Archive for July, 2014

Least Sandpiper 7/31/14


Identifying shorebirds in flight is even trickier than on land, but here you can tell this one’s a Least by its small sparrow size, the thinness of its white wingstripe, the relatively short bill (for a sandpiper) and that’s just slightly downcurved, and if you had it in your binocular sights for more than a moment, you might also see that it’s legs are a greenish yellow and that it’s actually darker than most of its larger sandpiper cousins.



Northern Cardinal female 7/30/14


I love this picture for highlighting just how subtly colorful a female Northern Cardinal can be, particularly when she’s soaked from sitting through the torrential downpours of the last few days while brooding her nest. She is Hot Lips, he is Handsome. In this pic Handsome is giving her a nest break so she can grab a snack, though in deshabille. She’ll be much more composed by the time she kicks him off the nest in about an hour, maybe longer this day since she is all wet. She’s giving out a loud and near constant “chip” in that determined way cardinal pairs have of keeping in touch with each other.


Wood Duck and duckling 7/29/14


I came upon these two dabbling with some Mallards in that little piece of swamp behind Carl’s Meat Market in Kittery. Normally I’ll come across 8 to 10 ducklings with a Wood Duck mom, but this one only had the one duckling with her. You know how a pigeon moves its head back and forth as they walk forward? Wood ducks are like that when they swim.


Common Yellowthroat juvenile, 7/27/14


Walking through Fort Foster the other day it was all quiet on the bird front, so along the road through the marsh I started pishing, and in a few moments this juvenile Common Yellowthroat was rustling the bushes, come to check me out. There are all kinds of theories why quite a number of little birds are attracted to these soft repetitive sounds that birders make (all of which are complete nonsense). Anyone should be able to see that birds are intelligent and naturally curious creatures, they know these sounds are directed at them and are unthreatening, why shouldn’t they investigate? Some birders pishing syllables work better than others, I have good luck with “peeshu…weeshu…weeshu…wishu…” Juvenile yellowthroats look similar to adult females, except this one still has some of that baby bird gape around the mouth.


House Finch 7/26/14


The last time I wrote a birdaday about the House Finch, I used the genus Carpodacus and not Haemorhous. The name actually changed in 2012, but I’m just getting used to it now. Turns out there are a lot of Carpodacus finches in the old world (collectively called rosefinches) and recent DNA studies showed our new world rosefinches aren’t much related to them as had always been thought. So all three of the American rosefinches (including the Cassin’s Finch and Purple Finch) got the new bloody genus name Haemorhous, and I suppose that means we should probably be calling them bloodfinches now instead of rosefinches. This male’s standing guard regularly slurring two notes together in an upward question—to which his sweetie, brooding chicks atop an arbor vitae, answers regularly with a much different and more typical finchy babble.


Grasshopper Sparrow 7/25/14


Grasshopper Sparrows are small and shy with a dark scaly pattern on their wings and back, a buffy breast, and a short pointed tail. Like a lot of grassland species this bird is in decline from habitat loss and the Florida subspecies is endangered. They breed in open grasslands and prairies from southern Canada through most of the central and eastern US, south through Central America and the Caribbean to northern South America. Grasshopper Sparrows take their name both from their unusual diet (most sparrows are seed-eaters) and for their buzzy, insect-like song.


Snowy Egret 7/24/14


Snowy Egrets often use their bright yellow feet to stir up the bottom in the shallows, ready to strike at any movement with their sharp black beaks. I find them the most animated of the herons we see, not at all shy, dancing or prancing around, making a game out of hunting in contrast to the silent-but-deadly Great Blue. Juvenile snowies are just fledging now and starting to appear in the marshes, they’ll have bright greenish legs instead of black, especially in the back of the leg, and their bills won’t be all black.


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