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Monday, August 31, 2009

Hummers on the Move

Keep those hummingbird feeders clean and filled and up for a while, hummers are migrating big time through New England now. We have males, females and young birds all coming to the feeders. Hummingbirds migrate instinctively, not in relation to feeders. We love the buzz.

Friday, August 28, 2009


On our whale trip we saw many hundreds plus of seabirds, we weren't counting as much as looking and I was also photographing. The seabirds were out feeding with the whales, near Jeffrey's Ledge, a 33 mile long shallow glacial deposit underwater formation that stretches from off Rockport, Mass. to south of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Because of nutrient rich upwelling from the deeper waters next to the ledge, it's very productive of food (small fish, mollusks, crustaceans) for the whales and other marine creatures. Here's a Greater Shearwater in flight. By far, the most numerous seabirds we saw were Greater Shearwaters. They have grayish brown upperparts, a dark cap and a variable white collar. This one has less of a collar. You can see the narrow U-shaped white patch on the rump.

We also saw a fair number of Cory's Shearwaters, shown here. The yellow bill is quite prominent, a help with their ID.

It ain't easy to photograph seabirds. First of all, you're on a moving boat. We were lucky in that the seas were calm, with no big swells. Some tips, brace yourself against the wall of the boat, keep you knees slightly flexed and plant your feet somewhat widely to steady yourself. Forget a tripod. The boat is crowded, rocking and you have to manuever around people. Use a telephoto lens with image stabilization. I had a Canon 300 mm IS lens with a 1.4 teleconverter (giving me 420 mm) and a Canon Mark II camera. If you can hand hold the heavy 500 mm lens or the 300 mm f 2.8 lens then good for you, they are too heavy for me.

Here's a Greater Shearwater taking off, love the pinkish feet.

Another species we saw was this Sooty Shearwater, an easy ID because of its almost all over sooty color, except for the whitish on the underwing primary coverts.

Here's what it really looks like, with lots of little shapes bobbing on the water. These are Greater Shearwaters, but you need to look carefully at each group of birds and all birds flying by to ID them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Whale

And here are more photos of Glowstick, the incredible Humpback whale on our last Thursday's Granite State Whale Watch trip out of Rye, NH to Jeffrey's Ledge area of the ocean. Glowstick is a young whale, first seen in 1997. They're not sure if it's a male or female. If a whale shows up with a calf, that's how they tell it's a female. Just about all the Humpack whales are named and kept track of. In the above photo Glowstick is doing another spinning breach. Note the tiny dot in the water to the left of the whale, most likely a Wilson's Storm Petrel. What a size comparison!

Here's flipper slapping.

Here's what they called Chin breaching.

And going backwards.

And double fipper slapping.

And again on its back.

And Glowstick did lots and lots of tail-lobbing. Like the guide said, it did just about every rare behavior known to Humpacks. They were not sure exactly why this whale was doing all of this, whether related to feeding, or digestion, or just teenage showing off. We were just spellbound and thrilled. While this was going on I said the heck with looking for seabirds, this is tooo good. I did, however, get great seabirds photos which I'll post tomorrow.
My favorite quote from the whale watch was from a little boy with Harry Potter-like glasses who exited the boat and said, "That was the best Humback whale in the history of whales!"

Here's the boat.

And here's us. Best of all, it was our wedding anniversary!! What a way to celebrate.

If you want to learn more about and help whales go to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation website.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whale Up Close

When we went on the Granite State Whale Watch boat from Rye, NH last Thursday we lucked out because we encoutered a Humpback whale named Glowstick that did "just about every rare behavior a humpback does" according to the whale boat guide. First there was the "spinning head breach" shown here. It was just amazing to see this massive, 30-40 ft. about 30 ton animal launch itself out of the water. Above photo is uncropped. I had a 300 mm telephoto lens. We were close.

Here are the photos blown up. Look at the barnacles on its chin!

An the beautiful pattern of spray near the flippers,

and here's the tail. "Wow, Wow, Wow!" we and everyone else on the boat were saying.
You can just feel the dynamic force of energy this whale has. The whale guide said you're lucky if you see a humpack do a full breach breach once a season. Glowstick did multiple breaches in front of us.
More photos tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Whales & Seabirds

Last Thursday we took our own advice and went on a whalewatch boat out of Rye Harbor, NH. Got spectacular photos and will have more on the blog on wed. Here's a Humpback whale head,

and a Sooty Shearwater in flight.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gone Birding, shorebirds

We're taking the rest of the week off to do some birding. Shorebirds, such as this Semipalmated Sandpiper shown here, are migrating through New England, and many other birds are being seen along the coast. So that's where we'll go.
See you next week.
Try and do some birding yourself during these last weeks of summer. Whether it's from your front porch with a cool glass of ice tea, or including your binos in your tote bag as you head to the beach, watch for birds. Let us know what you see.
Good Birding,
Lillian and Don

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pelagic Birding

Sooty Shearwater

Greater Shearwater

One of the great birding things to do this time of year is to take a pelagic birding trip to find seabirds. You can up your birder life list and experience some pretty cool birds firsthand. Often the trips are billed as a whale watch trips, but you can see pelagic birds as well as the whales, especially if the captain caters to the birders on board and tries to find pelagic species. Birds such as Greater and Sooty Shearwaters can be seen in numbers.

