WINGS Tour 2015: Newfoundland’s Winter Birds

Winter is a fun and special time to go birding in Newfoundland – which is why a group of WINGS tour participants brave the cold weather to visit here every January. This year, just two intrepid birders made the trip – from two very different parts of the United States, Maryland and Washington state! And I had the pleasure of sharing the wonderful birds & beautiful scenery of the eastern Avalon Peninsula with them.

A wintery morning at Cape Spear.

A wintery morning at Cape Spear.

We started the five-day tour with a visit to Cape Spear – the easternmost point in North America and a perfect place to spot some of our main targets for the week. It didn’t take long to find the local flock of Purple Sandpipers, first fluttering past the point and then taking shelter among the jagged rock jetties. A few small flocks of Common Eider flew by during our visit, and a group of ~40 Long-tailed Ducks bobbed up and down in the distance. An immature Peregrine Falcon (of the northern tundrius race) appeared out of nowhere, briefly checking us out before disappearing over the nearby hills. We even found six Dovekie quite close to the rocks below us. But the real highlight was finding another Dovekie actively feeding just metres from the shoreline at Blackhead village – it paid little attention to us as we sat on the snow-covered beach and soaked in the close-up views and photo opportunities!

Dovekie are always a big hit on winter tours, and this one really entertained as it fed in the shallow waters just metres away.

Dovekie are always a big hit on winter tours, and this one really entertained as it fed in the shallow waters just metres away.

The rest of the first two days were spent birding in St. John’s, where we enjoyed the full smorgasbord of exciting winter birds that the city has to offer. Among the nine species of duck hanging out in local ponds, the dozens of Tufted Ducks were a hands-down favourite. Both American and the much rarer Eurasian Green-winged Teals were seen, allowing for great comparisons of these two surprisingly unique subspecies. We enjoyed point blank looks at Great Cormorant in the harbour, as well as a very confiding adult Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree overlooking Quidi Vidi lake. We even tracked down a very late and out-of-place Pine Warbler that has been hanging out in Bowring Park!

This adult Peregrine Falcon has been hanging out near Quidi Vidi lake and provided great looks for our WINGS participants!

This adult Peregrine Falcon has been hanging out near Quidi Vidi lake and provided great looks for our WINGS participants!

The classy looking Tufted Duck is another popular bird for visitors, and we saw nearly 70 this past week!

The classy looking Tufted Duck is another popular bird with visitors, and we saw nearly 70 this past week!

We found this drake Common (aka Eurasian Green-winged) Teal in a small city brook. I consider this a "pocket species", since maybe it will be split someday.

We found this drake Common (aka Eurasian Green-winged) Teal in a small city brook. I consider this a “pocket species”, since maybe it will be split someday.

Among the 100+ divers hanging out in St. John's is this odd-looking bird thought to be a Ring-necked Duck X Scaup hybrid. Cool!

Among the 100+ divers hanging out in St. John’s is this odd-looking bird thought to be a Ring-necked Duck X Scaup hybrid. Cool!

This Pine Warbler is out of its element here in the middle of our winter, but seems to be doing okay for itself thanks to a few helpful birders keeping the park stocked with food.

This Pine Warbler is out of its element here in the middle of our winter, but seems to be doing okay for itself thanks to a few helpful birders keeping the park stocked with food.

It's difficult to ignore the beautofulwinter scenery of North America's oldest city, even when you're busy birding.

It’s difficult to ignore the beautiful winter scenery of North America’s oldest city, even when you’re busy birding.

Gulls are an essential part of any winter tour in Newfoundland, and this week did not disappoint. We soaked in great looks and photo opportunities with thousands of Herring, Great Black-backed and “Kumlien’s” Iceland Gulls, several hundred Glaucous Gulls, dozens of Black-headed Gulls (a key target for the tour!), a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and two Common (aka European Mew) Gulls! It was a great learning experience for both participants, who are now set to find and identify these rare northern visitors closer to home.

Visitors are often amazed at the variation among our wintering Iceland Gulls. The vast majority are of the "Kumlien's" race, but every now and then we encounter a candidate "glaucoides", like this one.

Visitors are often amazed at the variation among our wintering Iceland Gulls. The vast majority are of the “Kumlien’s” race, but every now and then we encounter a candidate “glaucoides”, like this one. Note the pure white wingtips and paler mantle compared to the more typical Kumlien’s Gulls in the background.

