Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Woodcocks Await..errr Maybe

One of the great things about doing a big year is it motivates, or perhaps forces one to do things that they might otherwise deem to be..well.. stupid!I found out a while ago that I would have the opportunity to go to Corner Brook
(600km W of St.John's) to participate in discussions about protecting some of Newfoundland's more vulnerable bird species. While that in itself is pretty cool, I immediately realized that trip trip would have a huge fringe benefit. It would put me within 190 km's of the Codroy Valley, the only place in Newfoundland where the elusive American Woodcock can be reliably seen..check that heard, they're almost never seen. Now the issue is I will have only a single evening to hear Woodcock. This might not seem like such a Herculean task if it weren't for the fact that A) Woodcock is a rare bird in Newfoundland and B) the weather forecast is horrible!! So, it seems the odds are definitely stacked against me, but the plans are made and I'm going to give it a try anyway.

So,I'll be attending a meeting on Wednesday until about 4:30, then bolting for the Codroy Valley asap, hopefully in time to orient myself,do some very quick scouting and then get set up and ready to hear a Woodcock during the small window of time when they display after sunset. Thankfully, I won't be alone during all of this. Fellow intrepid birder, Jared Clarke, has agreed to join me. He has yet to see American Woodcock in Newfoundland, so it wasn't that hard to convince him to take part in my misadventure!

I've just taken an opportunity to check the forecast for the Codroy area and it looks like we can expect winds between 20-50 km/hr along with up to 5 cm of snow and some rain, sounds great- NOT! Nevertheless, trips like this are part of doing big years. There are species you just must have and Woodcock is one of these. So in spite of snow, or rain, or hail, or wind, Jared and I will be out tomorrow night straining our ears, bracing against the wind, listening for that distinctive peent, peent. So think of us when your relaxing in nice warm homes and maybe even wish us some luck, because I think we'll need it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dip, Dip and More Dips!!

For those who are unfamiliar with the word dip, it's a word that a birder and more appropriately a twitcher never wants to use. Basically it means searching for, but not seeing a rarity that was reported. Things have been heating up a bit on the birding front in Newfoundland (did things ever cool down?) with several good birds arriving from the south of the last week to ten days, unfortunately I've missed a couple of good ones.

Yesterday I searched in vain for several hours for a an immature male Summer Tanager.It had been seen feeding from a suet feeder and since it was snowing yesterday I figured it would surely still be attending the feeder, but no such luck. In the week before I has travelled to see a long staying Tree Sparrow and a newly arrived yellow-bellied Sapsucker and missed both of those.Not to mention I've failed to see the Rough-legged hawk that wintered near St.John's despite looking for about at least 5 times more than anyone else! Heck, even people visiting for just a single day saw this bird.

Anyway, I'll end my lament here and look ahead to the future. The next 10-15 days are bound to be very exciting since we are now getting into prime time for Euro rarities, southern vagrants and our own breeders will be heading back en masse over the next few weeks as well. All we need now is some weather. Ideally, we'll be looking for low pressure systems that move quickly from the south, bringing southern birds with them. Then after they drop off the southern vagrants they position themselves between Newfoundland and Iceland redirecting Icelandic breeders returning from the UK.

Though I'll be busy working and birding over the next few days, I plan on posting a much more detailed blog about the types of weather systems I mention above. I've also been doing some thinking about potential new birds that could be added to the Newfoundland list. I'll be posting a top ten soon to be found in Newfoundland list in the next week, so check back!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Southern Blast- Weather and Birds/

It's 6:30 am as I wrote this. I have just gotten in from a quick trip outside and man is it windy. Not only is it windy, it's damp and humid. It kind of feels like one of those early mornings we get in early September, when under the influence of a low pressure systems that was spawned in the Caribbean. I'm as usually borderline obsessive with my checking of approaching weather systems but somehow I had failed to even notice this one. SO the first thing I did when cam in was take look at the current forecast and the weather maps. According to The Weather Network it is currently 6C, rising to 11 by afternoon, with current winds gusting to 76km/hr from the SW. All of that looks like this on a weather map.

There are two things to notice about the above chart. First look how tight the isobars are packed around Newfoundland, this indicates that the winds will be rather intense. Secondly, note the origin of these isobars. They reach all the way to South Carolina and even Florida.

Another important point is where is the system itself originated. This system is actually a combination of a series of low pressure system's that only a day ago stretched from Texas to southern Ontario. This is the same system that brought strong wind, severe thunder storms and even a couple of Tornado warnings to Ontario. Here is the weather map from about 24 hours ago.

