Fall 2011

Fall (September – November) 2011

Fall is arguably the most anticipated season for birders in Newfoundland, with lots of activity on all fronts and a good variety of vagrants from other parts of North America to keep us motivated. And this fall didn’t fail to deliver … The biggest highlight was undoubtedly the first “cooperative” Fork-tailed Flycatcher for the province – staying put for “chasers” after four previous records when they did anything but. A provincial first came in the form of a White-breasted Nuthatch visiting a feeder on the Burin Peninsula, and other major rarities included the provinces’ third Connecticut Warbler and one of very few confirmed Orchard Orioles – both of which eluded all but one birder.


A Snow Goose was spotted amongst hundreds of Canada Geese in the Codroy Valley on November 11. A Brant first discovered at Harbour Grace on November 9 ended up staying for several months, furnishing the first over-wintering record for the province. A Barnacle Goose shot in Labrador in October was one of three reported by the hunter.

A drake Wood Duck reported in Bowring Park on November 14 was not seen again, while a drake Gadwall was reported sporadically in Harbour Grace throughout the latter part of November and into winter. Eurasian Wigeon began appearing on cue in early October, with 6 reported from Neville’s Pond, Paradise on October 4 and individuals in St. John’s on October 30 and November 4. Another was spotted in Arnold’s Cove on November 26. Two apparent American Wigeon x Mallard hybrids were reported in Harbour Grace in November, while another bird fitting this description was spotted in Bowring Park on one occasion. A pair of Blue-winged Teal was in Carmanville on September 10, while two females in the Goulds on September 13 were subsequently shot by a hunter. Two females showed up at Stick Pond, St. John’s on October 20 and another in Paradise on October 30. A female Northern Shoveler reported at Mundy Pond, St. John’s on October 25 was likely the same one later reported there from November 19-27. An unconfirmed report of one Tufted Duck came from Cape Freels on September 9. The first report of the season in St. John’s was on October 2, building to at least 14 on November 30. A Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted in the Codroy estuary on November 11. There were three reports of drake Hooded Merganser on the northeast Avalon this fall – Mount Pearl on September 6, St. John’s on September 15 and Paradise on October 4. Two female/immature Ruddy Ducks were at Forest Pond, Goulds from November 7-19.

An unusually high count of 15 Red-throated Loons was reported in Biscay Bay on October 12, along with a potential record high of five Horned Grebes. A Pied-billed Grebe was also in Biscay Bay from November 18-29, while another was discovered at Long Pond, St. John’s on November 27 and remained into early December.

Thousands of Great Shearwaters and a smattering of Sooty Shearwaters were reported off Bear Cove Point on October 1 and Cape Spear on October 3 – relatively late dates for such high numbers.

A juvenile Least Bittern was found moribund and later died at Lawn on October – the 8th record fro Newfoundland and the first in at least a couple decades. A Great Blue Heron reported from Long Beach (near Cape Race) on November 5 was also found dead a few days later. A Great Egret was at the same location October 7-9, while others were reported from Renews October 13-15, Peter’s River October 16, Ferryland October 23-November 6, Embree from late October to early November, Portugal Cove South October 30, St. John’s November 4-14, and Long Beach yet again on November 5. Three Cattle Egrets were reported during the period – one at St. Shott’s October 23-26, one at Curling ~October 20-November 5, and another that was reported resident at Ship Cove throughout much of the summer and into November.

A sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk was seen soaring north past Bear Cove Point on September 19 – the fourth record for Newfoundland. Rough-legged Hawks were reported in more expected numbers this fall, after a meager year in 2010. There were several spotted on the southeast Avalon in September and October were as well as reports from Cape Freels and Woody Point. Notably, six individuals were spotted between Flowers Cove and Eddies’ Cove East on October 16. Reports of a Gyrfalcon came from Mistaken Point on October 13, Cape Race Road east of Long Beach on October 23, and Portugal Cove South on November 23.