The third day brought beautiful (though cold!) weather, so we headed off to bird the beautiful coast of the southeast Avalon. Our first big highlight was finding three White-winged Crossbills feeding in a white spruce at Ferryland … a special and somewhat unexpected treat in what has been a sparse year for northern finches. Both the birds and the light cooperated for excellent photo opportunities, making for two happy participants and one very delighted guide!

This is one of three immature White-winged Crossbills we came across, feasting on the abundant white spruce cones. Most other conifers have had a poor cone crop this year.

This is one of three immature White-winged Crossbills we came across, feasting on the abundant white spruce cones. Most other conifers have had a poor cone crop this year.

Among other highlights were six Snow Buntings, a lingering Fox Sparrow, a very uncommon Horned Grebe and three more Dovekie. We were excited to find that, due to a relative lack of snow cover, we were able to drive the entire length of coastal road to Cape Race. Along the way we spotted three Snowy Owls on the tundra and at least fifteen Red-necked Grebes bobbing on the water. A large mixed flock of birds below the lighthouse consisted of ~320 White-winged Scoter, one Surf Scoter, a hundred Common Eider, two hundred Common Murre and at least five Thick-billed Murre.

The next day we headed north to Conception Bay, where ducks were the order of the day. We tallied a dozen species in the various harbours and inlets along the way, including 19 Eurasian Wigeon, 2 American Wigeon, 250 Greater Scaup, 50+ Common Goldeneye, 10 Bufflehead and dozens of both Common and Red-breasted Merganser. A pair of American Wigeon X Mallard hybrids were also noted (they have been hanging out in the area for several winters now).

Most scaup in Newfoundland are Greater Scaup, but careful observers can often pick out a Lesser Scaup or two (like this one).

Most scaup in Newfoundland are Greater Scaup, but careful observers can often pick out a Lesser Scaup or two (like this one).

The last day of this WINGS tour was spent around St. John’s, including another trip to Cape Spear. A much larger concentration of Common Eiders had built up since our earlier visit – with more than 800 spread out in three main flocks. Despite the much heavier, rolling seas we were able to spot a drake King Eider in one of the flocks – a great addition to the week and yet another lifer for one participant! On the way back to town, we picked up five Pine Grosbeaks flying over our heads, a Mourning Dove on a wire and eight Evening Grosbeak at a feeder we had (unsuccessfully) staked out earlier in the week. Our last new species for the week was an adult Bonaparte’s Gull cavorting with Black-headed Gulls in St. John’s harbour. We ended the tour on a high note with a confiding flock of ~100 Bohemian Waxwings feeding in an apple tree at eye level, four very cooperative Great Cormorants, and some very tame Boreal Chickadees eating seed right out of our hands – all great photo opportunities!

A walk in the woods this time of year can prove very quiet, although on this trail we did come across a few Boreal Chickadees and five Pine Grosbeak flying overhead.

A walk in the woods this time of year can prove very quiet, although on this trail we did come across a few Boreal Chickadees and five Pine Grosbeak flying overhead.

Great Cormorant often hang out in St. John's harbour - sometimes with a very neat and historic backdrop.

Great Cormorant often hang out in St. John’s harbour – sometimes with a very neat and historic backdrop.

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A major highlight of our week was finding a flock of Bohemian Waxwings in the historic Battery neighbourhood With about one hundred birds and maybe seven apples, there quite a ruckus at times!

A major highlight of our week was finding a flock of Bohemian Waxwings in the historic Battery neighbourhood With about one hundred birds and maybe seven apples, there quite a ruckus at times!

BOWA_Jan162015_3151It was a fantastic week spent enjoying great birds & amazing scenery with some wonderful people. What more can I ask?!?!

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Winter Bird Photography (A Guest Post!)

Winter in Newfoundland offers some incredible opportunities for bird photography — a passion enjoyed by more and more birders. Newfoundland also has its share of great wildlife photographers, not the least of which is my good friend Brad James. Brad has been kind enough to write a guest post for Bird⋅The⋅Rock about some of his favourite winter subjects. (Be sure to check out his website, at the bottom of this post, to see more of his amazing work!!)

** I’m excited to say that Bird⋅The⋅Rock and Brad James Wildlife Photography are planning some joint birding/photography tours (winter & summer) in the near future!!! These tours will include some great birding, lots of photography opportunities, along with tips, instructions and field lessons from Brad himself! I know I’m excited!! Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more!

