Wednesday 29 October 2014

Warbler Month Starts on the Weekend

November is the exciting warbler watching month on the Avalon Peninsula. The leaves fall off the trees making it easier to see the lingering waifs. The richer areas with the last morsels of greenery become magnets or at least hangouts for warblers living here beyond their time. Flocks of the ubiquitous junco and little bands of chickadees become comfort groups for warblers pushing the limits of survival in November in Newfoundland.

Twenty-nine species of warbler have been recorded during the month of November in St. John's. Some of the more outstanding species have been Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler and Hooded Warbler.  But it is the western warblers that really brings out the smiles on birders. 

The western warbler count for the St. John's and neighbouring areas is 16 Townsend's Warbler, one Black-throated Gray Warbler, one Hermit Warbler and one Virginia's Warbler.  Nearly all of these were found during the month of November. We are in desperate need for another Black-throated Gray Warbler.  It is surprising especially considering the number of TOWAs that there had been only one Black-throated Gray (1 Nov to 5 Dec 1992 - Waterford Valley).  We are lucky to have the one Hermit Warbler from Blackhead 11 to 13 Nov 1989.  Last November's Virginia's Warbler in east St. John's was a dream come true.

Newfoundland is full of paradoxes when it comes to bird records but none is more bizarre than the high frequency of Townsend's Warbler. Sixteen records for the Avalon Peninsula is more than most states and provinces in the eastern half of North America have tallied. Fourteen of these have occurred within the St. John's city limits. Even more remarkable is that 11 of these have occurred in the Waterford Valley, an area roughly 300 x 1500 meters. This probably means we are missing lots more in other areas.  There are two records for the Greater Renews area proving that the Townsend's Warbler can occur outside of the city. BTW all of these November western warblers were seen well, most over a period of days or weeks, most by many observers and all but three TOWAs photographed. In other words solid records. 

The new header photograph to mark the start of Warbler Month for this blog is a Townsend's Warbler on the banks of the Waterford River. St John's on 1 January 2013. It was the only individual to make it into January. Most are found in the middle two weeks of November with some of them making into December.  

This Townsend's Warbler found on a St. John's CBC on 26 Dec 2012 stayed alive until 5 January 2013 along the banks of the lower Waterford River. It was a real crowd pleaser.

This Townsend's Warbler found on a rainy Sunday along the Waterford River trail was, unlike most individuals, just a 30 minute wonder.  It was not seen after it choked down this dangerous looking spider. 7 Nov 2009.

Bowring Park in the Waterford Valley is an excellent place to find a November Townsend's Warbler. This was by the main duck pond on 19 Nov 2007.

Proof that a Townsend's Warblers can occur outside of the city of St. John's is this one at Bear Cove (south of Renews) on 20 Oct 2012. This is the earliest date for the province.

So the time is here. Start pounding the sidewalks on the weekends, and your lunch breaks during the week. The rewards are out there with some big prizes to be found.  The month goes by fast. Every day is precious in November.

ADDENDUM - Newfoundland's 17th Townsend's Warbler was photographed on 8 Nov 2014 by Brian Hill in his backyard in Mt. Pearl, Avalon Peninsula.  Right on time.  It would be a  stretch to add this to the Waterford Valley Townsend's Warbler List but it was at least in the Waterford River drainage basin!


  1. As much as I would like to see some of these warblers, I must admit to some sadness at the prospect that most of them are probably on death-row.

  2. And here I thought the warbler season was coming to a close. Now I'm looking forward to birding in November.

  3. Wow! That's pretty cool about the Townsend's.


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