FIELDFARE – An Update

Photo: Gerard Butler (January 19, 2013)

Photo: Gerard Butler (January 19, 2013)

The FIELDFARE reappeared at the home of Gerard and Charlene Butler in Reidville for a brief time yesterday and again this morning – filling up on apples from their tree. While the Butlers have hung fresh apple slices and berries in hopes of keeping the bird around, so far it has preferred the old frozen apples it has obviously become accustomed to.

Fieldfare1Gerard Butler took these photos on Saturday, January 19 – just the third time they had seen the Fieldfare in about month, suggesting it is moving around the neighbourhood and/or other parts of the community where other fruit trees are reportedly abundant. While this is still far from a “stakeout bird”, it is good to know it remains in the area and will likely become easier to find once we learn a bit more about its habits or it takes a liking to the fresh offerings available in the Butler yard. Thanks to them for finding, reporting and now helping keep track of this mega rarity! I’m sure it won’t be long before one of the Newfoundland birders catches up with it.

Fieldfare2

Three photos (taken by Gerard Butler) showing the Fieldfare  that has been roaming around Reidville, NL for at least a month. Now that we know about it, hopefully a few lucky birders can catch up with it.

Three photos (taken by Gerard Butler) showing the Fieldfare that has been roaming around Reidville, NL for at least a month. Now that we know about it, hopefully a few lucky birders can catch up with it.

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Breaking News: FIELDFARE in western Newfoundland

Details are still emerging, but Darroch Whitaker (a friend and birder on the west coast) forwarded photos of a FIELDFARE taken by a resident in Reidville. The vigilant homeowners have seen the bird about three times since mid-December, each time gorging itself on apples in their backyard before disappearing again. Apparently there are lots of fruit trees in the community, so it could be doing quite well by moving around in a relatively small area otherwise undetected.

Fieldfare used to be a routine rarity in Newfoundland during the 1970’s and 80’s , but has become far less regular in recent years – in fact, this is the first record for the province in more than a decade. It’s possible that this change in record frequency is related to changes in breeding status in Greenland and Iceland.

Stay tuned for more details as they emerge!!

The Newfoundland Winter List Breaks 140!

A Clay-coloured Sparrow photographed at a feeder in Lumsden and reported today brings the Newfoundland winter list to 140 species – not only a great number for the first half of January, but only the second time we have broken that milestone tally since I started keeping the list seven years ago (and maybe ever)!!

Northern Lapwing occur on a regular basis in Newfoundland - something no other place in North America can claim. This one was at Portugal Cove South in December, 2010.- Photo: Jared Clarke

Northern Lapwing occur on a regular basis in Newfoundland – something no other place in North America can claim. This one was at Portugal Cove South in December, 2010.
– Photo: Jared Clarke

We’re well on the way to an excellent tally – but can we break the record of 150 set two years ago, during the exceptional winter of 2010-11?? That was a very special winter for sure, including rarities from all over the continent and from “across the pond” in Europe. Harsh weather in western Europe during early December 2010 sent a rash of trans-Atlantic vagrants our way, including a handful of Northern Lapwings, a Common Chaffinch, at least two (and probably several more) Common Snipe, a very exciting Jack Snipe, and three Redwings.

This Anna's Hummingbird was one of the amazing records that highlighted the incredible winter of 2010-11! It was a first provincial record and survived frigid temperatures well into February at a feeder in Brownsdale, Trinity Bay.

This Anna’s Hummingbird was one of the amazing records that highlighted the incredible winter of 2010-11! It was a first provincial record and survived frigid temperatures well into February at a feeder in Brownsdale, Trinity Bay.
– Photo: Jared Clarke (January 26, 2011)

Mid-winter storms tracking up the eastern seaboard were the harbinger of large numbers of Killdeer, higher than usual numbers of American Coot and likely led to the arrival of a very wayward Common Gallinule. Rare gulls included the province’s second record of Black-tailed Gull, as well as the rare but somewhat more expected Yellow-legged and Slaty-backed Gulls. The star of the winter, however, arrived from the very west cost of North America – a tough little Anna’s Hummingbird that managed to survive at an incredibly maintained feeder until early February!!

