Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting Goosed!

I never noticed a goose's tongue before. Look at the tooth-like projections which, along with the serrated edges of the bill, help cut grass and plant material when they are grazing.

This guy is not too happy with intruders in his territory. A few Canada geese landed in the marsh that has a nesting pair. The local goose flew over to chase them out. Honking all the way!! He looks like he's doing some crazy dance moves.

He eventually gave up and swam back to his mate, having given the intruders a good "tongue lashing".

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eurasian Wigeon!!

 This is what the flooded farm field looked like when we surveyed the waterfowl. If you look left of center, you'll see a small bit of orange. That's the head of a Eurasian Wigeon!

The Eurasian wigeon is an infrequent visitor to both coasts of North America. Those that visit are probably from Iceland and eastern Siberia. It's not very common to see one along the CT River, but we found one in Charlestown, NH yesterday.
 He is very similar to our American wigeon in size and shape. Both have a short bluish-gray bill with a dark tip and a white forehead and crown but the European visitor has an orange head.

American wigeon

Wigeon were once called "baldpate" because the white stripe on their crown looks like a bald man's head.
Eurasian wigeon and mallard

American wigeon and ring-necked duck

He was following around a female wigeon. Unfortunately female Eurasian and American wigeons are hard to tell apart. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Turkey Vultures

 I found lots of interesting facts about turkey vultures on an Audubon site! Enjoy!

A turkey vulture can smell carrion from over a mile away! They have the largest olfactory (smelling) system of all birds.

They are also the only scavenger bird that can't kill it's prey. But, they do have an amazing beak that can tear through even the toughest hide.

  Vultures prefer meat as fresh as possible and won't eat extremely rotted carcasses. They can smell carrion less than 12-24 hours old.

During the hot summer months turkey vultures will defecate on their feet to cool them off. If a turkey vulture is disturbed or harassed, it will throw up on whoever is bothering it. Even the vulture babies will do this! I guess that just goes with the territory!

Turkey vultures can swoop up to 60 mph in order to avoid being "mobbed" by ravens or jays. They also have excellent eyesight and can spot dying or recently dead animals from high in the air.

There's a couple ways to identify a turkey vulture when in flight. From a distance, it looks like a big bird without a head. They also teeter side to side while soaring because of their light weight. With a wing span of over 5 feet, you'd think this bird would weigh more than just 2 to 4 pounds.

  Because of their light weight, turkey vultures can virtually float in the sky using the thermal currents (rising columns of air) to get around the skies. This technique uses very little energy as the vultures rarely need to flap their wings.
  Turkey vultures do not actually build a nest. They are known to nest in very remote, hard to reach locations. Just as well, you wouldn't want to come across a nest only to get vomited on!

   In the early morning hours you may see turkey vultures sunbathing in a tree with their wings spread out in a horaltic pose. This is most likely done to increase their body temperature after the cool night.

  And here's the last interesting fact, even better than the vomit one. Groups of perched vultures are called a wake. Seems obvious, doesn't it!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Bald Eagle at Herrick's Cove

4th year bald eagle
Martha spotted this bald eagle today at Herrick's Cove, in Bellows Falls. There's still some dark feathers on his/her head and tail, so not quite an adult yet. Bald eagles take 5 years to fully mature.

We did notice the way his right wing is hanging a bit askew. You can see in the picture how the left wing is tucked up and on the tail but the right one isn't. Is this an injury? Luckily, it did not affect his flying.

In the pictures, you can see how the right wing looks a bit odd near the wrist.

What a majestic bird!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Herrick's Cove - the Ice has Melted!

ring-necked ducks

Finally, the ice has melted in the cove at Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls. We got there just in time to see our FOY (first of year) Osprey.

 The Osprey was flying around, intently searching the water for fish. At times, he was almost stationary in the sky (kiting), then he'd start to drop down, feet first - at an amazing speed - to catch a fish.

He dropped so fast that Gerry missed him making contact with the water but caught these couple shots as he emerged and flew off.

The other waterfowl got stirred up quite a bit while he was diving but then the osprey flew off up the river.

ring-necked ducks
ring-necked ducks

American black ducks

Wood ducks

Red-necked Grebe