Tuesday 27 August 2013

Birding on the Labrador Sea

Currently early in a month long stint on a seismic ship working in the Labrador Sea. It is nice to be in a place other than the usual Northern Grand Banks and Orphan Basin where most seismic exploration takes place, A peak at birds off s.e. Labrador reveals no surprises.  There are areas with good numbers of seabirds and areas with low numbers. Northern Fulmar is the everywhere bird.  Great Shearwater has been second most numerous overall. Among the more interesting seabirds from a Newfoundland birding point are moderate numbers of Pomarine Jaegers and a few Long-tailed Jaegers.   Red Phalaropes are locally common.
After seeing only South Polar Skuas on my five weeks seismic trip in June/July on the Orphan Basin/Flemish Cap area it was nice to see a few Great Skuas for a change. In fact have not seen a South Polar yet in Labrador waters though saw one near the Newfoundland/Labrador border in transit.
Adult Great Skuas are the easiest skua to identify at long range. The pale yellowish streaks in the upper wing coverts and back give the bird a golden look at long distances which would never appear on a South Polar. 
Photographing birds from a ship is a challenge because you are high above the water and the birds do not usually come as close as they will to a small boat.  The skua shot was a small image enlarged considerably. Using a 300f4 lens is inadequate at sea but bringing a large telephoto lens on an industrial work ship is risky for the lens. The following two shots are also big crops.
Pomarine Jaeger is the routine jaeger anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador. Adult dark morphs are less routine.
Red Phalaropes are local numerous on the Labrador Shelf edge. 
Downloading pictures has proved difficult from this ship so just one last picture for this posting. 
Land birds regularly show up on vessels at sea during autumn migration. They can be difficult to identify unless they land on the boat like this immature Tennessee Warbler 200+ km ESE of Makkovik.  TEWA is a locally common breeder in Labrador.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Common Ringed Plover at Renews, Newfoundland 16-18 Aug 2013

On 16 Aug 2013 Ken Knowles picked out a suspicious plover at Renews beach, Avalon Peninsula .  His photos were circulated among local birders and it was agreed upon to be a COMMON RINGED PLOVER (CRPL).  CRPL is pretty well annual on the Avalon Peninsula in August but still considered an exciting rarity. 
On 17 August visiting birder, Nathan Hentze and I went to Renews. We found the bird right away and watched it for about 2 hours.  Photos were difficult because of glare from sun.  On Sunday I went to Renews again for a more serious attempt at photos. I wore a Kelp Camouflage Suit and sat on a rock out on the flats at full tide and waited for it to fall. The bright sun was more at my back but it was still a harsh light.  The CRPL was more wary than the Semipalmated Plovers and various peeps that walked regularly within 10 metres of Kelp Man sitting on the rock.  The CRPL was typically 20-40 metres distance.
Wanted to get a few pictures posted tonight for those that might want to look for. More pictures later when I get a chance to go through them all.

An adult Common Ringed Plover. Possibly a female based on the dullness of the black. The long white supercilium contrasting with the dark cheek patch was the easiet way to pick out the bird from the crowd.
The bill was longer and the breast band was wider than most of the Semipalmated Plovers. Note the lack of coloured orbital characteristic of Ringed Plover
A sun bleach photo shows details of the dark feathering in the lores reaching the gape of the bill.
No obvious webbing between the toes, broad breast band, distinct white supercilium, a fairly parallel sided cheek patch especially lower edge that overall contrasts strongly with supercilium, lack of yellowish orbital ring, broad black lores compared to Semipalmated and relatively long bill are among a list of features that add up to a Common Ringed Plover. Most of these features are changeable depending on position of the bird and must be viewed over a period of time to discern what is really there.
Semipalmated on the left and Ringed on the right. The Ringed Plover was a little bigger and more elongated in shape. The back was more sloping and less domed than the Semipalmated Plovers. Semipalmateds have a smaller more rounded head like a little ping pong ball.  The Ringed was also paler above than the other 20 Semipalmated Plovers. 
Why wouldn't the Ringed Plover come this close?? A typical looking Semipalmated Plover  showing the pinched in brown area at the lores. Note the coloured orbital ring, narrow curved supercilium, short stubby bill.  This one has a very narrow breast band flecked with brown. 
To be continued...
The Solitary Sandpiper is very uncommon during migration on the Avalon Peninsula and especially in this habit - rock seaweed on the beach. It didn't stayed long
First ever published photo of Kelp Man. Almost never seen in public, this is a self-taken photo using an Iphone just before stalking the Ringed Plover. When properly used shorebirds are completely fooled. Have had them walking around my feet completely at ease, but the birds far enough away to focus the lens on never look toward the camera because they don't know you are there.  It was a Semipalmated Plover that spoiled ultimate frame filler shots of the Ringed Plover on 18 Aug 2013.  It set up a feeding territory between me and the Ringed Plover.  When the Ringed Plover headed my way it was chased back by the Semipalmated.  Kelp suits can be bought at hunting stores in Newfoundland but are likely to be marketed as 'Oak Woodland' camouflage.