Winters in Newfoundland  by Brad James

Winters in Newfoundland can be nasty. Growing up in Gander (central Newfoundland) it seemed the snow would pile up as high as skyscrapers; people would drive up and down the streets on skidoo since there was so much snow and vehicle access on side roads was near impossible. Times have changed, or maybe I’ve grown up and my childhood imagination has diminished but winters here on the island don’t seem as bad…well until last year. Last year’s winter froze every body of water basically solid. Conception Bay behind my house was like a large ice cube. It was the first time since moving home five years ago that the bay had frozen over. Even though our winters can be nasty, they bring with it some amazing photo opportunities! One of my favourite subjects during the winter months are the diving ducks. They can be found throughout the various ponds around St. John’s but once the temperatures drop and those ponds freeze over they move to the remaining open waters of Quidi Vidi lake. This provides some amazing photo opportunities. Our mix of divers is comprised of Tufted, Greater & Lesser Scaup, and Ring necked ducks. Here are a few of my images from the past few years.

Tufted Duck Tufted1As you can see, we can get really close to our diving ducks here. 2014_TuftedDuck_March_3Greater Scaup GreaterScaup1Ring-necked Duck RingNeckDuckDuring last year’s freeze we were lucky to have a small group of seven Common Mergansers that moved into the lake and provided many birders and bird photographers with some excellent sightings.

Common Merganser CommonMerganser1 CommonMerganser2Winter months might also bring other waterfowl like Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Northern Shovelers, etc. to our waters and with little remaining water for them to feed in they usually end up at Quidi Vidi or small open pockets of water near streams and rivers. This allows for some wonderful photos!

Bufflehead BuffleHeadPied-billed Grebe 2013_PiedGrebe_Nov_3Over the past few years we have been lucky to have a Peregrine Falcon take up residence along the waters edge of Quidi Vidi. He can be seen hanging out in his usual tree scanning the lake for food.

Peregrine Falcon PeregrineFalconThe peregrine isn’t the only raptor on the lake as many Bald Eagles can be seen trying to make a meal out of the thousands of gulls that roost on the frozen waters.

Bald Eagle 2014_Eagle_Mar_3I rarely spend much time photographing gulls, despite the large number of Gulls species on the island (I should be shamed of myself!). However, over the past year my interest has begun to grow. One gull in particular that we are lucky to have is the Yellow-legged Gull which is sought after by many birders. Here are a few of the gulls I’ve photographed at Quidi Vidi during winter.

Black headed Gull BlackHeadGullLesser Black-backed Gull LesserBlackbackGullAnother species which gets a lot of my attention during winter are Dovekies. These tiny seabirds aren’t always easy to find near shore but when you do its a real treat and a great bird to study.

Dovekie Dovekie1 Dovekie2Another photogenic bird during winter is the Purple Sandpiper. There is a group of about 80 – 100 that show up each year at Cape Spear and feed along the rocks near the ocean.

Purples Sandpiper Purple_Sandpiper1 Purple_Sandpiper2These are only a few of the many species you can see on the island during the winter. If you’re really lucky you might get to see an Ivory Gull, Gyrfalcon and many other uncommon species that have shown up to the island and have even been spotted right here in the city! Newfoundland is an amazing place with friendly people and a warm welcoming atmosphere (even in the dead of winter). The island has much to offer during the winter months and provides some unique photo opportunities.

Check out more of Brad James’ amazing photography on his website & Facebook page below:
Website: http://www.bradjameswildlifephotography.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bradjameswildlifephotography

2014: Looking Back on a Great Year!

It’s hard to believe that another year has zipped by … and what a year it was! The past twelve months were full of great blessings, highlights and adventures; bringing back some wonderful memories as I sit down now to reflect on them. Amazing birds, extreme weather, fun-filled tours, new friends and even a tropical adventure … 2014 had it all!!

** Be sure to follow the links to earlier blog posts for more details and LOTS more photos!! **

The first bird news for the year was actually a carry-over from 2013 — the invasion of Snowy Owls. Although the large numbers of November and December seemed to have dissipated, reports continued throughout the winter. A few individuals decided to stay, with reports from places like Trepassey, St. Shott’s, Cape Race and Bonavista’s north shore right through the summer. I saw at least one bird in June, July and August! An echo of the 2013 invasion has been taking place this fall/winter, with excellent numbers reported in November and December 2014.

Snowy Owls continued throughout the winter of 2014, following a major invasion the previous fall. This one was photographed in St. John's in early January.

