The Telegram (St. John's)
June birding bliss
Crunching gravel beneath our feet as lightly as possible so as not to interfere with the sounds of singing birds, three birders walk together but in silent solitude down Red Rocks Road.
The sweet songs of yellow warblers and American redstarts are the dominant sounds of the inner circle. They dart back and forth across the road in pursuit of their daily nesting duties.
There is a background wall of robin and white-throated sparrow song. The zee-zeezoo-zee song of a blackthroated green punctuates the inner circle of sound.
The birders each subconsciously acknowledge the rich throaty song of a Swainson’s thrush as it climbs the scale with indescribable beauty.
High on the slope across the gurgling brook comes the cascading tingles and trills of a winter wren. Then the thump-thump-thump of a drumming ruffed grouse a few metres off the side of the road unseen in the dense greenery.
Close by there are the calls of a pair of familiar black-capped chickadees. Somewhere on the hill side the echoing rattle of a hairy woodpecker sounds.
The first rays of sun spilling over the top of the Long Range Mountains to our east arouses a few black flies.
The young lime green alder leaves glow in the warming sunlight. Bright yellow marsh marigolds thriving in the loamy soil brighten up the shadows under the alders.
The repeated phrases of a vireo, up ahead, gives us a target. The first words are spoken as we all agree it sounds most like the red-eyed vireo. It does in fact turn out to be a red-eyed vireo and not one of the other two similar sounding vireo species possible here.
The rich cheery cheery choory of the mourning warbler singing close to the road gives us reason to stop for a look. This shy bird of the dense green undergrowth may expose itself in the time of song. We get a decent view of this beautiful warbler singing in the midst of pin cherry blossoms.
We are a little disappointed that yesterday’s burry warble of the scarlet tanager is not to be heard this morning. That rarity has moved on.
We settled for a good look at an olive-sided flycatcher. If it had been singing a little grin would have formed on our faces as the mnemonic for its song is quick three beers.
Also of considerable pleasure was the sight of a male bay-breasted warbler. The high-pitched song slipping out of the fir tree tops alerted the ever-sharp-eared birders to its presence.
Red Rocks Road is in the southwest corner of the island of Newfoundland. It is nothing but a dirt track between two mountains leading west off the Trans-canada highway just south of the infamous Wreckhouse.
It is just one of a half dozen favourite areas included in the Codroy Valley birding area. Each spring there is a pilgrimage of birders to the Codroy Valley.
It is different from the rest of the province. The forest is more varied. Rich soils support yellow birches, white birches, balsam fir, pin cherry and mountain maples. The forest is loaded with birds. A number of species, including the ruby-throated hummingbird and great blue heron, are easier to find here than in any other part of the province.
The birding is excellent. The scenery is fabulous. The atmosphere is perfect.
Being in the midst of a no travel era, birders from around the province were all anxious for a change.
The Codroy Valley was the best spring option for an escape within the province. There are a number of comfortable cabin choices in the Codroy Valley in which to stay. With so many pairs of eyes birding in the hot spots a good many interesting birds get discovered.
Most unusual this time was a sandwich tern that joined in with the common tern colony located at the mouth of the Grand Codroy River. This tern should be no farther north than the state of Virginia during the breeding season. It is a little bigger than our common tern with a black bill with a yellow tip and a black shaggy crest.
Lonely for love the poor bird was displaying in front of the common terns. It even offered free fish for a date but the common tern is not programmed to receive the vibes given off by the sandwich tern.
Hopefully the lonely hearted southerner will make its way back south where the rest of its kin are located.
Chestnut-sided warbler, scarlet tanager, Nashville warbler, Cape May warbler, bobolink, veery, several gray catbirds and two common nighthawks were among the many other birding highlights during the week-long holiday.
Meeting with other birders and sharing experiences made this one special staycation.