Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Codroy Valley - Newfoundland's Utopia

On May 25th, 2015 i spontaneously decided i was going to head to the Codroy Valley in the morning. At 6:00am i hit the Trans Canada Highway heading west, almost 900km later and i arrived in what i can only describe as a utopia just like Raymond Zinck described in his novel about the Codroy Valley titled "Newfoundland's Utopia". The first settlers to the Codroy Valley had believed they found the perfect place.. I can see why

Upper Ferry 

The valley is most commonly known for its beautiful scenery and amazing weather. It seemed to me as though the valley has its own warmer micro climate. Just as few kilometres in either direction and the weather was colder. This is the perfect location for birds. More specifically over shooting migrants headed for Cape Breton that went a little too far. The lush coniferous forests and endless streams, rivers and wetlands provide some of the best opportunities for birding Newfoundland has to offer.

A calm morning on the Grand Codroy River 

During my five days in the Codroy the only times i was not out searching for birds was when i was either sleeping or getting something to eat. I averaged it out to be close to twelve hours a day hiking around the valley. This was extremely exhausting and i may have over exerted myself to some degree but it was certainly worth it. I would say this trip toped my trip to Greenland a few years ago.


The Birds

I haven't yet added up how many species of birds i seen in the five days i spent in the valley but i am sure its more then I've ever seen in five days. Many first time birds like the Bobolink, Northern Parula, Winter Wren, and Bank Swallow.

Northern Praula 

Northern Praula 
The Northern Praula was my "Target bird" of the trip. I find them to be one of the most beautiful wood warblers. On my last full day of birding i hiked for two and a half hours in a dirt road and then through a few over grown foot paths. Finally i climbed a vertical embankment to reach a large stand of birch and aspen trees. It was amazing. The forest seemed untouched my humans and had massive trees. This is where i herd my first Winter Wren. Once back on the main trail and heading down the hill to get supper i herd the distinct call of the Northern Praula... I will never forget how excited i was to hear the classic zeeeeeee-yip tril. I am very happy with the images i was able to capture of this species in all of ten minutes!!

Cape May Warbler 
The Codroy is a place like no other here in Newfoundland. I am determined to return each spring from here on. Here are some more images i captured.

Rusty Blackbird 

Great Blue Heron 

Magnolia Warbler 

Black Throated Green Warbler 

Blue Headed Vireo 

American Redstart 

Arctic Tern 
Red winged Blackbird 
Eastern Kingbird 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

More on my Tree Swallow nest box project

Since 2010 i have been placing numerous nest boxes at a pond near my house. Neville's Pond as most people call it is usually home to 15 or more nesting pairs of Tree Swallows. When i was 13 i noticed these beautiful little blue birds trying to jam themselves into a steel post. The holes in the posts were too small for the swallows to get inside but i watched them trying relentlessly.  The next day my father & I headed down to the pond with a nest box. As i began attaching the box to one of the posts the swallows started fighting over the box. The box was in my hands still!! It was certainly something i had never herd of. Ever since that day i have been building more and more nest boxes to help the birds out as I'm sure there are not enough natural nest cavities available.

Since i began this project I've built and placed over 20 boxes around the pond. In my community i another 10 more boxes. Almost all of the boxes have been used by swallows. Each year i remove last years nest and repair the boxes before the swallows return. I have been able to study these birds up close and i have certainly learned a lot about their behaviour. I noticed that if i purchase white feathers from a craft store and simply hold them out in my hand when the swallows are finishing up nest building that the swallows will come and take them right from my hand! They always line their nests with white feathers. 

In late May when the swallows first arrive they have about a two week window where they are continuously checking out the nest boxes and going from box to box. This offers an amazing photo opportunity. Its simple. Put an interesting perch on top of a couple boxes. Then set up your tripod and wait. This could take hours but eventually everything works out.

As you can see these birds are one of my favourite species of birds. This species is facing a lot of pressure due to pesticides in the environment as well as an unavailability of nesting sites. Recently i learned that Tree Swallows have declined over 40%. I am happy knowing i have helped even a couple swallows nest and raise young. Swallow boxes are easy to build  you just have to remember two things. Entrance hole is 1 1/2" diameter and the floor dimensions should be no smaller then 5"x5".  I find the rest is just personal preference. Look up some plans online, there are a lot.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Spring arrives at Neville's Pond

Finally winter is behind us and spring is here. Although temperatures are not even double digits most days it sure is nice to be able to go out shooting with out a heavy winters coat on. Neville's Pond is what i would consider as my little "patch" where i check almost everyday for spring arrivals. It also happens to be where I've placed 21 nest boxes. Each year i maintain existing boxes and add a few more to help give Tree Swallows a helping hand in finding a nest site.

