Archive for December, 2013

Common Loon and Horned Grebe 12/31/13



American Pipit 12/30/13


American Pipits are slender and long-tailed songbirds of the Arctic tundra wintering along both coasts of North America as well as from Pakistan to Southeast Asia, where it’s known as the Buff-bellied Pipit. They have a funny habit of bobbing their tail up and down and wagging it side to side as they noodle around looking for invertebrates to snack on. I see them on the beaches and rocks and grassy verges, either in the air or on the ground but never perching in trees or shrubs. Most often I find them at Seapoint, either by themselves like the bird above, or in a small flock of up to a dozen.


3 Snowy Owls 12/28/13




Yesterday Cheryl and I drove down to the Hampton-Seabrook marshes to look for the juve Gyrfalcon which we struck out on, but hit the jackpot with 3 separate Snowy Owl close encounters. Actually we saw 5 altogether but the other two were rooftop birds seen from a distance. The first one we found was on a fencepost overlooking the mouth of Hampton Harbor, squinting into the afternoon sunlight. It was a huge bird and I was able to approach within a hundred feet and never spooked it. The second bird we found on a rooftop across the river at the end of Cross Beach Rd, scanning the Seabrook marshes. From there we drove down to Salisbury Beach State Reservation and near the mouth of the Merrimac we saw a knot of birdwatchers on one of the dune boardwalks and were treated to another close up of a Snowy in the dune grasses, apparently sitting atop of a duck it had brought down earlier. But none of the current crowd observing it knew whether we’d missed the feast or if it hadn’t begun yet. This bird hardly moved except for an occasional blink and I had the impression it was waiting for dark when everyone would leave and it could chow down without an audience.


European Starling 12/27/13


European Starlings are glossy and iridescent black birds with white and buff speckles, pink feet and bills that change color with the seasons and can tell you the bird’s sex. Males like the one above have yellow bills with a blue-ish base, while females have a pink-ish base, though as winter progresses the bill will turn black. These are noisy and gregarious birds with a remarkable ability for mimicry like their Myna bird cousins, and when they gather in large flocks called murmurations. Like great schools of fish, they perform one of the most amazing aerial spectacles of nature.


Bald Eagle 12/26/13


This majestic bird is a quarter mile away from where I photographed it so it’s not the sharpest photo, but it’s amazing to have them here at all. What you can’t see is that in another tree a few hundred feet to the left is another adult Bald Eagle, probably its mate, and in yet another tree is an immature Bald Eagle, possibly an offspring of the pair. I’ve seen several eagles at once in Nova Scotia and the Pacific Northwest, but never on the Hampton/Seabrook marshes of New Hampshire.


Northern Cardinal male 12/25/13


Merry Christmas!


Ruddy Turnstone 12/24/13


Ruddy Turnstones breed all around the Arctic Circle and are long distance migrants wintering on shores as far south as South Africa and Australia. According to most field guide range maps they winter much farther south than Maine but I can’t recall a single winter in the last decade when I haven’t seen some, including this one I found on Seapoint with 5 others.  Ruddy Turnstones used to be classified as plovers on account of their stocky shape and short bill, but today are recognized as a sandpiper. They use their wedge-shaped bill to bulldoze seaweed and overturn detritus while searching for invertebrates.


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