174 And Counting…

174 And Counting…

I took a quick trip over to the East Coast of the US this week, South Carolina to be exact and I ended up seeing 14 bird species that I hadn’t seen yet this year!

So now for the year 2020, I’ve seen 174… not bad. Now if only I can continue to get out there and catch all the birds that migrate through my area I should have a pretty good year.

Here is a photo of one of the birds that I saw for the first time this year. This is an Anhinga.

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This is a female Anhinga, they have a buff head and neck, whereas the males have black heads and necks. Very similar to the cormorants, but they have a long narrow pointed bill, white markings on their upper side of the wings and a fan shaped tail.

Hunts mostly fish, they usually swim in the water and wait for a fish to get close by, then they will stab it with their pointy bill.

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I’ve Seen Some Strange Things…

I’ve Seen Some Strange Things…

While on the beach birding the other day I came across a strange sight… this Surf Scoter was walking up the beach… I know that they love the water so I found it rather odd that he was just wandering around that cold windy day on the sand!

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At one point he turned and looked at me before continuing on his journey…

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The Surf Scoter breeds in Alaska and Northern Canada and winters along both coasts of Canada and the US down into the Mexican coast.

They eat mostly mollusks and forage by diving underwater being propelled by their feet.

In this photo the Surf Scoter is swimming around near a breakwater in the Ocean, this is where I expect to see him… not walking on the beach!

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The Red-cockaded Woodpecker Is Still Endangered!

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker Is Still Endangered!

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker

They’re only about the size of a cardinal, but they play a huge role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests.

Making their home in mature pine forests, preferably Longleaf pines, these birds excavate in living mature pine trees, usually around 80 years old, unlike other woodpeckers which bore out cavities in dead rotten and soft trees. The Red-cockaded  may take from 1 to 6 years to bore out a suitable cavity in these trees. 

Due to the widespread commercial timber harvesting, the European settlements and naval store/turpentine industry from the 1700s on through the mid 1900s, the longleaf pine ecosystem initially disappeared. Today many of the southern pine forests are young, which has made it difficult for the Red-cockaded to survive. 

I have seen in a few areas of North Carolina where many different measures are being put in place to protect these birds. Controlled burns are done to help thin out the forest making it healthier for the remaining trees to thrive. Keeping many Longleaf pine forests protected from harvesting so that these birds can continue to have a home.

These birds are rarely visible, you will typically hear them first. I will go birding in the Longleaf pine forests and I stop to listen ever so often, when I hear sounds of what some say is a squeaky toy, then I know that the Red-cockaded is around. Though be careful, the small Brown-headed Nuthatch has a similar squeaky toy sound, though a bit higher pitched.

These woodpeckers were once considered common throughout the longleaf pine ecosystem, with an estimated population of 1.5 million “groups” or family units. Currently there is estimated to be only 14,068 birds left in 11 states!!!

They will make several cavities in a cluster which may include 1 to 20 trees in a 3 to 60 acre area. They ones that they actively use will have small resin wells which exude sap. These smart Woodpeckers will keep the sap flowing as a defense mechanism against rat snakes and possibly other predators.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker play a vital role in the intricate web of life by building their nest cavities. At least 27 species of vertebrates have been document as using their cavities either for roosting or nesting. Such species include birds, snakes, squirrels, insects, frogs and lizards! Some species, like the wood ducks will only use the cavities that have been abandoned by the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, and have had the entrance enlarged by the Pileated Woodpeckers. However many other species can use the cavities without any alterations, such as the Brown-headed Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Redbellied Woodpeckers, Redheaded Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Great Crested Flycatchers and Flying Squirrels. 

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a valuable asset to our planet and should not be lost!

 

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I Found This Snowy Owl In Salisbury, Massachusetts

I Found This Snowy Owl In Salisbury, Massachusetts

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Snowy Owl

Kind of looks like a giant cotton ball, all fluffy and soft! I found this one in the wintertime at Salisbury Beach State Reservation in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Most years you will be able to see one there or at the neighboring Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

A large and powerful owl. They nest in the Arctic and may breed during the years that lemmings are abundant and not at all when they are scarce.

Their diet consists mostly of lemmings, other mammals and birds. In the Arctic they do prefer the lemmings, but will eat voles, rabbits and squirrels if they have to. For those Owls living in coastal areas, they may fed on ducks, grebes, geese and even songbirds!

Unlike most Owls the Snowy hunts during the day, especially during dawn and dusk. They cruise low to the ground and once they spot their prey, they will snatch it up with their talons. In the winterr the Owl may not see their prey under the snow, but they have a great hearing and can find food just by listening!

Snowy owls have excellent eyesight, but they obviously can’t see their prey when it’s underneath snow or a thick layer of plants. To capture those meals, the owl relies on its other keen sense: hearing.

In flight, snowy owls generally cruise low to the ground. Once they spot their prey, they approach it from the air, and snatch it up using the large, sharp talons, or claws, on their feet.

