Spring (March – May) 2010
Spring is always exciting in the bird world – whether it’s due to overshooting “vagrants” that we are lucky enough to see or simply the return of familiar faces that have been spending the colder months down south. As expected, this spring delivered with plenty of both.
Rarities arrived in Newfoundland from two directions – some European flavoured birds were likely blown off-course while enroute to Iceland or Greenland, while others from the eastern seaboard of this continent overshot their destinations and ended up in Newfoundland. At least one bird, the province’s first Violet-green Swallow, made its way from western North America to thrill local birders.
A “small goose” reported from a roadside pond on March 15 in St. John’s turned out to be a Pink-footed Goose – furnishing the province’s 7th record (8th individual). It was last seen April 24, after which it may have migrated to breeding grounds in Greenland or Iceland. This is the first spring record, and based on the date was likely a bird that had over-wintered somewhere in North America. Only slightly less exciting were three Greenland-type Great White-fronted Geese at Goose Bay, Labrador from April 21 – May 13. Canada Geese first arrived in numbers on March 10 with 52 being seen in St. Mary’s Bay and a huge congregation of well over a thousand in the Codroy estuaries on March 21.
Wood Ducks were reported in two locations this spring – a pair in Kelligrews from April 3-6 and two drakes on the Terra Nova River on May 16-17. A very wary drake Garganey made a one-day appearance at Mundy Pond in St. John’s on April 30 – the 4th and earliest record for the province. Pairs of Blue-winged Teal were in St. John’s on May 3 and Renews from May 20-22, while a lone drake was reported from Whitbourne on May 6. Northern Shovelers were reported in good numbers, with a pair in Rocky Harbour on April 22, two drakes in Goulds May 16-18, and single drakes at Bird Cove (Great Northern Peninsula) on May 16 and Renews May 20-22. Small numbers of Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon continued to be reported well into spring, providing evidence that some may be staying in the province year-round. Drake Barrow’s Goldeneye were reported from Traytown on March 1 and Corner Brook on April 1. A Hooded Merganser (f) was observed near Mobile on April 26 and a pair was seen in Middle Cove on May 30.
An over-wintering Horned Grebe in Biscay Bay made it to the spring list, being sighted on March 6. A single Great Shearwater was reported from an offshore seismic boat 300 km SE of the province on April 11, while a Leach’s Storm Petrel was observed at an unusual inland location (“LaManche ponds”) on April 17.
The first arrival of Great Blue Heron was reported in the Codroy Valley on April 6. Numerous Great Egrets were observed this spring – one at Lumsden ~April 17, two at Renews and another on the Hibernia oil rig on May 3, and singles at Older Perlican (~May 11), near Brigus South (May 18-19) and Trepassey (May 22). A Snowy Egret was also present in Trepassey from April 16-19. An unidentified “white” heron was also reported from St. Shott’s in early May. A relatively long-staying Cattle Egret was in Portugal Cove South from April 30 – May 16.
A Northern Harrier reported from River of Ponds (Great Northern Peninsula) on March 14 was an unusually early date for the province.
An American Coot seen at Long Pond in St. John’s on May 29 may or may not have been the same individual that over-wintered in the city.
The surprising find of a Northern Lapwing at Cape Race on April 25 provided the first spring record and was more likely a transatlantic vagrant rather than a survivor from a small influx in early January. European Golden Plover put in one of the largest appearances in recent years, with reports from Goose Bay, Labrador (4 on April 30), Cape Race (1 on May 2; 19 on May 9), Bonavista (1 on May 3; 6 on May 11), Mistaken Point (5 on May 6), Renews (2 on May 6) and St. John’s/Goulds (up to 7 from May 9-18). An overwintering Black-bellied Plover was seen at Renews as late as March 10, while a late-winter Killdeer at Cape Broyle hung around until March 12.
A Lesser Yellowlegs, unusual in spring, was present in Renews from May 7-10. A pair of Willets returned to Renews on May 3 for the fourth consecutive spring – this time resulting in the second confirmed breeding outside of western Newfoundland. An Upland Sandpiper observed near Mistaken Point on May 10 suggests that the species may be showing more often in recent years. Surprisingly, the province’s first spring record of the North American race of Whimbrel occurred at Renews on May 2 while European Whimbrel were photographed at Postville, Labrador (May 3-6) and Cape Spear (May 29).
