Spring (March – May) 2011
Spring usually arrives slowly in Newfoundland, but the arrival of spring-like weather was more delayed than usual this year. Many migrants also arrived late, likely due to cold weather and lingering weather systems that seemed to block passage for much of May. Nonetheless, the birds did arrive and a few rarities were tucked in amongst them.
The stars of the spring were two Black-tailed Godwits that spent nearly a week at Catalina. Many highlights of the season were carry-overs from the incredible winter, including an adult Black-tailed Gull that joined a full cast of exciting gulls in St. John’s. The province’s sixth record of Redhead and the first spring record of Ruddy Duck were also notable.
A probable but unconfirmed Brant was reported with Canada Geese on farm near Whitbourne on May 17.
Wood Ducks made a relatively good showing on the Avalon this spring, with a lingering female in Upper Gullies last reported on March 20, two males at Third Pond in the Goulds on April 29, and another two males at Jones Pond, Middle Cove on May 4. The invasion of Eurasian Green-winged (Common) Teal during the winter carried over into spring, with dozens being observed in St. John’s through March, two in Stephenville Crossing and one in Codroy (paired with a female) on April 27. Three Northern Shovelers were reported at Mundy Pond, St. John’s on April 28, one in the Goulds the following day and a pair at the same location on May 6. Two drakes were seen at St. Paul’s Inlet on May 23 and a lone drake at Lundrigan’s Marsh, St. John’s on May 29. At least 41 Tufted Ducks were tallied around St. John’s on March 29 – a record high for the province and North America. A drake Redhead at Codroy was first reported on April 23, furnishing Newfoundland’s 6th record. (Notably, presumably the same bird was reported by visiting birders two months later on June 23.) A handful of Eurasian Wigeon continued in St. John’s well into spring, with one drake being reported as late as May 2. Others were reported in Biscay Bay (April 24), Codroy estuary (pair on April 28) and Cape Broyle (May 11). Drake Hooded Mergansers (potentially the same individual) were seen at Codroy on April 27 and Stephenville Crossing on April 28. A male Ruddy Duck was present in St. John’s from April 7-11 – the first spring record for this otherwise nearly-annual species.
A Pied-billed Grebe was observed in Cape Broyle on April 4, while another was settled in at the only known breeding location (Loch Lomond, Codroy Valley) on April 28.
Great Blue Herons were first reported in their regular location on the southwest coast of Newfoundland on April 9, with one being observed at the more unusual location of Point LaHaye that same day. Two Great Egrets made appearances this spring – one in Tors Cove on April 4 was not looking well and found dead the next day, while another entertained birders and photographers in St. John’s for more than three weeks (April 7 – May 1) before disappearing. An adult Black-crowned Night Heron was photographed at Grand Bay West around April 17 and reportedly stayed a couple days.
An immature Golden Eagle was aptly described from Cape Race road by a visiting birder on May 5. Two Sandhill Cranes were reportedly hanging out near Rigolet, Labrador in early May – fuelling earlier claims that they may be breeding in the area.
The overwintering Black-bellied Plover at Renews (now an annual occurrence there) lingered until at least April 11, while the only other spring report was from Bellevue on March 11. The first European Golden Plover of the season was a fly-over at Fermeuse on May 2. Another bird was observed at Bonavista on May 8, and three birds were reported from the same location a week later on May 15. A lone Killdeer, part of an unprecedented winter influx, survived the winter in Portugal Cove South and was seen foraging on lawns as late as March 7. Two Red Knots were at Renews from March 5-7 – an unusual occurrence for this time of year. Among the most exciting discoveries of the spring were two adult Black-tailed Godwits at Catalina from May 20-25, being seen and photographed by many birders during that period. A Common Snipe, first recorded for the island in February, was present in Tors Cove up to March 7, while another was reported from Renews on March 15 along with one Wilson’s Snipe and two other “Snipe sp.”.
A lone Bonaparte’s Gull was observed at Bellevue on March 11 in the company of ~50 Black-headed Gulls. Another was at Stephenville Crossing on April 27, and one at Ferryland on May 11. Three adult Common Gulls were also at Bellevue on March 11, while four individuals (two 1st winter, one 2nd winter and one adult) were lingering at Quidi Vidi as late as March 13. A lone 1st winter bird at the same location on May 28 struck the observer as different than the overwintering individuals based on behaviour (i.e. “not” coming to bread!). The adult Black-tailed Gull that thrilled birder over the winter was last seen around April 3. The overwintering Slaty-backed Gull was reported on April 26 and the Yellow-legged Gull on March 13.
A White-winged Dove was well photographed by a non-birder in Frenchman’s Cove (near Corner Brook) on May 11 – this is clearly an annual species now. Short-eared Owls are seemingly in a reverse trend, with diminishing reports in recent years. The only reports of this spring were in Portugal Cove South in early March and nearby St. Shott’s on May 5. However, a pair was reportedly breeding near Cape St. Mary’s for at least the second year in a row. Northern Saw-whet Owls were picked up dead in St. John’s on March 13 and on the highway near Foxtrap on April 5. On a brighter note, calling birds were reported from LaManche on May 3 and Salmonier on May 8.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were reported in higher than usual numbers this spring. Trepassey hosted 2-3 individuals, with a report of one on April 14, followed by a report of one from April 22 – May 1. A clearly different bird was photographed nearby on April 29. Individuals were also reported from Goobies on April 21 and Stephenville Crossing on May 8. A Northern Shrike spotted in Buchans on April 2 may have been the report during the period.
An Eastern Phoebe was observed and recorded at Port Blandford on May 17, furnishing the only report of the season. A Purple Martin was observed near “The Rookery” on Cape Race road on April 10 – a surprisingly early record for this species.
A Redwing was spotted in Portugal Cove South on March 3 – presumably one of two that were first discovered in early February and seen sporadically during the next three weeks.
A Nashville Warbler was heard singing in appropriate habitat near Lewisporte on May 23 – this species is thought to be breeding in small numbers and scattered locations in central and western Newfoundland. An “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow was spotted feeding on a rocky beach at the Drook (Cape Race road) on April 10 … potentially a bird that attempted to overwinter at nearby Long Beach.
An immature male Summer Tanager was photographed at a feeder in Petty Harbour on April 19. An adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Renews on May 31 was the only report of the season. An adult male Blue Grosbeak was reported from a feeder in Glovertown in late May. A lone Brown-headed Cowbird was at Coote’s Pond, St. Mary’s Bay on April 15, while two reported at a feeder in Lumsden on April 22.
A significant discovery of 24 Red Crossbills frequenting the red pines of Western Brook Ecological Reserve in late March was a good sign for this species, which is considered threatened in Newfoundland. Four more were later seen at another stand of red pine in nearby Sandy Lake. A dozen visited a feeder in Clarenville on May 1, and three dropped in at a CBS feeder on May 19. Single Hoary Redpolls were spotted near Biscay Bay on March 6 and Corner Brook on April l6.