 

 

5 Birds I Saw At Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Newbury, Massachusetts

5 Birds I Saw At Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Newbury, Massachusetts

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is located along the northeast coast of Massachusetts. I was established in 1941 to provide feeding, resting and nesting habitat for migratory birds.

It is a wonderful place to go, with trails and boardwalks. There are many different habitats to attract a variety of birds. Unfortunately most of these photos were taken on a cold and cloudy day in the winter.

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Red-throated Loon

The smallest of the Loons, they breed in high latitudes in Eurasia and North America. The Red-throated Loon differs from other Loons, by not needing to patter on the water’s surface to takeoff, they can actually start flying right from the ground and unlike other loons, they do not carry their young on their backs.

 

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Snow Goose

In the winter they can be found in areas on both the East and West coasts of the US. Occasionally you may find them in some inland areas. These Geese will breed in colonies on the tundras of Northern Alaska and Canada near the coast. They forage in open habitats such as freshwater ponds, fields, grasslands and marshes. I found these Geese with a flock of Canada Geese at the coastal marsh.

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Razorbill

In 2009 one Razorbill was located breeding on Bradley Island in the United Kingdom, it had been originally banded as a nestling in 1968, making it 41 years old! I found these two just swimming around in the cold water.


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Common Eider

You can often see these big, heavy-bodied ducks floating offshore in large flocks that can have up to several thousand ducks. The largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere can be found along the seacoasts. The males are black and white, while the females are a dull striped brown.

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White-winged Scoter

During migration you might find these large black ducks inland on lakes and rivers. It is the largest of the three North American scoter species. The males are black while the females are a dark brownish-black.

This Sandhill Crane Is Sitting Down For A Rest In Florida

This Sandhill Crane Is Sitting Down For A Rest In Florida

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Sandhill Crane

A very large, tall bird (when they’re not kneeling down), with long legs, neck and very broad wings. Their name comes from the habitat at the Platte River, on the edge of the Nebraska’s Sandhills in central US. This area is an extremely important stopover location for over 450,000 migrating Cranes.

When they migrate they often fly very high in the sky. At their stopover locations they form large flocks, in the tens of thousands and forage for food.

There are 3 subpopulations of the Sandhill Crane that are migratory, the lesser, greater, and Canadian. They all spend the summers in their breeding grounds and will winter in the south. They spend the winter in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Come spring they begin their migration, the largest congregation occurs along the Platte River in Nebraska.

There are 3 subpopulations of the Sandhills Crane that are non-migratory. Florida, where they can be found in the inland wetlands. Mississippi, where they will be found in the southeastern coast, these are critically endangered. Cuba, where they live exclusively in they wetlands, savannas and grasslands, these are also critically endangered!

Their diet consists of mostly seeds and cultivated grains, but they sometimes will eat small vertebrates and berries. Know to be opportunistic feeders, they will eat whatever food is available to them. They feed on land or in shallow marshes.

 

 

5 Birds I’ve Seen At Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC

5 Birds I’ve Seen At Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC

Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC is a wonderful birding site! Originally the property was purchased by Archer and Anna Huntington in 1930. Being from NY City, Archer wanted the property to study the wildlife in their natural habitats. They left the property as part of their legacy.

There is around three miles of ocean beachfront, with only a small portion open for public recreation. In addition to the shore you will find freshwater wetlands, salt marsh, dune habitats, maritime forest as well as oak-pine forests.

With plenty of nature trails, viewing platforms, and boardwalks, there are many opportunities to view all of the different bird species that can be found in the park.

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The Merlin

A small, fast-flying falcon, they are found in North America and Europe. It prefers to eat mostly small birds, which it will catch while flying in mid-air, rapidly pursuing them until caught!

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The Roseate Spoonbill

I always enjoy seeing the Spoonbill, I think I just really like the color pink! They eat small fishes, shrimps and crabs, catching them by moving their bill slowly from side to side in the water, then straining out to get their prey.

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The Painted Bunting

He’s just sooooooo beautiful!!! One of the brightest North American birds, you really can’t mistake him for any other bird. I will usually find the buntings in the park at the site of the burned down visitor center. They continue to have the bird feeders there and the birds keep showing up and eat!

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The Summer Tanager

Heard but not often seen, the Tanager likes to stay concealed high in the trees where they feed on insects. You can find them across southern US, occasionally found in the Northeast. In the winters you’ll find them in Mexico down to South America.

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The Anhinga

At first you might think that you are looking at a Double-crested Cormorant, but look closely and you will see that the Anhinga has a longer fan-shaped tail and a thinner neck. The males have the black and white streaking on their wings and back. I usually see them perched on a post, like this one. Often times they have their wings spread out.

Beautiful Blue Birds, But Not Bluebirds…

Beautiful Blue Birds, But Not Bluebirds…

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Indigo Bunting

Here we have a couple of male birds enjoying some seeds from the feeders above. The females are a plain brown, not seen very often since they do most of the work taking care of the eggs and young in their nests hidden in the dense thickets. Many of these birds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico, they migrate at night and can navigate by the stars.