Archive for August, 2010

Double-crested Cormorant 8/31/10

Double-crested Cormorants are the only North American cormorant that lives and breeds inland as well as along the coasts. In this pic are two adults and a juvenile, the youngsters are the ones with the pale breasts and throats, which sometimes appear white. Often called “shags,” they dive for fish in both fresh and salt water. They are heavy in flight, needing a log runway to get airborne and often forming loose Vs when you see a flock passing overhead. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been seeing large groups congregating offshore anywhere the fishing is good. At this time of year the double-crests on the adults are less apparent. Fetched at Seapoint.

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Semipalmated Sandpiper 8/27/10

Semipalmated Sandpipers are the most numerous of the shorebirds currently coming through Seapoint on their way south. Adults arrive first, starting in late July with the biggest concentrations in mid- to late August, when large numbers of juveniles also start arriving. Right now both age classes are overlapping and in the photo above, you can see one of each. The adult is in the foreground, it’s a small-sized peep (about 6.5 inches) with an all dark and straight sandpiper bill and all dark legs, a streaked breast and a bit of speckling down the flanks of the wings. The juvenile in the background is softer and more golden, with more brown on the back and its breast streaks are more of a blush than distinct streaks. There’s little or no speckling down the flanks, and the back and wing scapulars are strongly patterned with white edging on some of the feathers, which is typical of many juvenile sandpipers. If you’re just learning shorebirds, knowing the common plumages of this bird can be a great help, since once you’re familiar with them, anything different tends to stands out in the crowd.

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Peregrine Falcon 8/26/10

This morning at Seapoint I was scanning a medium-sized flock of shorebirds for unusual suspects while they preened on the rocks waiting for the tide to turn. Out of the blue a bullet came through, and every bird took off over the water. It was a Peregrine Falcon on the hunt, and I got a pile of uselessly blurry photos of an unsuccessful chase. Then it broke away, climbing back into the sun, and just as the shorebirds circled back and looked ready to resettle, the Peregrine stooped out of nowhere, missing a second time. This time the flock broke up into several groups, each heading off in different directions, and the Peregrine cruised low overhead then rounded the point, heading west over the marshes and Chauncey Creek to try its luck elsewhere.

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Black-bellied Plover 8/25/10

I haven’t seen many Black-bellied Plovers this year, at least not yet. This one I found on the mudflats at dusk in Hampton Harbor is already well into its fall molt, and most of the distinctive black belly, breast, and throat has already been replaced with it’s drabber winter plumage. Soon there won’t be any black at all, except for the axillary feathers under the wing, a field mark only seen in flight that along with its robust plover bill, distinguishes Black-bellies from other Pluvialis plovers. This bird has a nearly worldwide distribution, breeding all around the Arctic Circle during the summer, and wintering on coastal areas on all continents except Antarctica. Outside of North America, it’s called the Grey Plover.

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Least Tern chicks 8/24/10

A few weeks ago I posted pics of this Least Tern nest with 2 eggs in the sands of Plum Island. Since then 2 chicks have recently hatched, perhaps just within the last couple of days. One is to the right of the parent, and you can just make out the other’s fuzzy head snuggling under the parent’s breast. These chicks won’t be able to fly until they’re about 4 weeks old but they’ll wander from the scrape of a nest into the dune vegetation after just a few days. I hope to follow up with more pics of these fuzzballs in another week or two. The sources I’ve read say that most Least Terns begin their migration south from New England at the end of August, so these are quite possibly the pair’s second brood of the season, and if successful, won’t be leaving until the second half of September.

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Northern Cardinal 8/23/10

Here’s a Northern Cardinal just fledged yesterday, and seems to have left the nest early as it barely had enough lift to get airborne. It’s tail is almost nonexistent with pin feathers only an inch or so long leaving it mostly rudderless in flight. But it was managing to fly from tree to tree on its own, begging for someone to come feed it, so I made no effort to rescue it. Even for such a youngster, it already has a Northern Cardinal’s perky crest. Juveniles have similar coloring to an adult female, but are more drab with little of the subtle reds and yellows, no face mask around the bill and without her bright coral beak. Juveniles take on adult plumage after their first molt later in the fall. Fetched in Kittery Point, ME.

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Tufted Titmouse fledgeling 8/20/10

At this time of year my backyard’s no longer full of spring birdsong, but the peepy-cheepy begging of fledgelings. This Tufted Titmouse still has that wide-beaked juvenile appearance and doesn’t yet have the rich black and detailed facial markings of an adult bird. Titmice are nonmigratory and generally live out their entire lives within a few miles of where they were born.

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