Archive for April, 2011

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4/29/11

Blue-gray gnatcatchers are much like our American wood warblers, arriving about the same time in the spring and being of similar size, with similar flycatching habits, and found in much the same habitats. But while they look and act much like warblers, taxonomically they are more closely related to wrens—occasionally you’ll even see them with their tails cocked up. They aren’t all that common a bird so I was thrilled to come across a couple at Odiorne Point the other day. This one is a female—males are noticeably bluer on the head, neck, and back, and have a black unibrow across the eyes and bill (here’s one from last spring). But both sexes have the white eye-ring and the long tail edged in white.


Palm Warbler 4/28/11

The chestnut cap of this early yellowish warbler is a sure sign that it’s a Palm. The Yellow Warbler also has some reddish streaks in its yellow breast, but lacks the rusty cap and the dark eyestripe. Here’s another Palm Warbler from last spring where the yellow undertail coverts show up a little better than in the shot above, and that topside, Palms are on the brownish side of green. Palms forage closer to the ground than most of the other New World warblers and their song is a 2-noted up-and-down warble repeated in a short phrase of 10-12 ups and downs. Sexes are alike.


American Robin 4/27/11

For several weeks now Robins have been filling the neighborhood air with melodious tunes, being one of our most prodigious songbirds. Cheer up! Cheerio! Cheer up! Cheerio! is just one of their many varied phrases they repeat and string together. Hemit and Wood thrushes can tug your heart strings, but for pure songs of joy nobody can beat the Robin’s continuous and varying repertoire. If a pair sets up shop anywhere near your backyard, they are often the first songbird to rev up in the mornings, starting well before dawn, and usually the last of all to turn in. Ten to one that melody you hear rounding out the evening twilight as the stars brighten, is a Robin.


American Kestrel 4/26/11

Probably my all time favorite raptor. American Kestrels are also commonly called Sparrow Hawks and are the smallest of the North American falcons at about 8″ in length, with one and a half to two foot wingspans. This one’s a male with his blue wings (females have both rusty wings and backs topside) and more brightly colored and contrasted overall, but at the same time somewhat smaller than females. Both sexes have long rufous tails, long pointed wings, and 2 vertical facial markings on either side of the eyes while other falcons typically have just one. They’re residents of both North and South America, though very few are seen in New England winters. Many are migrating through right now, some starting to set up and claim territories for the breeding season, and others continuing on to maritime Canada. Fetched at Salisbury Beach State Reservation.


Little Blue Heron 4/25/11

Little Blue Herons are a bird of tropical and subtropical swamps and estuaries, breeding from Brazil through the Caribbean to the Gulf and mid-Atlantic coast states of the US.  In New England we get a few every spring and they do breed here in mixed rookeries, then a few more might show up in late summer during the post-breeding dispersal. First-year birds are all white and often confused with Snowy Egrets which are much the same size. Adults are blue with purplish necks and heads.


Black Guillemot 4/22/11

As of yesterday this Black Guillemot was still hanging out and still slowly molting—having spent all winter holed up in Rye Harbor. Six weeks ago it was lighter-headed and closer to winter plumage, but now it’s closing in on the all black with white wing patch of summer dress, though has a ways to go yet. Why Rye Harbor is anyone’s guess, you just don’t expect to find these pelagic birds in such a sheltered spot, yet it seems healthy and happy and has plenty of invertebrate snacks to forage on. Definitely fun to follow, watch, and get to know this odd Alcid over a long period. I occasionally see them from a kayak in summer off the rocky cliffs of Cape Breton Island, but never the same bird or for any length of time. If it sticks around any longer maybe in the next shot I’ll get to show its brilliant red feet.


White-throated Sparrow 4/21/11

Lots of these sweet sparrows are migrating through as we speak, though this part of New England is one of the few patches of dirt lucky enough to have a handful White-throated Sparrows year round.  But right now I can hear several singing O Sweet Canada just outside the door, making me wistful as I’ll be heading in the same direction they are very soon. Many White-throated Sparrows will look crisper than this one. They come in 2 different color morphs, one with tan stripes on the crown, and another with higher contrast bright white stripes.

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