A wicked forecast of winds gusting to 100+ km/hr and heavy rain pretty well elminated a Saturday birding away from town. Yet there was an excitment in the winds as they were drawing from the deep south and the +17C predawn temperature assured this was the case. The weather maps showed excellent winds direct from Cape Hatteras, NC to the Avalon. Surely some good birds will come of this. Wanting to get an early start on the wave of deep southern vagrants I was at Cape Spear parking lot with my Tims waiting for dawn. The car was shaking bad in the wind. When daylight came I was surprised to see a dozen or more Sooty Shearwaters and one Great Shearwater just off the rocks at the cape in the strong offshore wind. I was scoping the point from within the car in the parking lot. There was no way to bird outside in the high wind and rain. The shearwater event faded as the light increased. Yet there were still kittiwakes and gannets. You had the feeling if you'd been able to watch all morning something interesting might pass by. Before I left I had one last careful scan of the buildings for potential vagrant Cave Swallows sheltering.
I left for town. Birded St. John's harbour and Quidi Vidi Lake. There were 4000-5000 gulls riding out the weather on Bally Hally Golf course and 1500 on a vacant land near the entrance to the Robin Hood Bay landfill. From an excellent vantage point in Pleasantville I was able to scan gulls on the golf course. Went through the flock four times. No rarities. In fact only one Lesser Black-backed Gull. Saw seven Glaucous Gulls just to remind one what time of year it was. This goes with the few hundred Iceland Gulls in the harbour and Cape Spear. There were four Eurasian & eight American Wigeon and one Canada Goose grazing on the golf course. Spent time at Quidi Vidi Lake looking at the medium rare Ruddy Duck discovered yesterday by Lisa de Leon. It was fairly tame already. Maybe it was the same bird present late last fall for a few weeks.
Then checked out fields in the Goulds for gulls and surprises. Saw four LBBGs among a flock of just 25 Herrings in a field of sheep. With time on my hands took a chance and drove over to the Chamberlains sewer outflow. There was an adult Common Gull there but surprisingly no Black-headeds. I had already seen about 50 Black-heads at the St John's Pier 17 outflow.
Tomorrow is the last day of the weekend. Another rain packed Low is forecasted to push through overnight and tomorrow morning. That won't hold back Ken Knowles, John Wells and I from a visit to Cape Race. Anything and likely nothing is possible in this dramatic weekend weather. Stay tuned.The Ruddy Duck wasn't shy about displaying for anyone walking on the Quidi Vidi lake trail who wanted to stop long enought to watch.
A 1st winter Black-headed Gull on the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake. The brownish-orange legs and base of bill will turn to vermillion-red by December.
Common Gulls are typically found by sewer outflows as was this bird at Chamberlain's, yet it spent more time walking on the artificial turf of a nearby soccer field then foraging at the outflow.