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!

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!