Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Birds on a Farm

rusty blackbird

It was a cold afternoon when we drove down to a farm in Vernon to do some birding. They had just harvested the last of the corn and one of the dirt roads was covered in kernels. Lots of birds were taking advantage of this! Enjoy the pix!

rusty blackbird
fox sparrow
song sparrow
dark-eyed junco
American tree sparrow
white-throated sparrow
juvenile Gambel's white-crowned sparrow

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Great Cormorant

November 17th was this year's first sighting of a Great Cormorant in Vermont. While double-crested cormorants are a common sight inland, the great cormorant is a sea bird, preferring to stay along the coast. But every so often, one goes further inland, and as you might expect, are found along the Connecticut River or Lake Champlain.

The difference between double-crested and great cormorant immature birds, as this one is, is the reversal of the coloring on the breast and belly. Immature great cormorants have white bellies and dark breasts (as you can see in this picture), while double-crested have dark bellies and pale breasts (see the picture below).

immature double-crested cormorant

Enjoy the pictures of the great cormorant taken at Lake Runnemede in Windsor. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Red-shouldered/Red-tailed Hybrid

  In 2007, Julie Waters, a local photographer, who had been seeing this hawk for a year and a half, posted on a birding blog to try to figure out the identity. The discussion was pretty intense with opinions from red-shouldered to red-tailed to believing it was two different get the picture. 

On our way home from birding this morning, I spotted the hawk in its usual area along the Saxtons River near Gageville. 

This hawk has been continuously seen here for years now, so it's an adult. If it were a red-tailed hawk, it would have a red tail.

In 2007,  David Sibley (of Sibley guidebook) also commented on the identification. Here's what he said:
"What an interesting bird! While I had a momentary first impression of  'western Red-tail' that was quickly dispelled as I looked at more details and I think this can only be a hybrid Red-tailed x Red-shouldered hawk! 
The pattern of orange breast with sparsely streaked and barred belly seems like a mixture of the two species and not normal for either, the posture and body shape in some photos looks like Red-tailed, in others like Red-shouldered, and several photos show clear reddish accents in the smaller wing coverts which is wrong for Red-tailed. I'm sure a careful analysis would reveal lots more 'mixed' characteristics."

 Julie also had recorded an audio clip of the call. David Sibley said, "The clincher, for me, is the call which sounds most like a Red-shouldered and would be extremely unusual (if not impossible) for a Red-tailed."

So that's the story of our resident hybrid hawk!  I just love the fact that this bird is still here!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pine Grosbeaks - Irruption

This is an "irruptive" year for winter finches. There is a "winter finch forecast" that predicts if normally northern birds will move south to find food because of shortages of fruits and seeds in their usual wintering area. Read more about it here: winter finch forecast

Pine Grosbeaks are one of the largest members of the finch family. The males are rosy-red, while the females are yellow. First-season immature birds are hard to distinguish as both males and females are similar in coloration.

It was five years ago that I saw them here in southeastern Vermont.

This flock had at least twelve female and immature grosbeaks consuming crabapples.

They are relatively "tame", which is nice when you're trying to get pictures!