared, but "usuals" provided a lot of entertainment. The bravest and first to fly in was this hungry Hairy Woodpecker.
 She paid no attention to me as she worked very hard to dig her breakfast out of the tree.
 I don't think I had ever noticed the interesting little black and white pattern around the eye before. Even the common birds can bring new experiences.
 I saw five Red-breasted Nuthatch around Long Pond. Typical of their behaviour, they come in close, sometimes too close for a good shot. Nevertheless, it is nice to see and hear them back in their familiar place.

 I saw a flock of finch fly overhead, but I don't think they were goldfinch. Just above me, I found three American Goldfinch that didn't stay around long as the foot traffic began to pick up on the trail. There were few robins, chickadees, juncos and jays fliting through the woods.
Kent's Pond yielded 15 Ring-necked Ducks and one unknown "warbler," A birding trip is never complete without the one that got away.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fast and Furious Five Days

 It all started on Friday when I made a jaunt to Renews for a day of relaxation and walking. My first stop that morning was Bear Cove Point Road.
 By the time I got there I was still queasy from a very close encounter I had with a large moose standing right in the middle of the road in Middle Pond. It was shrouded in darkness until the last moment when I was nearly on it. Thank goodness for the shoulder of the road. Hitting the gravel hard, I dodged a near hit.
 It was a relief to get out of the car and walk. The trip in toward the lighthouse didn't yield much, but I took more time on the way out and was able to enjoy a good flock of warblers, thrushes, and robins.
 Of the birds I saw in this bunch, this very dull Yellow Warbler stumped me. With a consultation, I learned what it is.
 In fact, every partial, distant or blurry image has been filtered by someone who is better able to puzzle the images into an identification.
 The most challenging birds seen on Point Rd. that morning were these two distant birds. I birded around the lighthouse and came up with very little. I then drove to the top of the hill to look around. When I got out, I looked back down toward the lighthouse and what should I see but birds that were not there just seconds ago. The distant bird on the wire basking in the glow of the rising red sun turned out to be a Bobolink. I couldn't tell at the time.
 Further out in the woods was this bird with a large beak. At the time I pretty much gave up on it.
 Closer looks at the sad images reveal it was not a Pine Grosbeak but a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
 It was several days after the sighting I remembered the bird and asked for help. Hence the absence of reporting.
 The last troublesome bird of the day was this fly-by seen on the road past Renews. I still do not know what this was.
 Birding with an old friend on Saturday offered up some more challenges. A little flurry of activity at the top of Warbler Alley off Blackhead Road offered up this Orange-crowned Warbler, a Philadelphia Vireo and a few common Warblers.
 Heading down the trail we encountered this bird calling loudly. It was below us on a bright and glorious morning. The only problem with that is the sun created this difficult image to identify. After one second on the wire, it was gone. Consultation suggested it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler.
 A little further down the difficult trail we encountered a much larger, brown bird. We both noted the stout beak and with great difficulty, I managed to get a few photos through thirty feet of branches and leaves.
 The bird would not come close or stay still.
 Closer examination of the bird by someone who knows birds very well identified this one as a Brown-headed Cowbird. I would never have thought of that species. The only ones I have ever seen before have not been deep in the woods.
 This bird also seen at the top of the alley is probably a thrush. No confirmation of the species on this wire.
 Eager to see the Chestnut-sided Warbler more closely, I headed out to Blackhead Road again early the next morning. Upon arriving at the bus shelter, I found this bird with a large beak sitting in a distant tree in the dark.
 With cropping and lightening up the image, I wondered if this might be the cowbird. I sent the pic off again.
 Determination: It is possible, but it is also possible it is another Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
 This bird remains unidentified. Hunting for rarities is like that. You win some and you lose some, but the hunt is always exciting and fun.
 I have seen birds and watched the beautiful sunrise for five days straight. The calm winds have made it much easier to spot birds moving around.
 Heading back to Warbler Alley to look for the Chestnut-sided Warbler, I was lucky. I had a good look at it for about a minute as it worked its way up a tree.
 However, that wasn't all I saw. There was this yellow bird, a warbler. It was actually too close to me for the camera to focus.
 I am convinced this bird was not a Yellow Warbler. There is another much more exciting possibility, but my shots are so poor this bird remains unidentified. Drat!
 The next morning, Monday, I headed back to try to find the jewel above. No luck. But in the bus shelter trail, I came across one bird only. It would not cooperate.
 I got a quick look at it as it flew across the trail and hid behind some leaves. From this bad shot (lots of bad pics over these days), I can see it has some white on its belly. At the time, I thought Nashville Warbler. A little more of the bird can be seen above. That is it! The bird worked its way into the foliage not to be seen again by me. Another birder came in after me and got a pic of the back of a yellow bird. I have been eagerly waiting for him to post his sighting to see if it is the same bird. Another good bird lost!
 Hoping to relocate this lost bird, I returned to the same area early Tuesday morning. It was another beautiful day dawning as a flock of seven Canada Geese flew in low over my head. Wow! Is it any wonder I enjoy the early morning hours so much. While in the pit, I saw five birds: One kinglet, two Yellow-rumped Warblers and two unidentified birds that disappeared quickly. Oh well, there was no nicer place to be with a little flurry of activity and amazing birding conditions.
 On the walk out I stopped to chat with another birder. This Oriole flew in and landed on a distant tree. Primed to look for rarities now, I thought this oriole looked a little large. I checked old images I have of the Baltimore Oriole and found some present with a very long tail and others seem to have a shorter tail.
 Hmmm. I have to settle for a Baltimore Oriole. It is always nice to see them. I checked several more spots along the road and found just enough activity with Yellow-rumped Warblers to convince me it was worth a walk through Cape Spear Path.
 As I walked the trail, I saw a flash of white on a bird that disappeared into the low growth. It vanished. I decided to walk in and look for it on the way out. Along the trail and at the end I found seven Yellow-rumped Warblers and one Common Yellow-throat.
As I slowly walked out, I kept an eye on the low alders hoping the see the missed bird with white. I saw a little movement in the alders and raised my camera. Through the lens I was surprised to see yellow! Wow! These were the only two shots I got before the bird lifted off and flew directly over me to the other side of the trail. It is the combination of what I saw and these pictures that I made the ID of a Hooded Warbler,.

This morning I sit at home trying to convince myself to stay here. The higher winds out there will make it harder to see birds and after all, life requires some attending. Nevertheless, there are good birds out there hiding away. They are getting harder to find day by day as more and more birds leave us.