Friday 10 February 2017

The Yellow-legged Gull Returns - A Pattern Emergs.

Yesterday Lancy Cheng turned up a Yellow-legged Gull at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's, Newfoundland. It was the first great day for gull watching in a couple of weeks. After a cold windy spell and hardly any gulls on the lake, a warm spell with rain really stirred up the gulls and brought them out from hiding. It is still a mystery why we can't see large numbers of gulls in cold windy weather. The only food major source for 'ten thousand miles' is the St. John's landfill.  So they aren't leaving the zone but their habits do not cross paths with birding habits. Unfortunately our birding habits are prohibited from including the landfill where all the big gulls (except Iceland) must go to feed.

It was nice that Lancy found the Yellow-legged Gull again.  It adds a coating of lacquer to a developing pattern. This is the third consecutive year that this particular YLGU has shown up in St. John's in Sept/Oct and stayed until December - vanished completely - then appears out of no where in February. If the pattern holds we'll have only 2-3 weeks to enjoy its presence before it vanishes for good until the fall. 

I was already planning to take today off work. It coincided nicely with the new abundance of gulls. It was still raining and unseasonably warm when I set out early Friday morning. There were a lot of gulls also too many eagles  Between eagle flushes I managed three separate sightings of the Yellow-legged Gull. Twice on the bare ground by the Granite & Tile building near the entrance to the landfill and once bathing at close range at the west end of Quidi Vidi lake.

Photos were secured. It was all in panic mode. No time for breathing normally as the next eagle flush was just around the corner. Hopefully there will be some more close encounters over the next couple of weeks.

Below are photos of the bird today. I won't go through all the reasons why this is a Yellow-legged Gull because I outlined this in Feb 2016. The details can be seen here.  Enjoy.

Friday 3 February 2017

The Seductive Wigeon

There is something about an adult drake Eurasian Wigeon that I find irresistible. The burnt orange head and silvery gray body must have something to do with it. The trim and tidy, smart looking, rounded head and agility on their feet are attractive features of both American and Eurasian Wigeon.  Most adult drake ducks in full breeding plumage when studied intimately are works of art but there is something about the colour combination of the adult drake Eurasian Wigeon that just melts me.  Always been that way since I saw my first one in my mid-teens in southern Ontario. I was in a car packed with birders on the way to a May weekend at Point Pelee.  It was a stake out along the way. We had time for only a brief look. 

Many years later I was in another car packed with birders driving back roads in the marshlands of the Netherlands looking for White-tailed Eagles. It was winter. There were lots of waterfowl in the half frozen ponds including Eurasian Wigeons by the flock. It was painful to drive by everything in search of one species of bird. Finally there was a pond so close to the road, so full of wigeons that I blurted out - "can we stop here for a quick look".  Slightly perturbed for the stop when they realized all I was doing was looking at the wigeons, I felt better when someone mentioned that when  the famous bird illustrator from Sweden with the initial LJ was here last month he wanted to look at wigeons too.  LJ was probably more interested in the finer details of distinguishing 1st winter from adult females or something like that for his next master piece, where as all I was doing was soaking in those burnt orange heads and silver gray bodies. It was like eating a drug. 

We are blessed in St. John's to get a couple dozen or Eurasian Wigeon every fall. Most of them try to over winter. Some have to depart when there is too much snow covering up the lawns on which they like to graze on.  But lately, especially this year, wigeon are joining in with the other ducks eating bird seed and what ever people are offering the starving crowd.  Adult drake Eurasian Wigeon are generally the wariest and most difficult to see well among wigeon. Not they are that wary! This winter there has been a tame adult drake at Nevilles Pond and another at Powers Pond.  Females and young males are spread out more liberally among the city ponds and are easy to view around your feet wherever ducks gather in winter.

This week I spent some time with the Nevilles Pond drake  - a perfect specimen, and also a few minutes with the Powers Pond bird.

All of the above were the same bird photographed at Nevilles Pond, Paradise, Newfoundland on 29 & 30 January 2017.
Below is a shot of the adult Eurasian Wigeon at Powers Pond plus its mate also a Eurasian Wigeon. There were four pairs of American Wigeon here each paired up with one their own species. They know how to tell the difference. 
Photo: 31 Jan 2017


A flock of wigeon, a gray headed female American in the middle and rest Eurasian, at Spaniard's Bay on the west side of Conception Bay.  This area supports the most Eurasian Wigeons during the hardest times of mid winter. These are a wary group. Photo: 28 Dec 2015.