Eastern Wood Pewee 10/20/18

Eastern Wood Pewees are a dull olive color and sport a dusky vest when seen front on. They can be told from other small flycatchers by the lack of eye-ring, two-toned bill (yellow below gray), off-white throat, 2 pale wingbars, and extended remiges or flight feathers giving them longer and pointier wings than other small flycatchers. The Western counterpart looks identical but makes a much different sound than the pee-a-wee of the Eastern birds, not long ago they were considered one. Similar to Eastern Phoebes but lacking the dark head, solid bill, and constantly flicking tail. Sexes alike.

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3 Sanderling juves 10/8/18

Juvenile Sanderlings are the most black and white of the little sandpipers you see along the coast during late migration. They are coming from the Arctic, and it’s impossible to know if this bunch will continue on to South America or spend the winter right here on the beaches of Maine. Sanderlings are the next size up from the “peeps” or the 5 smallest shorebird species, and are similarly sized with Dunlin and Purple Sandpipers—our 2 other winter shorebirds. In another month or so these birds will molt from juvenile into their first winter plumage. Gone will be the spangled wings and streaky heads, replaced with a soft pale gray.

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Semipalmated Sandpiper adult 9/21/18

Semipalmated Sandpiper adult 9/21/18

Semipalmated Sandpipers are the most abundant of migrating shorebirds along the New England coast. In the US, the Semipalmated, Least, Bairds, White-rumped, and Western Sandpipers are all collectively known as “peeps,” representing the smaller members of the Calidris sandpiper genus. Adult Semipals are few now, most having moved through earlier than the softer and more golden-toned juveniles.  There will be stragglers, both adult and juvenile, right into December. Sexes are similar.

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Cedar Waxwing adult 9/17/18

Cedar Waxwings are rather inconspicuous birds and I generally hear their high pitched buzzy trills in the treetops before spotting them. When seen up close they change from drab brown birds to a silky confection of browns, grays and yellow, with black, white, and red highlights. Very handsome! Cedar Waxwings subsist almost entirely on fruit. The color band at the tip of the tail varies from lemon yellow to bright orange depending on their diet during the previous molt. With the breeding season over, some will migrate south, others will join flocks to wander throughout the winter searching for fruits and berries.

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Great Blue Heron juvenile 9/16/18

Juvenile Great Blue Herons are easy to spot with their dark gray caps and two-toned bills, unlike adults with black and white heads and an all yellowish bill. They belong to the genus Ardea, the great herons, of which there are about a dozen species found inhabiting temperate and tropical wetlands around the globe. Great Blues are perhaps the most stealthy of all the herons, wading very slowly or holding perfectly still before making a lightning strike at fish and other prey. This youngster isn’t yawning, it’s trying to stay cool in the 90º heat by holding its mouth open wide and vibrating its neck muscles in a form of panting called gular fluttering.

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Spotted Sandpiper adult 9/12/18

These constantly bobbing and teetering sandpipers are one of the few breeding shorebird species in New England. There are 3 plumages, breeding adult, winter adult, and juvenile. Only the breeding adult sports the spots, and in just a few weeks  this bird will have none. Unlike most shorebirds, female Spotteds are polyandrous, laying several clutches with different males, and it’s the male that incubates and raises the young. When seen flying short distances they have a distinctive stiff-winged flight pattern, low over the water. They may wander through flocks of other shorebirds, but don’t really join them, and fly separately if the flock is spooked.

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Northern Gannet 9/11/18

One of my all time favorites, I never tire of watching flocks of these seabirds circle and climb in the air to plunge dive for mackerel and other schooling fish. Once they pop back up to the surface like a giant cork, they rest-up for a few moments before flapping along the surface to get airborne and climb 50 to 100 feet for their next dive. Check out that blue eye! North American gannets spend most of their life in the air or on the water, only ever coming ashore to breed in one of only 6 colonies—3 of them in the Gulf of St Lawrence and another 3 off of Newfoundland.  Sexes are alike.

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