The invasion of Icelandic vagrants into Newfoundland continues to grow … both in terms of geography and species. More than 130 European Golden Plovers, 7 Black-tailed Godwits, a handful of Northern Wheatear and an incredible Ross’s Gull have been reported across Newfoundland and southern Labrador in the past seven days. And now, this morning, news has broken that a COMMON REDSHANK has been discovered in Renews (more about that later).
St. Paul’s Inlet, GMNP
Since I had to travel to western Newfoundland this week for meetings, I decided to make the most of it and tag on a day of birding. On April 30, I joined my friend and biologist Darroch Whitaker for a day of birding in Gros Morne National Park. It was an awesome day in an amazing setting – hiking for kilometres across vast tidal flats in St. Paul’s Inlet with the beautiful Long Range Mountains looming in the background. After a good walk, we managed to refind the two Black-tailed Godwits that he had discovered a few days earlier. They were distant and wary, but it still felt great to see and made the trek all the more rewarding. While birds were scarce (the only other shorebirds were one Greater Yellowlegs and a pair of Killdeer), we did come across a recently dead Snowy Owl and a European Green Crab. And the scenery was hard to ignore! We also checked out a dead Blue Whale which has washed ashore in Rocky Harbour, hoping for (but not finding) some arctic gulls. Later, we also refound two European Golden Plovers that Darroch had discovered several days prior while biking through Sally’s Cove. They proved very amicable, at times approaching the car so close that it was difficult to photograph them!
After returning to St. John’s, I spent yesterday (May 2) rarity-hunting with a birder from Texas. Barrett has visited Newfoundland several times before in search of Eurasian rarities, and is back again in the wake of this recent invasion. We had an excellent day, seeing a total of 66 European Golden Plover at three locations (Goulds, Bay Bulls and Renews) and finding a stunning male Northern Wheatear in Ferryland.
No doubt we’ll be chasing the Common Redshank in a few hours, once we finish a short hike I am committed to leading (talk about harsh timing!!).
Alvan Buckley & I were among a handful of hopeful birders headed south from St. John’s Saturday morning, following Friday evening’s revelation that two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS had been seen in Renews (found & photographed by local Tony Dunne). As mentioned in my last post, the winds have been lining up for a potential invasion of European/Icelandic vagrants, caught up in the airflows during their trans-Atlantic migration … and we were excited by the possibility of finding even more rarities.
Photo: Jared Clarke (April 26, 2014)
It didn’t take long to find the Black-tailed Godwits feeding in a freshwater pool alongside the road in Renews – both (apparently males) in bright breeding plumage. Immediately upon arriving, we got word from Bruce Mactavish that he and two others had discovered a European Golden Plover on a field just 100m down the road (a field, by the way, that is already known in local birding circles for having hosted a Northern Lapwing a few years ago). Being the gluttons we are, we headed over and soaked up views of this great bird (also in nice breeding plumage) with the imprint of those amazing godwits still fresh on the back of our eyeballs! European Golden Plover are nearly annual in Newfoundland, although a “big” invasion hasn’t really happened in recent years (and, surprisingly, there were no reports at all last spring). Things were (and are!) building up to an event of sorts.
Photo: Jared Clarke (April 26, 2014)
Throughout the day, a cool dozen European Golden Plover were reported from four locations across the island (1 in Renews, 3 at Cape Race, 6 in St. John’s and 2 in Gros Morne National Park). The breadth of these reports, spanning almost the entire northeast facing portion of the island, suggests there are many more out there — and some of the best places along that coast remain unchecked. The winds are still developing, looking like arrivals of these (and hopefully other!!!) Icelandic migrants could continue over the next few days. LOOK OUT!!