There are many "firsts" in birding. Most of the time the idea of a "first" is associated with seeing a species for the first time.
In this case it is a behavioral first. I spotted this hawk soaring and circling. When observing a raptor soaring and circling an area, gradually flying higher and farther away, I do not think of a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
My field-mark checkpoints all pointed to a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I had a hard time getting past the behaviour usually associated with other raptors.
For that reason, I got another opinion which, indeed, confirmed this bird is a "sharpie." Just about the time I think I have a species "nailed" and can identify it anywhere anytime, I see something that makes me question everything.
This is the one and only shot I took of this bird that is typical of the "sharpie's" flight pattern. It always pays to look up, way up, and be open to the unexpected.
On this blustery day with gusts over 100 k, I can only imagine what it is like at Cape Spear today. I have been there when I couldn't stand up and been there when my car rocked so much it was impossible to focus my binoculars. The reality of Cape Spear is: It is the best of places, and it is the worst of places, depending on the elements.
Only a few days ago, I enjoyed the Cape at its best. There weren't many birds in close to shore, only these few Long-tailed Ducks. Nevertheless, it was one of those days I couldn't resist sitting on a rock and enjoying the calm, warming day.
While I sat, I watched this flock of Common Eider. Initially, they were quite far offshore. First, they sent out a scouting party to check out the situation close to shore. This is common for eider.
The tip of the flock wove their way in, just beneath where I was sitting. I eagerly scanned them for King Eiders. There were none.
As the lead group neared the rocks, they began to dive. Shortly thereafter, the larger flock worked their way in close.
I was surprised to see only one obvious immature duck among them. There was also this very gray female Common Eider. It easily stood out from the typically dark brown females.
I remained focused on the immature duck. Hoping to identify it as an King, I took numerous photos to examine the bird more closely.
The more I was able to see the detail; the more I realized it, too, was an immature male Common Eider.
However, there was no disappointment. After all, I was sitting on the most northeast point of North America enjoying the sun rays and all birds that appeared before me.
After a nice long hike out the East Coast Trail beyond Cape Spear, I darted into Blackhead on my way home. A quick look driving in yielded nothing, but as I drove out I spied a black and white ball tucked into the cove.
Time to hike again. I headed into the trail to see the lone Common Eider bobbing on the water. Without a doubt, this was the best look I have ever had of this species.
This was the first time I had ever seen an eider in this area. Wonder how he got separated. He certainly seemed well enough. The moment he spotted me, his instinct to get away kicked in very quickly.
Keeping one eye locked on me, it wasted no time swimming out into the open water.