Archive for May, 2010

Common Raven 5/29/10

These 2 Common Raven nestmates are only a week or so from fledging their nest on the cliffs of Cape Breton after which they’ll stay with their parents for up to another 6 months. They differ from their crow cousins with a larger size, a more robust and bushier beak, and a long wedge-shaped tail. This nest is typical for them in the Canadian Maritimes, high up on a cliff ledge with an overhang to keep them safe from land predators and extremes of weather. Common Ravens are the most widely distributed of all the Corvids, found all across the Northern Hemisphere in open and forested areas from the Arctic tundra to the North African deserts. They are among the smartest and most playful of all birds.

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Eastern Kingbird 5/28/10

Eastern Kingbirds are flycatchers, somewhat misnamed since they are widespread and common in open areas all across the US and Southern Canada except for the desert southwest and Pacific coast, and not just the east. They are dark grey above with white underparts and a white band on the tip of the tail, and they also have a rarely seen reddish-orange crown stripe. They catch insects by hawking from a perch like this one, but will also hover to pick up insects from the ground or vegetation. They belong to the Tyrannidae, the largest family of passerine birds with over 400 species, all of which are found in the Americas. Eastern Kingbirds don’t actually sing but give a sharp and almost mechanical buzzy ching. Sexes alike, Fetched at Fort Foster, Kittery Point, Maine.

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Blackpoll Warbler 5/27/10


Blackpoll Warblers are sometimes confused with Black and White Warblers, but the Blackpoll has a solid black cap instead of a striped head, with white cheeks, white throat, and black streaks flanking the belly. Female Blackpoll Warblers are grayer versions of the breeding male and lack the black cap. A few of them are known to breed in New England but most are just passing through to the northern boreal forests of northern North America. Their song is a series of thin, high pitched tsi notes that fade in and fade out.

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White-crowned Sparrow 5/26/10

White-crowned Sparrows winter across much of the US and breed across northern Canada, Alaska, the Pacific coast and parts of the mountain west, but only pass through New England during their migrations. They are one of the easiest of the sparrows to identify with their bold black and white striped heads. Only White-throated Sparrows are similar but they have a sharply defined white throat and bushy yellow lores. White-crowned Sparrows will sometimes raise their head feathers into a loose crest, but the flat topped do in the photo above is more typical. The male’s song starts in a thin whistle and ends on buzzier notes. Sexes are alike.

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American Redstart 5/25/10

American Redstarts are bright and cheerful little warblers breeding across southern Canada and the eastern US. Adult males are a rich black above with striking red-orange patches in their wings, tails, and on their shoulders, while females and 1st year males are greener and greyer topside with yellow patches. The name redstart comes from the old english word “start” meaning tail, and redstarts fan and flash their bold tail and wing patches to actively scare up insects which they’ll also forage on flycatcher-style. They like thick, wet and woody second growth areas. I fetched this one along the bike path at Odiorne Point in Rye, NH.

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Least Sandpipers 5/24/10

Still no huge flocks of shorebirds here but they have begun trickling in. This small group of Least Sandpipers in the marshes behind have been hanging out for the last few days in the salt marshes behind Seapoint, resting and refueling for the last leg of their migration to the arctic tundra. Leasts are the smallest of all the sandpipers, only about 6 inches long, with relatively short and slightly downturned bills, streaked breasts and yellowish-green legs.

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Greater Yellowlegs 5/20/10

Both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs are sandpipers in the same genus as the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa), though they are larger and among the largest of the sandpipers. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are difficult to tell apart since size differences are tricky unless you have them both together to compare. This group of a dozen I fetched in Chauncey Creek the other day are all Greater Yellowlegs, which can be identified by the length of the bill (Greaters are proportionately longer), the fact that the bills are ever so slightly upturned (Lessers are shorter and always straight), and the amount of barring in the white flanks (Greaters have more). Another good way to tell Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs apart is from their plantive teew teew teew calls typically given in a series, 1 or 2 calls repeated will very likely be the Lesser and 4 or occasionally 5 calls repeated are very likely the Greater. But 3 calls repeated and once again you’re wondering still.

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