Rarity Round-up

Welcome to the Rarity Round-up … this page is designed to keep tabs on rarities that show up in Newfoundland, with a synopsis of recent sightings (or an update if something seems to have moved on!). I’ll be updating it regularly, dependent on the rarities that are around.

Note: This page deals with birds that are rare both on a provincial and a North American level … I will try to include regular updates for species that may be rare in North America but expected here (for example Tufted Ducks, which winter in St. John’s by the dozen every year but are very rare in most other parts of the continent).

Friday, November 28

A significant arrival of Snowy Owls has taken place over the past week, likely an echo of last year’s huge influx. At least five individuals have been reported from the north shore Bonavista Bay this week, two from Cape Spear yesterday, two near Trepassey and a whopping 38 on the Cape Race road today. There are likely many more to come.

Two Great Egrets continue in Portugal Cove South, and another was relocated in Paradise today (last seen November 8). There have been no reports of the one at Virginia Lake, St. John’s since November 25. Late shorebirds included more than 30 White-rumped Sandpipers, 6 Sanderling, 4 Ruddy Turnstones and a Dunlin spotted on the southeast Avalon today. White-rumped Sandpipers have been reported from various other locations around the island recently.

A Yellow-breasted Chat was seen at Thimble Cove (near Cape Race) today, while the one at Long Pond, St. John’s has not been reported since November 26. A probable Black & White Warbler was reported from Bowring Park today. A Northern Mockingbird continues to visit a feeder in Renews.

Tuesday, November 25

A Great Egret, Gadwall and American Coots continue to hang out at Virginia Lake, St. John’s. Two more Great Egrets continue to be seen sporadically in Portugal Cove South. Snowy Owls are being reported in several locations, including Cape Race road and the north coast of Bonavista Bay.

A Yellow-breasted Chat was spotted on the north side trail at Long Pond, St. John’s yesterday. Other recent warbler sightings include a Black & White Warbler on the Rennie’s Mill trail  on November 22 and an Orange-crowned Warble in Middle Cove today. A late Hermit Thrush was on the Virginia River trail on November 22. An Indigo Bunting was visiting a feeder in Pasadena on November 23, while a Northern Mockingbird has been frequenting a feeder in Renews since November 20.

Friday, November 21

A Long-eared Owl (6th or 7th record for Newfoundland) showed up in Massey Drive, near Corner Brook, this past week. Unfortunately, it did not survive the night and was found dead the next morning. A Great Egret was spotted at Virginia Lake, St. John’s on November 19-20, as was a young drake Gadwall and two American Coots. Two other American Coots were at Forest Pond (Goulds), and female Ruddy Duck was still hanging out in that general area on November 19. A Pied-billed Grebe has been at Long Pond, St. John’s the past two days.

Recent November warblers included a Northern Parula in Bowring Park on November 19, St. John’s and a Magnolia Warbler in Little St. Lawrence (Burin Peninsula) on November 20.

Monday, November 17

The adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL was seen and photographed at Bally Hally Golf Course (St. John’s) on November 15. At least one (and possibly two) Common Gull seems to have arrived in St. John’s, right on schedule.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker (12th record for Newfoundland) was spotted visiting a backyard feeder in the Codroy Valley on November 14 & 17. A newly installed “break” at Cape Race attracted a Pine Warbler and White-crowned Sparrow  on its very first day (November 12), followed by  Gray Catbird on November 14 and a female Red-winged Blackbird on November 16. Two Great Egrets were reported in nearby Portugal Cove South on November 14. (Other recent rarities in that area, including Brown Thrasher, have not been reported since).

The TOWNSEND’S WARBLER (17th record for Newfoundland) has not been reported since November 9 but is likely still in the area.

Tuesday, November 11

A Western Kingbird was found this afternoon in the “pig farm delta” area in Ferryland and seen sporadically over the next few hours. A Brown Thrasher photographed near Cape Race (site of the Northern Radar station) is quite a rarity for Newfoundland. A more expected, but still unusual, Northern Mockingbird was in Cape Broyle. A very late Common Tern in Renews (another was seen flying past Cape Race on November 9 – presumably they arrived on the strong southerly winds of recent days). A Killdeer at Ferryland joins a list of close to a dozen reported on the southern Avalon is recent days. A vireo spotted (by yours truly) near Renews was unable to be confirmed to species, but was most likely a Warbling Vireo (although the much rarer Bell’s Vireo was considered a possibility and could not be ruled out at the time !!).

