Looking East for Spring

After a long, largely uneventful winter here in Newfoundland, birders are looking forward to spring as much as everyone else! Early spring migrants have already begun to arrive in the form of kittiwakes, fox sparrows and robins.

But this is Newfoundland, and many birders turn their eyes (and hopes) east across the Atlantic rather than south.

April and May bring with them the strong potential for vagrants from Europe and Iceland … the kind of birds that make headlines across North America. European Golden Plovers are virtually annual on the east and northeast coast of Newfoundland, sometimes in numbers. These stocky little shorebirds breed abundantly in Iceland, often getting caught up in trans-Atlantic winds and making a pit stop along our coast. Far less regular, but always possible, are other mega-rare shorebirds like Eurasian Oystercatcher and Common Redshank – both of which have been recorded more than once on “the rock” but nowhere else in North America. European/Icelandic waterfowl such as Pink-footed Goose and Garganey have also been discovered here multiple times in spring and other species are always possible. (Take a look at the Newfoundland Checklist to see what has already been recorded here!)

This European Golden Plover was one of five that spent more than a week near St. John's in May, 2009. - Photo: Jared Clarke

Northern Wheatear are spotted somewhere on the island most springs, while some of our winter visitors from across the Atlantic (Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Common & Black-headed Gull) remain into the early season. All in all, the potential to see Old and New World birds mingling together makes a spring outing in Newfoundland an exciting venture.

Stay tuned for updates!

Some Eurasian/Icelandic species recorded in Newfoundland in April/May:

Pink-footed Goose (7 records)

Garganey (4 records)

Eurasian Wigeon (annual)

Tufted Duck (annual)

Little Egret (6-7 spring records)

Eurasian Hobby (1-2 records)

Northern Lapwing (1 spring record)

European Golden Plover (nearly annual)

Eurasian Oystercatcher (2 spring records)

Spotted Redshank (1-2 records)

Common Greenshank (1 spring record)

Common Redshank (2-3 records of 5 individuals – only records for North America)

Black-tailed Godwit (5+ records)

Black-tailed Gull (1 spring record)

Common (Mew) Gull (annual)

Black-headed Gull (annual)

Yellow-legged Gull (sometimes lingers into April)

Slaty-backed Gull (1 spring record)

Northern Wheatear (nearly annual)

Redwing (1 spring record)

Chaffinch (1 spring record)