Winter 2009-2010


 Winter 2009-2010 got off to a slow start, with a cold snap in November followed by a relatively mild December and early January – and very few birds being reported. Ice-free ponds and lakes for the first half of winter made it difficult to find the rare gulls (a staple of winter birding in this province), and the mild weather brought very few birds to awaiting feeders. For the second consecutive winter, there was a significant lack of finches and berry-eating birds. This year, however, was marked by an abundance of cones and berries – making the absence all the more unexpected.

Things slowly picked up as winter wore on, and the final tally of 133 species on the island (and two more in Labrador) was just shy of the average total for the past three winters. A few rarities managed to add some flavour to the season, but overall it was a mediocre winter.

The number of Tufted Ducks wintering in St. John’s continues to climb, with a high count of 34 recorded in the city in late December. Two more were reported from Conception Bay South somewhat later in the season. A high count of seven Eurasian Green-winged Teal (aka Common Teal) in St. John’s was also notable. A drake was observed near Cape Race Rd on Jan 28, while two more were noted in Harbour Grace on Feb 14. A female Northern Shoveler  that spent the fall around the city managed to linger until mid-December before disappearing. Lone drake Barrow’s Goldeneye were reported from three location – Spaniard’s Bay, Rocky Harbour and Traytown.

A single American Coot arrived in early January and overwintered at Quidi Vidi  Lake, continuing a recent trend. Two Pied-billed Grebes were reported from the southeast corner of the island – one recently dead and dropped by an eagle at Cape Race on Dec 9, and another alive and well at Trepassey when last observed on Jan 16.

Three Northern Lapwings discovered on the southern shore on Jan 5-6 were likely indicators of a larger event that may have occurred following dismal weather in Europe and strong trans-Atlantic winds. The last observation was of a bird in Bay Bulls on Jan 9, just hours before a winter storm blew through the area. Who knows what else might have arrived on those winds and went unnoticed?!?!  Two late-winter Killdeer were observed in St. John’s (Feb 4) and Cape Broyle (Feb 27), while a lone Black-bellied Plover successfully overwintered at Renews for the fourth consecutive year. Sanderlings overwintered at Portugal Cove South, while another was observed at Flatrock on Feb 18.

Rare winter gulls have become almost too routine in St. John’s, although some of us still manage to get a bit excited. Three Common Gulls (1 adult, 2 first winter) spent the winter in St. John’s, while it is almost certain a third first winter bird was present for a period of time in January. Two more adults were observed at Bellevue Beach on Feb 14. Two distinct adult Yellow-legged Gulls were observed in St. John’s in December, but only continued to be seen throughout the winter. An adult Slaty-backed Gull was discovered on January 14 and was seen regularly into early March. Three adult Bonaparte’s Gulls found at Bellevue Beach on Feb 14 is probably a record winter count.

The gull highlight of the winter, for those fortunate enough to see it, was an invasion of Ivory Gulls in the Strait of Belle Isle and on the Northern Peninsula (and southern Labrador) in mid-February, when over one hundred individuals were observed by a few lucky birders who made the trek. The first bird of the season, a juvenile, was spotted flying around St. Shott’s harbour on Jan 25. Two were reported from Virgin Arm, New World Island in late January, a single bird was observed at Witless Bay and Bay Bulls Feb 16-17, and four were reported from Stephenville Crossing on February 26.

There was a general lack of winter alcids this year, with Dovekie being nearly absent and the larger, regular alcids observed in unusually low numbers.

A White-winged Dove frequenting a feeder in Pouch Cove from late December onwards furnished the first winter record for the province (excluding one unconfirmed report from a few years ago). It was a poor season for owl sightings, with only two or three Snowy Owl reports, two visual observation of Boreal Owl and only late winter sound records of Great Horned and Saw-whet Owls.

Despite the dire dearth of Robins this winter, a Redwing was discovered amongst a small flock in Trepassey. Although very secretive and uncooperative, it was seen several times between Jan 13-23. Two Northern Mockingbirds were reported in December – one at Port Kirwin and one at Witless Bay.

A surprisingly low number of warblers were reported this winter, even in early December when a few hardy stragglers can usually be counted on. In fact, only four individuals, all of different species, were recorded this season. A Yellow-breasted Chat  in St. John’s on Dec 15 was the most unusual, while a Pine Warbler was reported from Broad Cove (CBN) on Dec 27 and an Orange-crowned Warbler made the Christmas Bird Count near Renews on Jan 2. A lone Yellow-rumped Warbler was first reported in St. John’s on Jan 6 and managed to survive until at least the end of February – a reflection of the relatively easy winter it was.

