Archive for January, 2013

Barred Owl 1/31/13


I count myself lucky just seeing any owl in the wild, and I’ve seen this particular Barred Owl in the same Eliot neighborhood a few times on my way to work over the last few weeks. The other day I finally got a few pics before it spooked. This is the owl that hoots: “Who cooks for you, “Who cooks for you-all?” and is also variously known as the Eight-hooter, Hoot Owl, Rain Owl, and Wood Owl. They’re a good size with a big round head and they lack the ear tufts of Short- and Long-earded Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Screech Owls. If you ever get to handle one, you’ll be astonished at their lack of weight—they’re mostly all feathers.


American Tree Sparrow 1/30/13


Often you might find a few of these foraging at your feeders with Dark-eyed Juncos, but I came across this one by its lonesome at Seapoint. In winter they migrate south from the Arctic and take over much the same habitat (low shrubs and thickets) that Chipping Sparrows use at other times of year. They are a little bigger and longer-tailed than the Chipsters, and lack their white eyestripe, but you’ll often see a dark spot in the center of their pale gray breast and it’s hard to miss their 2-toned bill.


Black Scoters and Common Eiders 1/29/13


One of the best things about winter birding along the Maine coast are all the seaducks we don’t get to see any other time of year. We have Common Eiders here year-round—the big brown females and black-and-white drakes with their chartreuse hairdos breed on small rocky islands just offshore, but the Black Scoters with their orange bulbous bills are a winter-only treat.  Great rafts of mixed seaducks are a common sight along the rocky coasts of the Northeast, and these birds never seem to tire from diving and foraging in the raging surf. Fetched at Dyer Point, ME.


Tufted Titmouse 1/28/13


Already I’ve heard a few loud Peter Peter Peter‘s echoing around my neighborhood from the local Tufted Titmice, along with Chickadees beginning to sing Fee bee. Not that the recent winter chill has shown much sign of abating, but days are getting noticeably longer and perhaps the boys are tuning up their instruments for spring.


Red Crossbill male, 1/25/13


A stocky finch of the boreal forest, Red Crossbills are much the same size and have much the same habits as their White-winged Crossbill cousins, though their wings aren’t as black and they lack the 2 prominent white bars. I don’t come across the reds nearly as often as the white-wings and this is my first Red Crossbill for the blog. All of the crossbills (there are 3-8 species depending on whether you’re a lumper or a splitter) specialize in foraging on conifer cones where the crossed scissor-shape of their bills enables them to open the cone and get at the nutritious seed with their tongue. About half of any crossbill species are right-billed ,while the other half are southpaws, and no one yet knows how that comes about. Like the  white wings, Red Crossbill females are a more olive-y green.



Ring-billed Gull 1/23/13


The most common gull in North America, Ring-bills are the omnivore of garbage dumps and parking lots everywhere. They breed inland close to freshwater but come winter, migrate south and to the Great Lake and ocean coasts.  Also come winter, the snowy-white heads of adults become muddied with brown feathering. They are medium sized and yellow-footed as far as our local gulls go, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backs both being considerably bigger with pink feet, while Bonapartes and Laughing Gulls are considerably smaller with red feet.


Golden-crowned Kinglet 1/22/13


Golden-crowned Kinglets are sweet little songbirds that are anything but easy to photograph. They’re not particularly shy—they just hardly ever stop flitting and hopping about long enough to find in a telephoto, much less focus, and most of my snaps come up blank or blurred. Often you’ll hear their soft warbling twitters close by in some conifers, but then never see them. They’re smaller than warblers—not much bigger than a hummingbird really—but like chickadees they’re year-round residents of the New England forests somehow manage to find tiny insects and spiders to make it through the winter. I fetched this one along the berm separating the beach from the marshes at Fort Foster.


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