Thursday, October 3rd was one of those rare days (at least recently) that I could sneak away from home & office obligations to go birding in the middle of the week. When Bruce Mactavish planted the seed in my head, I immediately found a way to make it work. Both the date and the weather were ripe for vagrants – we had just come off some interesting weather that brought four straight days of record high temperatures. I was stoked!
Bruce and I have a good history of finding sweet birds together – so I felt extra good about this day out. It was cool and breezy when Bruce picked me up at 5:45am and we headed south for Bear Cove (site of last week’s Yellow-throated Vireo) and Cape Race (where anything can happen!). We pulled into the gravel pit just after first light, eager to hit the alders and find some gems popping around among the bright fall colours.
But thing started off slow … real slow. Even the Yellow-rumped Warblers that had been so abundant ten days earlier had moved on and we really had to dig to find birds. After several hours of working the tried and true locations between Bear Cove and Cappahayden, we had nothing to show besides a Cliff Swallow, two Palm Warblers, a Magnolia Warbler and a lone Red-eyed Vireo. Slim pickings, for sure …
Things didn’t improve much as we headed south to Cape Race … the road was dead quiet (even the Savannah Sparrows had made a mass exodus), and Long Beach was held no surprises except a Peregrine Falcon that swept through as soon as we arrived. The Baird’s Sandpiper among the flock of more regular shorebirds would have been more notable if it hadn’t been around for the past two weeks. Cape Race itself disappointed with just a handful of sparrows. An unidentified warbler flushed out of the grass was intriguing enough for us to spend an hour traipsing around trying to relocate it, but the strong winds and vast barrens of the headland made for good hiding. An American Kestrel was a minor highlight.
We headed home with a sunken feeling — lots of digging, but no gold.
This evening (October 5) I finally made some time to go look for an immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron that has been hanging out in Torbay for a couple weeks. It was near dusk on a dark, dreary evening – but I had the chance so I took it. After driving around the neighbourhood for 15 minutes, I eventually found it coursing for supper on a lawn. It was very tame, allowing me to park quite close and get some mediocre record shots in very tough light. At least the rain had stopped …
The heron seems to be doing really well – it was digging, too, but having much more success than Bruce and I had. It came up with several large worms in the fifteen minutes I spent enjoying the hunt.