10 August 2018

August yawn

After the back-to-back tours of Maine, Alaska, and Newfoundland/Nova Scotia this summer... I've been enjoying a bit of a break back home in northeast Missouri.  That means updating the blog, heat, humidity, cicadas, insect photography, and many visits to Busch Stadium for St. Louis Cardinals baseball:
And yes, I actively eBird from all the games as well.  Like this checklist, for example.

We're already seeing some birds heading south because, well, it's August and that means migration!  Although a potential breeder from nearby, this ORCHARD ORIOLE was a nice species to see on the property and it's one I don't see here very often:
But honestly, I'm probably finding more interesting insects than birds these days.  Here's a SILVERY CHECKERSPOT:
This is a GRAY HAIRSTREAK, the most widespread species of hairstreak in the US:
Often sticking to more shaded areas on the property, this RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK is one of my favorite species around the house:
Switching to dragonflies for a bit, there are plenty around including this BLUE DASHER that performed well with nice light:
I also really like the EASTERN AMBERWINGS, a tiny dragonfly species:
Here's a COMMON GREEN DARNER on the wing:
Thanks to a new obsession of mine (inputting all my non-birds into iNaturalist), I'm now able to actually find out the identities of various insects.  For example, this is a LARGE MILKWEED BUG... a huge surprise that I found it on milkweed, eh?
What I didn't know is that these are highly migratory!

As I mentioned, I'm trying to ID more of the other insects around but it's been slow going since I have no background in that.  Thanks to friends and the help of iNat, I now know these are INDIANA ROBBER FLIES that have paired up below:
I also used iNaturalist to figure out that this is a SOUTHERN LEOPARD FROG:
I feel like I should have known some of that already but hey, better late than never!

07 August 2018

Newfoundland, 2018 edition

The last tour I was on, back in July, was to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  Even before I went I knew it was a fun tour.  How did I know?  Well, I did this tour in 2017 as well.  In fact, this was my 4th time to Newfoundland.

You can find more info about this tour, by the way, here on our Field Guides website.

Anyway, I was excited to go back to spend some time in the northern conifer bogs, deciduous forests, tundra, and to escape the heat of the Midwest!

Here's 40+ photos from that tour.

Starting out in St. John's, we paid a visit to this summering TUFTED DUCK, a rare bird anywhere on the East Coast, especially in summer:
Down the road a few miles, we bumped into this BOREAL CHICKADEE which is a great northern species we see every year on this tour:
Starting to fill out our checklist in the warbler section, we had this YELLOW WARBLER on our first day:
Likewise with the sparrows, our first sparrow was the ubiquitous WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:
From up on Signal Hill near the city of St. John's, we were treated with an amazing view of the channel and the ocean beyond:
If you looked back towards the harbor and city, your view was this:
There were a couple of nifty butterflies to check out as well including this COMMON RINGLET:
... and this LUCIA AZURE which, because of a split, was a new one for me:
One of our stops in Renews yielded this Type-8 RED CROSSBILL visiting some feeders:
Yes, there are many types of Red Crossbills and this type, Type 8, is thought to be endemic to the island of Newfoundland.

Along the coast of Newfoundland, we had our first taste of NORTHERN GANNETS with these plunge-diving birds getting ready to slice into the water:

Even rarer than the Tufted Duck from earlier in the trip, we swung up to Spaniard's Bay and saw the continuing LITTLE EGRET.  Although distant, you can see the two long plumes in this photo:
The egret was hanging out in some veg and so it was tough to pick it out from the gulls and things.  No matter, we were just thrilled to see this rare Old World species on this side of the pond:
At the same spot, we had a nice parade of terns flying overhead including ARCTIC TERNS:

... and some COMMON TERNS as well:
If you think they look similar, you're right.  Check out the tip of the bill; Common has a dark tip and Arctic doesn't.

At Cape St. Mary's, on our walk out to the gannet colony, we could hardly escape from the many SAVANNAH SPARROWS:
Once we arrived at the vantage point, our senses of sight, smell, and sound were at full capacity!  It was a warm day with blue skies, the sounds of the nesting seabirds filled the air:
The main attraction at this spot is the giant breeding colony of NORTHERN GANNETS.  Here's a vantage point of Bird Rock which is covered in a blanket of nesting gannets:
There were lots of other species to enjoy too.  There were some ATLANTIC PUFFINS out on the water, thousands of COMMON MURRES and THICK-BILLED MURRES, and a few RAZORBILLS as well including this one:
This tour is interesting because we spend one of our nights on a 14-hour long ferry ride from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.  It's actually quite comfortable!  We have our own cabins with beds/bathrooms, and the restaurant onboard is pretty good too.  However, being in this new biome, we're eager to go out on deck and to do some birding.  This year we were treated to a large number of shearwaters which were mostly GREAT SHEARWATERS.  Here's a couple of views:

We also tallied SOOTY SHEARWATER and MANX SHEARWATER.  In terms of storm-petrels, we saw a couple of WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS and a good number of LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS as well.  Here's a distant Leach's:
Even the sunset from the boat was a nice one:
Once you wake up the next morning, you're very nearly to shore.  We disembarked and started birding in Nova Scotia straight away.  This AMERICAN COPPER was waiting for us:
One of our targets worked out when this PIPING PLOVER materialized at one of the beaches:
In terms of insects, I enjoyed a few lifers that day including this HUDSONIAN WHITEFACE:
This HOBOMOK SKIPPER is one of the more distinctive skippers (which is always appreciated):
One of the dragonfly highlights was this DRAGONHUNTER... a huge species that specializes in catching smaller dragonflies (and even Monarch butterflies):
The deciduous woods gave way to a different variety of warblers in Nova Scotia including this curious OVENBIRD that swooped in:
Another warbler encounter, and probably my favorite from the trip, was this male MOURNING WARBLER that popped up and sang a few times.  At first, it just showed it's back:
But then it turned around showing the black bib:
Much more numerous though were the MAGNOLIA WARBLERS that breed there.  Here's one in some rather harsh light:
Although they're abundant in much of the US later in the year, the YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS were quite handsome this time of year:
Of course, there were plenty of AMERICAN REDSTARTS around too:
Not a common warbler on this itinerary, it's always a treat to see some CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERS:
Another favorite warbler encounter of mine was this BAY-BREASTED WARBLER.  It's not a species I see in Missouri all that often.  It's gorgeous too:
We had a variety of Empidonax flycatchers on this tour as well such as LEAST, YELLOW-BELLIED, and this ALDER FLYCATCHER:
In terms of chicken-y things... we had a brief WILLOW PTARMIGAN in Newfoundland, a few SPRUCE GROUSE chicks in Nova Scotia, and several adult RUFFED GROUSE.  Here's the latter taking a bath in dust:
The highlands on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia are really quite nice.  The scenery was top notch!
It was another fun run of this tour and I look forward to doing it again in some of the future years!

The next update will include some stuff from home... yeah, I come home sometimes!  Cheers yall.