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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hudsonian Godwit: No Guarantees

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 For several consecutive years, a Hudsonian Godwit or two have shown up in the St. John's area. So far, not this year. With all of the hot weather in July, the water levels were dropping and rocks were becoming exposed. It looked promising for shorebirds in Goulds this year.
 Then, came August. Non-stop rain quickly filled up the ponds, and roosting rocks vanished under the water. This may have impacted the low number of shorebirds that showed up here this fall.
 Fortunately, one Hudsonian Godwit appeared in Renews. Even then there was no guarantee it would be there when I was there.
 Margie M. and I birded Renews earlier this week. First check of the shoreline found the godwit feeding away. We checked other places and returned, and it was gone.
We stayed unusually late in Renews; so before we left, we took one more look around the bay. At that time, many shorebirds had flown in, and there was the godwit again. It seemed to be unusually tame allowing us to get close looks. There were four small sandpipers there as well that sent us back to the books to study. More on that at another time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hunting Dark-eyed Juncos

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 It's the time of the year that Dark-eyed Juncos take on a greater importance.
 Yesterday and today, I was able to locate several large flocks of juncos. Why is this so special? Well, it is known that vagrants often attach themselves to flocks of other birds.
 With a flock of 40 to 50 juncos and a few chickadees thrown in for good measures, it is very difficult to scan them all. Keen and vigilant, I typically attempt to scan the large group in a left to right fashion. This system often fails as more and more juncos fly into the flock.
Looking for any signs of yellow or brown, it seems an impossible task. Yet, on occasion, a rare bird does surface. Finding one rare bird sometimes leads to finding others as birders flock to the area and conduct a more extensive search. All of this is not to diminish the value of the very likable junco. As the breeding birds retreat to warmer grounds, the junco will be one of the nicest mainstays in this province's winter birding routine.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Orange-crowned Warbler Offers Up a Bit of Excitement

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 Fall birding styles vary from other seasons. I often walk the same old trails, visit the same old locations where vagrants have been spotted in years gone by, and I often come up with the same old tally...Nil. Nevertheless, I keep going out when time and weather permits. A couple of days ago, I visited Cuckhold's Cove Trail with a familiar feeling: Maybe, I will find something good; maybe, I won't.
Then, at the top of the hill, I caught sight of  a warbler, species unknown. I kept a close eye on it as it moved through the leaves until it started to keep a close watch on me. I couldn't see all of the bird so I was hesitant to make a call on the ID.
 Patiently and not-so-patiently, I watched as it moved around. The bird was looking more like an Orange-crowned Warbler, but I still hadn't had a full-on look at it.
 It is quite amazing when tracking a warbler at this time of the year. My adrenaline goes from 0 to 60 mph in one second. All focus is on the bird and attempting to get a good look at it. Experience tells me it could be gone in a flash without an ID.
 For that reason, I keep shooting photos because on many occasions, I have had to make an ID after the fact based on bits and pieces of the bird as represented in images.
That was not the case this time. Just before its final departure, the great little warbler hopped out in the open to give me an opportunity to see all of it and proclaim it to be an Orange-crowned Warbler....on the spot!

That is why I will continued to walk the familiar trails in search of an unfamiliar bird.

Afterword: With Hurricane Gonzalo just offshore from the SE Avalon, I know there are birders already sitting in strategic locations hoping to catch sight of some rare seabirds in the midst of the downpour and high winds. That sounds a little strange for those who enjoy sitting out a storm in the comfort of their home, but what is really strange is the number of runners and volunteers who are now right in the middle of a Cat 1 hurricane running from Cape Spear to Cabot Tower. Oh, how our passions impact our common sense!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Palm Warbler: Spring to Fall

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 Over the year, I have been fortunate to see several Palm Warblers. They are uncommon around St. John's, so that makes a sighting even more special.
 It was in the woods that run along Stick Pond that offered up this Spring Palm Warbler.
 In breeding plumage its colors were bright and fetching.
 Fast forward to October 6 when I saw this Palm Warbler in the pit at the end of Bus Shelter Trail.
Much of the rufous color is gone and the yellow has dulled tremendously. One constant, though, is the bright yellow under-tail coverts
Against the evergreen and the bare deciduous trees, this bird can look pretty bright. The Palm is a "tail bobber." At this time of the year, it can more readily be seen among the low, seed-producing plants. That is where I found this one.

This bird is running a little behind schedule, as it should soon be well on its way to the SE United States and/or the Caribbean Isles by now.