A Mega “Dip”

It’s winter tire time in Newfoundland, and I had just arrived home from dropping our car off at the garage at 9:00am Thursday morning when my cell phone rang. My heart rate picked up a bit when I saw who was calling me — Dave Brown. There’s only one reason he’d be calling me at this hour — a rare bird alert. But there was no expecting the words I heard when I answered the phone … “Jared, I think I’ve got a VIRGINIA’S WARBLER!!”

This range map (borrowed from whatbird.com) shows why Virginia's Warbler is such a rarity in these parts. While it has never been recorded on the island before, there is one record from Labrador.

This range map (borrowed from whatbird.com) shows why Virginia’s Warbler is such a rarity in these parts. While it has never been recorded on the island before, there is one record from Labrador.

“What?!?! Where are you??” I said, trying to measure my words. Virginia’s Warbler is a mega-rarity anywhere in northeastern North America, but I know Dave and didn’t doubt for a minute he knew what he was seeing. It turns out he had quick looks at the bird feeding below an apple tree at the base of the White Hills (near Quidi Vidi Lake) and had all but ruled out a dull Nashville Warbler. He was looking for help to confirm the sighting before the troops were called in, although Bruce Mactavish was already enroute. Fortunately, I had the freedom ( and support – thanks to my mother-in-law for watching the girls!) to drop everything and race to Quidi Vidi. Dave called again as I was pulling out of the driveway – he’d seen it again and was convinced!!! I arrived an agonizing ten-minutes later, hot on Bruce’s heels. The bird had disappeared, but hopes were high it would be re-seen.

Long story short, about 45 minutes later Bruce spotted it again briefly with a large flock of Juncos about 200m up the old dirt road we were searching and reinforcements were showing up. We scoured the area all morning without another sighting, and I left to take up family responsibilities at noon. I got a text an hour later that it had been seen again by a handful of people and raced back … just a few minutes too late. The bird was spotted again just before 8:00am the next morning at the original location, but flew off  after just a few moments. A dozen or more birders, myself included, were birding the area all day yesterday to no avail. I went back for an hour early this morning, but no luck. It is likely still around, especially in this relatively mild weather that has moved in, but it is being very elusive.

I am home the rest of this morning, minding a flock of five children while all the women in my family attend some kind of holiday breakfast event — but my mind is on that bird. Chances are I’ll be back there in a few short hours!! And hopefully my next posting will be a celebratory one …

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