Raptor Wednesday

Backyard and Beyond

It snowed on Saturday. Twice. In between, I happened to be watching several squirrels capering across the park from my window. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught something fly at a bush and then away, turning up to a tree limb. Several squirrels made a racket up there before retreating.
It was a young Cooper’s hawk. Seemed small, so probably a male. Female Cooper’s are notably larger than the males.
He had caught a bird in the bush. I think House Sparrow.

Circled the tree to try get some shots through the branches. The hawk ate unconcerned about the world on the ground, children riding sleds, snow blowers blowing, cars making their awful din.

View original post

Winter Birds of Martha’s Vineyard

birds fly free

Known as the playground of the rich and famous, Martha’s Vineyard is jam-packed with visitors each summer. Traffic and parking can be problematic. Every July, the population on the island peaks at around 125,000, but in winter, the number of year-round residents dwindles to 15,000. This is why our Mass Audubon group heads out in mid-January to birdwatch on the Vineyard. And bird we did! We begin our search for birds on the ferry ride from Woods Hole. After driving our van onto the ferry, we climb up to the top level and stare out at the ocean. The first bird I see on the way over is a Surf Scoter. Then some buffleheads.


Surf Scoter

After driving our car off the ferry onto the Vineyard, our group encounters beautiful scenery and landscapes. The temperature dips to something below frigid, but the beauty of the island more than…

View original post 970 more words

The Magic of Monhegan Island, Maine.

birds fly free

In the early morning hours of Friday, September 13th, our Ipswich River Audubon group scrambled into the vans with coffee in hand. It was (yawn) 5:30 a.m. and the sun had not yet risen. The only unlucky thing about that Friday the 13th was that I spilled Latte all over the van’s cup holders, and then had to clean it all up. There are very few things that will get me up at 4:00 in the morning and Monhegan Island, Maine, is one of them. After a 3 hour van ride, we dragged our baggage and our bodies, onto the Ferry. I didn’t really start to wake up until Amy, our trip leader and I, began to bond through birding. “Look! There are American Bald Eagles, 3 of them!” “Look! There are Merlins!”

The magic began as soon as our boat pulled into the tiny harbor.

We had barely arrived…

View original post 708 more words

Our Native Trumpeter, et al.

birds fly free

The cooler temperatures are here and I decide to venture out into the wilds. I return to the marsh to see our NH Trumpeter Swan, who I’ve named”Louie”, but I can’t find him anywhere. I keep searching, dragging myself and my heavy lens into the woods. No swan in sight. Could he have already migrated? I decide to call to him, even though some may not approve, to let him know he has a friend. “Ko-Hoh! Ko-Hoh!” I trumpet softly. I have grown attached to this swan because I know how special he is. I know the tragic past of the Trumpeter Swan and how it has only partially recovered its pre-colonial numbers. He paddles out from behind the reeds. “Louie!” I can hardly contain my excitement as I try not to disturb him. He pretends to ignore me, but he knows that I am there, and I know that…

View original post 322 more words

Springtime on the New Hampshire Seacoast

birds fly free

The odyssey begins in March, on my way to the Seacoast. The last time a Trumpeter Swan was seen in New Hampshire was way back in the 1700s, before most of them were all but exterminated from North America, which occurred between the 1600 and 1800s. They were hunted for meat, skins that were used in powder puffs and for their white feathers used in quill pens. According to Wikipedia, The Hudson’s Bay Company killed 17,671 swans between 1853 and 1877 alone. By 1900, the remainder of them had all flown west, never to return. Until now. This is the big news at the Audubon this spring and amongst birders in New Hampshire. A Trumpeter Swan is being seen for the first time at the Abe Emerson Marsh in Candia. This is wonderful news. I must get out to see it, before it flies away. It takes me at least…

View original post 821 more words

Spring Birding on the North Shore

birds fly free

This spring, I visited several wildlife sanctuaries on the North Shore of Massachusetts looking for migrating spring birds. I have only been birding for 2-3 years, but it is such a fun hobby and honestly, I’m kind of obsessed with it. You can see and experience many species right here in your own back yard. It is a wonderful way to connect with nature for everyone, really, and I hope you enjoy reading my blog and sharing my journey to find Spring birds.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newbury, MA was the first place a fellow birder friend and I visited. We hopped into the car and drove from the reserve to Newburyport, back to the reserve, stopping at birding hotspots along the way. Below are a few of the birds we saw that inspired and amused us.

This was the last bird we expected to see, but the…

View original post 651 more words

Return of Bird of the Week: Great Black Hawk

Wickersham's Conscience

It’s black. It’s big. It’s a hawk. Therefore, it’s a Great Black Hawk. Another complete failure of imagination by the folks who name birds.

Great Black Hawk, Madre de Dios River, Peru Great Black Hawk, Madre de Dios River, Peru

With a wing span of well over a 3.5 feet and a body length of more than two feet, this is a large raptor. The long, bright yellow legs, white tail band and two-tone bill make the bird unmistakeable in the field.

This species is a generalist, pretty much willing to eat anything it can catch. But it is most commonly found along rivers; in fact, this photo was taken from a dugout, in the upper Amazon Basin in Peru. The species is very widely distributed, ranging from Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south, and along to coast of Central America, the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Great Black Hawk, Rio Napo, Ecuador Great Black Hawk, Rio Napo, Ecuador

While the wide…

View original post 77 more words

Birding O’ahu: The Introduced Songbirds

Wickersham's Conscience

Many of O’ahu’s native bird species are gone. The Polynesians and westerners brought in too many invaders: pigs, rats, mongoose, cattle, goats, chicken and, worst of all, avian malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Island ecologies are notoriously fragile. and the Hawai’ian Islands proved to be no different. Today, native bird species, especially O’ahu’s amazing songbirds, are mostly gone. Invasive species dominate the avifauna now.

The invasive species are mostly escaped cage birds. And they are certainly colorful enough. But they came loaded with the avian malaria Plasmodium protozoans. The invasives had evolved tolerance to the disease; the native Hawai’ian birds had not. When mosquitoes were introduced, they carried the disease from the non-native to the native birds, with tragic results. So look at these handsome introduced birds with a critical eye. In no particular order, here’s a sampling of the non-native, introduced songbirds:

Red Avadavat, O'ahu, Hawai'ian Islands Red Avadavat, O’ahu, Hawai’ian Islands

A difficult species to find…

View original post 217 more words