Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) - 13Aug2016 and 09Oct2016

You know what they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  This poor Sooty Tern was found in the dunes at Wrightsville Beach in bad shape after Hurricane Matthew.  He was exhausted and splayed out in the sand with one eye completely caked with dried up sand.  I was able to clean him up and put him in a sheltered spot.  My reasoning was that he did not appear to have anything wrong with him other than exhaustion from the storm.  I checked on him later and he was gone with no sign of predator involvement so I hope he got his strength and flew off.

Here are some photos of a Sooty Tern in it's element.  Sooty Terns are a pelagic species and at least in North Carolina only found way out in the Gulf Stream.

Very dark back compared to Bridled and also the black cap is uninterrupted into the back. The Bridled Tern has separation between the cap and back.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) - 15Sep2016

Franklin's Gulls are commonly found in the Midwest during migration but are pretty rare or at least easily overlooked in North Carolina.  Thanks to Sam C who is a rarity magnet I finally got close to one of these bad boys.

An interesting tidbit from the Cornell website:
  • The floating nest of the Franklin's Gull gradually sinks as the material below the water surface decays, and it requires continual maintenance. Both parents add new nest material daily until one or two weeks before departing the colony. Older chicks also add nest material from the immediate vicinity of the nest.

Franklin's Gulls molt twice a year so the feathers are always comparatively fresh compared with Laughing Gulls.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) - 16Oct2016

Some plain looking birds can cause quite a stir and are sought after quite vigorously.  Our native Marbled Godwit is a gorgeous bird compared to the European Bar-tailed Godwit but familiarity breeds contempt and we would choose a Bar-tailed over a Marbled any day.   Conversely Europeans would freak out if a Marbled Godwit showed up in Europe.

This particular bird was located by the esteemed John Fussell of Coastal North Carolina ( birding fame.  He pegged the ID right away based on the short legged appearance.  It is interesting that Bar-tailed Godwits are almost the same size as the other godwits (Hudsonian for example) but simply appear much smaller because of their short legs.

Bar-tailed with short legs compared with Marbled behind.

Tucked in it almost looked like a Willet but the feathering on back has more detail. Of course once you see the bill it seals the deal.

Here you can see the barring on tail which differentiates it from Black-tailed or Hudsonian Godwit.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chuck-will's-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis) - 26May2015

Goat suckers, what's not to love.  They are masters of camouflage, they make all kinds of weird noises and can sing with the best of them, they are nocturnal and they suck goats.  Ok well maybe they don't suck goats, that is an unproven myth.  However, it is a better name than Nightjar which is even more lame.

Chucks are bigger than Whip-poor-wills and they are more common near the coast.  This particular bird was actually found by a non-birder that almost stepped on it while it incubated eggs.  They gave me general directions and it still took me the better part of two days to find it.  That is how well they are camouflaged.  It turns out the male and female split duty incubating and over the next week myself and a couple other people I brought down saw both the male and female.  If we got even remotely close, one of the birds would fly in and try and distract us.  We kept a respectful distance.