Snowy Owls continued throughout the winter of 2014, following a major invasion the previous fall. This one was photographed in St. John’s in early January.

In January, I was fortunate to host four eager birders on a WINGS Birding tour. We enjoyed prime Newfoundland winter birds like Dovekie, Purple Sandpiper, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon and thousands of excellent gulls, as well as the very rare COMMON SNIPE that had just been discovered in Ferryland. Several other clients were able to enjoy this bird throughout the winter.

Four enthusiastic birders from across the United States visited St. John's last week as part of the WINGS winter tour. Here they can be seen at Cape Spear, smiling after scoring great looks at two prime targets - Purple Sandpipers and Dovekie!!

Four enthusiastic birders from across the United States visited St. John’s last winter as part of the WINGS winter tour. Here they can be seen at Cape Spear, smiling after scoring great looks at two prime targets – Purple Sandpipers and Dovekie!!

- Photo: Jared Clarke (January 25, 2014)

Equally exciting was the reappearance of our adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in February … it had been elusive all winter and not seen at all since December. For several weeks it appeared, almost like clockwork, at Quidi Vidi lake to bathe, drink and loaf on the ice with many other gulls. A number of visiting birders were able to capitalize on this, including several of my clients who had come primarily to “tick” this North American mega.

The Yellow-legged Gull is, in my opinion, one of the classiest looking gulls out there (and I do love gulls!). The combination of bright yellow bill and legs, brilliant red gony spot, and that magic shade of grey add up to one beautiful bird. - Photo: Jared Clarke (February 22. 2014)

The Yellow-legged Gull is, in my opinion, one of the classiest looking gulls out there (and I do love gulls!). The combination of bright yellow bill and legs, brilliant red gony spot, and that magic shade of grey add up to one beautiful bird.

Overall, Newfoundland (and most of North America!) found itself in a deep freeze for much of the winter. With the exception of a week-long thaw in mid-January, it was one of the coldest and snowiest winters in a long time. The extensive ice and limited open water resulted in a big movement of waterfowl, as well as some great photo opportunities with local ducks.

Photo opportunities with Common Mergansers are few and far between ,since they usually stick to larger patches of open water and are very wary. A small group making regular visits to Quidi Vidi have been becoming more tolerant of people and allowing some great looks. - Photo: Jared Clarke (February 22. 2014)

Photo opportunities with Common Mergansers are few and far between, since they usually stick to larger patches of open water and are very wary. A small group making regular visits to Quidi Vidi last winter became more tolerant of people and allowed some great looks.

Ring-necked Ducks breed in Newfoundland, but are rarely easy to photograph. This drake has been hanging out in the relatively small patches of open water at Quidi Vidi since early February. - Photo: Jared Clarke (February 22. 2014)

Ring-necked Ducks breed in Newfoundland, but are rarely easy to photograph. This drake was hanging out in the relatively small patches of open water at Quidi Vidi in early February.

The frigid temperatures and deep snow also resulted in a handful of small owl reports in residential areas. I even caught sight of a Northern Saw-whet Owl as it flew up from a nearby yard and landed on the wires directly in front of my house – unfortunately it only stayed for a moment. Much more cooperative was a Boreal Owl that showed up in a neighbourhood following a big storm in early February … definitely one of my photo highlights of 2014!

Boreal Owls are definitely one of my favourite birds. They are known for visiting residential neighbourhoods in mid-winter, when deep snow has impacted their traditional hunting areas in "the bush".

Boreal Owls are definitely one of my favourite birds. They are known for visiting residential neighbourhoods in mid-winter, when deep snow has impacted their traditional hunting areas in “the bush”.

March brought with it one of the highlights of my entire year – an escape to Hawaii!! I joined my good friend Jody Allair as co-leader for an Eagle Eye birding tour, where we visited three islands with a great group of birders, saw some of the coolest and rarest birds on earth, swam with sea turtles, and hiked on volcanoes. It was genuinely awesome adventure in one of the most amazing and unique ecosystems in the world. (Be sure to read my earlier blog posts – they are jam-packed with photos!).

This male Akiapola'au, one of Big Island's rarest and most special birds, graced us for almost an hour. Check out that crazy bill!!

This male Akiapola’au, one of Hawaii’s rarest and most special birds, graced us for almost an hour. Check out that crazy bill!! It may have been my favourite birding experience of the entire year!

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Green Sea Turtles are quite common along the Hawaiian coasts, but seeing them was still very special.

