Archive for April, 2014

Killdeer 4/30/14


Killdeer have a run-and-stop way of moving about that’s peculiar to the plovers, and they are famous for their broken wing act and other means of luring predators away from nests or hiding chicks, like pretending to brood a nest where there isn’t one. Killdeer are the largest of the ringed plovers, and adults have 2 dark bands across the white upper breast, though juveniles and most of the other ringed plovers only have one band across. You’ll typically find Killdeer in dry gravelly areas or places with short vegetation, like this mowed verge of the runway at Pease, where they forage for insects and other invertebrates. The name comes from their loudly repeated calls.


Northern Cardinal male 4/29/14


I found this guy at Fort Foster in Kittery Point, boinking up a storm until we surprised each other. While he didn’t spook and fly off as I expected, he did stop singing, posed, and kept his eye on me. I was able to get off a good couple dozen shots, a nice treat since typically cardinals are wary and shy about letting you get this close. If they become aware of you having any interest in them, they’re usually just gone—as in instantly.


Chipping Sparrows 4/28/14


Chipping Sparrows in fresh breeding plumage have a bright clean look to them, especially being unstreaked and unspotted, but red-capped with white and black eye-stripes and an all gray bill. It’s typical of the small and slender Spizella sparrows having a short bill, relatively long tail, and a fondness for open grassy areas. In the New England spring, Chipping Sparrows replace their similar looking American Tree Sparrow cousins, who spent the winter here, but by the time Chipping Sparrows have arrived from the south, the American Tree Sparrows are all on their way back to the treeless north.


Eastern Bluebird male 4/27/14


This spring is a first for us having bluebirds nesting in the yard, they’ve moved into a cavity previously excavated by Downy Woodpeckers in an old Mountain Ash snag. The cavity opening is small enough to keep the aggressive starlings out, and faces a wide open sunny space to the east, not to mention being just above my compost heap which they visit frequently for snacking. While mom broods away, dad stands guard on this nearby sumac branch. These bluebirds, along with about a half dozen others, were resident in my neighborhood all winter long.


Greater Scaup drakes 4/26/14


Greater Scaup belong to the genus Aythya, a closely related group of diving ducks often called bay ducks or pochards.  I found these two drakes on Eel Pond in Rye, which isn’t all that unusual, More often I see hundreds of them in Great Bay during migration, usually much farther offshore than I can photograph, and sometimes you’ll find them with other Aythya species like the Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, and of course, the Lesser Scaup.


House Finch 4/25/14


House Finches are an invasive species in eastern North America, having originated in Mexico and the Southwest. Hundreds of birds were released on Long Island in 1940 and have been very disruptive to native species like the Purple Finch since. But unlike other invasive species such as the House Sparrow or European Starling, which are almost universally reviled, birders give them a pass—probably on account of their garrulous songs and the males’ bright red plumage. Today they are found coast to coast, in every US state with the exception of Alaska, and from southernmost Canada to southernmost Mexico.


Red-bellied Woodpecker 4/24/14


Found throughout most of the eastern United States, and in some parts of southern Canada, Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been expanding their range northwards for a good 50 years. Many range maps still don’t show them in either NH or Maine, but at least in the south, they’ve been quite established for well over a decade. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are quite noisy, both sexes have numerous calls and also drum on snags, and for that reason I consider them songbirds. This one’s the male of my neighborhood pair.


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