Tuesday 24 September 2019

Another Good Week in September 2019

September 16-22 was a good week for rarities on the Avalon. Nothing mind boggling just a varied selection minor rarities and these four nice birds.  First was a COMMON NIGHTHAWK found by Andrea Dicks while she was walking her dog at dusk at Kent's Pond in St. John's. Those from out of the province reading this blog will be surprised to know that nighthawk was the rarest of the four species shown here. For most St. John's birders it was to be a new bird for their provincial list.  Thinking back I could remember only three other nighthawks I had seen on the island of Newfoundland and none in more than twenty years. The bird performed well each evening for at least a week. Everyone got to see it.  It was fun trying to photograph it in the dusk.  ISO 6400 was the only hope.
 Common Nighthawk 18 Sept 2019 at Kent's Pond, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Next was a juvenile Ruff. It was at the Cochrane Pond manure pile. I visited the location before work on a very dark rainy Tuesday morning and saw this medium size brown shorebird fly in. I was expecting it be a Pectoral Sandpiper. It didn't land but as it turned around to go away I was sure I caught a flash of a white 'U' shaped rump patch. I knew that meant Ruff. Also the bird had a very fluid flight unlike a Pectoral Sandpiper.  I knew it had to be a Ruff but it happened in a flash when a mind has little chance to register all the real facts. I got out of the car and there it was - a Ruff standing next to a Lesser Yellowlegs by a pool of ripe water. A brightly coloured juvenile Ruff.  Newfoundland gets a couple or so Ruffs every year, mostly between May and September. Fall juveniles are the least common plumage to see. It stayed for about three days and was viewed by many others.

The juvenile Ruff with a Lesser Yellowlegs in the Goulds on 17 September 2019.

Note the unique 'U' shaped white rump band. 

The bright wing underwings and clear buffy breast and head have quite a resemblance to the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

The oddly small head of the Ruff with a Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpiper.

While I was looking at the Ruff, Dave Brown was finding two Northern Wheatears at Ferryland. Everyone loves a Wheatear. They were bouncing around on the rock walls at the archaeological dig. Luckily one stayed until the weekend giving me a chance to see it.

A fan favourite always - a juvenile Northern Wheatear at Ferryland on 22 September 2019

After an intimate experience with the Wheatear I went warblering in the alders in a couple of old gravel pits in Ferryland.   I heard Yellow-rumped Warblers and juncos as I entered the pit. I walked in that direction.  Warblers and juncos were flying across an open pit to the trees along one edge. I stood trying to identify everything that came - Tennessee, Magnolia, lots of Blackpolls and Yellow-rumps, a few Black-throated greens then ONE OF THE BLACK-THROATED GREENS HAD A YELLOW BREAST... And a dark cheek patch. It was a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER.  In September !!!? We are used to the blast of finding a TOWA in November and December or even late October on the Avalon. There are 24 or 25 records of Townsend's Warbler. This was just one more for the bin but at a new time of year.  Frantically I concentrated on getting record shots of the bird. It was in sight or I knew where it was for 2 or 3 minutes. It was never real close but I was happy to get these results after some serious cropping. It was never found again even with a small group of first responders quickly on the scene.

 A Townsend's Warbler at Ferryland, Newfoundland on 22 September 2019 as record early by 3 1/2 weeks.

Just one more nice week in an already action packed month... Lots of fall yet to come.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Did that really happen?

Brown Boobies started moving north well beyond their normal subtropical 28C waters only a dozen or so years ago. The first in Newfoundland was on 18 July 2012 all the way north at St. Anthony. That more or less fit into the unfathomable, yet still unexplained pattern emerging of Brown Boobies straying well north of the norm. In the coming years other Brown Boobies were photographed by fisherman on their boats well offshore.  On 4 August 2015 Richard Thomas with friends from the mainland lucked into an adult Brown Booby resting on the rocks at Long Beach near Cape Race.  A chance for a chase. A small gang of us hoped it would reappear the next day - but NOPE. Over the next summers without a break more Brown Boobies were phone-snapped with smartphones adding to the annual agony.

2019 was an above average year of Brown Booby reports landing on boats in the offshore and also  the ferry between NS and Newfoundland  They were all in the warmer waters on the southern edge of Newfoundland but that was still under the 20 C. 

This morning I was pishing in the alders on the southern edge of the Avalon Peninsula at Trepassey. Was hoping to duplicate something along the lines of the male Prothonotary Warbler present on nearby Powle''s Head. The phone rang. It was Cliff.  When Cliff phones it means something. He said "someone on Facebook posted about a strange bird sitting on the mast of a boat at Pier 7.  It looks like one of them Brown Boobies". I was only 5 minutes from Cliffs house in Trepassey. Cliff showed me the picture on computer. It was indeed a Brown Booby! It was at Pier 7 in St.John's, right behind Jack Astor's and it was NOW.  I posted the news to the local Whatsapp group.

I'd like to thanks the stars above for allowing me to drive the twisting 120 km from Trepassey to St. John's with an adrenaline drip to the jugular, in a smooth and orderly manner below the speed of sound, in the lane of least resistance and getting to Pier 7 in St John's harbour five minutes before the Brown Booby lifted its wings, flew, circled twice and departed. What a bird..... What rush....Turbo Civics are made for coastal road bird chases.

Instinct was to take pictures first.  I was just starting to do that when it flew.  I feel a little robbed.  Sure I saw the bird but I hardly looked at it. The few pictures on my camera ensure happiness. A Brown Booby flying around St. John's harbour is surreal. It really did happen.