Flying high were these Common Ravens and Red-shouldered Hawk acrobatic on the wind as they took turns chasing one another. The Red-shouldered Hawk was a juvenile on migration with energy to spare. Note on the Redshoulder the light crescent shaped window across the outer wing due to the translucent bases to the outer primary feathers (seen in good light at all ages) which is a great identification clue for this species.
We saw these birds recently at Pack Monandnock Raptor Migration Observatory, NH where the hawk watch is still happening until mid-Nov. The day we saw the above birds we also saw a Golden Eagle, very exciting since only about a handful pass this site each year. It was too far for a photo.
Keep looking up, who knows what you may see!
Dark-eyed Juncos, called "snowbirds" because they arrive for winter, are migrating in big numbers and we had 92 on our property yesterday. Look for them at your feeders, eating seed off the ground. Some will winter here. The darkest juncos are adult males, young females are more brown.
Fox Sparrows, with their beautiful foxy color are also migrating. This one was with the Juncos.
American Tree Sparrows will spend the winter here at our feeders in NH, the first one arrived today.
American Robins are all over our yard, loving our crabapples. Although they can be seen here in NH into early winter, once very severe weather sets in and the crabapples are gone, they will have moved on south.
Tips for attracting migrants and wintering birds:
1. Keep multiple feeders stocked with energy packed black oil sunflower and mixes that contain sunflower and millet, a junco favorite. Juncos and other sparrows prefer to feed on the ground.
2. Keep a bird bath going except in severe weather. The robins were drinking and bathing in our bird bath today.
3. Plant crabapples and other fall berry producing trees and shrubs. These will attract robins and Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings and maybe Pine Grosbeaks.
4. Make sure feeders are near dense cover, like evergreens so birds can seek protection from bad weather and predators like Sharp-shinned Hawks.
5. Get our The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern or Western Region so you can identify and enjoy your winter visitors.
Just in time for Halloween, a bat appeared in our yard several years ago. I just photographed this migrating Eastern Red Bat in flight as it foraged over our house. We watched it for about 10 minutes as it swooped over the trees and fields, catching insects. So cool!! But what is even more fun is looking at the photos. In the middle photo you can see the ear, lit by the sun. In the bottom photo you can see the outline of the bones.
These bats live in trees in wooded areas and roost up in the foliage curled up in their furry tail membrane. They are mainly solitary, just getting together to mate and during migration. They eat lots of moths as well as other insects. They live throughout the eastern half of the country. In fall the more northern ones migrate to southern areas, often using the same migratory routes along the eastern seaboard as some birds do.
We were so lucky to see it!
Lincoln's Sparrow compared to the larger White-throated Sparrow
Sparrows are an acquired taste, we always say. Here's one of my favorites, a migrant Lincoln's Sparrow that I just photographed in our veggie garden eating weed seeds. We get very few Lincoln's coming through here in NH. Here is it also compared to the more common migrant here, the larger White-throated Sparrow it was foraging with. Lincoln's have subtle colors with that warm buffy breast and flanks with distinct fine, black streaking contrasting with clear white belly and whitish throat. Face with buffy submoustachial region and relative thin blackish malar streak. (Yeah, you gotta get into these type of clues if you want to learn sparrow ID, I told you they were an acquired taste, but worth it!) Lincoln's Sparrows breed across much of Canada, AK and parts of the West and winter across the lower southern area of U.S. and some of the West Coast. Look for them now! See our Stokes Field Guides for much more on sparrow ID!
Swainson's Thrush has the tail and back the same color.
Beautiful Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) are on the move and one migrant showed up in our yard yesterday and sat on our garden fence. They are the only one of the Catharus thrushes to regularly winter in North America, wintering across the southern third and up the West Coast of the U.S. A great way to ID them is to get a look at the tail. It is reddish-brown and distinct from the back. The other similar looking thrushes to the Hermit Thrush almost all have tails that are the same color as the rump and back (the quite rare Bicknell's Thrush has a warm brown tail that subtly contrasts with the brown back). The Hermit Thrush also has the distinctive habit of flicking its tail quickly up and slowly down, another ID help. Look for Hermit Thrushes now and if you live in southern areas you may see them in winter! For the most complete and authoritative information on how to ID thrushes, with many photos per species, see our
Note the notch in the outer edge of the tail feather closest to the central tail feathers (called r2). This clue can help distinguish juvenile and female Rufous Hummingbirds from female and juvenile Allen's Hummingbirds. In this case there is a noticeable notch. Note also the two central tail feathers have extensive rufous with greenish tips.
Here is another view of the tail. The bird was also coming to a planter of impatiens flowers on the deck.
The throat is heavily marked with dark streaks and several lower central orange-reddish feathers.
Some of the head feathers have buffy edges.
In bright light the mirror-like central throat feathers look almost copper colored.
Here is (left to right) Don, birder Kathy who came with her birder/photographer husband, Steve, who took this photo, gracious hosts Stu and Mary who have this wonderful hummingbird coming to their deck feeder, and me.
This Rufous Hummingbird has been coming to a feeder in central NH; a rare event, as this is a western species of hummingbird whose breeding range goes as far up as Alaska. Rufous Hummingbirds have shown up in NH before (including in 2009 and 2007) and the trend is for them increasingly showing up in the eastern half of the country in fall. Adult male Rufous Hummingbirds have extensive rufous orange on their throats and backs. Females and immatures have streaked throats with variable amounts of orange and are more difficult to distinguish from similar looking Allen's Hummingbirds.
From our book, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America,
Rufous Hummingbird, "F. iridescent green above, below, orangish-brown flanks, white forecollar and central belly; throat finely streaked with bronze or green dots, often with irregular central orange-red blotch; tail with extensive orangish brown at base... Nearly identical in the field to f. Allen's and cannot be distinguished except by hard-to-see shapes of individual tail feathers. In f. Rufous, next-to-central tail feathers slightly notched on inner web, and outer tail feathers nearly as broad as adjacent ones. In similar f. Allen's, next-to-central tail feathers generally untouched, and outermost tail feather narrower than in Rufous, but difference slight. Juv. (Jun-Nov.) Like ad. f. but juv. f. may have whitish throat with few markings; juv. m. may have more heavily marked throat with larger iridescent reddish spots. Complete molt into ad. plumage occurs Sep.-Mar."
Thanks to the wonders of high speed digital cameras, I was able to capture details of the tail and plumage of this bird. The noticeable notch in the r2 tail feather is similar to the description and diagram in Pyle's "Identification Guide to North American Birds" (a manual used by bird banders) for a juvenile male Rufous Hummingbird; the juvenile female averages less of a notch. The juvenile male has the two central tail feathers "narrower and with substantial rufous at the base" the juvenile female has the two central tail feathers "broader and primarily green, without rufous or with some rufous at the base." The adult female has two central tail feathers with "greater amounts of rufous but less than in males." According to aging the Rufous Hummingbird in Pyle, the juvenile has a "crown with distinct, cinnamon edging." So basically the preponderance of clues point to this being a juvenile male Rufous Hummingbird.
Photos of mine and others are being sent to hummingbird banders for further confirmation.
We had a great time seeing and photographing this marvelous little bird and Mary and Stu were so generous to let birders visit! Thank you!