On September 11th I set off for a day birding with good friend Jarod Clarke. Jarod and I have had some good success birding together in recent years so the day was filled with promise. For example last October we put together a nice string of rarities that included, Blue Grosbeak,Indigo Bunting,Scarlet Tanager,Grasshopper Sparrow, Hooded Warbler and I know there were a couple of others that got away. The year before we managed to pull off a rare 5 species of Vireo day on the southern Avalon Peninsula. This might not seem overly impressive, but when you consider that there aren't any breeding Vireos in eastern Newfoundland, then you see how significant this was. Of particular note were a Warbling and Yellow-throated Vireo. Added to the Vireos were a Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and a Prothotary Warbler.Again not bad!
So we have a history of finding good birds, you get the picture. Since I was entering the day at 246 for the year ( only a single species from the NL year list record) I was feeling confident that the record would fall.
We decided to hit a well known migrant trap to start the day. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by warblers and sparrows. Before long we had Prairie Warbler- nice bird, but I already had seen one this year. We continued birding for migrants for the next couple of hours and added a few more interesting birds but nothing new for the year and after 3 hours digging in the alders we decided a change of scenery was in order. We headed for Bear Cove (100km S of St.John's),which was only a 7 minute drive from our location. The coastal deciduous shrubbery is well known among Newfoundland birders for its ability to collect weary migrants. The list of rarities that have been found there over the years is too long to mention but suffice to say that every Warbler and Vireo that breeds east of the Mississippi had been found there in the last decade! This was also the location of the Orchard Oriole and Golden-winged Warbler that I had found just two days earlier. To make a long story short, today was not the day to find a mega in Bear Cove. We were late getting there, the winds had picked up and the birds were keeping a low profile- no year birds here.
So, from there we headed South and I wasn't worried in the least since we were headed for Cape Race. I've mentioned Cape Race in previous posts. It's located at the extreme SE edge of the Avalon Peninsula and has a list of rarities that can compete with almost any birding location in North America. The Cape itself and the long dirt road leading to it have played host to some of the most extraordinary rarities in Newfoundland and North America, for that matter.
However, things were slow today. We pished the stunted trees along the coast hoping for an exhausted migrant, but nothing. We walked all around the grassy areas and the building at the Cape and again nothing. On our way out the road we were talking about how Cape Race had failed us when we flushed when Jarod yelled stop, what's that!! I slammed on the brakes and looked to the right, raising my bins at the same time. I got on a largish,plump passerine that was flying along side the car. It was immediately interesting, but what was it. We quickly went through the possibilities, Horned Lark, Pipit (the two most common possibilities). But wait it's bright below, Oriole, no that's not right. Then as the bird just passed by it clicked, Meadowlark!! We could not see the Black V as it flew by but the large size (for a passerine) the dumpy look, short tail with white outer tail feather, and pale sandy back and of course yellow under parts, all added up. The bird flew away with strong direct flight that consisted of a series of tight undulations. We watched it fly away, looking as though it wanted to land, but not landing. We lost it after about 100 meters and we failed to re find it.
So that was it, the Meadowlark was my 247th species of bird for Newfoundland this year and I was now co-owner of the Newfoundland year list record. We birded for another 4 hours without anything remarkable happening and got home around 9:00 pm to put an end to a 15 hour day.
It's 9:40 pm now and as I write this I'm thinking about tomorrow. I'll be birding the southern shore again and the next new species will give me sole ownership of the provincial year list record. I'll post an update tomorrow if I'm successful, otherwise it'll be a few days as I continue to work on the Ringed Plover article.