Redtailed Tropicbirds also nest on the cliffs at Kilauea Point, and were often seen floating by or engaging in their acrobatic courtships displays.

Red-tailed Tropicbirds were one of many (many!) highlights during the tour!

April can be an exciting time in Newfoundland, especially if we get the right winds … and this year we got them in spades. Prolonged northeasterly, trans-Atlatnic winds in late April and early May brought with them an invasion of European/Icelandic birds … including two COMMON REDSHANKS (only the third North American record), a dozen Black-tailed Godwits, several hundred European Golden Plovers, scores of Northern Wheatear, and a Eurasian Whimbrel.

However, the real star of the Euro Inasion was a Common Redshank at Renews from May 3-13. Since it represented just the third record (and sixth individual) for both Newfoundland and North America, many birder came from near and far to see it. A second individual presnt at the same location on May 4 was chased off by the first and never seen again!

This Common Redshank at Renews from May 3-13 was (in my opinion) Newfoundland’s best bird of 2014. Since it represented just the third record (and sixth individual) for both Newfoundland and North America, many birders came from near and far to see it.

More than 300 European Golden Plovers were reported across Newfoundland in early May - a huge (though not quite record!) invasion of this nearly annual rarity.

More than 300 European Golden Plovers were reported across Newfoundland in early May – a huge (though not quite record!) invasion of this nearly annual rarity.

Photo: Jared Clarke (April 26, 2014)

The “invasion” was first detected by the arrival of two Black-tailed Godwits at Renews in late April. Over the next 2-3 weeks, a record total of twelve were recorded around the island. Incredibly, I was able to see six of them at four locations!

To make things even more exciting, an adult ROSS’S GULL showed up for two days – considered by many to have been the most exciting bird of the entire year!

Summer was busy with tours and visiting birders … all of whom couldn’t have picked a better year to visit! We had great weather, an incredible showing of icebergs, and lots of interesting nature and wildlife experiences! I had the pleasure of leading four tours with my good friends at Wildland Tours, as well as several private clients throughout the summer – all of whom enjoyed great birds, whales, scenery, wildflowers and, of course, icebergs! And no one enjoyed it more than I did!

The icebergs in Bonavista & Trinity Bays were incredible - in number, size and sheer beauty. Some dramatic skies added to the scene at times.

The icebergs along ghe northeast coast this year were incredible – in number, size and sheer beauty. Some dramatic skies added to the scene at times.

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We enjoyed “lots” of great seabirds during the various tours – including the awe-inspiring frenzy of murres and puffins at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.

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A couple tours lucked into the amazing scene of caplin “rolling” as they spawned on our beaches. In the North Atlantic, these small fish are a big cog in the wheel of life.

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Cape Pine also produced our first Short-tailed Swallowtails of the trip ... they were plentiful at most headlands during the week.

Short-tailed Swallowtails are always a highlight on my tours … this beautiful little butterfly is limited to very small range, mostly on the island of Newfoundland.

Although most were busy gorging on the schools of caplin, a few enetertained us with some beautiful breaches. This one in front of the historic town of Trinity!

Whales put on a great show throughout the summer – like this one breaching in front of the historic town of Trinity!

Subalpine flowers, like these Diapensia lapponica, grow on the sub-arctic tundra of Cape St. Mary's.

Subalpine flowers, like these Diapensia lapponica, grow on the sub-arctic tundra of Newfoundland and are one of many interesting wildflowers seen throughout the summer.

A Little Gull showed up in late July, hanging around for many local birders to catch up with it.

LIGU_July312014_5730

Little Gulls are quite rare in Newfoundland, and it is especially unusual for one to cooperate and hang around for several days like this one did!

August was very wet in Newfoundland, but I managed to make the most of it – including a great Wildland Tour and lots of family adventures. A major windstorm at the end of August drove thousands of Leach’s Storm Petrels (and other birds) to the bottom of Conception Bay, making for quite a show!

Thousands of Lach's Storm Petrels fluttered over Conception Bay, driven there by the strong wrap-around winds from Tropical Storm Cristobal (August 29).

Thousands of Lach’s Storm Petrels fluttered over Conception Bay, driven there by the strong wrap-around winds from Tropical Storm Cristobal (August 29).

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Our family loves ot spend time together and travel in Newfoundland during the summer. One of our favourite destinations in beautiful Grate’s Cove, where my mother-in-law grew up and she still has an old family home that we love!

