Archive for November, 2010

Eastern Bluebird 11/30/10


At this time of year Eastern Bluebirds have flocked up into small groups and begun shifting their diet from insects to fruits and berries. In the hardest months of the winter on the southern Maine coast they’ll often disappear south for a time when food becomes scarce, however, this year’s bumper crops of fruits and berries bodes well for Bluebirds sticking around longer than usual. The pic above is of an adult male, one of a group of 7 seen at Seapoint Beach parking lot. Females are lighter and greyer which you can see in this shot of a pair, and juveniles are darker and drabber with spotted breasts.

Comments

Carolina Wren 11/29/10

Carolina Wrens are found in the eastern US, some as far north as Illinois, southern Ontario and the New England states. Here in Maine they have a precarious hold on their range, since they are susceptible to cold and at the same time don’t migrate, meaning the northern populations regularly crash during severe winters. But they are prolific breeders and after the nesting season juveniles will disperse north of their parents territories. They mostly eat insects but in winter will also take seeds and berries. I fetched this one in the Seapoint parking lot the other day examining an old nest in the bare sumac.

Comments

Lark Sparrow 11/26/10

Along the East Coast in the winter, Lark Sparrows are occasional vagrants or “accidental” birds, having wandered well out of their usual range. A bird of western open lands, it normally winters in places like Southern California, Texas, and Mexico south to Guatemala, but some do wander east. If you haven’t ever seen a Lark Sparrow, take a ride over to Hampton Beach State Park where this one has taken up guard duty in the shrubs right by the gate for the last couple of weeks. They’re larger and longer than most sparrows and have bold chestnut, white, and black facial markings, white undersides with a dark breast spot, and long dark tails cornered with white.

Comments

American Black Duck 11/25/10

American Black Ducks aren’t exactly black, but from any distance they are pretty dark. The sexes are similar with one simple difference—the drakes have yellow bills and the female’s bills are greenish. In size, quack, and habits, they’re quite similar to Mallards and in some light situations the females are difficult to tell apart. On the right in this photo is a female Mallard, she’s lighter colored and her blue-violet wing patch is edged in white while the Black Duck’s speculum is edged with black. Actually it gets a bit more complicated as the 2 species interbreed readily on the East Coast so hybrids aren’t all that uncommon.

Comments

Red-bellied Woodpecker 11/24/10

Chyuck-chyuck-chyuck, says this brightly helmeted woodpecker, I almost always hear a Red-bellied before seeing one, usually high up in deciduous trees. They also have another laughing call which doesn’t lend itself well to paraphrasing, maybe something like blel-lel-lel-lel-lit, only quite fast and rolling, and they are loud drummers. Both sexes call, but males more frequently. Red-bellies are paler than our black and white woodpeckers, more Flicker-like in size and shape.  Males like this one have a red cap from the bill to the back of the head, while females the red is on the back of the head only. There’s a faint wash of red between their legs which isn’t often seen, but gives them their name.

Comments

Surf Scoters 11/23/10

Surf Scoters are northern sea ducks that are commonly seen diving off the New England coasts in the winter. The drakes are a velvet black with white patches on the forehead and nape, while females are browner with 2 pale patches on the sides of their heads. Like all scoters, the males have quite peculiar bills. I’ve heard a number of folks call them skunkheads, but that’s a bit confusing as that name was once commonly used for the Labrador Duck, which is now extinct. Above are 3 drakes and 2 females, part of a larger raft from Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine.

Comments

Black-bellied Plovers 11.22.10

Most Black-bellied Plovers on the East Coast winter south of Cape Cod but these birds resting on the salt marshes fringing Hampton Harbor in NH, could hang out well into December. They are North America’s largest plover with a short stout bill, long legs and in nonbreeding plumage a plain brownish-gray topside with speckled breast and light belly. Adult breeding plumage is quite different with all black bellies and breasts from which they get their name. They are particularly wary birds, acting as sentinels for mixed flocks of other shorebirds. Outside of North America they are known as the Grey Plover.

Comments

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »