Archive for July, 2011

Least Sandpiper 7/28/11

As their name implies, Least Sandpipers are the smallest of all shorebirds at about 6 inches in length. This is an early migrating adult in worn breeding plumage, with a dark breast sharply contrasting with a white belly, yellowish green legs, and a dark slightly downturned bill. Late next month the much redder and brighter juveniles will be arriving from the Arctic tundra. These birds forage for invertebrates on beaches and mudflats. Fetched this morning at Seapoint Beach.

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American Goldfinch 7/27/11

This female American Goldfinch and her mate visit my garden nearly every day. Here she has her eye on a¬†knot of old reemay fabric holding some fencing to a pole, from which she’ll tear a few bits off of before flying away behind my neighbors backyard to line her nest with. They’re already interested in the sunflowers just beginning to bloom. Later in the season when there’s a family of them, they’ll take turns pulling the seeds and petals out of the sunflower while others pick up the snacks off the ground.

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House Wren 7/26/11

Mary Dill asked the other day about a small brown bird with dark eyes and yellow inside its mouth when singing, and I just happened to have fetched this House Wren about a week ago which fits the bill, though you can’t see much yellow inside the mouth here. Both sexes are prodigious and bubbly singers, and their grasslined nests can be jam packed with up to 10 youngsters. In New England, House Wrens are summer migrants, but in South America all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, they are year round residents. As you can tell they’ll readily take to nestboxes in the yard.

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Yellow Warbler 7/25/11

At Seapoint, here in Kittery Point, there are several pairs of Yellow Warblers spread out among the thickets and shrubberies flanking either side of the point. But elsewhere across North America they gravitate to willow and mangrove wetland habitats. These little yellow jewels flit back and forth catching and gleaning insects and arthropods. Males are all yellow with chestnut breast streaks, females a slightly duller and greener with less distinct breast streaks or none at all.

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Eastern Kingbird 7/14/11

Dark gray above with white undersides and a white-edged tail, Eastern Kingbirds are a common flycatcher found in open areas across most of North America, though its name erroneously implies it’s only found in the East. Both sexes have a thin orange stripe at the top of the head which is hardly ever visible. These are very aggressive birds, often seen harassing crows and hawks as well as other kingbirds that venture too close to their nesting territories. They’re the consummate Tyrant flycatcher, hawking for flying insects, but in winter they take on a much different character, flocking together in the tropical forests of South America and subsisting on a diet of fruit. Fetched in Alfred, Maine.

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Common Eider 7/13/11

This hen and duckling Common Eider are part of a creche, three rich brown hens with darker barring and 10 ducklings foraging in a group just inside Odiorne point in Rye, NH. The communal behavior, which males don’t participate in, shares the work of rearing the ducklings and helps protect the youngsters from predators like the aggressive Great Black-backed Gulls. Common Eiders are large sea ducks with wedge shaped heads and long bills. Males are quite distinctive, mostly black below with white topsides and a patch of chartreuse ¬†feathering at the back of the head. Juvenile females are much like adult females but darker. Juvenile males have a more motley or pied appearance, mostly dark with some white patches in the breast, neck, and back.

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Green Heron 7/12/11

Green Herons are solitary and secretive, and except when providing for youngsters they aren’t usually seen during the daytime. Green Herons are a tool-using bird, often dropping a piece of bait on the surface of the water to attract small fish and then striking with a quick dart. They tend to keep their neck folded in close, and like all herons, fly with necks retracted. Sexes are alike. I found this one in the swamp off of Legion Pond in Kittery with several fledgelings in the reeds nearby.

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