Thursday, January 28, 2016

Florida - White

white pelicans
A recent trip to Florida took me to the Lake Worth area which has lots of great birding spots. Since most of us in Vermont aren't seeing too much of the white stuff (snow!) I thought I'd do a post on all the white birds I photographed!

white ibis
My friend Ron took me to Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington, a real favorite of Ron's and now one of mine too. Peaceful Waters is a 30 acre wetlands park with 1,500 feet of elevated nature boardwalks and one mile of walking trails and thousands of birds!!

wood storks and white ibis
wood storks and great egrets
great egrets
great egret in breeding plumage with roseate spoonbills
wood stork
Another stop was at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach. It encompasses 143,954 acres of northern Everglades and cypress swamp, protecting the integrity of the remaining Everglades ecosystem.

immature little blue heron
cattle egrets
cattle egret
We also visited Dreher Park in West Palm Beach where we found lots of birds very accustomed to people.

white ibis
white ibis and muscovey ducks
wood stork
White ibis are pretty common along the roads and highways, we ran across these on a walk in Lake Worth.

white ibis

The only shot I have of a snowy egret was on Snook Islands in Lake Worth.
snowy egret and brown pelican

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gulls in Southeastern Vermont

ring-billed gulls
We don't usually see big numbers of gulls in southeastern Vermont in January. By now, the open water should be iced up or nearly so, but not with our warmest-on-record December of 2015!

4 great black-backed, 2 ring-billed and 1 glaucous gull
 Our most common gulls are ring-billed gulls with a few herring gulls mixed in. Just a few days ago, a glaucous gull was found in Brattleboro along with 4 great black-backed gulls.

forefront - great black-backed, herring and glaucous
This is the first report of a glaucous gull in Windham county on eBird. They might have been seen in previous years but none were reported via eBird. That said, they are not common at all in our area.

first winter, glaucous and adult winter, great black-backed
The decline in gull numbers is surely a direct result of the closing of open landfills. Not sure how this trash came to be dumped in the stump piles near the transfer station in Brattleboro, but it attracted hundreds of gulls including an Iceland Gull!

Kumlien's, 2nd winter, in center.

There are 2 subspecies of Iceland gull, one is our American form called Kumlien's which breeds in Canada and shows variable amounts of dark in the wingtips. The form that breeds in Greenland and winters from there to Europe, has very little or no dark in its wingtips.

A combination of warm weather and some open trash has brought a nice influx of gulls to our area!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Niagara Falls Birding

Gulls, gulls, gulls!! The majority at Niagara Falls are Ring-billed and Bonaparte's this time of year, with Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and a few rare ones, if you're lucky!

There's construction at Terrapin Point, so we couldn't get closer views of the Horseshoe Falls, but Gerry did get a shot of a rainbow by holding his camera over the fence!

Even with the construction, there are plenty of spots to see gulls. We headed out to Three Sisters Island for some close views of gulls.

Bonaparte's Gull  

 I found an adult winter plumage Lesser Black-backed Gull posing for pictures!

ring-billed gulls

We walked over to Luna Island where you stand between Bridal Falls and the American Falls. Looking down in the precipice there were 1000s of gulls!

A Canada Goose was hanging out right near the edge of the falls.

Notice the mass of gulls on the rocky ledges in the middle of the picture.

View of the Canadian side from above the falls.

 November is a nice time of year to be there, not many tourists and luckily, we had a spell of 60 degree weather, (although I still dressed for winter!)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reflections on a Pond

ring-necked ducks
About a week ago, Gerry and I went to Minards Pond in Bellows Falls, a favorite birding spot. It was a lovely, warm November day with a group of ring-necked ducks and  flocks of Canada geese continuously flying in. 

Canada geese

There was a  lone common merganser swimming by and a single great blue heron on the shore. Love the reflections on the water, and especially on the underside of the heron's wing. 

common merganser

great blue heron

Friday, July 10, 2015

Atlantic Puffin Cruise

We went to Maine to visit friends and do some birding recently.  I've always wanted to take a cruise off the coast to see pelagic birds so we decided to go on the Hardy Boat puffin cruise out of New Harbor. hardyboat/puffinwatch

Atlantic puffin
 Here's an interesting fact: during winter, the bills and feet of puffins fade to dull shades of their summer colors.  Every spring their beaks and feet turn a colorful orange in preparation for the breeding season.  The beaks and feet of puffins become brightly colored and the beak increases in size as the bird matures.  The size and color of puffin beaks may serve as badges of experience and help birds assess the 'quality' of potential mates.

New Harbor

The boat leaves this picturesque harbor at 5:30pm to catch the puffins as they return to Eastern Egg Rock where they breed. The island is home to the world's first restored seabird colony. It's a 5 mile cruise out to the island. projectpuffin.audubon

According to Audubon's website:  Puffins hunt a variety of small fish including herring, hake, capelin and sand lance.  They do not come to land outside of the breeding season, flying, swimming or riding the ocean surface throughout the year regardless of weather.

black guillemot

 Along the way we saw lots of birds, puffins, black guillemots, laughing gulls, common eiders, double-crested cormorants and common terns.

common tern

laughing gull
Laughing gulls and common terns were the most common birds.

The island, while closed to visitation during breeding season, is home to 4 or 5 researchers.  Work includes projects such as: annual tern, eider, and laughing gull census; tern band resighting, chick provisioning, productivity and growth studies; puffin census, productivity, band resighting and provisioning studies; vegetation monitoring and management; predator management; and daily weather and bird lists.

The need for protection from what "rains" from the sky is evident!

roseate tern
 This was a great chance to see roseate terns, listed as endangered by the US fish and wildlife department.

arctic tern
The largest colonies of arctic terns occur in Maine where they nest close together in order to be safe from gull predation.
double-crested cormorant
Atlantic puffin
 On the way back from Eastern Egg Rock, we saw 3 Cory's shearwaters flying around the boat. This large, brown seabird is usually seen farther out at sea. They are large (44" wingspan) and flew low above the ocean with strong wingbeats and short glides. This was an unexpected treat and unfortunately, Gerry had put his camera away!