Archive for February, 2014

Cedar Waxwing 2/27/14



Red-tailed Hawk 2/25/14


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Sanderlings and Dunlin 2/24/14


Both of these winter shorebirds are about the size of a starling and chances are they won’t show up as belonging here in your field guide. I understand why a lot of winter vagrants we occasionally see like a Brown Thrasher or Hermit Thrush don’t appear in winter range maps, most of their population has migrated and the few that don’t are oddballs, but these shorebirds are different. We have whole flocks of these birds for winter residents. Both of these sandpipers have dark bills and dark legs and feet, but the Dunlin’s bill is longer and curves downward and is the darker bird that you’re more likely to find foraging around mudflats and tidal estuaries. The Sanderlings have shorter straight bills, are quite pale in winter plumage, and favor probing for invertebrates at the edge of the tide on sandy beaches like in the photo above.


American Tree Sparrow 2/23/14



Brown Thrasher 2/21/14


Yes, it’s not a very crisp photo, but hey, it’s a Brown Thrasher visiting a feeder in Rye, NH, in the middle of February! New England’s Brown Thrashers are known to winter in the Carolinas and Georgia, so what it doing here? It’s hard enough finding one of these birds during the breeding season. They’re colorful and large enough, and hard to miss out in the open, trouble is you almost never see one out in the open. They outdo their Mimid cousins (the Gray Catbird or the Northern Mockingbird) with an amazing and complex repertoire of birdsong, supposedly more extensive than any other bird in the world, but they typically sing it from the safety of a dense thicket.


Canada Goose 2/19/14


Canada Geese, aka Honkers, are a native North American goose, and at some time during the year can be found in every US state and every Canadian province, as well as parts of far eastern Asia. Here in New England they are year-round birds, dieting on underwater vegetation while on the water, and agricultural grains¬†on land, and occasionally they’re ¬†known to raid garbage cans in urban areas. Populations seriously declined in the early 20th century from overhunting but have since recovered so that in many areas they are considered an agricultural pest.


Great Black-backed Gulls 2/18/14


Here are 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, the one with its wings raised is a full adult, having seen at least 4 winters to be snowy white with a charcoal black mantle on its wings, yellow bill with red spot at the tip, and yellow eyes ringed in red. The one in front of it is a second winter bird, if it were in just its first winter it would be a more uniform mottled brown, even on its head and belly. If it were in its third winter its mantle would be starting to show some solid black and its bill would be pale with a black spot at the tip. GBBG’s are the largest, most aggressive, and most predatory of all the gulls. They range throughout the North Atlantic, from the Carolinas to the Maritimes, Greenland, Iceland, and the shores of Northern Europe.

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