Archive for October, 2017

Common Eider drake 10/21/17

Eider drakes are handsome birds, though the chartreuse blush on this one’s head is a bit bleached in the early afternoon light. The boldly dressed males are easily distinguished from the warm and barred browns of females and the even duller juves. Immature males are more pied, but nowhere as dapper as the adult drakes. They are New England’s largest and heaviest duck, feasting on ┬ámussels they tear from the sea bottom and swallow whole, the shells being crushed in their gizzards. Eiderdown is still farmed in Iceland, Scandinavia, and Siberia.

Comments

Sanderling juves molting 10/20/17

Here are a couple of migrating Sanderlings basking in the October sun of Crescent Beach while brine flies swarm up from the decaying seaweed. Many shorebird species I never see in winter plumage, while others I never see in breeding plumage. But one of the things I like best about Sanderlings is that I can see them in every plumage possible if I’m just patient enough. That’s possible because a small number winter in Maine, while others continue on to the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego. The nearest winter flock to the north can be found just a few miles up the coast on Ogunquit Beach, or Hampton Beach to the south. In these 2 birds, the typical spangled black and white of Sanderling juvenile plumage is about halfway molted to the soft gray upper-parts and pure white underparts of winter plumage. Over the next month or so they’ll become indistinguishable from adults already in their winter duds.

Comments

Bonaparte’s Gulls 10/18/17

A lot of the notions we have about gulls don’t apply to Bonies. While you may see them migrating along the coast in fall or spring, they are not “sea” gulls in the way we think of Herring or Great Black-backed Gulls. Bonies breed in the northern boreal forests from Alaska to Quebec, nesting in trees. They are one of the smaller black-headed or “hooded” gulls, though in winter plumage their heads turn white except for a black “ear” spot behind the eye. Also unlike other gulls, they don’t scavenge. They feed primarily on insects, catching them on the wing like swallows. Here they are making a racket while pecking some small invertebrates from the surface of the water, a pit stop on their way south for the winter.

Comments

White-rumped Sandpiper juve 10/12/17

White-rumped Sandpiper juveniles are just now arriving and signal the last phase of shorebird migration in New England. I see a few at Fort Foster or Seapoint well into November, and of course there are still stragglers from many other shorebird species, but White-rump juves migrate late though are nowhere near as numerous as Semipals and Leasts. Their parents came through in August and early September, having already molted into their gray non-breeding plumage. They are only a bit larger than Semipals, being one of the 5 “peep” species of the smallest sandpipers. Note the reddish braces on the back, the streaky breast, prominent eyebrow stripe. The extra long wingtips extending beyond the tail are only seen in the similarly sized but more golden-colored Bairds Sandpiper. The eponymous white rump is only seen if they lift their wings in a stretch or you spot them in flight.

Comments

Black-bellied Plover juve 10/11/17

The other Pluvialis plover we see much more frequently in New England than the American Golden Plover is the Black-bellied Plover, the largest North American plover and known overseas as the Gray Plover. Juveniles like this one have little to no yellow edging on their feathers and a very densely spotted gray brown appearance. Several other field marks separate them from American Golden Plovers. The bill is much heavier, and the body size is larger but you might not notice those things unless you can compare them side by side. More reliably, Black-bellied juves have an all white rump, big black patches under the wings, and white wing stripes, all lacking in the American Golden Plover, but all more obvious in flight than when standing on the beach. Black-bellieds breed in the Arctic and migrate along the shore, in the east they winter on the from Cape Cod in the north all the way south to Argentina.

Comments

American Golden Plover and Semipalmated Sandpiper 10/7/17

American Golden Plovers are a medium sized shorebird not often seen on the East coast during either the spring or fall shorebird migrations. On their way north to the Arctic tundra in spring they travel up the middle of the continent, and in the fall they perform an amazing migratory feat of flying non-stop from Labrador to South America out over the Atlantic. But it’s not uncommon for juveniles like this one to show up along the coastline in the fall, but rarely in any numbers. This is one of 2 juves I found foraging the beaches of Fort Foster the other day. They are more golden than the slightly larger and stouter Black-bellied Plover juves also making their way to winter in South America, but by traveling along the coastlines.

Comments

Palm Warbler 10/06/17

Palm Warblers breed east of the Rockies across Canada and the northern US in boggy areas common to the great boreal forest. A more western and browner subspecies winters on the Pacific coast. This is the eastern “yellow” subspecies that will winter in the southeastern US, Gulf states, Caribbean, and Central America. Spring breeding males have bright rusty caps and more colorful breast streaks.

Comments

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »