Sunday, February 26, 2017

Guest Blog - Great White Heron

My friend Ron Romano has been birding the Florida Keys and found a species - rather a sub-species - that's pretty rare. Here's my "guest blogger's" report!!

Great White Heron (photo credit: Ron Romano)
Herons and egrets can be found throughout the United States wading in marshes or along shorelines (both fresh and saltwater) for fish and frogs, but may be seen in fields and developed areas as well. The two largest species are the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret, both standing 3 to 4 feet tall. The Great Blue Heron is typically grayish-blue with a dull yellow bill and a distinctive black stripe extending over the eye, while the Great Egret is pure white, with a bright yellow bill and jet black legs and feet. 

Great Blue Heron (photo credit: JoAnne Russo)

I'm currently birding in the Florida Keys, where a rare all-white form of the Great Blue Heron is found. Formerly considered a separate species, it's now thought to be a sub-species of the Great Blue Heron, although some preliminary unpublished data suggests that it may even be a completely separate species. 
At first glance, the Great White Heron can easily be confused with the also-present egret, being all white with a yellow bill. But a closer look at the legs of these two birds found yesterday at Stock Island (near Key West) reveals the difference. Note the pale yellowish legs of the heron and the jet black legs of the egret.
Great Egret (photo credit: Ron Romano)
Regular blue forms of the Great Blue Heron are also found in the Florida Keys, and when a Great White Heron mates with the Great Blue, a hybrid called the Wurdemann's Heron results, the plumage of which is very pale gray and white.

Ron Romano reporting from Marathon Key, Florida.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fort Edward Grasslands IBA, New York

northern harrier
   My friend Laura suggested we explore Ft. Edward Grasslands in New York where there were recent reports of numerous short-eared owls, harriers, rough-legged hawks and a snowy owl! From my house it's about a two hour drive, perfect for a day trip.
here's a link to the spot: Ft. Edward Grasslands IBA

northern harrier
One of the first birds we saw was a "grey ghost", aka a male northern harrier, probably eating a mole or mouse in a field.

snowy owl
We looked for the snowy owl that was being seen off Swamp Road. This snowy really blended in with the scenery!

Driving along the roads we saw numerous harriers, rough-legged hawks, a kestrel and this merlin.

short-eared owl vocalizing

We met some other birders who were familiar with the area, they told us to go to Fitzpatrick Drive for the best viewing. Earlier in the day, they had seen 7 short-eared owls in a tree, along with 2 more on the ground. This is a banner year for these owls with reports of up to 15 owls seen this winter. The last such incursion was 2007. The owls were eating well, with many seen with rodents, along the road and eating on the fly!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Recent Favorites

cerulean warbler
I can recall seeing my first cerulean warbler in college, at a cemetery, somewhere in Massachusetts. This recent sighting was the best view I ever had of one!

cerulean warbler
Cerulean warblers are usually found high up in the trees, flitting around constantly gleaning insects. We were pretty lucky this day that he found food in a shorter tree!

northern saw-whet owl
What a rare treat to have an owl, nest in a box in a easily viewed spot! So far two of these cute nestlings have been seen.

northern saw-whet owl
When we were there, he watched as cars and people walked and drove by. 

yellow-billed cuckoo

Saw this one fly in, a large bird, just bigger than a blue jay.

great crested flycatcher
You usually hear these birds before you see them, a very distinctive, very loud, upslurred WHEEP!

eastern wood-pewee
Easily identified by his song - peee-ah-weeeee!

indigo bunting
Nothing like the intense blue of this favorite!

warbling vireo
The song of the warbling vireo has a certain rhythm. Mnemonically it goes like this "if I see you, I will seize you, if I squeeze you, you will squirt". 

Canada warbler
Another pretty warbler that moves through our area on his way to breed in the north.

blue-winged warbler
Singing his beeee buzzzz song.

turkey vulture
Turkey vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell. They have been known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away which is very unique in the bird world.

Friday, May 13, 2016

More Spring Arrivals

Baltimore Oriole
I love spring! All the birds in their most colorful plumage arrive to nest. This post looks like a study in orange (except for the kingbird). Enjoy!

Orchard Oriole

Gray Catbird

Eastern Kingbird

Barn Swallow

Eastern Towhee

Brown Thrasher

Hermit Thrush


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring Warblers

Yellow Warbler
 I have a new camera, got it the beginning of the year and I love it. It's the Nikon Coolpix P900, it has an amazing zoom and it's pretty easy to use. Most of the time I use the "birdwatching" mode, I have yet to switch to the advanced settings. I still can't figure out what f-stops do even though Gerry explains them all the time! I just want to point and shoot. This is a great time of year to bird in Vermont! Enjoy the warblers!!

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumps are among the first warblers to show up in the spring, they are everywhere, but most are migrating through.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Palm Warbler (Yellow)
Palm warblers are early migrants too, first the yellow Palms arrive, followed by western Palms. Western Palms have whitish bellies.

Pine Warbler
You usually find Pine Warblers in pine trees! This one resides in our backyard.

Black-and-white Warbler
It's easy to find this warbler, he has a weezy weezy weezy song, sort of like a squeaky gate and he always scampers along the tree trunk and branches.

Common Yellowthroat
These warblers look like bandits, they sing a wichety wichety song and they like brushy areas near wetlands. They're pretty common at Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
This warbler is usually found in the woods. Both male and female have that white patch on the wing which is referred to as a handkerchief.

Yellow Warbler
Yellow warblers are so bright yellow, they really brighten up a dreary day and make you smile, especially as they sing "sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!"
Most of these shots were taken at Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls, in fact I've seen all these warblers and more there.


Monday, March 14, 2016

more Niagara Falls

We returned to Niagara Falls this past weekend for the opening of Gerry's show "Made of Thunder, Made of Glass II" at the Castellani Museum at Niagara University. Here's the links:
Castellani Museum and Facebook page 

lesser and great black-backed and ring-billed gulls
Of course, I immediately went over to the falls on arrival! The weather was great, hardly any snow and no wind. Lots of gulls and large rafts of ducks awaited me!

common goldeneye

Male common goldeneyes were doing their "dance" trying to impress the ladies.

common goldeneye


redheads and gadwalls
  I've never seen such large numbers of redheads, we're lucky to have 4 or 5 at one time in Vermont.

redheads, gadwalls and a bufflehead

redhead pair


tundra swans

ring-billed gulls and a lesser black-backed
It was nice to see gulls in breeding plumage and they were pretty noisy!

American herring gull

lesser black-backed gull

lesser black-backed gull