Archive for February, 2011

Canada Goose 2/28/11

Canada Geese, aka Honkers, are the most common New England geese and are both resident and migrants here, meaning they not only breed locally in the summertime but we also get overwintering migrants from farther north. These 5 are from a group I found resting on the ice at Eel pond in Rye, NH. There are numerable subspecies and the taxonomy is complicated, but all are native to North America.


Bald Eagle 2/25/11

I remember seeing my first Bald Eagle in New England in the late 70s when a pair was discovered to be nesting on Great Bay. What excitement that was after the brink of extinction along the east coast. As a kid growing up here you just didn’t see them, but now I often do, usually high overhead and from a great distance, those long straight and fingered wings. This adult hangs out in a snag by the Depot in Hampton Falls, about a quarter mile from the end of the road and yesterday I decided to see how close I could get walking towards it out in the open over the salt marshes, stopping every 50 feet or so for another snap with my cheesy telephoto.

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Long-tailed Duck 2/24/11

I found these 3 Long-tailed Duck drakes in the gut between the Nubble and Cape Neddick Light, which is a fairly reliable place to find them if you’re out car-birding for seaducks during the winter months. A couple weeks ago I posted this female which I had fetched closer to home. Both sexes are almost comically hotlipped with pink-ringed bills, but only the drakes have the long pointy tails. Oldsquaw, as they used to be known, are quite garrulous, making quite the racket with their ow-ow-owal-ow calls. They are deep divers for fish, crustaceans and molluscs, known for spending more time underwater than above.


White-breasted Nuthatch 2/23/11

A common field mark among nuthatches the world over is a dark stripe through the eye, but in the White-breasted Nuthatch it is quite faint or not evident at all. These are monogamous and short-lived birds found in woodlands across North America. They don’t migrate but after the breeding season the youngsters disperse to find their own territories, sometimes widely. They are omniverous birds, eating insects and seeds, frequenting suet feeders in winter, and get their name from their habit of jamming large nuts like acorns and hickories into crevices and hammering away at them with their strong bills.


Mute Swans 2/22/11

New England has no native swans, though occasionally a handful of Tundra Swans are sighted during the fall migration. Mute Swans however, have been introduced and have become naturalized, in recent decades becoming fairly common—wintering in the tidal waters of our many creeks and bays. Adults have orange bills with black nobs and snow white plumage, while juveniles have varying amount of dirty gray and white with either gray, tan, or pink bills. These two were fetched from a creek off the Piscataqua River that leads toward the North Mill Pond in Portsmouth, NH.


American Tree Sparrow 2/21/11

American Tree Sparrows are sometimes called Winter Sparrows since they arrive from the Arctic in the northern states late in the fall. It’s a much better name than American Tree Sparrow since these birds have almost nothing to do with trees, nesting and foraging on the ground and breeding in the treeless tundra. I think of them as larger versions of the Chipping Sparrow since they look much alike with rusty caps and arrive about the same time Chipping Sparrows migrate farther south for the winter. But the key field mark of the American Tree Sparrow for me is its 2-toned bill—grey above and yellow below. This was one of three that visited my snow-covered garden last week.


Rock Pigeon 2/18/11

The archetypal habitat of the Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove, as its name suggests, are rocky cliffs with ledges, crevices, and caves, usually along coasts, providing suitable shelter to raise their squabs. Originally from southern and western Asia, they have spread or been introduced all around the tropical and temperate world, and have especially taken to urban, residential and agricultural areas where skyscrapers, bridges, silos, or abandoned buildings like this tower at Fort Foster overlooking Portsmouth Harbor. They are the source of the huge variety domestic pigeons, including the homing pigeon, many of which have escaped and become feral.


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