There has been a fantastic show of seabirds, this summer, in the Gulf of Maine from whale watch boats from NH and MA. The Granite State Whale Watch Trips leave from Rye, NH. and is a great trip to take if you live in that area.

Whale watch boat we took near Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, Canada a few summers ago.

Greater Shearwater, swimming

Of course, the whales are spectacular also. Here's a photo of mother and baby Humpback Whales I took from Nova Scotia. What a thrill to see such huge mammals up close.
While most were on one side of the boat watching the whales, I was the only person who ran to the other side of the boat to get some of these seabird photos.
Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peregrines of Acadia

When you are in Acadia National Park, you can drive around the park on the loop road. As we did so, we came to the spot where Peregrine Falcons have nested each year, for many years, on the cliffs near the Precipice Trailhead parking lot.

There was a ranger there with a scope set-up, explaining all about the peregrines. Fortunately there was a peregrine sitting on the cliff,

way, way up there. Here's a photo, taken through the scope, of what was a tiny pin dot of the peregrine sitting on the cliff. The scopes were cranked up to 60 power. My head shot photo above was taken at another time and place. How cool that some of the visitors who had never seen a Peregrine Falcon, were getting their first look.

The ranger had up a sign showing a photo of peregrine chicks in the nest, really just a scrape in the rocks. The lower photo on the sign showed the location of this year's nest. The peregrines had already fledged, so it was quite unusual to see a peregrine sitting on the ledges at this time of year.

The cliffs were tall.

Don viewing the peregrine.

Then it flew and with my 300 mm lens with the 1.4 teleconverter, I got a shot, albeit small.
What magnificent wild birds. So wonderful that Peregrine Falcons have made a comeback since DDT, which contributed to the thinning of their eggs and reproductive failure, was banned in the 1970's.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birding Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

We visited Acadia National Park in Maine and did one of our favorite things there, went to Jordan Pond. More eating and birding. Hmmm this is getting to be a theme. Great Black-backed Gulls are common in Acadia. Such magnificent birds.

Herring Gulls were flying over Jordan Pond and also sitting on the water.

Here's a view of the pond with "The Bubbles" mountains at the end.

Here's Jordan Pond house, a lovely restaurant with picnic tables outside so you can watch the view.

We put our binos on the table and ordered our favorite,

lobster stew and popovers. As I took the photo Don said, "This is getting to be a food blog." Hey, I hadda include the popovers and stew, just about the best anywhere. Rich creamy lobster flavor with big chunks of lobster meat floating in the stew. And the popovers...served with butter and tastes-like-homemade strawberry jam. Yes!

They let dogs at the tables, see our two Corgis, Phoebe in front, Abby by Don. The waiter even brought out a doggie bowl of fresh water for them. And yes, they got two teensy bites of my popover. "Hey, whatabout your husband," Don said as I was giving one to Phoebe.

Acadia is a very dog-friendly place, dogs are allowed on leashes, on the trails. Here we're hiking around the pond with the Corgis, gotta work off the popovers.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Black Guillemot

While birding in Maine, we sat and ate lobsta' on the patio of the Bar Harbor Inn on Mt. Desert Island and overlooked the harbor. We always take our binos when dining outside.
"Watcha' looking at Don?"

"A Black Guillemot"
These always seem to be in the harbor, when we visit there in the summer. Such cool little seabirds. The white oval on the side really stands out against the black background on its breeding plumage. A member of the family Alcidae, this bird is commonly called an "alcid". They dive down for their prey, using wings and feet for propulsion. We usually see them singly or in pairs. Black Guillemots are found in the northern Bering Sea and eastern High Artic down through New England, rarely below that.
Great view, cool bird, tasty lobsta', our idea of fun.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Phoebe

Hi all you Corgis, from Phoebe,

I just went to Maine with Don and Lillian who were birding. They will have more birdy photos soon. I had a great time and ate popovers. My birthday was yesterday and I'm 3 years old. I'm the cute one in this photo. Abby, my cousin, is the one with her tongue waaay hanging out. She always does that. Abby Puleeeze!
Happy Birthday, also, to my brother Polo. Send me your photo and I'll put it on my blog.

Love and slurps,
Blogger Phoebe, the Corgi