Wrapping-up: The “Euro Invasion” of Spring 2014

It has been a crazy three weeks! It all began when we started noticing strong, persistent northeasterly winds setting up across the North Atlantic in late April – a system that Newfoundland birders hope for at this time of year. Spring migration of European birds over the Atlantic, especially to Iceland & Greenland, is peaking in late April and early May and history has shown that these weather systems can bring wayward migrants to our coasts.

This fun photo, showing a mega-rare Common Redshank with an iceberg backdrop, is a nice reflection for how spring has been in Newfoundland. Cold, beautiful, and extremely exciting!!

This fun photo, showing a mega-rare Common Redshank with an iceberg backdrop, is a nice reflection for how spring has been in Newfoundland. Cold, beautiful, and extremely exciting!!

The "event" started with two Black-tailed Godwits discovered in Renews, and just kept growing over the next two weeks.

The “event” started with two Black-tailed Godwits discovered in Renews, and just kept growing over the next two weeks.

It all started coming together on April 25, when two Black-tailed Godwits were photographed in Renews. The next morning, the first European Golden Plover was discovered in a field just 100m from the godwits. When eleven more were reported from three other locations across the province (Cape Race, St. John’s and Gros Morne National Park), the alarm bells started ringing. With the winds still blasting in from the northeast and a forecast for them to stay that way for the foreseeable future, we knew we were in for an exciting event. And the birds just kept coming …

A Summary of the Spring 2014 “Invasion” (April 25 – May 13)

  • COMMON REDSHANK 2 !! A single bird present at Renews from May 3-13 was joined briefly by a second on May 4.
  • ROSS’S GULL – an adult at Torbay (April 29-30) was completely unexpected and may have caused more local excitement than any other bird this spring.
  • BLACK-TAILED GODWIT – a total of 12 (!!) reported at six locations island-wide.
  • EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER200+ individuals reported from two dozen locations all over the island & SE Labrador … not quite a record invasion, but very very impressive.
  • NORTHERN WHEATEARDozens reported from locations island-wide – and clearly many more went unnoticed.
  • (EURASIAN) WHIMBREL 1 at Cape Spear (May 3)
  • DUNLIN (Icelandic/Greenland race) 1 at Cape Spear (May 3). This may be of the schinzii subspecies which has very few, if any, previous records in North America.
The breadth of the invasion was evident not only in the number of European Golden Plover reported in early May, but also the geographic distribution across the entire east/northeast coast of Newfoundland and southeastern Labrador.

The breadth of the invasion was evident not only in the number of European Golden Plover reported in early May, but also the geographic distribution across the entire east/northeast coast of Newfoundland and southeastern Labrador.

The largest single flock of European Golden Plovers occurred in Goulds (St. John's), where an initial handful of birds swelled to at least 90 in just a few days!

The largest single flock of European Golden Plovers occurred in Goulds (St. John’s), where an initial handful of birds swelled to at least 90 in just a few days!

These European Golden Plovers, part of a flock of nine, were in an unassuming backyard at Old Perlican on the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula.

These European Golden Plovers, part of a flock of nine, were in an unassuming backyard at Old Perlican on the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula.

During that time, I have been able to enjoy seeing many of these amazing birds, visit some of my favourite birding locations, and share the experience with many other birders from near & far. I have especially enjoyed birding with a number of keen birders who visited from all over North America to see these incredible ABA rarities … people from Ontario, Maine, New York, Massachussetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas & California!!

I was fortunate enough to see six Black-tailed Godwits in four far-flung locations during  the past few weeks - including two at Renews, two in St. Paul's Inlet, one in Goulds and this one at Old Perlican.

I was fortunate enough to see six Black-tailed Godwits in four far-flung locations during the past few weeks – including two at Renews, two in St. Paul’s Inlet, one in Goulds and this one at Old Perlican.

BTGO_May4OldPerlican_9022After a long, cold but very thrilling three weeks, the winds have finally turned southerly and many of our lingering visitors appear to have moved on – hopefully back to their intended destinations of Iceland & Greenland. Regular spring migration is rearing its head now, with a flood of more expected arrivals from down south being reported in the past few days. While the “Euro Invasion” of spring 2014 is winding down, the awesome birds & birding of these past few weeks will remain fresh in our memories for a long time to come … and we’ll always be keeping an eye on the winds!

Northern Wheatears are rare but expected in Newfoundland most springs. However, these winds brought dozens of reports, likely of birds that would have been destined for breeding grounds in Iceland or Greenland rather than northern Labrador.

Northern Wheatears are rare but expected in Newfoundland most springs. However, these winds brought dozens of reports, likely of birds that would have been destined for breeding grounds in Iceland or Greenland rather than northern Labrador.

NOWH_Ma22014Ferryland_8531a

However, the real star of the Euro Inasion was a Common Redshank at Renews from May 3-13. Since it represented just the third record (and sixth individual) for both Newfoundland and North America, many birder came from near and far to see it. A second individual presnt at the same location on May 4 was chased off by the first and never seen again!

However, the real star of the Euro Invasion was a Common Redshank at Renews from May 3-13. Since it represented just the third record (and seventh individual) for both Newfoundland and North America, many birder came from near and far to see it. A second individual presnt at the same location on May 4 was chased off by the first and never seen again!

RedshankFlight_9610

The striking wing and rump pattern of Common Redshank is very different than the familiar Greater Yellowlegs that were also hanging out at Renews.

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We seem to have said “Good-bye” to this popular visitor, with no reports since May 13 despite plenty of looking. And so winds down this amazing event that has dominated Newfoundland (and North American) birding so far this spring!

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(Pl)overload – the invasion continues

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

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!

EGPL_Apr302014_GMNP_7478EGPL_Apr30GMNP_7868 EGPL_Apr30GMNP_7912 EGPL_Apr30GMNP_7947DW_deadSNOW_7387 GreenCrab_GMNP_7364Iceberg_BearCove_8298After 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.

EGPL_May22014Renews_8065 EGPL_May22014Renews_8214 EGPL_May22014Renews_8255 EGPL_May22014Renews_8267EGPL_May22014Renews_8163NOWH_May22014Ferryland_8545 NOWH_Ma22014Ferryland_8531bNo 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!!).