After scrutinizing a large flock of juncos and sparrows in Blackhead, I had really given up the idea there might be something good around. Then, I drove out. There sitting on a wire in the distance was a bird.
It would have been easy to assume this, too, was a junco or sparrow. That didn't really factor into my thinking, because I always stop and try to see the bird more clearly.
While straining to see against the back light, I heard the distinctive old-man call come out of this bird. It was a Dickcissel, a cooperative Dickcissel.
Not only did it stay on the wire, it turned around to show me the yellow streak running down its breast. Much of the time, it is just downright luck to be in the right place at the right time. To maximize that luck, it is important to take the time to stop and look closely at every little bird...and big ones too:)
The flood of migrating birds has dwindled into a trickle. No more long lists of rarities seen in one day. Nevertheless, it is just great to get out for a drive or walk. This led me to Flatrock earlier this week where I witnessed this Merlin make multiple attempts to snag a European Starling. They were just too nimble for him. He returned to the wire several times to regroup before trying again. When I left, he was still hungry.
While on this drive, I learned Bruce Mactavish had located two Hudsonian Godwit at Mundy Pond. Hmmm, I thought, I had been searching for one in the wrong places in Goulds.
By late morning, I worked my way to Mundy Pond, only to leave without seeing even one.
When I returned later in the day, there they were large as life, preening out in the open. This provided a great opportunity at close range to really look these birds over.
It quickly became apparent there is a difference in their plumage. Checking the guides this morning, I don't see any illustrations presenting exactly as either of these birds.
This is pretty typical of birds seen at this time of the year. They are in an in-between state of transition from breeding to non-breeding plumage or juvenile to adult plumage.
Now, which is which? Juvenile? Adult?
I will leave that to you to decide as I have not yet reached a decision. These last three images show a good comparison of the two birds.
About this time every year, a few Lapland Longspur stop over at Cape Spear. Most often I have seen them in the higher grounds, but this year this arctic breeder was all alone in the lower quadrant of the grounds.
Typically when a brown bird of this size pops out of nowhere, the first thought is "Savannah Sparrow" as the park is often crawling with them. During September, another bird that comes to mind is an American Pipit, and there have been a lot of them at Cape Spear this year.
Happy to eliminate the sparrow and pipit, I was pleased to see this perfect little Lapland Longspur close-by. The temp yesterday was not warm, and I really didn't want to hike up the hill where the wind was even more raw.
The birds that just appear are really the nicest kind of "finds." The window of opportunity to see this species at the Cape is small. They predictably appear and a predictably disappear as they continue their journey south.
Focus, focus, focus brings surprise after surprise. Fall birding is like a white-knuckle drive: Every corner holds a surprise. What can be a nicer surprise than a stunning, male Black-throated Blue Warbler.
Following every sight and sound, Ethel Dempsey and I encountered all of these birds in just five hours of actual birding. How did that happen? Well, it takes concentration, eating on the run and taking care of nature when the opportunity arises.
Being quick on the trigger finger nailed this Yellow-billed Cuckoo. As we started our walk down Renews Beach, a large bird flushed out of the grass. It was brown on top and white, very white underneath. Without this blurred photo as it quickly departed, we wouldn't have been able to ID this bird.
It takes checking out every bird, even the distant, small bird sitting on a wire. It just might turn out to be a Lark Sparrow. Then, it is gone.
Then, there are the unexpected bonus birds. Walking through low brush in Renews unseated this beautiful Northern Wheatear. This was the best look I have ever had of this species both in flight and perched.
It flew into the top of a woodpile where it stayed for nearly five minutes. Awesome!
This was an example of going to an area to look for another previously spotted species and turning up something even better.
Mixed in with two flocks of warblers found along the way, two Palm Warblers appeared. These are both the yellowish race which most commonly appear in the East.
This one stayed around us for a long time, kind of like the Common Yellowthroat does.
Another quick shot of a bird that whizzed past us on the beach netted a Merlin. One can't let down their guard when birding at this time of the year. Intent on seeing every bird I can and documenting it with a photo drives me to stay on the go when in an area known to be teeming with good birds.
At most every stop, we encountered Red-eyed Vireo. They seem to be mixed in with every flock. It is one thing to find all of these birds, it is another to remain unobtrusive in their presence in order for them to stay around long enough to really view them and to photograph them. These are exciting times!