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European Vagrants in Newfoundland

Eurasian Oystercatcher (C) Michael Retter

Eurasian Oystercatcher (C) Michael Retter

The 2016 issue of Birder’s Guide to Travel features an article by Jared Clarke on birding in Newfoundland. (Just click here to read it online.) While it concentrates on more regular species you might want to see there, Newfoundland is also famous in the ABA Area as the best place to find European vagrants. Below is some additional information Jared provided to us about this phenomenon.


Northern Lapwing (C) Michael Retter

Northern Lapwing (C) Michael Retter

Many birders travel to Newfoundland for European rarities, mainly in spring and winter. April and May bring with them a strong potential for vagrants from Europe and Iceland–the kind of birds that make headlines across North America. European Golden-Plovers are virtually annual on the east and northeast coast of Newfoundland, sometimes in numbers. These stocky aittle shorebirds breed abundantly in Iceland, often getting caught up in trans-Atlantic winds and making a pit stop along the island’s coast. Less regular but occasional is Black-tailed Godwit, which has been recorded at more than a dozen locations across the province. Far less regular, but always possible, are very rare shorebirds like Eurasian Oystercatcher and Common Redshank, both of which have been recorded more than once on “the rock” but nowhere else in North America. European waterfowl such as Pink-footed Goose and

Fieldfare (C) Michael Retter

Fieldfare (C) Michael Retter

Garganey have also been discovered here multiple times in spring, and other species are always possible. Northern Wheatear, which breeds as close as Greenland and the north coast of Labrador, occurs annually during both spring and fall migration, and there is even a single nesting record for the island.

Late fall and winter can also be an excellent time to look for European wanderers in Newfoundland. As detailed above, some European waterfowl and gulls now winter regularly in the province while other species pop in occasionally to give birders a thrill. Northern Lapwing occurs most often in November and December, and has been recorded many times throughout the coastal region. Recent winters have produced several records of Common Snipe, a species that may occur more often than previously realized since identification can be very challenging. Exciting, though harder to predict, have been the European

Will you be the person to discover the ABA Area's first record of Mediterranean Gull? Spending time in Newfoundland will greatly increase your chances! Photo (C) Michael Retter

Will you be the person to discover the ABA Area’s first record of Mediterranean Gull? Spending time in Newfoundland will greatly increase your chances! Photo (C) Michael Retter

passerines recorded in Newfoundland. Redwing has been recorded in winter more than a dozen times, and Fieldfare on at least eight occasions. Several records of Chaffinch appear to have been natural, wild vagrants. All in all, the potential to see Old and New World birds mingling together makes any visit to Newfoundland an exciting venture.

–Jared Clarke

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Michael Retter
Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours in Middle America (Mexico through Panama). He currently lives with his fiancé, Matt, in Fort Worth, Texas. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics. Michael also runs GBNA, the continent's informal club and email list for LGBT birders.
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