Archive for June, 2010

Tree Swallow 6/30/10

This season’s Tree Swallows are fledging now and yesterday I came across a whole snag full of juveniles resting at Seapoint, while others were testing their wings and learning to hawk for insects. Their parents were also in the air, occasionally hovering above the young resting in this dead apple tree to deliver a tasty morsel. A few of the young showed hints of the adults ‘iridescent blue-green plumage indicating young males, but the bulk of them were as brown as the bird above. Here’s another shot:

Back in April I posted this shot of a courting pair checking out a salt marsh nest box.

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House Wren 6/29/10

House Wrens are common backyard birds found all over North, Central, and South America making them one of the most wide-ranging of all songbirds. Here in New England they migrate to the Southern US and Mexico for the winter, but from the Yucatan south to Tierra del Fuego they are year round residents. Both males and females give voice to bubbly and effervescent songs (as well as a variety of chatters, scolds, and other calls), often fluttering their wings in mid-song like this bird. He or she (sexes look alike) has a nest in the eaves of a house nearby but they also use other sites like tree cavities, nest boxes, even a pair of old boots in your garage! They are aggressive competitors for nest sites, occasionally even evicting other species from established nests or puncturing the eggs of other birds in their territory. Fetched in Hampton Falls, NH.

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Common Yellowthroat 6/28/10

These curious little black-masked warblers are one of the easiest warblers to identify by sound with their distinctive and loud “witchety witchety witchety witch” songs. Males have olive backs, wings, and tails with a yellow throat and a black mask edged in white along the top. Females and immatures typically don’t have masks but some will show less distinct ones, and are otherwise similar though their underparts are yellower than the males. You’ll typically find them near water where they glean insects and nest close to the ground in dense vegetation. There are 8 other yellowthroats besides the common one, all found locally in Mexico and Central and South America. All of the male yellowthroats have similar zorro-like masks and yellow throats, but with subtle differences in the facial patterns between species.

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Merlin 6/25/10

With abundant little songbirds busy nesting and foraging along the Cape Breton coastal slopes, it’s no surprise to find a pair of Merlins also in residence. This is the female of our neighborhood pair, perched in a late budding ash tree and about to launch after some little finchy birds cruising my neighbor’s feeding station. Her bluer-colored mate is close by, and I never tire of watching their courtship flights and witnessing their never-ending squabbles with next door American Crow and nearby Common Raven families.

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Purple Finch 6/24/10

“A sparrow dipped in raspberry juice,” is how Roger Tory Peterson famously described the Purple Finch.  Chunky, colorful, and full of song that typically warbles but can also mimic other songbirds, Purple Finch populations are declining in eastern North America, where they’re being displaced by the House Finch which was introduced to New York in the late 1940s. In northern Nova Scotia, Purple Finches breed in the highland forests and typically forage for seeds, insects and berries high up in the canopy, but this one is has its eye on the sunflower seeds my neighbor Hollis puts out in her bird feeders.

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Swainson’s Thrush 6/23/10

Swainson’s Thrushes are the most common of all the thrushy birds on the highland slopes of Cape Breton. You can tell them apart from other spotted thrushes by the distinct eye-ring and the golden or buffy colors around the lower part of their faces, and also by their lovely fluted songs which are unique among the spotted thrushes in that the trills spiral upward. I fetched this one preening and drying off after a bath in the brook. Swainson’s breed in coniferous and mixed forests across Canada from the Maritimes to Alaska, and southwards are found in parts of the Rockies and down the Pacific coast.

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Blackburnian Warbler 6/22/10

These little fire-throated warblers are everywhere on the highland slopes of Cape Breton, and they breed from the Canadian Maritimes west to Manitoba and south through New England and down the Appalachian Mountains to Tennessee. Most often I see Blackburnians gleaning spiders and insects in spruce treetops, and occasionally lower down where the male’s fiery colors can’t help but make your eyes bug out. Females are grayer where the males are dark, and they lack the flaming orange in the throat, but their markings are otherwise similar. Spotting a spring male is always a treat and I listen for their thin windup warble whenever I’m out for a hike.

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