Today was my second day of guiding a visiting birder from Cape May. After getting killer "walk away" views of the Yellow-legged Gull yesterday, we were left wondering if today could get any better... well it did, sort of.
Our plan for the day was to check wet areas for Euro Snipes and hopefully find some berry eating birds that would give us a chance at Redwing and Fieldfare. Before we got to the intended starting point we had a large raptor fly across the road in front of the car. We got on it quickly and followed it for about 30 seconds. It was immediately apparent were looking at a large falcon. The large,broad wings, heavy dark streaking,pale contrasting flight feathers confirmed that this was a dark morph GYRFALCON, a much sought after bird for visiting birders and for me the quintessential winter bird.Feeling good we headed south.
We walked all around a few communities checking every wet ditch, flushing several Gallinago Snips, two confirmed Wilson's Snipe and two presumed Wilson's Snipe. Although,given the massive movement of Common Snipe in the UK,one can never be sure!
Our next stop was in Bear Cove to look for sea ducks. It took a while, but eventually we spotted an immature male King Eider- another good bird!While we were scanning the Eiders, I got a heads up call from local birder Dave Sheppard advising of a flock of Robins and Waxwings, further south in Trepassey. This was exciting. We knew there was potential for Euro Turds among these flocks. We set off again.
We stopped a couple of times on the way to have an intimate experience with Pine Grosbeaks and Boreal Chickadees, that were basically right on our faces! We didn't stay too long because we were interested in getting to Trepassey, to search those Robins. When we get to Trepassey there were already 4 visiting birders and local birder Bruce Mactavish. We watched a group of Cedar Waxwings and a couple of Robins for about 10-15 minutes,but nothing of interest. Then it happened.. We heard the word we were waiting for, REDWING!!! Bruce caught a brief flimpse of a Redwing as it popped into a Mountain Ash tree,before diving back into the cover of the surrounding coniferous forest. WOW, now we just had to refind it. After another 10 minutes of straining our eyes to see through the roadside alders, it hapened again. This time mtself, Bruce and visiting tour leader Bruce Dilabio all got it the same time and all three of us shouted REDWING!! Unfortunately,it was only in view for a couple of seconds and dissappeared again. The bird was seen briefly once more and again as it flew off to roost with the Robin flock. Unfortunately,none of the tour participants ever got on the bird.However, I have another visitor arriving tonight and will be back there again early tomorrow morning to refind this great bird.
As of all of this wasn't enough, on the way back north across the barrens we were admiring a stunning pink sunset against the snow covered barrens when I spotted another winter gem- SNOWY OWL! The bird was perched on a stunted conifer just perring at us in the van. After a couple of minutes the Owl lifted and flew across the pink glow created by the setting sun and eventually melted into the horizon. To see a Snowy Owl in this winter landscape was absolutely perfect,things just couldn't get any better than this- this is Newfoundland winter birding at it's finest.