Friday, April 18, 2014

Snowy Owl in April!

 There was a report of a snowy owl in North Springfield, Vermont yesterday, not too far from home. We found it quite easily at the corner of route 106 and route 10, perched on a white fence, exactly where it had been reported!.

Sitting not more than 40 feet from the busy intersection, the owl seemed pretty relaxed and not affected by the noise of the traffic.

We didn't even get out of the car, certainly didn't want to spook it. The owl sat on the post for a while, then flew even closer to us!

Gerry just held his finger on the shutter. The camera has a "burst" mode and takes 8 frames per second! A snowy's wingspan is between 4.2 and 4.8 feet.

It's usually a rare site to see a snowy owl, but this winter and spring, these beautiful birds of the Arctic tundra are still around!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ross's Goose

Snow Goose and Ross's Goose

I read the Vermont list serve (reports bird sightings) and saw that Ken Cox had just reported seeing a Ross's Goose at the waste water treatment plant in Charlestown, New Hampshire. I jumped in the car and raced over there!! The Ross's was still present with 15 snow geese.

A small, white goose with black wingtips, the Ross's Goose is a miniature version of the more abundant Snow Goose. It breeds in the central Arctic and winters primarily in central California, but is becoming more frequent farther east. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speculum Feathers in Mallards

Speculum, Latin for "mirror", refers to the patch of iridescent color on the secondary feathers (wings) of most duck species. 

Both male and female mallards show this feature, edged in white.

On a drab winter's day, the purple-blue-violet color is a welcome sight!

This is an excellent feature to distinguish a mallard from an American black duck in flight. Since both ducks are the same size and shape, it's good to know the black duck's dark blue to purple speculum is without white borders.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Symbol of the Sun: Raptors and Us

bald eagle

Last Saturday, the Nature Museum in Grafton hosted a presentation by Michael Clough from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum (SVNHM). Mike's talk was titled "Symbol of the Sun: Raptors and Us" and explored the relationship between humans and birds of prey that goes back thousands of years

red-tailed hawk
The program included an interactive slideshow about our history with raptors. He brought a bald eagle, American kestrel, red-tailed hawk and a saw-whet owl that SVNHM cares for, all are recovered from injuries but unable to be released back to the wild.

 A recent addition to SVNHM, this female bald eagle was hit by a car in Wyoming and will be used in the museum's educational programs. She's very impressive although only weighs 11 pounds.

northern saw-whet owl
Equally impressive is our smallest northeastern owl (this one with a permanent eye injury) who weighs between 3 and 5 ounces!

If you missed the presentation, go to the Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival in Bellows Falls on Sunday May 5th from 10am to 4pm. Michael Clough will be there with raptors and other wildlife from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro, Vermont, located on Route 9. Or just go visit the museum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turners Falls Ducks

mallard directing the band!
 The almost tame mallards at Unity Park were the only birds close enough for some great shots. At Barton's Cove, where a greater variety of ducks had congregated, viewing was less than desirable.

2 male canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks
Interestingly, one source says the canvasback's name comes from the fact that the drake's sides, back, and belly are white with a fine pattern resembling the weave of canvas.

Even at a distance, the redhead and canvasback are easily distinguishable. The canvasback has a very white back, while the redhead is grey. Their profiles are different also, the redhead has a very "duck-like" bill when compared to the canvasback's sloping forehead that gives him a wedge-shaped look.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gulls and Waterfowl

ring-billed gulls

Gerry was visiting a friend in Fairhaven, Massachusetts and brought his camera along. The gulls and brant pictures were taken in Fairhaven and the mute swan pictures were at Betty's Neck in Lakeville.

great black-backed gull
great black-backed gull in flight
herring gull
ring-billed gull - love the shadows!
mute swans
Non-native mute swans are considered an invasive species. One of the world's most aggressive species, especially while nesting and raising their young, mute swans drive out native waterfowl and other wetland  wildlife. Pretty to look at but..........
hooded merganser and mute swan
Keeping an eye on the "competition"!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Portland Maine Coast - Part 2

the rocky coast of Maine!

Ron pointing something out!
 With the rolling waves along the coast, it wasn't hard to see a bird and then lose it behind a wave. Then it's a matter of pointing to something and saying "see that blue buoy, it's right of that" or "left of that raft of eiders" or "just beyond that furthest rock". A good way to hone your "where's that bird" skills!

Mill Creek, South Portland is a great place to find gulls! In this picture, there are Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous, Iceland (Kumlien's) and Great Black-backed gulls.

The Iceland Gull or Kumlien's (American race) is one of the "white-winged" gulls we see in the east. It's bigger than a ring-billed gull but smaller than a herring gull and is said to have a "baby" face. 

Our other white-winged gull is the Glaucous Gull. It's too bad this one was snoozing, it would have been nice to show the bill compared to the Kumlien's. Glaucous are as big as the largest Herring gulls and rather "stern" looking.

common loon
We stopped at Bug Light in South Portland and found a few winter plumage Common Loons. Even though you think of loons as being on a golden pond, in winter they're common along the coast.

A red-breasted merganser was finding food! Is he having a "bad hair" day? No, they always look this way, it's a good field mark!