Archive for April, 2018

Brown Creeper 4/28/18

Brown Creepers are little camouflaged birds with thin pointy bills with long tails. Unlike nuthatches which start at the top of a tree and forage downwards, the Brown Creeper starts at the bottom of the trunk and spirals upwards, finding all kinds of invertebrate snacks with its decurved bill that the nuthatches miss going the other way. They’re not all that uncommon, just hard to see or notice. Most migrate but in New England, some reside year-round.

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Mourning Dove pair 4/27/18

When I first came upon this pair of Mourning Doves they were kissing and lightly pecking each other but as I got out my camera and aimed, they got shy, moved apart, and almost like teenagers pretended they didn’t know one another or at least weren’t being lovey-dovey. Mourning Doves are fast flyers and prolific breeders, usually raising 2 squabs at a time, but 6 broods a year is not uncommon. The male is on the left and you can see that he’s pinker around the neck and breast than the female, but otherwise they are quite similar. They forage exclusively on seeds they find on the ground.

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Swamp Sparrow 4/26/18

Here’s a medium-sized sparrow of wetland habitats with especially long legs for wading the shallows while foraging for aquatic invertebrates. In winter their diet includes a lot more seeds. They are distinctively marked with a lot of rufous in the cap and wings, a white throat and a gray unstreaked breast and a gray face with a black eyestripe. They’re a fairly common sparrow in New England but not often seen in their swampy habitats, nor do you ever see them in groups. Their song is a simple trill, a little like a Chipping Sparrow but slower and lower pitched. They are closely related to both the Song and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

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Piping Plover male 4/25/18

We have a few shorebirds that breed locally and this threatened and endangered plover is one of them. With constant human pressure on their beachside nesting grounds, Piping Plovers are having a hard time recovering their former numbers along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Great Plains where they breed. In New England they arrive in April to court, mate, and nest in sand dunes right where people congregate in great numbers during the summertime, along with their homes, vehicles, and pets.  On the other hand, if it weren’t for most people respecting their roped off nesting areas and adjusting their habits to tread the dunes a little more lightly, there’s little doubt in my mind these plaintive little shorebirds would be extinct by now. Populations are improving, but progress is glacial. This one’s male, the black visor between the eyes and the necklace are paler and not so bold or complete in the females.

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Eastern Phoebe 4/24/18

Eastern Phoebes are invariably the first of the flycatchers to arrive back in New England after the long winter. You’ll see them perching in shrubs or in the lower branches of trees, flicking their tails and sallying out to catch some bug in the air or on the ground before finding  a new perch. They’re about the same size as a sparrow and have a sleek dusky brown appearance with a dark head. They sing a short and raspy fee bee in which both notes have the same pitch, not to be confused with the Black-capped Chickadee’s song which is also paraphrased fee bee, but is a much longer and sweeter whistle, with the second note falling after the first.

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Northern Flicker 4/23/18

Northern Flickers are already returning with this first wave of spring migrants. Notice the distinct black bib and spotted belly, and the gilded yellow shafts of the underfeathers give it its more common oldtime name—Yellowhammer. There’s also an unmistakeable white rump you can’t miss when you see its bouncy flight pattern. Males have black mustaches, females have none. Flickers often excavate new nest cavities every year, making other cavity nesters somewhat dependent on them to recycle their housing. Northern Flickers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are the only 2 New England woodpeckers that migrate, the others are all resident.

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Fish Crow 4/22/18

One doesn’t really see a Fish Crow as much as hear it, at least that’s how it works for me. While driving through Hampton Beach I heard “Aw, Aw, Aw,” and perked up, it was not the expected “Caw, Caw, Caw,” you associate with the American Crow, which I traced to this bird and then chased it a few blocks for a portrait. Most folks don’t realize we have two crow species. Fish Crows are smaller than American Crows, are usually found along the coast and waterways, and we are close to the northern limit of their range. They often have more blue iridescence in their backs which isn’t evident here being a cloudy day, there’s a sharp hook on the tip of its closed beak but you can’t see that in this head-on shot (but in others I have), and they have some different behaviors. But unless you happen have both species sitting side by side, they are pretty indistinguishable except for their call.

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