Newfoundland and Labrador – Day 1

Mom and I had a great trip to Newfoundland and Labrador this spring via Atlantic Tours.  Our first travel day was Saturday May 30th.  We travelled from Halifax to North Sydney stopping at Baddeck on Cape Breton Island for Dinner.

Mom with our bus driver, Dave.

Mom with our bus driver, Dave.

Mom with a statue of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife.

Mom with a statue of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife.





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    Nature NB Amazing Birding Challenge 2013

    For the second year running team Manszter (David and me) signed up for Nature NB’s Amazing Birding Challenge.  Though we didn’t have a pelagic outing to boost our numbers, or a host of rarities from which a “best bird” could be picked, I think we did ok compared with last year.

    To recap last year, we saw 74 species, and three rarities we picked up (South
    Polar Skua, Marbled Godwit, Snowy Egret) were recognized as “best bird” for the 2012 challenge.

    This year, Saturday September 14, would be the only chance David and I could get out; we had just returned from Ontario delivering Jasmine to UW, and the following weekend Pattie and I would be winging our way over to Italy to bike with friends.

    We started early, hitting Marsh Creek at 7:30am, where we made good headway with waterfowl, tallying 14 species to kick off the day:

    Canada Goose (many!), Black Duck (70+), Mallard (70+), Green-winged Teal (20+), American Wigeon (20+), Hooded Merganser (1 female), Double-crested Cormorant (3), Ring-billed Gull (many), Herring Gull (several), Greater Yellowlegs (20+), Semipalmated Plover (10+), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Black-bellied Plover (12), American Crow (a few)

    David and I then moved on to the Saints Rest Marsh and Beach area, where we stayed until close to 9:00.  Shorebirds were numerous, but it was foggy so we were unsuccessful in picking out anything unusual, but managed an additional 23 species, taking us to 37 on the day:

    Semipalmated Sandpiper (5,000+), (although we already saw them at Marsh Creek, there were probably 200+ Semipalmated Plover there as well), Sanderling (10+), Dunlin, White-rumped Sandpiper (20+), Least Sandpiper (just a few),  Great Black-backed Gull, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, Common Crackle, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-eyed Vireo (many; they must have been staging on their migration), Blue-headed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Black and White Warbler, Blackpoll, Pine Warbler, Blue Jay

    White-rumped Sandpiper

    A White-rumped Sandpiper gapes while two Semipalmated Sandpipers rest nearby.

    We then headed down to St. Andrews where we belatedly joined the Saint John Naturalists’ Club field trip to the Greenlaw Mountain Hawk Watch.  Since we arrived after everyone David and I hiked up with everything (cameras, camera bag, coats, lunch and drink cooler) on our own — eventually I had everything as David was going to turn around and head back down if he had to carry anything 🙂

    On the way up I stopped a few times to see what could be coaxed our of the mixed woods.  It was after the first steep climb that a Blue-winged Warbler made a brief appearance — it would be our best bird of the day by far.  I wasn’t able to get a picture, and though a few of the field trip participants returned to try and find it unfortunately it had moved on.  Between those stops on the way up, and a good day of recording migrating raptor sightings with Todd Watts, we added another 20 species – now at 57!

    Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, Barn Swallow, American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Blicker, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Common Raven, Veery

    We left the crew on the mountain at about 2pm, and though there weren’t many birds, we did see a nice North American Porcupine!

    North American Porcupine

    North American Porcupine high up in a birch.

    After we got to the bottom, and just driving around St. Andrews, we added 5 more species:

    Common Eider, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, American Robin, Rock Pigeon (yay!)

    We then drove along the coast back toward Saint John, stopping in Dipper Harbour and then Chance Harbour, finishing in Lorneville and the Black Beach Road.  We added another 10 species, so the day’s total was now 72:

    Black Guillemot, European Starling, Osprey, Dark-eyed Junco, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Cardinal, Alder Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker.

    We finished the day by stopping by Saints Rest Beach again.  David Putt was there as well, and we searched the thousands of peeps to see if there was anything unusual.  A Peregrine Falcon swooped in to scare up the peeps (always an adrenalizing sight!), and since David had seen a Baird’s Sandpiper before I arrived I stayed to scope out as many of the birds as I could.  I did find a Baird’s and what might have been an American Golden Plover among several Black-bellied Plover, but the latter flew off when a couple and their dog approached, too quickly for me to get a good view of the suspect’s head or colouration, or to compare its under-wing colouration to those of the clearly Black-bellied Plovers.  I didn’t count it.

