Archive for January, 2016

Merlin 1/25/16


Falcons are hawks right? Not since 2008 when the Chicago Field Museum released its findings that based on DNA sequencing, falcons are more parrot than hawk.  When I came across this one at Seapoint, it was finishing up lunch.


Bufflehead drake 1/19/16


Yes “Bufflehead” really is a contraction of “Buffalo Head” but how this cheerful little diving duck is “buffalo headed” still beats me. They arrive in New England after a summer breeding around the small ponds and lakes of the Canadian boreal forest. There they nest in tree cavities, in particular the abandoned nests of Northern Flickers, and it’s speculated they’ve evolved their small size to take advantage of that housing abundance.


Immature Cedar Waxwing 1/15/16


Waxwings come in only 3 basic plumages. The juvenile plumage—a birds’ first set of feathers—is a drab and streaky variation on the adult theme. Crests are smaller and fine sharp details like the white-edging of the face mask aren’t yet evident. Immature plumage has the smooth and silky blended colors of adults as well as the colored tail band, but it’s only in full adult plumage that the brilliant red waxy droplets form on the tips of their secondaries. Unlike many songbirds like warblers, waxwings don’t have separate breeding and non-breeding plumages, and even simpler there’s no difference between the sexes either. Waxwings are the most frugivorous of all our songbirds.


Immature Red-tailed Hawk 1/6/16


Red-tailed Hawks are the most commonly seen big raptor in most parts of North America. They belong to the Buteos, a genus of stocky and robust hawks that are called “buzzards” in Europe. The coloring of individuals is quite variable, the belly band is a good field mark but less prominent or unreliable in the darker individuals. You see these hawks perched in trees along the highway, or on telephone poles watching for rodents, or soaring on high. This one’s immature which you tell by the faint barring in the tail which becomes a solid rich cinnamon in adults, and the light eyes which get darker with age. Red-tails reach maturity in 3 to 4 years.


American Tree Sparrow 1/5/16


Few birds are so misnamed since this little sparrow breeds above the treeline in the Arctic and nests on the ground. Oldtimers call them Winter Sparrows, as they arrive in New England in November and head back to the tundra as spring approaches. Their dapper red caps and two-toned bills are distinctive.