One of the most exciting events of the entire year for me had nothing to do with birds – but instead a mammal. In early September, I managed to catch up with a WALRUS that was discovered hanging out on a rocky outcrop at Bay Bulls! I have always wanted to see one of these magnificent animals, and this one did not disappoint! My story of this encounter turned out the be the most popular post on my blog, my photos were shared across the internet and picked up by various media, and the sighting was published in a local journal.

Walrus_Sept22014_7948 Walrus_Sept22014_7866An intriguing Common Gull also showed up in September – one that gave the distinct impressions of the kamchatka race originating from eastern Asia. Bruce Mactavish and I had a great experience after relocating it on a field in Goulds, and its difficult to come to any conclusion except that it was indeed a “Kamchatka Gull“. Unfortunately, it has not been seen since.

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This Common Gull which showed up in and around St. John’s in early fall was unlike any other seen here before. Could it really have been a “Kamchatka Gull” from eastern Asia?? Crazier things have happened.

A very rare Canvasback appeared in St. John’s in October … only the second record for the province and the first in more than 40 years! I managed to see it a couple times before it disappeared a couple weeks later.

This immature Canvasback provides just the second record for Newfoundland, with the last one having been more than 40 years ago!

This immature Canvasback provided just the second record for Newfoundland, with the last one having been seen in the early 1970’s!

Later that month, all eyes were on Hurricane Gonzalo as it churned north over the Atlantic ocean towards us. With dreams of tropical seabirds dancing in our heads, three of us met this huge storm at Cape Race just minutes after the eye had passed a few miles east of us. The rare birds didn’t materialize, but the incredible wave action over the next few hours was more than worth the trip!

IMG_9677 IMG_9607 IMG_9531November turned out to be an important month for Bird⋅The⋅Rock … I launched a new website and Facebook page, heralding a big step into the field of eco- and birding tourism. We also hosted an online contest, with Newfoundland birder Diane Burton winning a beautiful canvas print featuring one of my favourite bird photos! A big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported & encouraged me in this new venture!!

CBNT_CSMNovember is also an interesting time for birds in Newfoundland, and this year was no different. The “star” of the month may have been a Meadowlark that showed up in St. John’s – not necessarily because of its rarity (although it was), but because of its ambiguity. Initial photos seemed to indicate that it “could” be a Western Meadowlark, although lengthy discussions and research proved inconclusive. These species are very cryptic at the best of times, and it seems the lines between them are still quite blurry. Other good birds during the month included a Western Kingbird, Northern Mockingbird and several cool warblers (for which November is best known!).

Terrible Photo(s) #1 - A Meadowlark (Eastern? Western?) that was discovered in St. John's on November 7. It was seen over the next few days, but the cryptic nature of this bird and its plumage means we may never know which species it was!

A Meadowlark (Eastern? Western?) that was discovered in St. John’s on November 7. It was seen over the next few days, but the cryptic nature of this bird and its plumage means we may never know which species it was!

This Pine Warbler, photographed in St. Shott's a few years ago, was making good use of the late fall flies. Pine Warblers are another hardy warbler that get reported more often in November than any other month in Newfoundland.

Pine Warblers are a hardy warbler that get reported more often in November than any other month in Newfoundland.

December was relatively mild across the province, which led to some comfortable (and interesting!) birding during the first few weeks of Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season. I was fortunate to take part in the Cape St. Mary’s and St. John’s CBCs … read the blog posts for more details!

It is surreal to see Bird Rock (left) completely devoid of birds this time of year, when it is bustling with thousands of gannets during spring and summer. Here, John & Ed enjoy a mid-morning seawatch while I hiked over the eastern ridge.

Cape St. Mary’s looks very different in winter (like during this Christmas Bird Count) compared to summer when it is bustling with life.

This drake Long-tailed Duck (locally called "hounds") was feeding at the end of a breakwater in St. Bride's. Between dives, I managed to sneak up quite close by edging along on the piled boulders.

This drake Long-tailed Duck (locally called “hounds”) was feeding at the end of a breakwater in St. Bride’s during the Christmas Bird Count. Between dives, I managed to sneak up quite close by edging along on the piled boulders.

And so ended another year … we said a fond farewell to 2014 and toasted the arrival of 2015 while visiting my family in Lewisporte (central Newfoundland). So, from me and my family to you & yours

Happy New Year!

May the next twelve months bring you lots of joy, peace and outdoor enjoyment – wherever they find you!