Archive for Vagrant or Rare

Sandhill Crane 2/7/18

There are 15 crane species worldwide but only 2 in North America—the Whooping Crane and the Sandhill Crane. Something very interesting is going on with the latter. Since 1967 they began showing up in eastern states where they’d never been seen before. A vagrant just showing up somewhere new is hardly unusual, but then these birds would stay for the season, migrate south for the winter, and then surprisingly come back the next season, sometimes with a mate to start breeding. These aren’t vagrants so much as they are pioneers. Pretty soon you get small migrating flocks like we have in Maine now, which started with one bird back in 2001. This bird’s name is Kevin, he arrived in Rollinsford NH earlier in 2017, but for some reason has not migrated south for the winter like northern cranes usually do, instead he’s sticking it out through the winter. Thankfully, Kevin has people looking out for him.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 12/11/17

Every winter has its vagrants, birds who show up that just don’t belong here. This little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has been around for at least a week or so but really ought to be somewhere in the Caribbean or around the Gulf of Mexico right now. Was it blown off course by a storm? Was it migrating south and something stopped it? No one really knows why it happens. The best explanation I’ve heard is that migrating birds have two separate instincts, one tells them how far to travel, and the other tells them which direction. And just on account of variation or some mutation, one or both of those signals get crossed. The most peculiar thing about this example is that a Spotted Towhee (a bird of the Western US) spent a good chunk of the 2013-14 winter in these very same bushes in Rye, NH.

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Baird’s Sandpiper juvenile 8/31/16

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My immediate impression of this sandpiper was that it was a Baird’s, really no other peep has the same golden tones, noticeably warmer than the more common Semipalmated Sandpiper. To confirm, check out how the wingtips extend well beyond the tail, the only other long-winged peep is the similarly sized White-rumped Sandpiper, but that’s a much grayer bird than this. Baird’s Sandpipers migrate to the west coast of South America down the Central Flyway, west of the Mississippi, but every year a few strays wind up coming south down the Atlantic coast, and this is one of them. 

 

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Mountain Bluebird female 4/12/16

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This little thrush lady is at least 2000 miles off course, having shown up at the end of the runway at Pease in Portsmouth. It’s a female Mountain Bluebird hanging out with 2 male Eastern Bluebirds near the entrance to the golf course. The 3 of them work the fences for insects. She isn’t as sky blue as the male, but you can tell her apart from Eastern Bluebird females by the lack of a white and reddish breast. Discovered by Jason Lambert.

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Snowy Owl 12/18/15

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Snowy Owls began showing up on the New England Coast a couple weeks ago, and this winter looks to be the 3rd in a row with record numbers of young birds invading from the Arctic. The bird above has taken up residence at Ragged Neck (Rye Harbor SP), but is smaller and paler than the owl that was resident the previous 2 winters. To find this bird, simply look for the knot of photographers and owl enthusiasts and see what they’re all aimed at.

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Piping Plover male 6/15/15

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I found this endangered shorebird on Seapoint Beach the other evening which was a little peculiar since the nearest beaches they breed on are Ogunquit to the north and Hampton to the south. I wasn’t aware they roamed much while they had chicks to attend to, so I imagine this one has lost its mate and is heading south early. It’s an adult male which can be told by the strength of its dark collar.

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Snowy Owl 3/10/15

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Ragged Neck, Rye, with Appledore in the background.

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