Archive for August, 2012

Black-bellied Plover, adult and juve, 8/25/12

Black-bellied Plovers are one of our bigger shorebirds, in this shot are both an adult and juvenile, though within the next month or so the black-belly and face of the adult will give way to winter plumage which is much like the juvenile in the background. Black-bellies look much like the smaller American Golden Plover, but they are heavier and more robust, with bigger bills and without the golden spangles in the American Golden’s adult plumage.

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Semipalmated Sandpiper juveniles 8/24/12

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers are migrating through New England now on their first trip from the high Arctic to the coasts of South America.  The streakier and more speckled adults began migrating a few weeks ago but the paler, cleaner, and softer colored juveniles (with blushes of color on their breasts instead of streaks) are just coming in now and for the next few weeks. Juvenile semipals are the most abundant of shorebirds at this time of year and you’ll often see them in flocks numbering in the hundreds if not thousands, though shorebird flocks are typically mixed. It’s my belief that once you can recognize adult from juvenile semipals, all the other less common sandpipers become much easier to identify. Fetched at Seapoint.

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Northern Mockingbird, 8/23/12

Northern Mockingbirds can be found throughout the Lower 48 and all of Mexico, but only in a few spots north of the border. They are territorial (most don’t migrate) and omnivorous, often found lording over a fruit or berry patch but also singing from the top of a low shrub or foraging for insects on the ground. Sexes are alike and both sexes sing, often into the night, though the female more quietly. Their songs are a continuous string of other songs and sounds they’ve learned to mimic. Fetched in Rye Beach, NH.

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Piping Plover juveniles, 8/22/12

These two Piping Plover juveniles have survived storms, pets, and beachgoers at the southern tip of Plum Island. They can fly but are still being attended by their parents and are hanging out within the roped off area of dunes. Adult birds are much more distinctly marked but juveniles need the advantage of blending into the sands for camouflage.

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Northern Harrier, adult female, 8/21/12

Northern Harriers are one of our strangest hawks, like owls they have excellent hearing having evolved a similar facial disc to focus the sounds of prey while flying low over open ground. This is an adult female (male Northern Harriers are a dapper gray) and you can see the faint ring of light feathers around the outer rim of her facial disc along with a light breast that’s streaked with dark brown, both of which help distinguish adult females from immatures which are also brown but less distinctly marked and have a dark reddish wash across their breast.  All plumages of the Northern Harrier sport a bright white patch at the rump of the tail. This Harrier had her mouth wide open for most of the time I spent photographing—not having sweat glands, panting is just one of the methods birds use to regulate their temperature in the summer heat. In North America Northern Harriers are also called Marsh Hawks.

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Bonaparte’s Gull juvenile 8/20/12

Bonaparte’s Gulls breed in the coniferous forests of western Canada but shortly after fledging the youngsters move east and begin appearing along the New England coast in late summer and through the winter. Juvenile plumage is somewhat similar but dirtier looking than the winter plumage of adults. Summer adults are black-headed and at this time of year some may already be beginning to molt into winter plumage. They are the smallest of the North American gulls and belong to the loose group called hooded, or black-headed gulls. Bonies forage on small fish, insects and crustaceans at the surface and unlike most other gulls, don’t usually scavenge. Fetched at Seapoint.

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Red-winged Blackbird, fledgling, 8/19/12

Red-winged Blackbird juveniles are quite drab, similar to the adult female but with a buffy edging to their feathers you can see above but which adult females lack. This bird has only just shaken off its peach fuzz and hasn’t been out of the nest very long, but will undergo its first molt just a couple of months after leaving the nest, and then molt again the following spring. In my neighborhood, the arrival of returning adult males in March is one of the first solid signs that spring is underway. Fetched at Seapoint.

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