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.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Uncommon Winter Visitor

horned larks and lapland longspur
Every winter, flocks of horned larks and snow buntings show up on cornfields in our area. Our local Agway feed store always puts seeds out behind the store in Walpole, New Hampshire. This winter at least three lapland longspurs have been associated with the flocks of horned larks.

While not a rare bird in our area, they are uncommon and usually associate in flocks of horned larks. They blend in pretty well, so you need to scan carefully to find the prize!

In summer, the lapland's appearance is quite striking. The breeding male has a black face and chest and rufous colored nape. Unlike most birds with different breeding and non-breeding plumages, longspurs molt only once a year. In the fall, they molt into non-breeding plumage. By spring, the outer tips of the feathers have worn off to reveal the breeding plumage underneath.
Horned larks are pretty distinctive with their yellow faces, black masks and tiny horns. Their repeated song, “tsee-ee”, is weak and high, and is usually delivered in flight. In winter the song becomes a faint tinkling sound.

 You can see the tiny horns on the horned lark on the right in this picture.
 Here's a couple shots showing the dark tail on the horned lark.

 This bird is philopatric, or faithful to its birthplace, where it returns after every migration. Consequently, each local population adapts to the color of its habitat; 15 distinct subspecies have been described in the West.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Putney Mountain Hawkwatch

We hiked up Putney Mountain last week to join the hawk watchers for a few hours. The Putney Mountain hawk watch has been going on for 40 years in the fall. There's always someone watching in September and October, unless it's raining. There weren't too many birds flying overhead for good pictures but Gerry managed to catch a few. here's a link to see the hawk watch data.

Cooper's hawk

juvenile broad-winged hawk

Besides the hawk watchers, a flock of sheep have been on the mountain eating the buckthorn and other invasive shrubs that are invading the mountain top.

A sweet looking Maremma watch dog is protecting his flock. Here's a link to see a video of the sheep being herded from the farm in Westminster to Putney Mountain.

hermit thrush

Besides hawks, we found migrating songbirds on the path up to the mountain.

 A good way to identify a hermit thrush, besides the red tail, is their habit of slowly raising their tail.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Turkey Broods

August is the time when states ask the public to report sightings of turkeys. In Vermont, you can report here: Vermont turkey survey
New Hampshire sightings can be reported here: New Hampshire turkey survey

Yesterday morning, 4 adult females and 35 young poults of various sizes nibbled their way through our field.

The adult females acted as look-outs, watching over their young charges. It's quite common for hens and their broods to join with other females. Adult females without young may also join as foster moms.

From the New Hampshire site, I found this information which is probably similar to Vermont turkeys as well:
 The term “brood” refers to a family group of young turkeys accompanied by a hen. New Hampshire hens generally begin laying eggs from mid-April to early May and complete their clutch of about 12 eggs in early to mid-May. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and most nests hatch from late May to mid-June. If incubating turkey eggs are destroyed or consumed by predators, hens often lay a replacement clutch of eggs that hatch late June through late August.

 We all know how Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the symbol of the United States, not the bald eagle. from Wikipedia:
The idea that Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey as the national bird comes from a letter he wrote to his daughter Sarah Bache on January 26, 1784. 
"For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

So if you see turkeys, make a note of the time, place and number and send in a report.