Archive for September, 2018

Cedar Waxwing adult 9/17/18

Cedar Waxwings are rather inconspicuous birds and I generally hear their high pitched buzzy trills in the treetops before spotting them. When seen up close they change from drab brown birds to a silky confection of browns, grays and yellow, with black, white, and red highlights. Very handsome! Cedar Waxwings subsist almost entirely on fruit. The color band at the tip of the tail varies from lemon yellow to bright orange depending on their diet during the previous molt. With the breeding season over, some will migrate south, others will join flocks to wander throughout the winter searching for fruits and berries.

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Great Blue Heron juvenile 9/16/18

Juvenile Great Blue Herons are easy to spot with their dark gray caps and two-toned bills, unlike adults with black and white heads and an all yellowish bill. They belong to the genus Ardea, the great herons, of which there are about a dozen species found inhabiting temperate and tropical wetlands around the globe. Great Blues are perhaps the most stealthy of all the herons, wading very slowly or holding perfectly still before making a lightning strike at fish and other prey. This youngster isn’t yawning, it’s trying to stay cool in the 90º heat by holding its mouth open wide and vibrating its neck muscles in a form of panting called gular fluttering.

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Spotted Sandpiper adult 9/12/18

These constantly bobbing and teetering sandpipers are one of the few breeding shorebird species in New England. There are 3 plumages, breeding adult, winter adult, and juvenile. Only the breeding adult sports the spots, and in just a few weeks  this bird will have none. Unlike most shorebirds, female Spotteds are polyandrous, laying several clutches with different males, and it’s the male that incubates and raises the young. When seen flying short distances they have a distinctive stiff-winged flight pattern, low over the water. They may wander through flocks of other shorebirds, but don’t really join them, and fly separately if the flock is spooked.

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Northern Gannet 9/11/18

One of my all time favorites, I never tire of watching flocks of these seabirds circle and climb in the air to plunge dive for mackerel and other schooling fish. Once they pop back up to the surface like a giant cork, they rest-up for a few moments before flapping along the surface to get airborne and climb 50 to 100 feet for their next dive. Check out that blue eye! North American gannets spend most of their life in the air or on the water, only ever coming ashore to breed in one of only 6 colonies—3 of them in the Gulf of St Lawrence and another 3 off of Newfoundland.  Sexes are alike.

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Wood Duck juveniles 9/4/18

There are many drab young ducks around ponds and wetlands this time of year, but it’s only the young Wood Ducks sporting that bold white eyeliner. Within a day of hatching, the ducklings climb up to the nest opening and . . . jump. Often nests are built directly over water, but suitable cavity nests are rare, and many wind up being some distance away. A lot of a Wood Duck’s diet is found by foraging on land—seeds, berries, acorns, insects, as well as by dabbling for underwater shoots and aquatic invetebrates in the shallows. They get their name from the claws on their feet, which unlike all other North American ducks, allows them to perch in trees.

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Black-bellied Plover molting male 9/3/18

Black-bellieds are North America’s largest Plover being roughly the size of a small gull. There was a second plover with this one that spooked and flew off and which had much less black in the face, throat and belly—a female. This one you can still see the outline of the black breeding plumage starting at the bill and extending down the throat and belly, all the way behind the legs. It’s getting mottled now, beginning the molt into winter plumage. In another few weeks this bird will have a soft mottled gray upperside with a white belly, earning it the name it’s known by outside of North America—the Grey Plover. All plumages of Black-bellied Plovers can be told by black axillaries under the wing, that is they all have black armpits which you can see when they take off or land, or are in flight.

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