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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Barn Swallow male 8/23/18

Barn Swallows are leaving and in many areas have already left on their long distance migration to Central and South America. Originally a cave-roosting bird, they became a worldwide species having successfully spread with human development—taking advantage of open human structures like barns and bridges for breeding, and wires for roosting. They prefer open country near water, catching insect prey on the wing. They have shiny cobalt-blue upper parts, cinnamon foreheads and bibs, and off-white underparts. The long outer tail feathers of adults makes them easy to tell apart from the other North American swallows, and the swallow tails of males are considerably longer than in females.

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Purple Finch female 8/21/18

Similar in appearance to female House Finches and female House Sparrows, female Purple Finches are mostly brown and white with a streaky breast and conical bill, but differ in having  distinctive facial markings, especially the strong whitish stripe above the eye and another below. Like all finches they sport a notched tail. Males are the inspiration for Roger Tory Peterson’s memorable description of them as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” Until recently Purple Finches belonged to the genus Carpodacus, or rosefinches, but recent dna research has shown the three North American members weren’t closely related and were moved into a new genus Haemorhous.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler male 8/17/18

Black-throated Blue Warbler males are one of the few warblers that look much the same in fall as they do in spring, but the blue and black is not as rich and saturated as in spring breeding plumage. Females are more drab gray with blue hints but without any of the male’s bold black markings. They are a warbler of deep forests from Nova Scotia to the Great Lakes then south down the Appalachians. They winter in the Caribbean and parts of Central America. This one on the rocks by the sea appears to be an early migrant.

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House Wren chicks 8/15/18

Believe it or not there are 7 House Wren chicks packed into this nest I found under the eave of an entryway. They’ll be fledging shortly, it’s hard to imagine any of them moving about without pushing one of its sibs out of the nest. House wrens build twiggy nests in a wide variety of cavities or other protected places such as garages, flower pots, nest boxes, and brush piles. They are quite common little brown songbirds with a loud burbly song frequently repeated.

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Little Blue Heron 8/4/18

You don’t often see these birds since Little Blues are herons of tropical and subtropical swamps and estuaries, breeding from Brazil through the Caribbean to the Gulf and mid-Atlantic coast states of the US.  In New England we get a few every spring and a few do breed here in mixed rookeries, then a few more might show up in late summer during the post-breeding dispersal. First-year birds are all white and often confused with Snowy Egrets which are much the same size. Adults are blue with purplish necks and heads.

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