Archive for November, 2011

Tufted Titmouse 11/30/11

Tufted Titmice are acrobatic and curious little songbirds that regularly visit backyard feeding stations. They are related to Chickadees and often forage with them in the wintertime. The spring males loudly sing “Peter, Peter, Peter,” but they also have a wide variety of year-round calls and chatters. They don’t migrate but remain close to their breeding territories throughout their range in the Eastern US states and the gulf coast of Mexico. Sexes appear much the same but immature birds have less sharply defined markings around the face. This bird’s an adult sitting in my garden peach tree, with one eye on the sunflower seed feeder.

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Ring-necked Duck 11/29/11

Ring-necked ducks get their name from a bronzy collar around the necks of drakes in breeding plumage, but one doesn’t often see it.  A better name might have been Ring-billed Duck for the white band around the tip of the bill, a field mark seen in both sexes and all plumages. At this time of year, Ring-necked ducks are most often found flocking on large open bodies of water like New Hampshire’s Great Bay. Once the water starts freezing they’ll be moving farther south. They are diving ducks rather than dabblers, and are often confused with their Scaup cousins which have light-colored backs. This drake was one of about 100 Ring-necks hanging out on a reservoir in West Newbury, MA

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3 late juvenile shorebirds, 11/28/11

While the big flocks of migrating shorebirds happen in August and September, at Seapoint we can see occasional stragglers of certain species well into December. Above are are 3 different late migrant juveniles in one pic. The Dunlin at the back is easy to distinguish with its long drooping bill and dark legs (Purple Sandpipers are a bit similar but have orange legs). In the middle is a Semipalmated plover. Plovers have shorter and stouter bills than the sandpipers, and the Semipalmated has a single band through the breast (while Killdeer are  larger and taller with two bands). In the foreground is the trickiest sandpiper, note the rich and varied coloration on the wings, head and back, the prominent eyebrow, and the wings extending well beyond the tail, all earmarks of the juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper.

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11/25/11 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

When I first spotted one of these birds on Seapoint about a month ago, I said I’d repost if I got a less blurry picture. Sadly, I didn’t expect to get so close I’d nearly step on one! I took this pic about a week ago, it seemed freshly deceased since the eyes were still a bit glassy, and there were no signs of predation, so your guess is as good as mine as to what happened.

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Wild Turkey 11/24/11

It’s a South Mexican subspecies of these Wild Turkeys from which all Thanksgiving gobblers derive. In the 1940s and 50s, they were nearly extinct in New England but have made a remarkable comeback since, so that once again it’s become quite common to see a troop moving slowly through the forest or crossing a road. Being omnivorous has helped populations recover. Unlike their domestic counterparts, Wild Turkeys are good fliers and typically roost at night in trees away from predators. Except during the breeding season, they are highly social and despite their domestic cousins’ reputation for stupidity, are quite clever. Fetched in West Newbury, MA.

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Greater Yellowlegs 11/23/11

Greater Yellowlegs bob the front half of their bodies up and down, which makes them seem comical as if they have a case of hiccups. They’re big shorebirds, big sandpipers actually, that are still moving through New England on their way to Central and South America. I found these 2 at Plum Island last week on a cloudy day when not much else was happening. In the summer, Greater Yellowlegs breed in bogs and muskegs across North America from the Canadian Maritimes to Alaska. Sometimes you can see them sweep their bills from side to side while foraging.

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Belted Kingfisher 11/22/11

I often see Belted Kingfishers down the road where an inlet from Brave Boat Harbor meets Chauncey Creek and forms Cutts Island, usually on a wire or tree limb above the tidal pools from which they perch on the lookout for fish below. Females have the rufous flanks under the wings with a rufous belly band and blue chest band. Males sometimes have the rufous flanks but not the belly band. I suspect this is an immature or molting female since there is a belly band but not yet rufous all the way across. We’re on the northern edge of their winter range, and if the winter is mild enough a few may hangout around open water all season, but more likely we see the last of them in December and not again until March.

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