The intriguing Meadlowlark sp. was not seen today despite at least one solid attempt. The jury remains out on it specific  identity (and may remain so!). The TOWNSEND’S WARBLER (17th record for Newfoundland) was seen again on November 9, although the vast habitat in the area makes it difficult to relocate. One (of two) Cattle Egrets was still near New Harbour, Trinity Bay as of November 10, while the one in Bay Bulls was found dead today (cause unknown, however cold overnight temperatures and/or a large number of feral cats in the area may have contributed to the situation). A Great Egret that was spotted in Paradise on November 8 was not seen since that day, however at least two remain on the southern Avalon at Portugal Cove South (since November 4) and Trepassey (today). Several Baltimore Orioles are still being reported around the island.

Saturday, November 8

Rare birds reports have been rolling in the past few days. The hands-down highlight has been a MEADOWLARK that was discovered near Kenny’s Pond in St. John’s yesterday (Nov 7). It was still present this morning. Rare enough as it is, photographs of this one has raised the spectre of Western Meadowlark, although the jury is still out (and excellent discussion of our initial delibertations can be found on Alvan Buckley’s blog). That would mark a first record for Newfoundland. All other records have been presumed Eastern (but who knows, in most cases!).

The “Black-throated Green Warbler” type warbler reported near Power’s Pond, Mount Pearl last week has now been confirmed as a TOWNSEND’S WARBLER (a mind-boggling 17th record for Newfoundland!). It was photographed this morning in a local backyard and may stick around that neighbourhood for a while. The female Black-throated Blue Warbler was refound in Flatrock on November 5, as was the Blue-grey Gnatchatcher. A couple more Orange-crowned Warblers were also reported around St. John’s and seem to be hanging around in good numbers this fall.

Three Cattle Egrets were discovered on November 5 (two together near New Harbour, Trinity Bay and one in Bay Bulls – the latter of which was still present as of this morning. As many as three Great Egrets have also been reported in the past few days – one continuing in Portugal Cove South until at least November 6 and two at St. Shott’s on November 6/7. A number of Killdeer were also reported along Cape Race Road and in St. Shott’s, suggesting a small arrival over the past few days. A female Ruddy Duck was reported in the Goulds area this morning.

Tuesday, November 4

November ushers in a new phase of birding in Newfoundland, much of which centres around finding late and vagrant warblers. While there have been no “megas” yet, seven species of warbler have been reported. A female Black-throated Blue Warbler was spotted in Flatrock today (the third in less than a week, which is very notable). A bird in Mount Pearl described as a  Black-throated Green Warbler has raised some eyebrows considering the late date and previous November records of the similar Townsend’s Warbler. Hopefully there will be more sightings to confirm it. A Yellow-throated Warbler was photographed on Long Pond Road in St. John’s, while both Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warbler have been spotted at nearby locations in recent days. Two Orange-crowned Warblers and a Northern Parula were spotted in Blackhead on November 1, and the White-eyed Vireo has been seen there sporadically as recently as this morning. Rounding off the warbler list so far are two Common Yellowthroats and a Yellow Warbler.

Nelson’s Sparrow continues at Cape Race and a Grasshopper Sparrow at nearby Cripple Cove. A Blue-grey Gnatcatcher was in Flatrock today, and a Great Egret at Portugal Cove South.

Friday, October 31

Happy Halloween! Things are heating up heading into the weekend … some good birds being found today, along with some interesting weather. Too bad it’s going to get very wet for much of the weekend.

A Grasshopper Sparrow was photographed near Cripple Cove (Cape Race) today, as well as a Clay-coloured Sparrow that has been there for a few days now. A flock of 6-8 Tree Swallows at nearby Long Beach is very notable for this time of year. An Orange-crowned Warbler was at Cape Race and a continuing Dickcissel in Portugal Cove South.

A White-eyed Vireo was spotted in Blackhead, as well as another Orange-crowned Warbler, Northern Parula, and Indigo Bunting. Baltimore Orioles were reported at several locations, including Blackhead, North River CBN, and the Humber Valley. A Northern Mockingbird was also at North River CBN.