It seems that such a winter would be tough to beat. However, it is worth noting that even then the winter list tally was just 132 on January 14 2011 and didn’t break 140 until early February – well behind the pace of this winter, which has seen a number of excellent records already (think Pink-footed Goose, Brant, American Woodcock, Marsh Wren, and a record 11 species of warbler!!).

A few expected species, like this Boreal Owl, might help this year's winter tally break an amazing record of 150 set just two years ago!!

A few expected species, like this Boreal Owl, might help this year’s winter tally break an amazing record of 150 set just two years ago!!
– Photo: Jared Clarke (March 2010)

A number of more or less expected species are still on the missing list – Rock Ptarmigan, Bonaparte’s Gull (a couple “possibles” reported), Boreal Owl and Cedar Waxwing. Other species that often get recorded during winter are Sanderling (getting late for that), Gyrfalcon and Northern Three-toed Woodpecker. And of course, we’re still missing the otherwise rare Yellow-legged and Slaty-backed Gulls we’ve been spoiled with and come to expect in recent years. And I’m sure a few surprises are also lurking out there.

So why is that this winter list is shaping up to be so awesome?? No doubt the warmer weather of the fall and early winter led to a number of unusually late vagrants such as the warblers, and a few surprise birds such as four species of geese have added some punch to the tally. But anyone familiar with the Newfoundland birding scene would also tell you that there has been an equally incredible increase in the birding activity — a number of new, very keen birders have been out in force and finding things that might otherwise have been missed while the number of feeder watchers reporting backyard birds in one way or another has also been on the rise. Kudos to them all!!

Maybe that record we thought unbeatable just two short years ago is actually in reach … stay tuned!!!

New Year Round-up …

As any birder reading this blog would know, the “new year” rings in more than just cheer and some tired old resolutions … for many of us, it means a fresh start and a new “year list”. I have to admit that I haven’t actually kept a year list for a good while now (especially now that I have a young family and less time to go birding), but I still get that urge on January 1 to get up early and go out of my way to see all the species I can – starting with the rare ones that have lingered into winter and might be hard to see later on.

There are a few notables on that list already in 2013 … including the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE that was originally discovered on the outskirts of St. John’s in mid-November and a more recent TOWNSEND’S WARBLER that was discovered on Boxing Day (Dec 26) and still being seen regularly as of today.

This hardy little Townsend's Warbler has been feeding along a small section of trail along the lowest portion of the Waterford River for a week now - amazingly the 11th record for this short stretch of river valley.- Photo: Jared Clarke (January 1 2013)

This hardy little Townsend’s Warbler has been feeding along a small section of trail along the lowest portion of the Waterford River for a week now – amazingly the 11th record for this short stretch of river valley.
– Photo: Jared Clarke (January 1 2013)

After sneaking away from my sleepy family early New Year’s morning, I managed to catch up with the Townsend’s Warbler feeding quietly in a patch of conifers along the lower Waterford River. Amazingly, this is the 16th record of this west coast species in Newfoundland – the 13th for St. John’s and (most amazingly) the 11th for this little river valley stretching just 2-3 kilometres!! I then spent the rest of the morning scouring the Goulds where the Pink-footed Goose had been spotted sporadically between November 19 and December 10, only to find out that it was relocated two days later (today!) at a duck pond in Bowring Park. Most ironic was that I had been at the park myself just yesterday with the kids, visiting a nearby playground and turning down an adamant request by my daughter Emma to go see the ducks just a 5-10 minute stroll away.

Other local rarities around the city include a late Yellow-breasted Chat visiting a couple gardens along the lower Rennies River, a Northern Mockingbird frequenting the same street, and Pine Warblers reported at both the lower Waterford River and a neighbourhood bordering Quidi Vidi Road. A report of six Snow Geese feeding on a lawn in Salmonier, Burin on January 1 marked a very unusual arrival of a species reported less than annually in the province and usually in smaller numbers.

- Photo: Jared Clarke (January 1, 2013)

Townsend’s Warbler                                                      – Photo: Jared Clarke (January 1 2013)

Happy New Year! 2013 is off to a roaring start …