    Peregrine Falcon, Baird’s Sandpiper

    We closed our our day with 74 species.  I’d like to thank all of the donors who pledged David and me, we ended up raising $236.00!

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      SJNC Morning Bird Walk

      Sunday morning, May 19, a few of us enjoyed a field trip led by Don MacPhail around Rockwood Park’s trails and arboretum.

      This Northern Parula was drying its feathers after a bath:


      A pair of Merlins were active while we were out walking.  Here the female has perched near the top of a spruce, and we can see some remnants of its last meal around its bill.

      1D7A8410 1D7A8409

      Here is a short video of the Merlin as she sat surveying her surroundings:

      We were also entertained by an industrious male Downy Woodpecker as he excavated his nest:

      1D7A8453 1D7A8441 1D7A8423

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        Saturn and a wide “starfield”

        David, Jasmine, Calvin and I enjoyed Curt Nason’s first installment of an astronomy course up at Rockwood park Tuesday evening (, and afterward we enjoyed some nice views of Jupiter and Saturn.

        I decided to try a few pictures tonight when Saturn was higher in the sky, and here is the best of the lot:

         Saturn cropped

        This took a bit of experimentation, but what I did was as follows, using my Canon 5D MkIII, 500mm F4 lens + 1.4x teleconverter:

        – Mirror was locked up, 2s delayed timer (that way pressing the shutter activates the lock-up, and then the 2s timer actually takes the picture — I don’t have to touch the camera at all)

        – Autofocus off (pre-focused), IS on (lot’s of debate on the net around this, but since the exposure was relatively short I thought it would help more than hurt)

        – I had long exposure noise reduction enabled, but the best shots were all short exposures so it would not have kicked in

        – ISO 3200, 1/1000 second, f/7.1

        In the end, though, that’s a pretty boring picture. 

        So, I spiced it up with a noisy “starfield”:

        Saturn with starfield - 1D7A8348


        In Lightroom I did a bit of post-processing; bumped the clarity and smoothed the luminance.  I like the effect and, since this won’t go into any scientific journal or to APOD, I figure artistic license is excuse enough 🙂

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          Winter birds restrospective

          While in theory spring has been with us for several weeks now, winter seems reluctant to relax its grip.  However, there are definite signs it will have to give way: Fox and Song Sparrows singing, our “resident” Northern Cardinal gathering nesting material, even American Woodcock peenting in the evening.

          Herewith, then, a few reminders from the past winter of the hardiness and beauty of a few of the birds that called in at 7 Bridle Path Lane this past winter, starting with this Mourning Dove that hunkered down for a December 27 blizzard:

          Mourning Dove

          Our feeders were busy that day, although the snow piled up quickly, and birds like this Downy Woodpecker had to work around the white stuff:

          Downy Woodpecker

          On the “last” day of winter, first of spring, a flock of 22 Bohemiam Waxwings descended on our Christmas light adorned Crabapple Tree:


          They provided a great opportunity to study and photograph a species that only occurs in New Brunswick during late fall and winter.



          A short video of a couple of the birds can be found here:

          Interestingly, you can see a reflection of our house in the eye of this individual:


          I’ll close this post with a bird that Suzanne Bonnell and I saw at the Point Lepreau Christmas Bird Count, a colourful male Pine Grosbeak:

          Pine Grosbeak

          Now onto spring!


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            Waxing Moon and Jupiter

            This gallery contains 5 photos.

            On March 17, a cool, clear evening, I decided to head out and try to photograph Pan-STARRS, but instead took a few shots of the waxing moon and of Jupiter.  4 of Jupiter’s satellites were nicely visible, but its brightness … Continue reading

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              New technological horizons…

              At least, they are for this site! It seems every few years I feel this pressing need to revise and redo the site, but regardless of my best intentions the content continues to lag. So: enter WordPress, and a redesign that is now in the works that should leave us with a more current and easily maintained view of our activities. Of course, the Posterous acquisition by Twitter — and their recent decision to discontinue that service altogether — has forced me this direction as well. Hopefully the journey is worth it! So far it feels fresh, leaving much of the old “baggage” of the static site behind. That said, everything will be available in one form or another as an archive, but going forward this becomes a new forum for our personal explorations.

              Stay tuned…

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