Archive for November, 2014

Sanderling juve molt 11/30/14

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Sanderling juveniles are best described as having spangled wings and backs. Of the 4 in the middle of this photo, the one at 9 o’clock is still in full juvenile plumage, the one at noon has molted about half way, and the bird at 3pm has just begun its molt. But look at the bird farthest left, whose black and white back and wing feathers have mostly all been replaced with pale gray feathers, with just a couple of spangles left showing. When the fall molt is complete. all non-breeding Sanderlings are pale gray above and pure white below with black bills and legs, and these young birds will be indistinguishable from older adults.

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Female Merlin 10/29/14

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Merlins are pigeon-sized falcons that don’t stoop like peregrines, don’t hover like kestrels, and don’t soar or glide like other hawks. Instead they depend on speed and surprise to catch their prey, bombing along just a few meters above the ground around coastlines and other open areas, ready to pounce on any songbird or shorebird they flush. They’ll also sit in a treetop perch, scanning for prey, then take off like a bullet when something promising is spotted. Merlins are streaky breasted in all plumages but males have slatey-blue topsides, while females and immature birds are brownish. Immature Merlins also have a warm buffy wash to their breast and face which this bird lacks.

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Yellow-billed Cuckoo 11/28/14

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Savannah Sparrow subspecies 11/26/14

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Savannah Sparrows come in seventeen subspecies and this photo captures two of the ones we regularly see on Seapoint Beach. The Ipswich Sparrow was once considered a separate species because it’s so much paler and frostier than the other Savannah Sparrows, not to mention a bit larger. The Eastern Savannah Sparrow is the nominate subspecies, and you can easily make out the yellow wash in its face.

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Ruddy Turnstones 11/25/14

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Ruddy Turnstones are one of the few different shorebirds you’ll see on the New England coast in the winter months, the others being Sanderlings, Purple Sandpipers, and Dunlin. Their pigeon size, mottled brown and white appearance, and bright orange legs are hard to mistake for anything else.

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Red-headed Woodpecker 11/24/14

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Red-headed Woodpeckers are rare in northern New England, but less so to the west and south—their range is more of a triangle between New York, Texas, and Florida. This brown-headed juvenile has been hanging out on Adam’s Point in Durham, NH for the last week or so. Taken around sunset in low light, this was the best shot I got after 2 attempts. I’ll try again if it sticks around for the winter, though there haven’t been further reports of it over the last few days so it may have moved on. You can just make out bits of red underneath those brownish head feathers, giving a hint of what its plumage will be like come spring. Sexes are indistinguishable.

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Bald Eagles 11/21/14

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I can see these eagles just about anytime I want with a half hour drive now. That’s a pretty amazing thing. There’s little chance they’ll let me get any closer without taking off but I still find the reliability of their presence uplifting. They hang out near one of the swimming holes where I grew up we called “the Trestle,” except when I was growing up there was no chance you’d ever see a Bald Eagle here. You see, not everything is getting worse.

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