Spawning caplin means good birding
With bated breath we wait for the first news of caplin rolling on the beaches. It happens every year but until its starts we do not know for sure what will happen. Caplin means a lot to the birds, whales and fish. The great gathering of caplin draws in the predators ranging in size from the little puffin to the humpback whale. A feeding bonanza commences. The birdwatchers look forward to the event for the birding opportunities.
The caplin run changes daily once it starts so what is news today could be totally different by the time you have your first chance to read this column. This past weekend I saw caplin spawning in good numbers at Trepassey and Ferryland. People were getting their buckets full at both locations. Kittiwakes, terns and gulls were excitedly getting their share as well. It was easy pickings for the birds. The birds feast while the going is good.
The shearwaters are here. So far they have been seen rafting in good size flocks of St. Shotts and Cape Race. They are moving about just offshore but so far are not coming right into the beaches like they usually do at the height of the season. They can dive 10 metres or more below the surface so can feed on the caplin beds holding up a little way offshore still making up their minds about coming in the shore to spawn. Shearwaters probably do some of their feeding at night when the caplin schools may rise up closer to the surface. So far there is very little seabird action off St. Vincent’s Beach but the gull and kittiwake flocks are building and the whales have started up. We are only at the very beginning of the caplin season. There should be plenty of spectacular shows of nature to look forward to in the next few weeks.
Birdwatchers enjoy the entire show. The whales are interesting to watch. The numbers of shearwaters can be fantastic. Swirling masses of kittiwakes and terns are worth a careful
look. Among these could be a rare gull or rare tern.
A laughing gull seen by Alvan Buckley at Trepassey on Sunday was still there the next day along with another of its kind for Jared Clarke. This is a southern gull that occurs in great numbers on the Atlantic coast of the United States but is rare in Canada. A few show up every summer on the prevailing southwest winds. This is a promising sign for the rare tern hunters. A few species of terns inhabit the same United States coastline as the laughing gulls and every so many years one will show up on the Newfoundland coast during the caplin season. There is so much for a birder to look forward to during caplin season. We have only just begun. STOP THE PRESS. Just before I send off this column
fantastic photographs of a roseate tern have appeared. It was found at Bear Cove, near Cappahayden by John Williams and Dave Hawkins. This is the third record for Newfoundland. Their North American centre of abundance is in coastal Massachusetts and New York. This is what I am talking about!
The state of the season
We are headlong into July. The singing in the woods has died down considerably as it always does once July sets in. The adult songbirds are run ragged feeding young in the nest with little extra time to sing. All seems normal.
Those with active summertime bird feeders may have noticed the American goldfinches have mostly departed. There is a good reason for this. Being late nesters, they wait until real summer weather to nest. In the last two weeks goldfinches have been spreading out across the countryside in pairs looking for a good place to nest. Food is plentiful for them now. Dandelion seed is a favourite food source at this time of year. Some other members of the finch clan also dig into the seed heads of the dandelions. Pine grosbeak is our biggest finch also eats the tiny seeds of the dandelion. Many reports have come in from people noticing
We are only at the very beginning of the caplin season. There should be plenty of spectacular shows of nature to look forward to in the next few weeks.
pine grosbeaks on their lawns going after the dandelion seed heads. One person used that as an excuse not to mow his lawn until the pine grosbeaks had left the area.
There is encouraging news for summer feeder watchers about the parasite called frounce, also known as trichomonas. It appeared in Newfoundland during the two previous summers. This unpleasant parasite that affects mainly finches at bird feeders has started off very slow in Nova Scotia with far fewer cases than last year at this time.
If you have a bird feeder going remain vigilant for sightings of sick finches. Fingers are crossed it will not reach Newfoundland this year.
Black-legged kittiwakes dip for caplin coming into the beach to spawn.