Archive for March, 2014

Bufflehead pair 3/29/14


Soon Buffleheads will be migrating north to the Canadian boreal forests where they’ll breed in unused woodpecker holes, particularly those made by Northern Flickers.


Merlin 3/28/14


Merlins are found in open country all across the Northern Hemisphere, breeding in the northern parts and wintering as far south as the equator, though in some areas they are year round residents. They prey on small to mid-sized birds, relying on speed and maneuverability, often flying just a few feet aboveground to surprise and catch prey on the wing. The Eurasian and North American populations are officially considered the same species, but that’s a conclusion taxonomic splitters dispute.


Common Grackle 3/26/14


Blackbirds arriving in good numbers now, and making rackets in the thickets, lawns, and treetops.



Wilson’s Snipe 3/25/14


Wilson’s Snipe are stocky shorebirds that breed in freshwater water wetlands across northern North America where they forage in the mud for invertebrates. In early spring males perform a “winnowing” dance to attract females that’s not unlike the display of their American Woodcock cousins.


Mute Swans 3/24/14



Pileated Woodpecker female 3/20/14


I call this one of my screech shots, driving to work yesterday morning I suddenly saw something, briefly looked in the rearview mirror to be sure I wasn’t about to cause an accident, and came to a screeching halt. A Pileated Woodpecker had flown across the road and landed in the trees opposite, and I grabbed my camera off the passenger seat and got a good half dozen shots before she moved on, for it is a she with that sex-specific black mustache (male mustaches are red). It’s also a mature female, for the coverts on her wings are quite dark and show no sign of a 1, 2, or 3 year olds’ brownish coverts, meaning she could be anywhere from 4 to 12 years old.


Snowy Owl with horns 3/19/14


Most of the time I’ve been birding the scientific name for a Snowy Owl was Nyctea scandiaca, a species thought unique enough to warrant its own genus. Then about 12 years ago, DNA sequencing shook up the owl tree, and among other things showed that Snowy Owls were closely related to the horned and eagle owls of the genus Bubo, only with adaptations for the Arctic habitat. And so the Nyctea genus was retired. While the Snowy Owl isn’t known for having prominent horns, the photo above definitely shows a connection to the horned owls. This is the (likely) young female that’s taken up residence at Rye Harbor and Ragged Neck this winter.


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