Four American Coots were first reported in St. John’s on October 23, peaking with 6 individuals reported on November 27 (five at Mundy Pond, one at Quidi Vidi).

A juvenile Common Ringed Plover was observed at Portugal Cove South from September 3-10, representing ~10th record for Newfoundland. A late Semipalmated Plover was hanging on at Trepassey on November 25. A Killdeer arrived at Portugal Cove South on October 31 – three individuals were reported from Portugal Cove South, Long Beach and Trepassey on November 7.

A Solitary Sandpiper was at Cape Broyle on September 4, while another was reported from Trepassey on the very late date of October 22. A Willet at Bear Cove (near Renews) was the only report of the fall.  It was a good fall for Hudsonian Godwit – two first reported at Cape Feeels on September 1 increased to six on September 9 and as many as eleven on September 12. Individuals were reported from St. Shott’s on October 4 and Trepassey October 4-6, while three were at Port-aux-Choix on October 12-13. Red Knots were also recorded in good numbers, with as many as nine at Cape Freels (September 1-19), one at Portugal Cove South (September 2), 16 at Bellevue (September 18), one at Spaniard’s Bay (September 25), 17 at Eddies Cove East (October 29) and 14 at Stephenville Crossing (November 11-13). Up to eight different Baird’s Sandpipers were reported on the southeast Avalon between September 2 and October 14 – all at Portugal Cove South, Long Beach and Bear Cove. Three relatively late Dunlin were at Trepassey on November 25. A probable Stilt Sandpiper was described from Cape Freels on September 9, while a juvenile was at Bear Cove October 18-22. Buff-breasted Sandpipers were reported in various locations throughout September – Cape Broyle (1), St. Shott’s (3), Renews (1), Cape Freels (6) and Mistaken Point (5). A juvenile Ruff was spotted at the St. Shott’s sod farm on September 4, while another was identified from photos at Trepassey (date uncertain).

Immature Sabine’s Gulls were spotted of Seal Cove, CBS and Cape Spear on September 7. An immature Bonaparte’s Gull was in the Goulds September 5-6. A single bird was reported in St. John’s on September 24, and again October 20 – November 20 (unclear if this was the same bird). Three adults were recorded at Bellevue on November 26. Outside of St. John’s, notable counts of Black-headed Gull came from Bellevue (14) and Arnold’s Cove (20) on November 26. There was an unconfirmed report of a juvenile Little Gull at Bellevue on September 18. The first Common (Mew) Gull of the season was a 2nd year bird in St. John’s on October 30, which was later joined by an adult on November 18. Adults were also reported from Stephenville Crossing on November 11-13 (one of few records outside the Avalon Peninsula) and Bellevue on November 26. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was reported in St. John’s on October 20 & 30 – presumably the same individual first spotted in August. There was an unconfirmed report of 3 possible Least Terns at Dildo on September 20, following Hurricane Maria.

A South Polar Skua was described from Bear Cove Point (near Renews) on September 6. Dozens of Pomarine and a few Parasitic Jaegers were spotted off Cape Spear on October 3, along with a big movement of shearwaters (described above).

An early Dovekie, still in breeding plumage, was spotted off Portugal Cove South on September 13. An arrival of Mourning Doves occurred on the southeast Avalon around October 23, when 15-20 individuals were spotted between Cappahayden and Renews.

Up to 17 Yellow-billed Cuckoos were reported between September 18 and October 29 – all on the eastern and southeastern Avalon except for one in Bonavista (October 19). The first Snowy Owl of the season was at Cape Spear November 9-10, two were spotted on Cape Race Road on November 23 (one on November 27), and another reported from Windsor Lake (St. John’s) on November 25.

A single Chimney Swift was spotted flying over the university campus in St. John’s on October 21.

Female Red-bellied Woodpeckers were attending feeders in Lumsden (October 1-November 14) and Rocky Harbour (November 4-6), while a male was reported from a feeder in Gander ~October 20-25 – marking the 6th-8th Newfoundland records and part of an influx being reported from the Maritimes, as well.

