News rolled in late this evening that a drake COMMON SHELDUCK had been photographed in Renews earlier today! This duck, which ranges across much of Europe and Asia, is a mega-rarity in North America, and no doubt any Newfoundland birder who can slip away from whatever responsibilities they might have tomorrow will be out looking for it.
This drake COMMON SHELDUCK was discovered this afternoon, feeding along the tidal flats in Renews. It was very wary and flew off when the photogrpher stepped out of his car – hopefully it will be refound!!
– Photo: Yvonne/Tony Dunne (April 2, 2014)
In fact, Common Shelduck has never “officially” been recorded in North America! Although there have been a number of good candidates in the past decade or so, a shadow of uncertainty has always fell over these reports since this classy-looking duck is regularly kept in captivity and the provenance of all individuals spotted in the “wild” is always questioned. However, there is little doubt that this particular bird is wild and will likely mark the first “accepted” record for the ABA region. All the factors line up:
– There are no known sources for an escaped Common Shelduck anywhere even close to nearby.
– In fact, there is a large & growing breeding population of Common Shelduck in Iceland – and that may indeed be closer than any captive birds!
– The timing is perfect, since Common Shelducks should be migrating to Iceland right now. They typically begin arriving there in late March, with the first one this year having been reported on March 12.
– The weather has been right, with strong E/NE winds prevailing the past few days — just what we need for Icelandic migrants to be directed our way. And Renews, on the far east coast of Newfoundland, is the perfect location for one to stop in.
There is one previous record for the province – an individual that was found and photographed in St. John’s on November 17, 2009. Unfortunately it flew off a few minutes later and was never relocated. (NOTE – As discussed above, this record has never been officially considered or recognized by the ABA, although many birders such as myself feel quite strongly that it was most likely a wild bird that strayed during fall migration from breeding grounds in Iceland.)
Photo: Yvonne/Tony Dunne (April 2, 2014)
Today, November 11, is an important day here in Canada (and other Commonwealth countries. of course) … Remembrance Day. This is the anniversary of the end of World War I (1918) and the date every year that we stop to honour and remember all those have served, fought and all too often died in the line of military duty – as well as those who continue to do so. The unparalleled freedoms we enjoy, and the continuing fight to extend those same rights, freedoms and securities to people all all over the globe are something we should never take for granted … though we often do. Take a moment today to remember.
On a different (though not totally unrelated) topic, this is also the anniversary of some very special bird records for Newfoundland. I say not totally unrelated since the November 11 “holiday” is probably responsible for increased birding activity on this date over the years, resulting in these birds being found. Most notably, the province’s only Hermit Warbler was discovered on this day in 1989 at Blackhead (near St. John’s), while one of very few Wood Sandpipers ever recorded in eastern North America was found in Renews in 1998. Both of those records were “before my time” as a birder, so I can only hope for a repeat at some point!
Many other important records have occurred in mid-November – including the province’s first Ash-throated Flycatcher on November 14 2009, followed closely by a very intriguing record of Common Shelduck on November 17. And while a few scarce warblers are always highlights of November birding in this province, an amazing spectacle took place on November 16 1983 when a total of FOURTEEN species of warbler were discovered in St. John’s – including three first and one second record for the province!! Even more remarkable was that seven of these species (including two first records) were in the same tree!!
Here’s to a memorable November to come …