I'm an avid birder and nature photographer wishing to share some of my sightings & images taken while out in the "wilds" of Cape Ann and surrounding New England countryside. More images can be found on my web site at New England Birds Plus Enjoy, Phil Brown

"Click" on any image below for a larger version....

Comments & Question - nebirdsplus@gmail.com

New England Birds Plus Images on SmugMug

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gulls and Falcons - Xmas Day 2011

Brace Cove in Gloucester, MA had a Black-headed Gull (1st winter) and several Iceland Gulls feeding along the shoreline. Here's the Black-headed Gull below.

The Black-headed Gull in the center with 3, 1st winter Iceland Gulls to its left and above, a Bonaparte's Gull on its right and a Ring-billed Gull leading the way in the lower right.

A near adult Iceland Gull.

The United Methodist Church on N. Main St. in Ipswich had a pair of Peregrine Falcons roosting on its steeple mid-morning. A swing by on the way home around 8pm found one of the Falcons spending the night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hawks, Cranes & Kingbirds

Great birds were the order of the day on this fifty degree 5th of December. The Cassin's Kingbird is still putting on a great show along the northern edge of the Cherry Hill Reservoir in West Newbury.

While along Rte 1A in Rowley a pair of Sandhill Cranes are entertaining the masses with their habit of feeding quite close to the road.

They came close enough to allow for head shots at one point.

Hey... who are you looking at!

The pair performed several dances in the short time I was there. These help to keep a firm pair bond between these beautiful Cranes that mate for life. 

A Merlin was perched close by. This shot was taken as it watched a Red-tailed Hawk fly by quite close.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation was fairly quiet when I visited around noon today but this Northern Harrier made up for the lack of bird life.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cassin's Kingbird

A Cassin's Kingbird, a bird I saw on several occasions on it's home turf in Arizona this past September, found it's way to the Cherry Hill Reservoir at some point over the past few weeks.

A couple of images from November 28, 2011. The Kingbird was foraging in the Xmas Tree Farm at the southern end of the Reservoir today.

and a new video clip with the Kingbird calling - a single call repeated 3 times.

This 25 second clip is the one call I recorded. The call is repeated as I copied the 5 second clip end to end 5 times. Turn up your speakers and try to listen through the tractor that was working nearby.

This is the best of today's attempt to capture this bird at quite a distance and 1000mm. "Click" on any image below for a larger 1440 x 900 version.

A 2 1/2 minute video clip with the Kingbird flying out and returning to it's preferred hunting perch in the second half.

It made several flights, coming back with a tidbit after each trip. Here it's just swallowed the bug seen in the image above.

Between flights a bit of time to check out the many birders that stopped by.

Another return to the preferred hunting perch.

Just prior to sallying out for another bug.

and back again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Goose and The Odd Call

Barnacle Goose - Rogers St., West Newbury - Nov. 14, 2011

A visit to Rogers Street on the morning of the 14th found the Barnacle Goose feeding in the field across from the Artichoke Dairy. It ranged all over the field during my 2 1/2 hour stay and allowed for shots of it with one of the 5 Snow Geese that recently joined the flock.

and a dark fronted Goose that appears to be a good candidate for "Dusky?" Canada Goose, seen in the top center below.

Left of the Barnacle Goose below.

and again, left of the Barnacle Goose.

Odd Call and the Subsequent ID - Nov. 13, 2011

The morning of Sunday the 14 found me out the door at 5:55am heading off to meet my nephew for a bit of "hawking". I only made it as far as the car when I heard a loud call from the nearby edge of the woods. A sharp single note, something that I hadn't heard before!

I headed off in the direction of the call, minus my binoculars, it was still pretty dark, but with my IPhone in hand hoping to record the call. A few minutes later the, at least 2, birds moved off leaving me scratching my head to their identity.

Here's a shortened version of the recording to point out which call got my attention. Odd Call 11-13-11 short

and the 1 1/2 minute recording with several White-throated Sparrows and a Hermit Thrush "chucking" in the background. Odd call 11-13-11 long

After puzzling over this for a day and consulting with friends I sent it off to Jeremiah Trimle, e-birder extraordinaire and Curatorial Associate - Ornithology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University who replied in very short order. Hermit Thrush, no not some rare bird like I hoped for but just as exciting, for me at least, a new call, a new piece to the puzzle and information shared within this great community we call MassBird.

Jeremiah also sent along a fabulous resource for bird calls that certainly made it into my bookmarks and will be visited often http://www.xeno-canto.org/ Thanks Jeremiah!

On a technology note, being in my mid 50's and having tried at least a dozen different recording devices over the years I find my recent purchase of an IPhone 4S and the Audio Memo app nothing but spectacular. Non of the previously acquired devices come close to the quality and ease of use this little phone that will always be with me attains.... Just sayin'.....:)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Salisbury Beach State Reservation - Nov. 14, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised to find an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull roosting in the last parking lot at Salisbury Beach State Reservation on the 14th during high tide. There have been several recent reports along the coast in the past few weeks from the NH border down through Cape Ann.  

A brief video as it moved around the parking lot and preened.

At one point a couple with a dog, on a leash!, moved the gulls from the last parking area to the next further north.

The yellow eye, legs and bill along with the dark gray back and wings make this gull stand out among the others. It's size is comparable to a Herring Gull, making it much smaller than a Great Black-backed Gull.

Once in the northern parking lot, with fewer cars and people the gulls were much more easily approached.

Allowing for a few closeups of this winter plumaged adult.