The CANVASBACK (2nd record for Newfoundland) was spotted at Mundy Pond, St. John’s yesterday (away from its usual location at Kenny’s Pond).

Thursday, October 30

Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the probable King/Clapper Rail could not be relocated in St. Shott’s this week. A Scarlet Tanager on the Virginia River trail in St. John’s was seen again on October 28 (originally reported on October 23), while two Black-throated Blue Warblers were reported in Blackhead and near Cape Spear that same day. On October 29, a White-eyed Vireo was photographed at Cripple Cove (near Cape Race), while a Pied-billed Grebe was at Jones Pond, Middle Cove and an American Coot at Stick Pond, Logy Bay. An “odd bird” running around lawns in Makkovik, Labrador on October 24 has been identified as a Purple Gallinule – definitely an extreme northerly record for that species.

Monday, October 27

Ok. Ok. After a loooooong period of neglect, this page is back.

A quick run-down of some of the most notable recent rarities:

  • King/Clapper Rail – A large rail, fitting the description of one of these two species (with the observers leaning toward King Rail) was spotted briefly in St. Shott’s on October 26. Efforts so to refind it today have so far been unsuccessful.
  • Yellow-legged Gull – At least two individuals (adult and sub-adult) were discovered in St. John’s during recent weeks, with the adult having been reported several times in the past week.
  • Nelson’s Sparrow Two individual were reported on October 26 … one just north of Cape Race and another at nearby Long Beach. This species is rare but nearly annual in Newfoundland, and of course difficult to see and especially to refind!



Thursday, May 22

The PACIFIC LOON (3rd record for Newfoundland) continues at St. Vincent’s as of yesterday (May 21). An Eastern Phoebe, originally discovered on May 10, also continues to be seen and heard at Bidgood’s Park, Goulds. Regular spring migration has quickly gotten back on track since winds turned more southerly this week, however there have been no reports of any lingering European/Icelandic rarities in recent days.

Monday, May 19

A PACIFIC LOON was discovered at St. Vincent’s yesterday (May 18), and seen again this morning. This marks just the third record for Newfoundland – both previous records having occurred in December. A Summer Tanager was reported from Little St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula today.

Most of the recent European rarities appear ot have moved on, with just one Black-tailed Godwit reported recently (Stephenville Crossing) and no reports of European Golden Ploverfor several days. At least a couple Northern Wheatear appear to be lingering, including one at Long Beach (Cape Race) on May 17. The Common Redshank has not been seen since May 13.

Wednesday, May 7

Incredibly, three more Black-tailed Godwit were discovered in the delta at Third Pond, Goulds today … bringing the total number seen in the past ten days to at least 12!! That is phenomenal. The Common Redshank (Renews) and dozens of European Golden Plover (Renews, Goulds, other locations) continued to be seen as of yesterday, along with several reports of Northern Wheatear.

Monday, May 5

What a crazy crazy week! The parade of European/Icelandic vagrants has continued all week. In a nutshell, here are the tallies (you can find photos and some details on my blog):

  • COMMON REDSHANK – 2 !! Both at Renews and still present as of May 4
  • ROSS’S GULL – adult at Torbay (April 29-30)
  • BLACK-TAILED GODWIT – a total of 9 (!!) reported at five locations island-wide.
  • EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER – 150+ individuals reported all over the island & SE Labrador … not quite a record invasion, but very very impressive.
  • NORTHERN WHEATEAR – nearly 20 reported so far at locations island-wide
  • (EURASIAN) WHIMBREL – one at Cape Spear (May 3)
  • DUNLIN (Icelandic/Greenland race) – one at Cape Spear (May 3). This may be of the schinzii subspecies which has very few, if any, previous records in North America.

Tuesday, April 29

Incredibly, an adult ROSS’S GULL was discovered feeding with a small group of other gulls in Torbay today … it remained all afternoon, although often distant. Wow!!!!

The arrival of Icelandic vagrants seems to be continuing, with 22 European Golden Plovers discovered in Bay Bulls today. Six more were spotted in a field in Goulds (St. John’s). An individual seen his morning in Pouch may or may not have been one of two seen there on Sunday, and the individual in Renews also continued today. Yesterday, three were reported from Cape Freels and five from the Lumsden area. That makes a total of at least 55 reported since Saturday. The two Black-tailed Godwits also continued in Renews today, and the two in St. Paul’s Inlet were present at least until yesterday. A Northern Wheatear was reported from St. Anthony today.