Tree Swallows fight over nest boxes. Taken in 2014
 The one thing that always marks the arrival of spring for me is seeing a Yellow-rumped Warbler. After many months of not seeing a single warbler it sure is exciting to see a flash of yellow among the trees. That quick flash of yellow is surely a YR warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler 
Tree Swallows are by far my most welcomed sight in spring. These little aerial fighter jets are amazing. They are so agile that they eat flies on the wing. Could you imagine flying though the sky trying to get bugs using only your mouth....

Tree Swallow 
Here are a few more images from the last few weeks. Enjoy!

Black-capped Chickadee checks out a nest box

A new species for Neville's Pond. A Palm Warbler  

Northern Gannet at Cape St.Mary's Ecological Reserve 

Horned Lark 

Common Grackle 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Pomarine & Parasitic Jaeger - Witless Bay

Sunday April 26 i decided to head to Renews in search of the possibility of european birds showing up like they did around this date last year. Despite horrible weather i was able to capture some very memorable images. When i arrived at renews at  11am i could not see across the bay because of fog but i did notice 2 Greater Yellowlegs and one Arctic Tern that Alvan Buckley had reported earlier. The tern was surprisingly tame. I assume it must be exhausted from its long migration. This little tern my very well have flown all the way from Antarctica!!

Arctic Tern 

Arctic Tern 

On the way to Ferryland from Renews i seen a Merlin in a tree for a few minutes. This is one of my first photos of this species.

Alvan Buckley alerted me to a Pomarine Jaeger in Portugal Cove South which quickly switched my search from european birds to seabirds! Unfortunately i turned up nothing in Ferryland, Admirals Cove and Cape Broyal. Shortly after Avlan sees not only a Jaeger in Ferryland but also TWO in Cape Broyal.... Long story short thanks to Alvan for finding a total of 9! Jaegers along the shore. I got to see 6 up close in Witless Bay all of which were Pomarine Jaegers.... except 

Pomarine Jaeger 

Pomarine Jaeger 

Just minutes after Alvan left Witless Bay a much darker Jaeger flew in around the wharf. Only later that evening when i sent Alvan one of the images did i find out this darker bird was a Parasitic Jaeger!!

Parasitic Jaeger 
Jaegers are birds that spend almost all their time at sea. These birds are notorious for being similar to pirates. Its common to see them in the ocean chasing gulls and robbing their catch instead of fishing themselves. They usually only come to land when they nest in the Arctic. However during days like to day where its foggy and persistent eastern wind they can get disorientated and probably exhausted.  Thus they end up along more sheltered areas. This is certainly not a common occurrence. Most people will go though life not even knowing that a Jaeger is let alone see one up close.

Considering it was extremely foggy and almost always raining, i am certainly glad i decided to head down the southern shore. More to come later this week.

One more shot.

Pomarine Jaeger 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Nest Box construction has begun

This weekend I started assembling Boreal Owl nest boxes for Labrador!!!! This year will be my biggest build yet and if everything goes to plan I will construct upwards of 100 boxes. This year I have two main goals, the first being that I get boxes into Labrador... (Done) and then get more boxes into the central & western portions of the Island of Newfoundland. 

I've got my hands full for the next few weeks, limiting my time even more for photography. I'll post again soon once I get a chance to place a few boxes on the lower salmonier line with CBC's Todd OBrian.
Sometime in March CBC's Here and Now will be doing a TV episode. Stay tuned 

The journey to Labrador has started 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Rain & Wind

So far this winter season the Avalon Peninsula has experienced quite a lot of wind and rain. Although we have had snow on the ground many times, it never lasts with the rain and constant fluctuating temperatures. Again today the island is being hit with yet another winter storm. The west coast of the island has over 60+ cm of snow in some places. I herd on the radio that there was an avalanche that consumed a car, causing the driver to climb out of the window! Here on the Avalon we have had winds gusting upwards of 100km/hr and rain all day. Tonight temps will fall rapidly to -10 or -11c causing a lot of ice tonight.

Ive tried venturing out many times to find more photo opportunities but had few. Recently i did have a good weekend photographing some Tufted Ducks and scaup. Also i got my best images yet of Northern Shoveler!

Northern Shoveler 
Eurasian Wegion

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Hen Tufted Duck

Greater Scaup 

This weekend past Brad James & I had a great morning at Cape Spear photographing Purple Sandpipers in nice morning light. The waves were very big that morning causing a lot of salt spray (Not good on the cameras). Im very happy with the couple images i was able to capture of the large group of birds.

 I like how in the above image you can slightly see the purple coloration on the birds wing. This is the  first time I've be able to capture this.