Archive for May, 2012

Flown the coop

I’m away for a few weeks down north. More birds mid-June.

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Chipping Sparrow 5/18/12

Red-capped, long-tailed, and clean-breasted, adult Chipping Sparrows in breeding plumage are easily distinguished from other sparrows. Winter plumage and immatures are much more drab. These are common and abundant little songbirds throughout North America except for the far north, frequently seen at feeding stations, roadsides and grassy clearings where they forage for seeds on the ground. They sing a warbling trill that’s somewhat reminiscent of a sewing machine. Sexes alike. Fetched at Fort Foster.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler 5/17/12

Yellow-rumps are one of our more abundant spring wood warblers, the males having black, gray, and white patterned bodies with highlights of bright yellow on their caps, rumps and flanks. Females are more subdued and less contrasty, but all plumages have the yellow-rumps and side streaks. They come in two forms that used to be recognized as separate species—the Myrtle Warbler male (shown here) has a white throat, and the more western Audubon Warbler males have a yellow throat. All have the yellow-rump and are affectionately known as Butterbutts.

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Canada Goose goslings 5/16/12

Already some Canada Goose nests have produced goslings that are starting to plump up. I stumbled across this family of cuties along alongside a reservoir in West Newbury—the parents and several other goslings being just outside the photo.  Until they can fly, their parents will protect them fiercely with bites, wingslaps, and hisses. These wild geese breed all across the northern two thirds of the continent in 17 subspecies, and have become so abundant from lack of natural predators that they’re becoming a nuisance in some urban and agricultural areas.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird (male) 5/15/12

One of the coolest things about this particular male Ruby-throat is that when I water the garden he comes down from this perch to zip in and out of the spray for a bath. Ruby-throats are the only breeding hummingbirds we have in New England, and this male took up residence in my backyard about a week ago. From the top of a Staghorn Sumac he surveys his domain, which includes several flower gardens and at least 2 hummingbird feeders, which he defends from all other hummingbird intruders. Over the next few weeks he’ll mate with several females who set up satellite territories around the edges of his, and with any luck I’ll get to see his mating dance. But he won’t participate in any of their nestbuilding, brooding, or chick-rearing responsibilities.

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Merlin 5/14/12

Merlins are falcons of open country that prey almost exclusively on other birds, being especially built for catching prey on the wing. Unlike Peregrines which usually stoop from a height, or Kestrels which will hover, Merlins fly low and fast, speeding along to take something by surprise—little songbirds, flocks of shorebirds, anything up to pigeon size, and once upon a time were even called Pigeon Hawks. They occasionally take larger insects or small mammals like mice and bats. This one’s either a female or subadult, as adult males are a slatey-blue gray and often subadult males show some blue.

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Killdeer 5/11/12

Killdeer have already begun nesting, this one was acting very parental on a gravel road but I didn’t have enough time to track down the nest that it’s partner was brooding on. Killdeer nest right on the ground in a shallow scrape and will move close and try distract  any intruders of its nesting area, often feigning a broken-wing to lead a potential predator away and then when the mission is accomplished they suddenly heal and fly away. Killdeer are medium sized Plovers, sexes are much the same. Unlike the smaller Semipalmated Plover and Piping Plover, Killdeer are long-legged, rufous-rumped, and have two black bands across the chest instead of just one.

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