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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

March Birding, welcome migrants!

One of the good things about March is the anticipation of the birds that will be migrating back soon, such as the ones we saw on this birding trip along the Connecticut River in NH and VT at the end of March several years ago.

The highlight of the trip was the Brant (small goose on the right), spotted by Julie, found in with the Canada Geese. Brant winter in coastal areas and breed in the Arctic, they are not usually found inland in NH.

Most of the birds we saw were far away, so all were photographed at quite a distance. Here's a male Mallard.

Hi there, it's us. It was a very cold and windy day, so down parkas were a must.

The Connecticut River at one of our stops. It's quite a beautiful river and a very important migration highway and breeding area for birds.

Hooded Mergansers in flight, showing their upper wings. Male is below, female above.

And here is their under wings. The male is such a strikingly patterned duck.

When I said the birds were far away, this gives you an idea how far. The photos of the mergansers above were taken at this size in the original, uncropped photo. Can you make them out in the middle of the photo? This is the before shot of the mergansers showing their upper wings. The beauty of my new Canon 1D Mark IV camera is that it's 16 megapixels, so I am able to photograph birds that are very far away, but still crop them to usable size (72 dpi) for blog photos. Of course you have to get them in flight, as a tiny dot, in the center of the lens, with the autofocus operating, and shoot.

We saw a good variety. How many kinds can you find here? 

Lots of birders equal more fun and many eyes to spot things. Scopes were essential and people with scopes generously shared them with people who did not have them.

We looked at other species of birds too. We pulled over at one point because someone had spotted a hawk in a tree. It exploded out of the tree and was a Cooper's Hawk.

I helped this birder, find in the scope, the Barrow's Goldeneye, female. I really like to work with people to help them spot the birds. There's always an "oh, wow" moment for them when they see the cool bird everyone else is on.

Common Mergansers were plentiful. The male is below, female above. It shows her white chin and I love the red feet. We get lots of migrating Common Mergansers on the pond we live on.

At Herrick's Cove IBA, a stop on the Vermont side of the river, birders went out on a spit of land and saw few ducks but up in the sky there were 2 Bald Eagles!

I just took my Canon 300mm IS lens, with 1.4 teleconverter, as I wanted portability. All of the bird photos were taken, from a distance, with this, a very sharp lens.

At Herrick's cove, we found a Black-capped Chickadee excavating a nest in a birch. Chickadees will nest in bird houses and can excavate their own nest cavity in soft, partially rotted wood.
I tried to get it coming out of the nest and tried to time the photo, getting it as it left.

What a riot, it's launched in mid-air, with a beakful of birch. The chickadees flew off with the excavated material and deposited it away from the nest. I hope they have a successful breeding.

The last stop was near Springfield where we looked way, way across at that mountain at a rocky ledge, and saw a nesting Peregrine Falcon sitting at the nest, a white dot in the scope.

This birding trip, on Sun., was billed as a waterfowl safari, surveying the ducks in migration on the Middle Connecticut River, IBA (Important Bird Area) in NH (from Charlestown to Walpole) and VT (from Westminster to Springfield.) The trip was co-sponsored by the Monadnock Chapter of NH Audubon and Harris Center for Conservation Education. There were over 35 birders. We had a great time. Here's the final bird list, tallied by Julie Tilden and Phil Brown.

Canada Goose - several hundred (low), mostly at Great Meadow & Malnati Farm
BRANT - 1 Atlantic race observed in Great Meadow of Charlestown
Wood Duck - 15
Mallard - 100
American Black Duck - 40
Green-winged Teal - 30+
Common Goldeneye* - 2 females from Joy Wah Restaurant (VT)
Hooded Merganser - 10
Common Merganser - 40+
Great Blue Heron - 1 roadside
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle* - 3 (2i, 1a) observed from Herrick's Cove
Northern Harrier - 1 at Herrick's Cove + 1 at Great Meadow ~3 pm
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1 Walpole
Cooper's Hawk - 2
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel - 1 at Great Meadow
Peregrine Falcon* - pair at Springfield, VT ledges
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher* - 1 at Herrick's Cove
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Hairy Woodpecker - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 1 found by Ken Klapper at Great Meadow
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven - 3
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 excavating nest hole at Herrick's Cove
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird - 5+ in a few places
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow - 20+ on the ground at once at Herrick's Cove alone
White-throated Sparrow - Great Meadow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American goldfinch
House sparrow

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