Archive for May, 2011

Baltimore Oriole 5/19/11

Despite the brilliant orange and yellows, Baltimore Orioles belong to the Icterid family which also includes Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, Cowbirds as well as most of the other birds we know as Blackbirds. Orioles have been arriving for about the last week or two. This male doesn’t yet have the sharply defined all black head of full adult plumage and I’m guessing is a yearling. It’s definitely not the less vibrant yellow and brownish female, which has no black on the head at all. Orioles are fond of and can be attracted to your yard with cut oranges and/or grape jelly. Their flutey whistled songs are unmistakeable. Fetched in Kittery Point.

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Yellow Warbler 5/18/11

Yellow Warblers are one of the most cheerful of songbirds with their brightly sung Au, Au, Aujourd’hui! (alternatively, Sweet, Sweet, Oh so Sweet!). Unlike the Black-throated Blue Warbler from the other day, Yellow warblers breed at Seapoint and this is one of the male residents who have just arrived and are already setting up territories among the thickets and shrubs behind the beach and on the point. They are the yellowest of all the warblers and have chestnut streaks running down their breasts. Females are duller and greener, especially topside, with faint or no breast streaks. Their nests are frequently parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and it’s not unusual to see these brilliant little birds raising a single large drab cowbird chick later in the summer.

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Great Egrets 5/17/11

Great Egrets are becoming more common every year in northern New England and even in southern Canada. Males and females are alike, both having the long showy breeding plumes (aigrettes) that almost wiped them out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their populations have since recovered and are expanding as they adapt well to human activity. Great Egrets belong to the heron family and are all white with yellow-orange bills and long black legs. They are much larger than Snowy Egrets and almost as large as the Great Blue Heron. Fetched in Salisbury, MA.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler 5/16/11

This weekend I was sitting at the northeast corner of Seapoint trying to spot some Laughing Gulls I could hear off in the low-tide distance when I noticed this little bird flitting about the rocks not far from my perch. It’s a male Black-throated Blue Warbler, seemingly fearless of me. Much of the time it would hunker down out of the cool northerlies to close its eyes, then every couple of minutes it would hop about the rocks and jump into the air to catch some flying bug like the one it has in its beak. Then settle down to rest up again. The rocky shoreline isn’t this bird’s natural habitat, most likely it had recently made landfall from a long exhausting flight, and was recharging its batteries before moving inland.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5/13/11

I found this little fella licking his lips, smacking his needle beak, and shaking his tail last week at Fort Foster. It was one of those cool and wet drizzly days we’ve been having all spring, and without the sun there was nothing to fire up his ruby gorget. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter south of the US, and summer in the eastern half of North America. Other species of hummingbirds occasionally show up in New England, but Ruby-throats are the only breeders.

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Killdeer & chick 5/12/11

Yesterday I visited the Killdeer nest I photographed in Hampton Beach a few weeks ago. The scrape was still there but no sign of the 4 eggs. I wasn’t really expecting to find them as they would have hatched about a week ago, but I scouted around for awhile listening for Killdeer calls and eventually homed in on the family. I believe this is the mom, aside from the chick next to her, two others are snuggled under her, and the 4th is roaming about 10 feet away, and the other adult is about 50 feet away. Killdeer chicks are precocious, able to run about and forage shortly after hatching.

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Barn Swallows 5/11/11

These 3 Barn Swallows were part of a larger group of mixed swallows I found hawking the beach at Seapoint the other morning and suspect had just made landfall the previous evening. They are master aerialists. At one time Barn Swallows were cave dwellers but have spread and adapted to breeding in man-made structures which they almost exclusively rely on now. They breed all across the Northern Hemisphere, and winter in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere.Females have paler breasts and less prominently forked tails.

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