Eurasian Oystercatcher — another mega-rarity nailed!!

I was thousands of kilometres from home, leading an Eagle-Eye Tours trip in southern Ontario, when I got the news … a EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER had been confirmed at home on “the rock”. It was painful enough that my “most wanted” bird for Newfoundland decided to show up while I was away, but it was also ~7hrs way from St. John’s and would be a challenge for me to see even if it stayed long enough for me to return home. Only a birder can understand the anxious feelings that tingled through me during the last few days of the Ontario tour 😉

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I returned home and enjoyed a much-needed holiday weekend — icebergs, ice cream, and family time. The oystercatcher was still hanging in there … but with tours booked for early in the week, it would need to hang on a little longer. It did! On Wednesday evening (May 22), long-time birding buddy Chris Ryan and I packed up and started the journey – driving as far as my parents’ house in Lewisporte for the night and continuing on to catch the first ferry to Long Island the next morning. After a very short crossing (complete with an iceberg and two humpback whales!), we arrived at Lushes Bight and scoured the small harbour. The fear of “dipping” (missing a bird) were beginning to mount after 15 minutes of not seeing it — but then it happened. I spotted a small black headed bobbing up and down behind a rock … it HAD to be!! And it was!!

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A very exciting bird to see, this Eurasian Oystercatcher is a mega Code-5 rarity in North America. A huge thanks to Marilyn Gillingham of Lushes Bight for finding it and getting the word out to the birding community! I think our visits have provided some entertainment for residents of this beautiful, isolated community!

We spent the rest of the morning sitting, watching, enjoying and photographing this ultra-rare visitor from Europe. This individual marks just the 5th North American record (all but one were here in Newfoundland; the other on the very isolated Buldir Island in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska), and the first “gettable” one in more than 20 years! Our 1100 km (return) “twitch” had panned out with incredible views of this magnificent bird!!

I guess I have to find a new bird to top my “most wanted” list   😉

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As the tide was high, the oystercatcher was often on the shoreline or rock jetties quite close to the road. We were able to enjoy fantastic looks without ever having to get out the car (which tended to make it wary). That was good news — because it was coooold!!

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The bird actually spent most of the morning sleeping — probably waiting for the tide to drop and expose some tidal pools/flats for feeding. It seemed to be getting more active just as we were leaving to start our journey home.

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On three occasions (over the course of 4 hours), the oystercatcher lifted its head, called a few times, and took to the air. It circled the harbour a few times, usually coming back to its favourite perch on a small rock jetty (but at least once disappearing for several minutes before doing so).

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Taking a short break from enjoying the bird, we also explored the little towns of Lushes Bight and Beaumont (Long Island). Beautiful Newfoundland outports, and so reminiscent of my childhood home here in Notre Dame Bay.

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It’s been a fantastic iceberg season this spring, and we spotted several on our visit to Long Island. This one was in the “tickle” as we crossed on the ferry. See the hole?? Top it off with the two humpback whales and a moose we spotted on the way home — and it was an incredible “twitch” through and through!!

 

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Dreaming about Icelandic rarities!

The iconic Bob Dylan was tapping into one of my dreams when he sang “The Anser, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”.

Apologies to those of you who might not have “gotten” my [poor?] attempt at humour there, but I do dream about geese more often than I like to admit. And maybe, just maybe, I could smell a few in the wind this morning.

A quick look at some surface pressure maps for today show that a big low pressure system is sitting in the middle of the north Atlantic right now, and the resulting winds are lined up nicely between Iceland and Newfoundland. These are the kind of winds that birders here on “the rock” dream about in spring … the kind of winds that bring European rarities to this side of the ocean. Granted, it is a tad on the early side and I might be more excited if I saw these same maps in mid-late April when Icelandic migration is at its peak — but a guy can dream, can’t he?

The weather map for today (March 20) shows a wide low pressure system advancing up the mid-Atlantic. The tight isobars north of that system indicate moderate-strong winds blowing directly from Iceland to Newfoundland & Labrador. Maybe I should be embarrassed to say it, but those curves are the stuff my dreams are made of!!

The weather map for today (March 20) shows a wide low pressure system advancing up the mid-Atlantic. The tight isobars north of that system indicate moderate-strong winds blowing directly from Iceland to Newfoundland & Labrador. Maybe I should be embarrassed to say it, but those curves are the stuff my dreams are made of!!

The pattern holds strong for tomorrow (March 21), when the winds produce a perfect trans-Atlantic highway from western Europe - Iceland - Newfoundland. Oystercatcher, anyone??

The pattern holds strong for tomorrow (March 21), when the winds produce a perfect trans-Atlantic highway from western Europe – Iceland – Newfoundland. Oystercatcher, anyone??

With a low pressure system continuing to churn off the west coast of Europe, favourable winds will continue ot blow from Iceland for the remainder of this week - as shown by this map for Saturday, March 23.

With a low pressure system continuing to churn off the west coast of Europe, favourable winds will continue to blow from Iceland for the remainder of this week – as shown by this map for Saturday, March 23.

For a more detailed discussion of Icelandic/European vagrants that have been recorded here in spring, check out this earlier post.

A number of species begin to arrive in Iceland in March, including Whooper Swan, Common Shellduck, Eurasian Oystercatcher, European Golden Plover, and (yes!!) Graylag Goose. It’s time to turn our attention east once again, and keep our eyes peeled for wayward visitors along our shores. I could do with one of those dreams coming true right about now.

You??