A very late Olive-sided Flycatcher was described from Plum Point on October 20. A Least Flycatcher was spotted on Bear Cove Point road on September 2 – an uncommon migrant in eastern Newfoundland. Three Western Kingbirds were recorded across the island this fall – Bear Cove/Renews from October 23-November 6, Trepassey November 10-19 (apparently different based on photos), and O’Regans on November 13. A late Eastern Kingbird was in Trepassey on October 15. Possibly the biggest highlight of the fall was an adult Fork-tailed Flycatcher present in Renews from ~October 12-23. This was the fifth record for Newfoundland, but the first one that local birders were able to catch up with.

A White-eyed Vireo was near Powle’s Head, Trepassey on October 4. Blue-headed Vireos were spotted at Burnt Cove on October 22 and the lower Rennies River, St. John’s from November 18-20. A good total of 8-10 Warbling Vireos were reported between September 4 and October 23 from Cape Spear (2-3), Bear Cove Point (3-4), Bear Cove (1), Cappahayden (1) and Cape Race road (1). At least five Philadelphia Vireos were spotted on Bear Cove Point road on September 18-24, while another was near Cripple Cove (Cape Race) on September 18. Red-eyed Vireos were regular throughout the period, as per usual.

A relatively late Barn Swallow was at Bear Cove Point road on October 4. A Cliff Swallow was at nearby Bear Cove on September 8, while five swallows described near Blackhead on October 13 were likely this species.

Another major highlight of the fall was Newfoundland’s first White-breasted Nuthatch, visiting a backyard in St. Lawrence from about November 10 until sometime in December (last dates unknown since homeowner were away for much of December/January). Four Blue-grey Gnatcatchers were recorded during the period from Witless Bay (September 3), Cape Spear (September 5-11), Bear Cove Point road (September 22) and Bear Cove (October 18).

An immature/female Northern Wheatear was near Red Cliff (Logy Bay) on September 28-29, while another was spotted at Cape Race from October 9-18. A late Swainson’s Thrush was also at Cape Race on October 4. The only Grey Catbird reported this fall was at Cape Spear on October 23, while Northern Mockingbirds were spotted at Renews from October 18-21 and St. John’s on November 29. Relatively few Lapland Longspurs were reported this fall, with 16 near Cripple Cove (Cape Race) and one at Cape Spear on September 29.

While it was a pretty typical fall for vagrant and uncommon warblers, only seven (mostly expected) species were recorded in November (summarized below). One of the most unusual warblers of the season was a Golden-winged Warbler near Cappahayden on September 9. Approximately a dozen Orange-crowned Warblers were observed throughout the fall, with reports from Cape Race road, Trepassey, Renews, Cappahayden, Bear Cove Point road, St. John’s and Calvert. Nashville Warblers were spotted at Bear Cove Point road (September 18-19), Powle’s Head, Trepassey (September 19), Cape Race road (October 9) and Cappahayden (October 23). Northern Parula were found at Cape Spear road on September 23, Cape Race road on October 22, Rocky Harbour on October 23, and Blackhead on October 28. The only Chestnut-sided Warbler of the season was at Bear Cove Point road from September 13-18. A lone Cape May Warbler was at the same location on September 11, while two were there on September 19. Two Black-throated Blue Warblers were on Bear Cove Point road during an apparent arrival of birds on September 18-19, while one female was near Cape Spear from September 19-21 and a male on Cape Race road from September 30-October 4. Blackburnian Warblers were observed at Cape Spear road (September 13), Bear Cove Point road (September 18) and Bear Cove (October 4). Three Yellow-throated Warblers were reported this fall – Cape Spear road (September 20), St. Anthony and Carmanville (both on November 13). Three Pine Warblers were also found during the period with individuals near Cripple Cove (Cape Race) from October 12-22, Calvert on November 6, and in St. John’s starting on November 28 and continuing well into winter. As many as fifteen (and at least a dozen) Prairie Warblers were reported in September and October, at locations from St. John’s to Cape Race, including three together near Long Beach (Cape Race road) on September 13. A Bay-breasted Warblers was spotted on Bear Cove Point road from September 18-19 while another was at nearby Bear Cove on September 19. An immature male Cerulean Warbler was also seen briefly on Bear Cove Point road on September 19 – one of few records in recent years. A Connecticut Warbler found near the Cape Race lighthouse on October 4 was the third record for the province, and at the same location as the very first. Only two Canada Warblers were found this fall – one on Bear Cove Point road on September 3 and another at Cappahayden six days later. Up to eight Yellow-breasted Chats were discovered throughout the period with individuals at Cape Race (September 18 & October 11), nearby Long Beach (October 12), Portugal Cove South (~October 17), Renews (October 18), Cappahayden (October 23), Blackhead (November 3) and the lower Rennies River, St. John’s (November 17 and continuing into winter).