Five Snowy Owls were reported from the Bonavista area yesterday, while three others were at Cape Freels.

Sunday, April 27

In a developing story, there is evidence of an ongoing invasion of Icelandic vagrants across north/northeastern Newfoundland. In an eggshell, two Black-tailed Godwits have been at Renews April 25-27 (still present this morning), and two more were just reported from St. Paul’s Inlet on the Great Northern Peninsula. So far, a total of 17 European Golden Plovers have been found at seven locations (Cape Race, Renews, Ferryland, St. John’s area, and Sally’s Cove, GMNP). THIS IS GOING TO GET EXCITING!!!

Stay tuned for updates …

Friday, April 4

It has been a long, drawn-out winter with no new rarities to report during March (not to mention I was away for half of that month!). However, April rolled in with a bang – both in terms of weather (a major snowstorm blanketed the south & east coasts) and a major rarity! On the afternoon of April 2, a drake COMMON SHELDUCK was photographed in Renews — a European species that has never “officially” been recorded North America (for more details, check out my blog post from that day). This will most likely mark the first accepted record of a wild Common Shelduck for the ABA and (depending on one’s opinion about another individual photographed in St. John’s in November 2009) the first or second record for Newfoundland. Unfortunately, the bird was not refound the following day when a handful of hopeful birders scoured the area (and many other nearby locations).

The Yellow-legged Gull continues to be reported regularly (though not daily) at Quidi Vidi lake, along with other regular gulls and waterfowl. The COMMON SNIPE (2nd record for Newfoundland, 3rd for the province) has not been seen at its usual location in Ferryland for several weeks.

Saturday, February 22

The Yellow-legged Gull has suddenly become more reliable than anytime in the past 2+ years – having been seen five times at the same location (Virginia River outflow, Quidi Vidi lake) in the past four days. It was seen several times this morning between 0945 and 1100. How long can this last?!?!

Thursday, February 20

The Yellow-legged Gull has been spotted at Quidi Vidi lake (St. John’s) each of the past two mornings (February 19 & 20) – the first time it has been seen two days in a row for a long time! Maybe it has finally decided to cooperate a little?!?! A Hermit Thrush, rare in winter, has been present in Trepassey since at least February 12 and is now happily eating handouts of dogberries provided by a local birder.

The COMMON SNIPE (2nd record for Newfoundland, 3rd for the province) was reported at its usual location in Ferryland on February 12. I hope to have more positive news after looking for it with a visiting birder a few days.

Monday, February 10

While there are no new rarities to report, the elusive Yellow-legged Gull was likely spotted at Quidi Vidi lake on February 8. I say “likely” since it was asleep and a full suite of diagnostic features not seen before a mass flush sent all the gulls into the air, but descriptions and photos certainly look right. The COMMON SNIPE (2nd record for Newfoundland, 3rd for the province) was also seen at its usual location in Ferryland on February 8 (though not seen the following fay, so may also be frequenting other nearby locations).

Wednesday, January 29

After a busy month, I’m finally getting around to updating this page. Please note that all Rarity Updates from 2012 & 2013 are archived on pages that can be found by following the links at the bottom of this page.

After an unusually cold & snowy December, rarity reports have been down this winter. The biggest news by far was a COMMON SNIPE (2nd record for Newfoundland, 3rd for the province) discovered in Ferryland on January 11 – one of very few North American records away from western Alaska. It continued to be seen, along with two Wilson’s Snipe at the same location as recently as January 25.

A PURPLE GALLINULE was found dead in McCallum, on the island’s south coast, in mid-January. The majority of the dozen or so records for this species have occurred the same way – dead birds found in December/January!

A record number of 78 Tufted Ducks were tallied on the St, John’s CBC in late December; an unknown number of Eurasian Wigeon are scattered around the city, Paradise and Conception Bay; dozens of Black-headed Gulls and three Common Gulls are currently wintering in St. John’s. The elusive Yellow-legged Gull was spotted at least twice in December but has not been reported/confirmed so far in 2014.



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