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Friday, July 31, 2009

Nighthawk MIgration will be starting

Heads up, Common Nighthawk migration will be staring soon in New England.

This message is from Henry Norwood, one of the coordinator's of the nighthawk survey. Try and particiate this year, if you have not already done so.

"The 2009 fall migration of nighthawks will soon be upon us and hopefully you will once again lend a hand in our annual survey of these fascinating, but seriously declining, migrants as they pass south through southern NH and northern and central MA. This year’s fall migration will be particularly intriguing since NOAA has recently declared that we have officially entered an El Nino phase and this will be our first opportunity to see how El Nino affects the nighthawk migration across our greatly expanded coverage area.

As in the last two year, the survey area covers the upper two-thirds of Massachusetts and the lower one-third of New Hampshire from the headwaters of the Blackstone River on the south to the Concord (NH) area on the north and from the Merrimack, Concord, and Sudbury Rivers on the east to the Connecticut River on the west.
The survey area encompasses some 3,300 square miles and includes parts of three major river basins (Merrimack, Connecticut and Blackstone) and nine major tributary watersheds (SuAsCo, Contoocook, Nashua, Piscataquog, and Souhegan watersheds in the Merrimack basin; Ashuelot, Chicopee, Cold and Millers watersheds in the Connecticut River basin; and the headwaters of the Blackstone watershed). Further information and maps of these twelve watersheds can be found at "Geographic Area Covered by Survey" on our website home page. (

This year, our survey will begin on Sunday, August 9, and run through Monday, September 10, with the website remaining open through September 30 for late reports and late migrants.
The survey process this year will be the same as in years gone by. That process is based on two key principles: first, that each observer should have the option to decide when, where, and how long to spend looking for nighthawks; and second, that all sighting data should be submitted via our automated website. The website automatically compiles, analyzes, and reports back results to all observers on as near a real time basis as possible. How quickly observation results are in fact available to all observers depends solely on how quickly observers enter their data into the website since our computers can compile, analyze, and report back the results literally in seconds."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sabine's Gull in New Hampshire

A Sabine's Gull has been seen, on at least seven different days, from the New Hampshire coast, during the last month. This is a very rare gull for this area, with only 4 previous records. This gull breeds in the high artic and winters in the tropics. In the West, it's regularly seen on migration, especially inland in the fall.

This gull is in it's first summer and easiest to ID when in flight, as it has a very striking wing pattern of a black wedge of outer primaries and their coverts, white mid-wing triangle with its apex at the wrist, and gray inner triangle of secondary coverts. See this nice photo showing the wings, by ace New Hampshire birder, Steve Mirick, click here:
and photo, by him, of the bird standing, click here:

Bonaparte's Gull

This is a photo, by me, for comparison, of a nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull, which has a different wing pattern than the Sabine's Gull.

There's no easy way to tell birders how see it, since it wanders around, often alone and not with the other gulls. Here's a map, thanks to Steve, of where it has been sighted, go here:

The beach traffic can be dense, but good luck to birders searching for the gull. The bird could wander to other states as well, so birder's there should be on the lookout.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Birding Scarborough Marsh Maine, part 2

While in Maine we stopped at Scarborough Marsh, a premier birding spot, just below Portland, that's Maine's largest contiguous salt marsh at 3,100 acres. There's a wonderful, long, dirt trail that leads out over the marsh. Here's Don scanning for birds. What a beautiful sunny day it was, a rarity, given the bad weather that has prevailed this summer. It felt so good to be surrounded by the beauty, sun and warmth.

Don is looking out from the big bridge that's on the trail. Be sure to stop at Scarborough Marsh Maine Audubon Center, where you can get info., maps and rent kayaks to explore the marsh.

One of the highlights was seeing a Glossy Ibis, not that common up in New England. We see many more in Florida, where this photo was taken. The one we saw on the marsh was too distant to photograph.

Savannah Sparrows were everywhere! We could hear their buzzy "sip, sip see-say" songs. Losk for the usual yellow front of the eyebrow to help in their ID.

Song Sparrows were abundant. Then again, there is so much marshy, grassy habitat to support these sparrow species. Birders also look for Nelson's and Sharp-tailed Saltmarsh Sparrows here. Shorebirds were just starting to arrive on migration at the marsh, but you need to see them at low tide, when the mud flats are exposed. We were there at high tide.

Just about anywhere you go along the coast of Maine, you'll see Common Eiders. Here's a female in flight.

A trip to lower Maine wouldn't be complete without a trip to the famous, Nunan's Lobster Hut, in Porpoise Cove, one of our favorite places to eat lobster. It's a tiny shack over the water, with long tables inside and a big sink against the wall where you can wash up after devouring your yummy boiled lobster. We each had the twin lobster special of two 1 1/4 lb. lobsters.

You can't beat Bertha Nunan's blueberry pie (now made by her daugher-in-law since her passing). It's some of the best we've ever had. The light, flaky, sugar-dusted crust, so thin you can see the veins of lucious, small, wild Maine blueberries beneath, is seasoned with just enough sugar and cinnamon to play second fiddle to the blueberrys' true flavor. Topped with creamy, pale yellow, not white, vanilla ice cream, the kind we remember from our childhood equals, Yuuummmm!

At one point, I walked out onto a rocking, wooden fishing, pier and spied two eiders in the harbor. I did not have my camera at that moment, but I had my binoculars. So the photographer in me came out.

