Suan Hsi Yong   >   Newfoundland - August 2012   >   Dickcissel

Dickcissel at Ferryland

August 27, 2012, 2:02pm NDT

Location: Perhaps 50m N or NE of the lighthouse in Ferryland, Newfoundland.

[The Story] [The Photos]

My Dickcissel Story

Excerpted from an article in the
Cayuga Bird Club Newsletter,
September 2017

In the early summer of 2012, a Dickcissel irruption was well under way, with individuals reported far out of range, "as far away as Newfoundland." One hypothesis was that droughts in the Midwest had forced the birds to seek out new grounds.

On July 1, a singing Dickcissel was found at the Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve, and all throughout that first week of July, reports poured in from people having easily found this prominent singer near the oak tree, later turning into two males and a nest-building female, with a possible third male. By the second week, the boldest male was favoring the top of the oak tree as its singing perch, as report after report came in from birders to the effect of: "went to the oak tree, found the dickcissel singing on top."

It wasn't until Saturday, July 14, when I had an opportunity to drive to the north end of the lake. My morning was spent volunteering with the MARSH group pulling out water chestnuts from Carncross Road, an activity I would highly recommend. After lunch I made my way to Seneca Meadows, proceeded to the oak tree, and neither saw nor heard the Dickcissel. I walked the very long loop trail around the meadows, finding Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows aplenty, Indigo Buntings and Swamp Sparrows, even a fox and a skunk, but no Dickcissel. I circled back to check on the oak tree again, still no Dickcissel. A Song Sparrow feeding a cowbird was my birding highlight that day.

Checking the Cayuga birding email list, the bird was reported thrice that morning at Seneca Meadows, but zero times since, including only negative reports the following weekend. It seemed like I had missed the Dickcissel by a matter of hours!

Oh, well. I guess Dickcissel will have to wait for a trip to the Midwest to make my life list.

Fast forward to late August, when a buddy and I took a trip to Newfoundland. I steered our trip towards birding sites like Gannet and Puffin colonies while my friend steered us towards trad band performances and cod tongues for dinner. It was a very fun trip in a very remarkable place.

On our final day, we visited Ferryland on the southeast coast, not too far from "the easternmost point of North America." Under the loom of the picturesque lighthouse, an unfamiliar sparrow-like bird flew out of some low bushes and sat in the beautiful afternoon light against the deep blue Atlantic backdrop as I snapped a number of photographs.

I figured it might be some sort of lark or longspur, but when I flipped through the birds in my Sibley app I found no matches. Strange. It wasn't until I was on the plane back to New York that I thought to check Dickcissel, and sure enough, that's what it was. I had my Sibley app set to filter Newfoundland birds, so it had excluded Dickcissel from the list!

Thus, ultimately, my lifer Dickcissel and I had to travel to the ends of the earth to meet each other!


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Suan Hsi Yong   >   Newfoundland - August 2012   >   Dickcissel