Note the line of low pressure stretching from Mexico to southern Ontario, with a low centered in Ontario. I wonder what if anything was dropped there after this storm?

Anyway, you can analyze weather maps until you are blue inteh face, but how does all this relate to birding? Well in order to answer that question a little background knowledge is needed. We need to have an idea of what birds are possible and we get this information two ways, or I do at least. first I check the birding list servs for the eastern seaboard to see what's on the move. For example, yesterday I noted that there was a flock of almost 30 Snowy Egrets in New York, apparently a one day high for the particular location. A little farther to the north in New Brunswick I saw that 100+ Brown-headed Cowbirds were seen at a feeder on a offshore island. By researching what's happening to our south, we can then get an idea about what fast moving systems that sweep through these areas could bring our way.

After you know what might be on it's way it never hurts to look at historical data from your own region. I do this by doing searching through the nf.bird ( our local bird list serv) archives. Doing this will give you can idea of what has happened in the past at this time of year, allowing you to form a precedent and get a further idea of what might be possible.

So, now that I have an idea of what might be headed our way there is only one thing left to do- go find some birds! So, today and tomorrow I'll be out checking the various hot spots, fields, marshes and feeders and hopefully my research and preparation will pay off!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'm back!...and Photos

Well, I bet you all thought I had disappeared again. I've actually been working kinda hard writing material for the blog, i just haven't been finishing anything. I've also been experimenting with taking video footage. Today I got some footage of the long staying Black-tailed Gull and even got it performing it's long call. This bird is really starting to look good now. It's now mainly white headed and now has a brilliant red orbital ring. The red on the bill tip even seems brighter. Not bad for a gull that was run over by a truck! Here's a photo of the BTGU calling to assert his dominance over the near by Ring-billed Gulls.

Black-tailed Gull, Newfoundland, Canada, North Ameria
Black-tailed Gull calling

I'm hoping to add some video footage of this guy in a few days once I get that whole scene figured out ;/

While the BTGU is starting to brighten up some species such as Great Cormorant have been looking pretty snazzy for a while now. This species has managed to effectively elude my camera lens all winter until a couple days ago. I finally caught up to a nice alternate plumaged bird on the remains of a dilapidated wharf in the St.John's harbour. It was rewarding to finally get some good photo ops with these guys after chasing them around the harbour so much this winter but never connecting with them when there were in convenient locations.

Great Cormorant, Newfoundland, Canada

Great Cormorant, Newfoundland, Canada

Along with the Shags another photo nemesis bird fell this winter- Wood Duck. Too be specific female Wood Duck. While the male of this species tends to garner most of the attention I find myself considerably more enamoured with the female.It lacks the riot of colors of the male Wood Duck, but makes up for that with a more subtle, less flamboyant beauty. I find myself especially drawn to the ye low orbital ring. That could just be me though, I have a thing for orbital rings. I won't get into that too much though or I'll ruin a future post. Anyway, you can see what I mean...

Wood Duck, Newfoundland

Since I'm on the topic of birds making the switch from simple basic plumage to their more flash alternate dress, I would be inept if I failed to mention Black-headed Gull. About 75-100 BHGU's winter in St.John's each winter and every year local birders eagerly wait for them to acquire their black..eh hemm.. I mean brown heads. yea, Black-headed Gull is a bit of a misnomer. I guess they do look kinda black headed from a distance on an overcast day?? Anyway, I'll finish this quick post with a few BHGU's.

Black-headed Gull Newfoundland, Canada, North America
Black-headed Gull preening
Black-headed Gull

Looking ahead, I've got a number of things planned for future blog articles. I'm knee deep ina discussion about possible ways of separating nominate glaucoides Iceland Gulls from apparently <<< key word<<< pure, white winged Kumliens Gulls. I also eluded to a future post about orbital rings. However before all of that I'll have something to say about the weather and what we might have to look forward to.
Look at this weather map. This is happening right now...
weather map north america

Right now birds displaced from the southern US are probably arriving on Newfoundland shores... but I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.

Oh and I almost forgot..added three new year birds today. Northern Fulmar, Ruffed Grouse and Thick-billed Murre. None of these are surprises. What was a surprise was the Great Egret that was reported. I did refind this bird. Unfortunately it was face down and not at all alive! Too bad, I hate seeing this happen,but such are the perils of migration. After the above system passes, I'd expect more Egrets!

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