Tuesday 21 July 2020

Because they are Arctic Terns....

Arctic Terns in adult breeding plumage are a beautiful bird. Nature has finely cropped the Arctic Tern providing it maximum lift with minimal effort allowing to spent most of its life on the wing at sea communing between the top and bottom of the earth.  We are lucky to have it as fairly common as a nester on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland. It is often with the more numerous Common Tern.  While the two species are so similar that they require a good view to identify, the subtle differences between the finely sculpted Arctic Tern and the chunky Common Tern are obvious when experienced closely.

On the weekend I was at Ferryland beach watching a small swarm of kittiwakes, gulls, puffins and terns attracted to the spawning capelin.  With the west wind the terns were approaching the beach riding along the edge of a small bluff. A potential set up for photography of one of my favourite photo targets - terns but especially Arctic Terns. It worked out so well on 18th July that I went back for some more on the 20th.  I got so many satisfying shots of the Arctics that I couldn't chose a few favourites so I am posting an abundance of favs here. With Arctic Terns you can do that just because of who they are...

Below is a short poem I corrupted from a ZZ Top song.

Sharp Dressed Tern

          Long tail, short bill
          And I know I am goin' to capelin beach
          Silk wings, black cap,
          I know the reason why
          They come runnin' ‘til their leg’s real burn
          'Cause every birder’s crazy 'bout a sharp dressed tern

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Summer Shearwatering

Summer is a good time to be a birder on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. The capelin arrive in enormous volumes to spawn on the beaches and near shore. Great Shearwaters and Sooty Shearwaters from the Southern Hemisphere depend on the summer capelin crop in Newfoundland waters to gorge on while going through a quick moult. 

Getting out in a boat among the shearwaters is a photographer's dream.  It not as easy as ABC. Ian Jones has been a source in recent years. He owns a high tech watercraft, perhaps meant more for freshwater ponds than the open Atlantic, but still is quite functional on the ocean in relatively civil conditions.  I was fortunate to get out with Ian and Jeannine Winkel on 4 July 2020 off St. Vincent's Beach and St Shotts.

Shearwaters numbers had dropped over night and those we found were more in resting mode than feeding.  The most action was in choppy waters off St Shotts. Overall the nearly 2,000 shearwaters, mainly Sooty with <10% Greats made for an OK trip.  Below are some photos from the trip. Most of the Sootys were in heavy moult. The few in pristine condition were birds hatched in the most recent nesting season, during our winter.

The neat and complete feathering in the wings shows this is a Sooty Shearwater fledged this past winter in the Southern Hemisphere nesting area.

Most of the Sooty Shearwaters showed heavy wing moult. These would be the adults.

The Great Shearwaters were much tamer than the Sootys allowing close approach with the boat.

 Common Murres and Atlantic Puffins were flying by regularly.

A rare Laughing Gull was cruising 3 km south of St Shotts. A handful show up on the Avalon Peninsula each summer.

Humpback, minke and fin whales were present but the photo of the expedition was this harbour porpoise. Not rare but not easy to get close to and difficult to photograph in Newfoundland. A small group investigated the boat.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Rufous Hummingbird - 4th for Newfoundland

Newfoundland's 4th RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD was present at Renews, Avalon Peninsula for 36 hours 27-29 June 2020.  Clara Dunne saw it around her feeder late on the 27 June.  She suspected it was different than the female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that she had seen at her feeder over the last five years.  It was not until the following morning that she was able to secure some half decent photos.  The photos confirmed her suspicion that it was a different looking hummingbird.  She tentatively identified it as a Rufous Hummingbird. She texted me photographs for confirmation.  The rest is history. 

The bird visited the feeder regularly on the 28 June and up to 9 am on 29 June and then suddenly no more.  A number of people got to see the and photograph the bird.  The June date is early for this rare vagrant in the east.

 The previous records of Rufous Hummingbird for Newfoundland are:

 1) 1985 4-15 August. One adult male at MUN Botanical Park feeding on flowers (photos)
 2) 1988 13-15 August. One adult male visiting flowers at St. Anthony (photos)
 3) 2011 18-20 August.  One adult female at bird feeder, Middle Pond, near Goulds (photos)

In addition there was a female Rufous type hummingbird was observed over several days at in a residential garden in St. John's in early September 1983.  

All except the last picture were taken on 28 June 2020 at Renews. The last picture was taken on 29 June.  The dark triangle in throat indicates adult female.