I had my Blackberry phone with me, so I tried something new. I focused the eider in my binoculars, then took them down from my eyes and held the cell phone's camera to the binoculars and photographed the eider through the binos. Maybe it should be called a cell-ocular photo. Sorta like digiscoping, but with a phone and binoculars instead of a scope and camera. Not the best photo, but then again it was taken while standing on a rocking, pontoon fishing pier, with my cell phone through my binoculars. For a rare bird documentation, in a pinch, it might do.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Lewis

We're back from Maine, but need to pause a moment to acknowledge a sad moment in the Corgi world, the passing of a special Corgi, Lewis, (CH. Slavenik Sweet Thoughts, ROMX), owned by Dianne Connolly of Llandian Kennel.

Lewis was a champion and sire of many, many other champion Corgis, quite a feat in the Corgi world. To get the ROMX award (which stands for Registry of Merit Excellent) from the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America, a male has to have sired at least 15 champions. But what was most outstanding about Lewis, was his gentle, loving, calm temperment, which he passed on to many other Corgis. He was the father of our Corgi, Phoebe (and her brother Polo, hi, Polo's owner). The above photo shows Lewis and some of Dianne's dogs who have Lewis in their lineage, from left to right, Lewis, his daughter Penny (Ch Ivywood-Llandian's Sweet Pea ROM), his grandaughter Tuppence (BISS CH. Llandian's Love In The Mist, the 2002 Pembroke Welsh Corgi National Specialty winner), his great-grandaughter Chanel (CH Llandian's Talkin' Bout My Girl) and his daughter and great-great grandaughter, our Phoebe. (It took several adults to get them all lined up sitting still for this photo I took!)

Lewis was born on August 25, 1994 and went to the rainbow bridge on July 21, 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Puffin fun

One of our favorite summer birding things to do in summer is to go see Atlantic Puffins off the coast of Maine. We have done this a number of times. There are several places to go, including Machias Seal Island. That's where I took the above photo. The best times are from June thru mid-August. You need to take a tour boat that has the permits to land there. One such tour is Norton of Jonesport. When you land, you go to very small wooden shacks that are blinds with little windows that you can look out of, to photograph and watch the puffins close by. This is to create the least disturbance to the birds. It is an amazing thrill to see these little "Parrots of the Sea" up close and personal. Call in advance for the tours.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

His and Hers

Bluebird pair at our mealworm feeder recently. Love the way they each have a mealworm. Actually, they were not feeding themselves, they took the mealworms to their fledglings. The family of bluebirds moved out of our yard a few days ago, and have not come for the mealworms.
This is understandable behavior, the adults moving the young to a new location. The fledglings are young, inexperienced and not flying as well as an adult bird. That makes them more vulnerable to predators like hawks. So their parents move them around, making them less like "sitting ducks" always in one spot, for a hawk to discover.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bluebird TV

We've been talking about our bluebirds so much recently, you might think you've tuned to the bluebird channel. Our Mrs. Bluebird is sitting on our satellite tv dish. Don joked, "do we need to pay extra to Direct TV for that?"

Speaking of birds and TV, you can watch a video program on your computer on, a PBS internet streaming video website. There's a interesting six min. video about North Brother Island Bird Sanctuary a protected heron habitat with limited access, on an island that once housed a quarantine hospital near New York City.

Another media event is the premiere of The Ghost Bird, a film on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, on July 11, 12 & 13 at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville Maine.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Double Rainbow

From this spring, a double rainbow photo over "Bobolink Farm" our property here in NH. Hard to find any plus in all the rain we have been having, it's hard on birds, gardens and people. I suppose one positive is the fact we are seeing more rainbows.

On the good side, our bluebirds continue to do well. Their fledglings are moving about more, flying a little better. They were gone most of yesterday, came this morning for some mealworms. The fledgling phase for bluebirds lasts about 3 weeks, then the young will be on their own. They will eventually change their plumage from the spots, into the red, white and blue of the adults.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rockabye Baby Blues

This morning, the fledgling bluebirds were huddled in the boughs, high above our deck. They spent the night like that, snuggled together. Oh how cuuuute! Their Dad brought them the mealworms we put out.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Too Wet

Turkey Vulture

We were driving back from town this morning and saw about 5 Turkey Vultures sitting on some dead trees by the side of the highway (photo above was taken in FL). They were very wet and look bedraggled. There is just tooooo much rain here. Got us thinking about how hard the long, cold, rainy spell (like most of a month) is on birds here. Turkey Vultures eat carrion and soar on thermals as an energy effficient way of finding their food. Well, no sun, no thermals, no food finding for them.

Many flying insects like butterflies, dragonflies, etc. need sun to warm them before they can fly. They are food for many insect eating birds. So the swallows and phoebes and others are affected when the flying insects are scarce. Even insects that crawl are slowed down by the rain, thus not moving and not as visible to the birds that hunt by spotting movement. Saw a young, just post fledgling stage, Chipping Sparrow hopping about in the bare ground of the veggie garden this morning. Maybe any insects would be more visible there.

Saw a Broadwinged Hawk a few days ago with, what looked like a small bird in its talons. Broadwings usually eat reptiles and amphibians, creatures that often move about more when its sunny. Maybe the Broadwing is having a hard time finding them.
No food, no birds, no fun.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Bluebird fledgling

Our bluebirds fledged 5 babies this morning early, after a night of thunderstorms. Rain, drizzle, rain, drizzle and more rain today. We kept the parents well supplied with the mealworms today, which must have helped them feed the 5 hungry mouths they have stashed in the trees nearby. When the fledglings first leave the nest, they can fly, but not well, and are still totally dependent on the adults for food. This is a very vulnerable time for them. They're very cute, we could see them in the trees and occassionally heard them give their "tur-wee" begging, fledgling call. The photo above was taken several years ago, of "Blue" an orphaned bluebird fledgling we raised under the guidance of a licensed bird rehabilitator.
The 10 day forecast is for thunderstorms for every day, except Sunday, which will be partly cloudy. Ugh!