Archive for December, 2012

American Goldfinch 12/28/12

americangoldfinch

Gone is the brilliant yellow and black suit of summer now replaced with more drab olive for winter, American Goldfinches change their plumage twice a year—the only North American finch to do so. They’re very gregarious outside the breeding season both when migrating and foraging. This was just one of a half dozen bulking up on nyjer and sunflower seeds as the recent storm began to gather strength.

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White-throated Sparrow 12/27/12

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This sweetest of all the sparrows isn’t singing O Sweet Canada right now and this one isn’t as sharply contrasted as some others because it’s one of the tan-striped morphs—about half are tan-striped and the other half white, but both have the bright white throats. White-throated Sparrows mostly breed across the Canadian forest but here in New England we have them year-round. This one’s feeding on morning glory seeds from a garden trellis and I hope it doesn’t have a bad trip.

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Ruddy Turnstone 12/26/12

ruddyturnstone

Ruddy Turnstones are one of the few shorebirds we’ll occasionally see along the south coast of Maine in wintertime. I don’t know of anywhere you can see them reliably, but they do show up now and then at Seapoint and I was lucky enough to catch this one of a pair rooting around in the beach wrack last week.

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White-winged Crossbills 12/25/12

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Cooper’s Hawk 12/24/12

coopershawkalmostadult

Cooper’s Hawks belong in the Accipiter group of hawks with relatively short wings and long tails that allow them to be extra-maneuverable in forest settings. You don’t see them soaring much like you would a buteo, nor stooping from on high like a falcon. This one is near adult, it has the rusty-red barred breast of an adult (juveniles have white breasts with fine dark brown streaks) but not yet the dark orange or red eyes.

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American Tree Sparrow 12/21/12

americantreesparrow

American Tree Sparrows got their name from early European settler’s nostalgia for the birds of home. But it’s a lousy name as you’ll never find them foraging in trees, nesting in trees, or even hanging out in trees. In fact they pretty much breed where there are no trees. These are ground birds that stay close to thickets and brambles for cover. American Tree Sparrows were once better known as Winter Sparrows, since they come south from the northern tundra for the winter, spreading out over open country in much of the US and southernmost Canada.

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Purple Sandpipers 12/20/12

purplesandpipers

Every year, between late November and early December, a small flock of Purple Sandpipers takes up residence at Seapoint, and their arrival pretty much signals the end of fall migration to me. Their numbers typically fluctuate around 50 for the next few months until they head back to the Arctic, though occasionally I’ve seen as many as 3x that in this one spot. At low and mid-tide there are acres and acres of exposed rock that isn’t all that accessible to foot traffic and it can be hard to find any then, but when the tide comes in, the flock often congregates right at the northeast corner of the point. I photographed this bunch there yesterday. In wintertime, no other shorebirds are in residence here, though occasionally one or a few Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, or Dunlin will stop by.

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