Archive for January, 2011

Common Loon 1/31/11

Common Loons are the aircraft carriers of our tidal and offshore waterbirds, cruising around with their long gray decks and bigger than anything else you’ll find sitting in the water. I fetched this one from the footbridge over the tickle leading into Perkins Cove in Ogunquit Maine. Here’s the same bird slipping underwater to forage the bottom for a crustaceous snack.


Brant, 1/27/11

Brant, also called Brant Goose across the pond, are a smallish dark goose of circumpolar regions, that winter in more temperate climes. They have the shortest tails of all geese as well as a specialized gland that allows them to drink salt water. They traditionally feed on eel grass and other tidal vegetation but in recent years have been observed coming on land to forage for agricultural cereals, a behavior they’ve perhaps learned from other geese. These were from a group of 11 fetched near New Castle Commons.


Tufted Titmouse 1/26/11

Tufted Titmice are cute and curious but also cautious, coming to winter feeding stations to grab a seed and then retreating to a perch where they’ll whack it open with their stout bills. Shaped a bit like a small cardinal with a perky crest, they are silky silver above and white-bellied below, with rusty flanks and a black forehead in adult plumage. They are common year-round residents of deciduous woods, parks, scrublands and suburban areas east of the Mississippi from the gulf coast of Mexico, north to New England and west to the Great Lakes region. Fetched from ┬ámy garden window in Kittery Point during one of our recent blizzards.


Common Goldeneye 1/25/11

Goldeneyes are related to Buffleheads but are considerably larger, and prefer deeper water for diving. They’re also shyer and harder to get close to. The one above is a male and you can see the dark green (sometimes purple) sheen on the head, the bright eye, and the white oval disk between the eye and bill. Females are darker in front and have a chocolate-colored head. In the closely-related (but much rarer) Barrow’s Goldeneye, the white oval on a male’s face will be a crescent shape when seen side-on. We see Common Goldeneyes in tidal waters as well as offshore but only in the winter months. This one was fetched in the receding surf off the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, ME.


Mourning Dove 1/24/11

Mourning Doves are resident across most of the lower 48, parts of southern Canada in the summer, and extending down through Central America in the winter. The differences between the sexes are subtle, but the vivid iridescent pink splashes on the sides of the neck indicate a male. Juveniles are drab without the pinkish breast coloring of adults. They forage mostly on the ground for seeds where their neutral coloring camouflages them, and upon being disturbed will burst into the air with whistling wings and a rapid straight flight. The species name macroura means long tail.

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Iceland Gull (Kumlien’s) 1/20/11

With birds more scarce during the winter, I tend to give what ones are about a little more scrutiny, and that’s especially true of the gulls. Scanning a group of gulls quickly you can notice any that lack the black wingtips common to our regular species, like this one I found among a handful of Herring Gulls near Odiorne Point in Rye, NH. This gull is almost all-white except for a pale brown blush to it all over, which makes it a first or second winter Iceland Gull. An older bird (most gulls take 3-4 years to mature) would be developing a pale grayish mantle (much paler than the Herrings), and a Glaucous Gull would be noticeably larger than the Herring Gulls around it. Iceland Gulls are misnamed since they are from Greenland and northeastern Canada. Some taxonomists consider the Kumlien’s Gull, which is the Canadian variety of the Iceland Gull, to be its own species.


Bufflehead 1/19/11

One of the smallest and sweetest of seaducks, Buffleheads are closely related to the Goldeneyes with whom they occasionally interbreed, and more often compete with for nest cavities. They get their name from the male’s big puffy heads reminiscent of buffaloes, at least that’s how the story goes. Buffleheads summer and breed in the ponds and small lakes across Canada and migrate to the states for the winter where they are common along both coasts and ice-free lakes and rivers, but they tend to keep to the shallows preferring depths of just a few meters where they can find molluscs and crustaceans. The drake is on the left, female right. Fetched in York Harbor.


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