Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clagula) - 07Feb2016 and 24Dec2016

Common Goldeneyes are not so common in North Carolina.  That being said we do get some from time to time.  Rarely a male. So when I found out about this male being seen in a tiny pond in Raleigh I was all over it.

The following picture of a female Common Goldeneye was taken at the Fort Fisher Aquarium pond which can fairly regularly produce a female in the winter.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas) - 29Nov2016

This Black-cowled Oriole was found at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens North of San Jose in Costa Rica.  From a Cornell website: "This oriole was formerly considered conspecific with all of the four species that were briefly considered to form part of the Greater Antillean Oriole (Icterus dominicensis), on the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. The mainland population, which has retained the vernacular name Black-cowled Oriole, is found over the Caribbean slope of Middle America, from southern Mexico to western Panama. "

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) - 23Mar2016

Killdeers are named onomatopoetically after their call.  Some other birds with onomatopoetic names: Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will's-widow, Cuckoo, Bobolink and Chachalaca.  Killdeers will distract prey from nests by feigning a broken wing and thus luring the predator towards themselves and away from the nest.  This one was found on the Ft. Fisher spit but they can be found almost anywhere.  This is another common bird which is easily taken for granted but if you look at it from a fresh perspective it is a pretty cool bird. Red eye rings and neat breast bands make this a very snazzy bird.

Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) - 23Mar2016

The Wilson's Plover ranges from the eastern seaboard in the USA to Brazil.  However, it is a bird near and dear to any Carolinian that lives on the coast.  They are much more bold than their Semi-palmated cousins and hang out on the upper parts of the beach sometimes in wheel ruts.  The large bill makes it an easy ID.  On the Fort Fisher Spit in the summer they are a common sight.  That is where this one was found.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) - 04Dec2016

Snow Geese can come in two flavors: White or Blue.  From Wiki:
White- and blue-morph birds interbreed and the offspring may be of either morph. These two colors of geese were once thought to be separate species; since they interbreed and are found together throughout their ranges, they are now considered two color phases of the same species. The color phases are genetically controlled. The dark phase results from a single dominant gene and the white phase is homozygous recessive. When choosing a mate, young birds will most often select a mate that resembles their parents' coloring. If the birds were hatched into a mixed pair, they will mate with either color phase.

We get Snow Geese regularly up on the outer banks, but I have found some in my home town of Wilmington, NC.  These were seen at a retention pond in Veteran's Park and it was nice to have one of each color morphs.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) - 30Jul2016

Whats not to love about Red-breasted Nuthatches?  They are loud and rambunctious, they live in beautiful mountain scenery and they can climb down trees head first.  This one was found on Clingman's Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains, one of the highest places you can drive to and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata) - 26Nov2016

Masked Tityras are fairly common in Costa Rica.  This one was seen at Arenal National Park close to the Observatory Lodge.  Some birds can't pull off the red facial skin look, Turkey Vultures for example. Maybe that is because we know that vultures have evolved the lack of feathers on the face so they can plunge head first into rotting body cavities.  The Masked Tityra manages to turn something that is usually associated with a medical condition (PBFD - look it up) and turns it into a decoration.  Don't you just love evolution?  Did this trait evolve because a male with less feathers on the face was successful in mating and the trait kept amplifying or because this species eats something that favors less feathers on the face?  Or perhaps a bit of both.  Evolution is fun.  To me just accepting that a creature was put on earth the way it is now is a little boring.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Band-tailed Barbthroat (Threnetes ruckeri) - 27Nov2016

This Band-tailed Barbthroat was a specialty bird at Selva Verde Lodge in Sarapiqui Costa Rica in the Caribbean lowlands.  The first two photos were obviously in better light, but the third shows the namesake characteristics and was from earlier in the morning.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) - 14Dec2016

The Pink-footed Goose is an annual code 4 rarity that shows up in the Northeast (USA).  I have never had an opportunity to chase one until my recent work trip to Boston.  Once I arrived it was easy to find and I was surprised by how pink the legs really were.

From Wiki:
The pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) is a goose which breeds in eastern GreenlandIceland and Svalbard. It is migratory, wintering in northwest Europe, especially IrelandGreat Britain, the Netherlands, and western Denmark. The name is often abbreviated in colloquial usage to "pinkfoot" (plural "pinkfeet"). Anser is the Latin for "goose", and brachyrhynchus comes from the Greek brakhus "short" and rhunkhos "bill".

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) - 13Dec2016

Boston Massachusetts is a great city, and one of the best things about it is you don't need to go far to get some good birds.  I was up there this week for a work trip and got out of a meeting just before 3pm.  In the winter the sun sets a little after 4pm, so I knew I had very little time.  I got my camera from my hotel, jumped in a cab and was at Castle Island in South Boston by 3:25pm.  By 3:45 I was on a Barrow's Goldeneye and I did not even know one had been seen there recently.  I simply picked a green space on my Map App.

Barrow's Goldeneyes have a crescent in the lore area where a Common Goldeneye has a circle.  Also the patterning on it's back is different.

Common Goldeneye on left and Barrow's on the right.

Northern Emerald-Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus) - 26Nov2016

This Northern Emerald-Toucanet was found at the Mirador la Cascada in Cinchona, Costa Rica.  If you ever go to Costa Rica, you have to bird at this Mirador as the food is amazing, the birds are everywhere and there is an amazing waterfall view as well.

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 (http://www.uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=510) 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.