Palm Warbler female 11/6/18

There’s nothing more confusing in the bird world than the fall warblers to me, but I do have a few of them down, one of them being the Palm Warbler. Spring males are brighter yellow and the breast streaks and cap are a rusty chestnut. No hint of that here leads me to think this a female when a juve would be even more drab and less yellow. Palms are found lower to the ground than most warblers, and helpful in identifying them is the near constant wagging of their tails.

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Black-bellied Plover juveniles 11/3/18

There are three possible plumages of Black-bellied Plover one might see during fall migration in Maine—adults still in breeding plumage are common early in the season, sporting their eponymous black bellies. Later you can see adults molting or that have already molted into the soft grays of non-breeding plumage (in Europe this same bird is called the Gray Plover), but more often than not the Black-bellied Plovers you see in October and November are these spotted and very spangled juveniles. All plumages of Black-bellieds have large black armpits which are unmistakeable in flight or when stretching or lifting their wings. I waited quite awhile for one of these to oblige me but was not rewarded, And I’m not inclined to frighten birds for a photo. You might see the odd Black-bellied Plover during the winter months, their winter range on the Atlantic coast starts not far south of us on Cape Cod.

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Wild Turkey 11/2/18

That hairy boinker rising from this young Wild Turkey’s forehead is called a snood, one of a number of fleshy execrecences called caruncles or carnosities such as those red warty squiggles at the back of the head and neck, but which also includes the wattles and dewlaps under the chin, and in other birds can include combs, crests, and other protrusions. Female Turkeys are called hens, males are gobblers or Toms, hatchlings are called poults and young males like this one are called Jakes. As he matures his snood becomes long and pendulous up to 5 or 6 inches, flopped over and hanging well below the bill, and the skin from which the various caruncles protrude becomes a bright pale blue in a mature gobbler.

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White-rumped Sandpiper juvenile 10/30/18

Adult White-rumped Sandpipers began their migration from the Arctic back in August, but the juveniles don’t come through the Maritimes and New England until October, later than most shorebirds.  You can see their white rumps in flight but when resting up you’ll notice the rufous brace on their wings, a hint of orange at the base of the lower bill, the spotted flanks, the conspicuous eyestripe, and if the angle is right, long wings with the tips extending beyond the tail. They are one of North America’s 5 species of “peep,”  the group of the smallest sandpipers.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet male 10/29/18

One of the hardest little birds to photograph on account they never hold still for more than the briefest moment. I came across a little fallout of them yesterday following Saturday’s storm at the back of the beach, and took at least a hundred shots, but with few exceptions they are all green blurs or a bit of head or tail chopped off by the frame. Kinglets are tiny, about 4 inches long and weighing about as much as 2 or 3 pennies. Only males have the red crest which you rarely see except as a faint thin line, unless you’re lucky enough catch a courtship or territorial display in spring. I got lucky with this one molting his head feathers.

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Blue Jay 10/24/18

There are more than 3 dozen American Jays, most all of them blue and white and black, not to mention noisy, smart, and aggressive. But the Blue Jay is the only one common to the eastern US. They have a prodigious repertoire of sounds and calls, and are accomplished mimics as well, especially of local hawks. Occasionally I’ll hear some bird sounds I don’t recognize coming from the thickets and woods behind my yard, but after investigating it invariably turns out to be a Blue Jay. In New England some migrate, others stay put for the winter.

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Tufted Titmouse 10/21/18

A friendly little gray bird with a perky crest, rusty flanks, large black eyes, and a black forehead (adults only). There are 5 Titmouse species, all in North America, 4 of them out west but just the Tufted Titmouse in the east. They don’t migrate and pairs remain in their territories year round. In the fall and winter they often flock up with their chickadee cousins, along with nuthatches and woodpeckers, to form a cheerful neighborhood gang, together visiting feeders for seeds and suet. They are curious but wary, taking one seed at a time then seeking cover to shell it, and often stashing the kernel under some tree bark for a rainy day snack. Like many little birds in winter, they seek cavities at night and in bad weather for shelter. Sexes are alike.

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