Labrador wild -
This winter has been very unusual to say the least. Our unseasonably warm temperatures during late December and early January delayed freeze up of many large lakes and rivers and have permitted some bird species hang around and delay migration later than usual.
This has been reflected in the number of migrant species that have persisted into winter.
Gordon Parsons of Labrador City has taken on the task of compiling a winter list of bird species seen in Labrador from Dec. 1 until the end of winter, Marh 31.
The following species have been seen to date: American Black Duck, Mallard, Lesser Scaup, Harlequin Duck, American Crow, Common Raven, Gray Jay, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan, Spruce Grouse, Bald Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Herring Gull, Ivory Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-throated Sparrow, American Robin, Bohemian Waxwing, and European Starling.
If you observed a new species to add to the list please contact me or Gordon at email@example.com.
Although the waterfowl and other migrant species have now departed, there are still a few fairly large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings in the Lake Melville region.
On Jan. 19, I observed 17 Bohemians feeding on the remaining dogberries on a tree near the fire hall at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
The weekend prior, while snowmobiling around Terrington Basin, I saw two large flocks of Waxwings with approximately 50 and 75 birds each. Bohemian Waxwings feed primarily of berries such as dogberries (Mountain Ash) and squash berries (Highbush Cranberry) which remain attached to these shrubs well after their leaves have dropped and a blanked of snow has fallen.
When these stores of berries are exhausted, our Waxwings will migrate further south perhaps to Newfoundland and the Maritimes where the berry crops remain plentiful.
Bohemian Waxwings are a truly beautiful colour combination with a rusty brown back and head with buff pale breast and dark rusty under tail coverts.
Their distinctive erect head crest, black patches above and below the eye as well as a spotted white and yellow wingtip pattern and a yellow tail band, make a striking impression when viewed close-up.
Other more typical winter bird species such as the Willow Ptarmigan are beginning to appear in increasing numbers reaching over a hundred birds in a day count in Labrador West to flocks of 4 to 20 birds as I observed feeding on willows at Terrington Basin and on the Base at 5 Wing, respectively.
It appears that we are in for another exceptionally good production year for Ptarmigan throughout Labrador!
Tony Chubbs is a wildlife biologist, naturalist and outdoor writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org