Archive for March, 2013

Harlequin Duck 3/29/13


The Harlequin Ducks I’ve been watching at The Nubble are getting pretty frisky lately and will soon be leaving for the fast flowing mountain streams of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec where they’ll nest close by a set of freshwater rapids.  There are eastern and western populations that some consider to be separate subspecies, but the eastern population that this pair belongs to is declining and considered threatened or endangered, down to 11,000 breeding pairs. Perhaps I’m just optimistic but going by the numbers I see along the southern Maine coast in winter, there seems to be a few more of them in recent years.


Glaucous Gull 3/28/13


Any time you see a crowd of gulls in winter, keep an eye out for one with all white wingtips, you may be surprised at how often you find something unusual or how much they stand out from the crowd. Glaucous Gulls are the largest of the several white-winged gull species occasionally visiting us from the Arctic in the winter months. This adult is almost the size of a Great Black-backed Gull, but has a pale gray mantle and none of the black feathering at the tip of the wings which characterizes all our other common gulls.


Red-winged Blackbird male 3/27/13


When Red-winged Blackbirds arrive in early spring like they’re doing right now, the flocks are all male, come to strut their bright epaulets, and make a racket to stake a claim on some prime wetland real estate. Females won’t arrive for a couple more weeks, so for now it’s a guy world of blackbirds.


Common Eider drakes 3/26/13


Something about Common Eider always reminds me of football, must be the armored and helmeted appearance of the drakes. They are one big seaduck in a bold black and white uniform sporting a rosy glow to their wide white chests, a wash of chartreuse at the back of the head and neck, and a bill that  looks more like a face plate or helmet. Females are a richly mottled brown. These are circumpolar birds, breeding along the Arctic shores of North America, Europe and Asia. In southern Maine, many Common Eider come to winter off the coast here, diving in the surf for crustaceans and mollusks, but some are non-migratory and will breed on rocky islets here this coming summer.



Blue Jay 3/25/13


I know lots of folks don’t care for them much, but Blue Jays are undeniably lively, clever, and handsome.


Red-bellied Woodpecker male (and nest) 3/22/13


I’ve been chasing this guy around my neighborhood for a few days trying to get a closer shot, and in the process discovered this nest he’s built high up in an old willow to attract a sweetheart. [update: I assumed he built it, but apparently not see more recent post]. I haven’t seen any sign of her yet but hope it won’t be long now. He makes a churry laughing sound, and sometimes a nyuk nyuk nyuk call. While this guy has an undeniable red head and nape, he’s not the rarer Red-Headed Woodpecker we sometimes get to see in these parts. He’s poorly named this one, as his red-belly is a pale wash and almost never seen. There are also several European Starlings hanging out in this willow, and I’m curious whether or not a pair of them will force him off and take over the cavity nest.


Teenage molting Mallard drake 1/21/13


A rakish young drake with the split lip is reaching his first birthday soon, but at the moment he’s a muddle of half juve and half adult plumage, with only a hint of a grown up drake’s bright and shiny green head. Mallards are the archetypal puddle duck—robust, omnivorous, adaptable—thought to have originated in Siberia but found now all across the subarctic, temperate, and subtropical worlds. They are granddaddy to domestic ducks everywhere, and readily hybridize with some of their puddleduck cousins like the American Black Duck and the Northern Pintail.


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