It appeared quite bored with the whole thing...:)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dickcissel - Essex

Dickcissel In The Yard (again...:) - Essex, MA - November 12, 2011

Dickcissel, which breed in North America's prairie grasslands, then winter in central Venezuela and surrounding countries, turn up along the east coast each fall in varying numbers year to year. Those that make it to the coast tend to hang around with flocks of House Sparrows, something I have plenty of at my feeders.

Today saw the second or third Dickcissel of the fall at the feeders. I managed a few photos and a brief video with the 1st two images taken in the morning at the platform feeder 16' or so from the window I shot from.

For an idea of how often these colorful migrants have visited the yard through the years:

Date # of birds # of days
Oct. 20, 1999 1 1
Nov. 03, 2003 1 12
Nov. 09, 2007 1 4
Sep. 03, 2008 1 1
Oct. 18, 2008 3 11
Dec 17, 2008 1 5
Oct. 22, 2009 1 12
Dec. 12, 2009 1 2
Aug. 17, 2011 1 1
Sep. 06, 2011 1 3
Nov. 12, 2011 1 1

I hope today's Dickcissel sticks around for several more days!

The brief video and the shot below were taken through the kitchen window this afternoon as the Dickcissel fed a few feet away in the window box I use as a feeder through the winter months.

Not too shabby for shooting through two panes of glass!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Essex Screech Owl

End Of The Day Screech Owl - Essex, MA - Nov. 11, 2011

A Blue Jay alerted me to this Screech long before it sat in the hole of the box at the end of the day. Songbirds point out roosting owls to each other quite often, it's just a matter of paying attention to the sounds around you, picking up on their calls and then tracking down what has them all worked up. The Blue Jay was screaming at the box from 20' away at 10 this morning, just an empty hole at that time but later in the afternoon, poof, the cause for the alarm appears.

A brief video of the owl surveying it's surroundings on this windy afternoon.

End of the day lighting is always tough and these shots are no exception having been taken at 4:30pm. You can see the darkening skies reflected in the owls eyes in the larger version.

Screech Owl Color Morphs

Screech Owl Color Morphs in Eastern Massachusetts, a very unscientific look.

Richard Pegler of the UK and founder of The Owlers’ Blog http://owlersblognetwork.blogspot.com/ gave me a poke recently asking what the breakdown was for red and gray Screech Owls, more red, more gray, in eastern Massachusetts? I’ve pulled together information from a couple of sources to try and answer the question.

The Birds of North America, a wonderful (subscription required) online resource that I use on a regular basis and available at: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna states “ No other North American owl has such distinctive plumage differences” and “Fluctuating morph ratios represent balanced dimorphism during warm-wet (rufous more frequent), cold-dry (rufous less frequent) climatic cycles”.

For an unscientific look at the question, I’ve used Birder’s Diary http://www.birdersdiary.com/ to track my bird sightings for the past 11 years and have pulled my data together for Eastern Screech Owls. 

As of Nov 09, 2011 I’ve recorded a total of 589 Screech Owl sightings. Of these I noted the color morph on 513 of the sightings of which 370 or 72% were red - 124 or 24% were gray and 19 or 4% were brown. 

A number of my sightings are of the same birds over several days so the data is a bit biased but I'd say the red morph is the most common in eastern Massachusetts.

Another feature within Birder’s Diary allows you to create “Abundance Charts” tracking my sightings on a bar graph through a year’s time as seen below.

 This really tells the story for my sightings of Screech Owls, plenty in the late fall, winter & early spring and next to non in the summer months. I’ve seen very few young Screech Owls, with one look at a family group when I was around 12 years old over the house at the old homestead in Wenham, another when I was asked to rescue an owlet that decided to sit on a homeowners lawn after fledging (I got there before the cats did) and photos of a youngster sitting in the nest hole a few years back in Rowley as seen below.

 With the addition of several nest boxes in the area I’m hoping to change my luck with Screech Owl sightings in the summer months. Time will tell!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sharp-shinned Hawk

An adult Sharp-shinned Hawk spent several minutes in the yard this morning, allowing for a bit of video and a few photos out the 2nd floor window. A songbird of some sort was silly enough to land above the hawk which quickly took off after it. I didn't see the outcome.

A brief video of the hawk surveying the yard.

Just prior to take off.

I see very few "Sharpies" in the yard always wishing more would stop by, they're such a colorful raptor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Barnacle Goose

November 09, 2011 - There is some discussion of there possibly being 2 Barnacle Geese in the Newbury / Newburyport area with the feathers around the eye and forehead on the second bird being "splotchy". I've added two head shots from the West Newbury goose below and hope to see photos for comparison from others.

A brief video as the goose fed ans preened in the field along Rogers St.

A few shots of the Barnacle Goose from Monday, November 07, 2011. The goose was still being seen along Rogers St, West Newbury in the same field.

You talking to me?

and the field from the road.

Poking around West Newbury this morning, Nov. 06, 2011, found 200 - 300 Ruddy Ducks on the Cherry Hill Reservoir with a few quite close to the road.

but the bird of the day was just down the road on Rogers Street across from the Artichoke Farm, a Barnacle Goose, usually found just a bit north and east of here in Greenland.

Originally seen in the field across from the farm, all of the geese moved to the Artichoke Reservoir with the close passing of a Red-tailed Hawk.

The hawk gave me the opportunity to check the legs for bands as the Barnacle moved to the water.

No tags on the wings.

and no bands on the legs, it looks like a wild goose!

After spending 20 - 30 minutes on the reservoir the geese moved to the back fields of the Artichoke Farm. A check with the folks working on the farm found access not allowed so please respect their wishes.