Two Clay-coloured Sparrows put in appearances … one spotted occasionally at Long Pond in St. John’s throughout December, and another that spent most of the winter frequenting a feeder in Maddox Cove. Song Sparrows have continued to increase on the Avalon Peninsula in all seasons, and this year was arguably the most common winter sparrow to be found in the region.

A Brown-headed Cowbird in Renews graced the winter list for one day only, when it was seen on Dec 6. A single Baltimore Oriole was observed in Trepassey in early December, while another successfully overwintered at a feeder in Buchans. Several Dickcissels were reported from across the province in December, although none were reported after Jan 2. Finally, despite the lack of finches across the province, a brilliant Greenland race Hoary Redpoll made regular appearances at two feeders in Portugal Cove South from Jan 17 onwards.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Eurasian Wigeon
  3. American Wigeon
  4. American Black Duck
  5. Mallard
  6. Northern Pintail
  7. Green-winged Teal (American & Eurasian)
  8. Northern Shoveler 
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Greater Scaup
  11. Lesser Scaup
  12. Common Eider
  13. King Eider
  14. Harlequin Duck
  15. White-winged Scoter
  16. Black Scoter
  17. Surf Scoter
  18. Long-tailed Duck
  19. Bufflehead
  20. Common Goldeneye
  21. Barrow’s Goldeneye
  22. Hooded Merganser
  23. Red-breasted Merganser
  24. Common Merganser
  25. American Coot
  26. Willow Ptarmigan
  27. Rock Ptarmigan
  28. Spruce Grouse
  29. Ruffed Grouse
  30. Common Loon
  31. Red-throated Loon
  32. Pied-billed Grebe
  33. Red-necked Grebe
  34. Horned Grebe
  35. Northern Fulmar
  36. Great Cormorant
  37. Double-crested Cormorant
  38. Bald Eagle
  39. Rough-legged Hawk
  40. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  41. Northern Goshawk
  42. Gyrfalcon
  43. Peregrine Falcon
  44. Merlin
  45. American Kestrel
  46. Black-bellied Plover
  47. Killdeer
  49. Ruddy Turnstone
  50. Sanderling
  51. White-rumped Sandpiper
  52. Purple Sandpiper
  53. Wilson’s Snipe
  54. Black-headed Gull
  55. Bonaparte’s Gull
  56. Ring-billed Gull
  57. Common Gull
  58. Herring Gull
  59. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  61. Iceland Gull
  62. Glaucous Gull
  63. Great Black-backed Gull
  65. Ivory Gull
  66. Black-legged Kittiwake
  67. Dovekie
  68. Razorbill
  69. Common Murre
  70. Thick-billed Murre
  71. Black Guillemot
  72. Atlantic Puffin
  73. Rock Pigeon
  74. Mourning Dove
  75. White-winged Dove
  76. Great Horned Owl
  77. Snowy Owl
  78. Boreal Owl
  79. Saw-whet Owl
  80. Belted Kingfisher
  81. Black-backed Woodpecker
  82. Northern Three-toed Woodpecker
  83. Hairy Woodpecker
  84. Downy Woodpecker
  85. Northern Flicker
  86. Grey Jay
  87. Blue Jay
  88. Northern Shrike
  89. American Crow
  90. Common Raven
  91. Horned Lark
  92. Black-capped Chickadee
  93. Boreal Chickadee
  94. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  95. Brown Creeper
  96. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  97. American Robin
  99. Northern Mockingbird
  100. European Starling
  101. American Pipit
  102. Cedar Waxwing
  103. Bohemian Waxwing
  104. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  105. Pine Warbler
  106. Orange-crowned Warbler
  107. Yellow-breasted Chat
  108. American Tree Sparrow
  109. Chipping Sparrow
  110. Clay-coloured Sparrow
  111. Savannah Sparrow
  112. White-throated Sparrow
  113. Fox Sparrow
  114. Song Sparrow
  115. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  116. Swamp Sparrow
  117. Dark-eyed Junco
  118. Lapland Longspur
  119. Snow Bunting
  120. Common Grackle
  121. Brown-headed Cowbird
  122. Baltimore Oriole
  123. Dickcissel
  124. Pine Grosbeak
  125. Purple Finch
  126. Red Crossbill
  127. White-winged Crossbill
  128. Common Redpoll
  129. Hoary Redpoll
  130. Pine Siskin
  131. American Goldfinch
  132. Evening Grosbeak
  133. House Sparrow


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