Archive for October, 2010

Cattle Egret 10/29/10

After the breeding season, herons disperse far and wide, often winding up in places you don’t expect them. These 2 (of 3) Cattle Egrets showed up at Runnymede Farm in North Hampton, NH the other day. They don’t breed in New England but do show up here from time to time. They are a bit larger and stockier than our more slender Snowy Egrets but have a yellow bill and black feet, but still much smaller than the Great Egret. If you see one in breeding plumage their white feathers are blushed with a rusty orange. Cattle Egrets are the only heron you’ll regularly find away from wetlands. They follow livestock for the insects that are stirred up, and being opportunists will also follow farm equipment and even fires for much the same reason.

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Merlin 10/28/10

Merlins are uncommon falcons widely distributed all over the Northern hemisphere and wintering in the subtropics. This one, either a female or immature judging from its brown plumage, spooked just as I got out of the car with my camera on Rt 1A in Rye yesterday. Merlins are predators of small and medium sized songbirds, usually catching them on the wing.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

I fetched this drab green little warbler last weekend with about 50 Butter butts which were flycatching from the shrubs at the edge of Seapoint beach. This bird kept close to the base of the shrubs and would hop out to the cobbles to pick flies off the rocks and wrack. Orange-crowns are among the drabbest of the confusing fall warblers. The key field marks are yellow undertail coverts which you can’t see in this pic but I have in others,  a grey head and greenish back and wings, a faint dark stripe through the eye, no wingbars, and a distinct white eye-ring.

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American Coot 10/26/10

American Coots are members of the Rail family, omnivorous wetland birds also known as Marsh or Mud Hens. They breed all across North American and winter in the southern states down through Central America. I found these 2 stopping over at Eel Pond in Rye the other day and went back this morning to see if I could get a better shot. But no such luck, while I found that 5 more had joined them, they were all off in the distance at the far side of the pond.

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Pied-billed Grebe 10/25/10

I had to shoot into the light to catch this little grebe at Eel Pond the other day. Pied-billed Grebes are year-round residents found in sheltered ponds over much of South and North America, but in northern New England they are summer residents only, and this one is migrating south. They are rather small and drab with a dark ring around their bills which fades as the birds takes on an even drabber winter coat. They are shy and secretive water birds of small ponds that will dive or sink to escape a threat rather than fly. In fact they are rarely seen in flight at all, even preferring to migrate at night.

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White-winged Scoters 10/22/10

Scoters are medium-sized seaducks that cruise offshore while diving for shellfish. Along the New England coast we regularly see 3 of the world’s 5 species in the winter. The White-winged species is the biggest of them and they favor diving over sandy bottoms. These 3 birds I fetched off of Rye Beach—my first scoters of the season—were part of a larger group of about a dozen that were quite aways offshore. The drakes are a coal black with white inverted commas around the eyes, a white speculum (wing patch) which is more conspicuous in flight, and a bulbous black bill that’s orange at the tip. Females are browner with two white facial markings that are variable. The bird on the left of the photo looks more like a juvenile male coming into adult plumage than a female. Here’s a closer look at an adult drake.

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Savannah Sparrow 10/21/10

Savannahs are a small streaky-breasted sparrows often with a central breast spot, and often yellow faced like this one. There’s a tremendous amount of variety with numerous subspecies and much contention among taxonomists. The Ipswich Sparrow which we see migrating along the coast here in both spring and fall is just one of the subspecies. Fetched at Seapoint.

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