Long Necks & Bills

Winter is still trying to hang on here in Newfoundland, and its icy grip was felt with a little fresh snow, ice and freezing rain during the first two days of April. But signs of spring ARE starting to pop up – the first bright American Robins singing from the treetops, a handful of refreshed-looking Ring-billed Gulls joining the bedraggled few that stayed around for winter, and the arrival of Black-legged Kittiwakes all along the coast.

One unusual, but not unexpected, sign of spring was a Great Egret spotted on Friday (wayward as they are, a few sometimes arrive on April winds – probably wondering where and how they made such a wrong turn!). The location wasn’t too surprising, either … Long Pond, just a few blocks from our house, is one of the few marshy ponds that are partly open this time of year and has probably seen more egrets than most places in Newfoundland. I managed to find an hour in the late afternoon to go check it out …

Ouch! Cccccold feet! How did I end up here??

Ouch! Cccccold feet! How did I end up here??

Despite the ice and snow, this fella seemed to be doing quite fine and catching plenty of small fish. Like most egrets that arrive here in early spring, it will likely make its way back south once the winds cooperate.

Despite the ice and snow, this fella seemed to be doing quite fine and catching plenty of small fish. Like most egrets that arrive here in early spring, it will likely make its way back south once the winds cooperate.

Long Pond, in the centre of St. John's, has seen it's share of wayward egrets. I photographed this one there in mid-April several years ago.

Long Pond, in the centre of St. John’s, has seen it’s share of wayward egrets. I photographed this one there in mid-April several years ago.

My birding time has been limited lately, but I did take some time out last week to go look for a very probable Common Snipe that had been found in Ferryland, hanging out with up to three Wilson’s Snipe. I must have picked the wrong day, since during my four hour stakeout, only two of the four snipe could be found at any of the places I checked – and both were clearly Wilson’s Snipe. The suspicious snipe has been seen since, but remains unconfirmed since confident identification of these two species is complicated and requires photos of underwing details that they are not prone to showing. (Some informative photographs and great discussions about this individual are available on the blogs of Bruce Mactavish and Alvan Buckley, who both spent some time with it.)

Here are the two Wilson's Snipe that made an appearance during my visit to Ferryland last week. A far more interesting snipe failed to show up for the party!

Here are the two Wilson’s Snipe that made an appearance during my visit to Ferryland last week. A far more interesting snipe failed to show up for the party!

Another bird wondering why on earth it decided to spend the winter "here" ...

Another bird wondering why on earth it decided to spend the winter “here” …

I managed to spot two more Wilson’s Snipe on the drive home – one at Tors Cove and another at Bay Bulls. Four snipe on the day, but all of them a tad disappointing!

Common Redpolls have been scarce on the Avalon in recent years, so I was happy to encoutner a few during a recent visit to my parents' house in Notre Dame Bay. I almost forgot how much I like them!

Common Redpolls have been scarce on the Avalon in recent years, so I was happy to encounter a few during a recent visit to my parents’ house in Notre Dame Bay. I almost forgot how much I like them!

CORE_Mar162015_4701

These photos were taken during a lull in a mid-March snowstorm … weather that suits these birds, but not photography.

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