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!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Red-shouldered Hawk Nest!

I knew red-shouldered hawks nested close by in our area. Often on hikes in spring, we'd hear the male and see him soaring in circles, calling frequently. In the fall I would usually see an immature hawk as well in the same area. 

As we were hiking our usual route, I could hear the call of a red-shouldered very close by, a repeated kee-ah kee-ah kee-ah. Looking up, I saw a nest in a crotch of a tall maple, about 60 feet off the ground. 

Gerry continued on, but I went to a better vantage point and saw a head sticking out of the nest! The call I was hearing was the nestling! Rushing home, I dragged Gerry back with his camera.

After a bit of a wait, we were rewarded when one popped up from the nest.

Soon his nest-mate appeared too, stretching his wings!

They're starting to get real feathers on their wings and tail.

We were hoping for an adult to show up as we could hear one close by, it was being mobbed by blue jays. 
We didn't see the adults but here's a picture Gerry took of one during hawk migration on Putney Mountain last fall.

 On our hike the next day, we came across a fawn in the grass, she was perfectly still, crouched in the grass, the dogs didn't even notice!

Friday, May 22, 2015

North Springfield Reservoir

great horned owl and owlet
Today we birded at the North Springfield Reservoir, there's a variety of spots to explore with lots of trails. There's over 1300 acres of forest, field, wetland and two lakes. At the north end, in a pine tree, a pair of bald eagles had been nesting for a few years. But in late winter, a pair of great horned owls stole their nest! I'm not sure if the bald eagles found a new spot in the area or not.
great horned owlet
 The fledged great horned owlet sat up against the tree trunk waiting for his parents to return with food. Young owls move onto nearby branches when they are six weeks old.

prairie warbler
On a trail that follows the fence line of the Hartness State Airport, we always find prairie warblers. Not a bird of open prairies, this warbler nests mainly in young second growth scrub and densely overgrown fields.

Baltimore oriole
Not named for the city of Baltimore, but the 17th century Lord Baltimore whose heraldic, coat-of-arms colors they share. Regardless, the Baltimore oriole is the state bird of Maryland.

alder flycatcher
One of the last migrants to return in the spring, this alder flycatcher was singing his "ray-BEER" song. This flycatcher is identical to the willow flycatcher and can only be determined by their song which is not learned but rather, inherited. The willow flycatcher sings "FITZ-bew", we heard both species in the area.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Warbler Walk

yellow warbler
Last Saturday, Gerry and I joined the southeastern Audubon group for a warbler walk led by Richard Foye. We walked along the Fort Hill Rail Trail, aka the Hinsdale setbacks, in New Hampshire. It's a great spot for migrating birds along the Connecticut River.

Richard telling the group about the bird we're hearing - now we need to find it!

Warblers are always high in the trees!

 Our most common warbler of the day was the yellow-rumped warbler. We must have seen 50 or more!

The common yellowthroat is another very abundant warbler.. This is the female, the males are usually the ones seen, since they make the most noise singing! wichety wichety wichety!

Another warbler usually found near water is the yellow warbler, even on an overcast day, this warbler is as bright as the sun. He sings "sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!"

A very good find was this singing, yellow-throated vireo.

The yellow-throated vireo showing off his color!

We also found a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers building a nest. They use spiderwebs on the outside and add lichen. Once it's finished, it's well camouflaged.

gray catbird    

savannah sparrow

common grackle

northern rough-winged swallow
There was lots of bird activity on our walk, we enjoyed many species, not only warblers. We found 8 warbler species without too much trouble; yellow, yellow-rumped, black-and-white, northern parula, blackpoll, northern waterthrush, common yellowthroat and American redstart.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bohemian Waxwings

It was four years ago that we had the last big invasion of Bohemian Waxwings from the north. Reports were coming in on eBird of sightings north of here, you could see their movement as the large flocks continued southward in search of food. 

When they find a food source - this time of year it's fruit and berries - they'll stay in that area until the trees and bushes are stripped clean. We found them eating apples, probably slightly fermented, in old apple trees in Grafton.

 Waxwings get their name from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of the feathers. The function is not known, but they may help attract mates.