Orange-crowned Warbler:      Bear Cove Point road on November 1; St. John’s on November 3; Renews on November 5 and Calvert on November 6

Yellow-rumped Warbler:          Renews on November 2

Yellow-throated Warbler:         St. Anthony and Carmanville, both on November 13

Pine Warbler:                            Calvert on November 6; St. John’s on November 28

Black & White Warbler:            2 in St. John’s, November 13-20; one present into early December

Common Yellowthroat:            St. John’s on November 3

Yellow-breasted Chat:             Blackhead on November 3; St. John’s on November 17

A Chipping Sparrow at Bear Cove on September 9 was an uncommon migrant in eastern Newfoundland. More out-of-range were two Clay-coloured Sparrows found near Cape Race on October 4 and Trepassey on October 29. Lark Sparrows put in a good showing this fall with 9-10 individuals reported from Cape Race (two on September 24, one on September 29, and one on October 23), Cape Pine (September 29), Cape Spear (September 29), Bear Cove Point road (October 7), Cripple Cove (October 11), Trepassey (October 13-November 6) and Port Kirwin (October 18). An “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow was described from Biscay Bay on October 16, while the only Grasshopper Sparrow of the fall was at Long Beach and Cape Race from November 6-8. A Nelson’s Sparrow was seen briefly near the lighthouse at St. Shott’s on October 30. A White-crowned Sparrow was at Long Beach from October 18-22, while another was at Cape Race on November 25.  An immature fitting the description of the western race gambelli was observed (and well photographed) in St. Lawrence on November 22.

A female Summer Tanager was spotted near a home in Birch Cove, Bonavista Bay from November 24-27, when it was found dead. A Scarlet Tanager at Burnt Cove on October 22 was the only one of the fall. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported from Blackhead on September 27 & October 11, and St. John’s on November 28. It was an exceptional season for Blue Grosbeak, with more than 15 individuals reported at locations from St. John’s to Cape Race, Terra Nova National Park and Buchans. Most reports occurred during October although at least two continued into November (the individual at TNNP was present from October 24-November 13). Dozens of Indigo Buntings were reported on the eastern Avalon during the same period, including an exceptionally high count of at least 14 between Port Kirwin and Cappahayden alone on October 18. More than 20 Dickcissels were tallied in various locations between September 13 and November 2 from locations on the eastern and southern Avalon, Port-aux-Choix and Clarenville.

A Bobolink flying over Portugal Cove South on September 11 was the only one reported this fall. A female Red-winged Blackbird at St. Lawrence on November 22 was also spotted a couple days later. An Eastern Meadowlark flushed along Cape Race road on September 11 was a less than annual visitor in Newfoundland and one of only a handful of records in recent years. A male Yellow-headed Blackbird was reportedly attending a feeder in St. Andrew’s (Codroy Valley) in late October. An Orchard Oriole near Cappahayden on September 9 marks one of very few confirmed records for the province, and the first photographically documented. Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, were reported in strong numbers throughout the fall, including a surprising 10-15 reported on Bear Cove Point road alone on September 19 and one individual in St. Anthony at the northern tip of the island on November 4.

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