A Black-tailed Godwit seen and photographed May 11-12 was the envy of many Newfoundland birders and part of an excellent spring for European species in Goose Bay, Labrador. Six Ruddy Turnstones were at Point La Haye on March 21. A dark male Ruff was seen by many at Renews from May 1-16, while a female was observed at Biscay Bay on May 25. A bright female Red-necked Phalarope entertained numerous birders at Ruby Line Pond in the Goulds on May 9-10 – an unusual inland occurrence for this species in Newfoundland.
A first-year Bonaparte’s Gull was at Come-By-Chance estuary on April 25, while Black-headed Gulls were reported at numerous locations throughout the spring. Individual Laughing Gulls were observed near Merasheen Island, Placentia Bay on April 30 and at Cape Broyle on May 10. The first spring migrant Ring-billed Gull was right on schedule in St. John’s on March 18, while the winter Slaty-backed Gull was last reported on March 6. Two adult Pomarine Jaegers were reported from a ship 300 km SE of St. John’s on April 11.
A White-winged Dove that over-wintered at a feeder in Pouch Cove was last seen on April 4 … this may be the first record of this species successfully over-wintering in Atlantic Canada. A Snowy Owl was observed near Cape Race on March 15, following a winter with few records.
Three Chimney Swifts were seen at Ferryland and one at Tors Cove on May 5, while another was reported from Goulds on May 9 – a notable number for this rare spring overshoot on the Avalon Peninsula.
An Eastern Wood-Peewee was found hanging out in a Goulds yard on May 27-29 – unusual for eastern Newfoundland while seen annually in spring in the southwest portions of the province. An Eastern Phoebe also put in a rare appearance in the region, observed at Renews on May 5. Eastern Kingbirds were reported in smaller than usual numbers across the province this season.
Purple Martins were observed in Ferryland (May 5-6) and Ramea (??). Numerous Cliff Swallows, uncommon spring overshoots in Newfoundland, were reported throughout the month of May from locations such as Ferryland, Renews, Goulds and Cape Race. Potentially the most exciting bird of the year, a swallow first observed near Virginia Lake in St. John’s on May 28 was later identified as the province’s first Violet-green Swallow and enjoyed by numerous birders in early June.
The only Northern Wheatear reported this spring was a bright male observed fly-catching in the kelp at Renews on May 2. A fall-out of catharus thrushes occurred in SE Newfoundland in late April and early May – a total of 8-10 Veery were reported from Cape Race, Powles Head (Trepassey), Cape Spear and St. Lawrence from April 29 – May 6. A Swainson’s Thrush at Cape Race April 30 – May 6 represents the earliest record for the province, and even more incredible was a Gray-cheeked Thrush near Powles Head on May 1 and approximately a dozen near Cape Race on May 6. A Hermit Thrush near Powles Head on May 1 resulted in a four catharus thrush day in the SE corner of the province. Gray Catbirds also arrived on the Avalon at the same time, with one being observed at Cape Race April 30-May 1, one near Cripple Cove May 3 – June 8, and another at Cape Spear on May 28.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler that over-wintered in St. John’s was last observed on April 1. Incredibly, a female Hooded Warbler was discovered on May 1-6 at the same location near Cripple Cove where a male was recorded this past fall … an area of tuckamore now referred to as “Hooded Warbler Tuck”! This was the first spring record for this species in the province.
Four Scarlet Tanagers were reported this spring – a female at the Drook (near Cape Race) from May 1-16, a male in St. Mary’s May 1, a male in Ramea in mid-May, and male at Forest Pond, Goulds May 27-29. Notably, more than 30 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and a half-dozen Indigo Buntings were reported from feeders in eastern Newfoundland following a late April fall-out … probably a record arrival. A brilliant male Painted Bunting made a one-day appearance at a feeder in Birchy Cove, Bonavista Bay on May 20 – the second provincial record. Two Dickcissels successfully over-wintered at feeders in Chance Cove and Ferryland.
Bobolinks were reported from Cappahayden, Portugal Cove South and Trepassey from May 22-25, while 2-3 Baltimore Orioles in late April and early May (Renews, Witless Bay) made for rare spring records.
A European Goldfinch photographed at a feeder in Port-aux-Choix on May 23-24 was most likely an escapee and part of a recent rash of reports across the Maritimes and Quebec.