Thursday, February 25, 2016

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) - 20Feb2016

Although Northern Fulmars look superficially like gulls, they are members of the Family Procellariidae which includes petrels and shearwaters and this is evident when you see them fly.

Depending on the view they can look kind of piggish.

Or in this case graceful.  This one is a "Blue" morph.

They have a pretty disgusting habit of vomiting a sticky stomach oil on any would be predators which can adhere to feathers and be potentially fatal.  Check out this one's tube nose.  They use there tube nose to hone in on their prey, in this case a chum slick.  They also have a pretty cool adaptation of a salt gland that helps desalinate there bodies as they are fond of chugging sea water.

These photos were all taken off the coast of NC on a Brian Patteson pelagic out of Hatteras.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) - 02Jan2016

We get one or two of these bad boys every year in NC.  Mostly in the Pettigrew State Park to Alligator NWR areas.  When you are missing the birds of summer in the middle of winter, an Ash-throated can bring you that summer flavor.  Of course in our summers the default Myiarchus is the Great Crested Flycatcher.  If you see a Myiarchus in the winter in NC, chances are it is a Ash-throated Flycatcher.

What I love about Myiarchus flycatchers in general is their tendency to cock their heads in all kinds of positions.  This adaptation probably allows it to conserve energy by sitting still but still being able to follow the insects buzzing around for suitable prey.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) - 09Feb2016

This is one of those once in a lifetime birds in North Carolina.  In fact it was the state's first record ever.  It took me two attempts to get it which involves a 3 hour drive and a boat trip to the Core Banks.  I have seen them out West, but never this close.  Mountain Plovers usually summer in the plains of the midwest and winter on fields on the border near Mexico.  So this individual was certainly way off course.  The first time I tried for it, we scoured the South side of Ophelia Inlet for several hours and saw about 500 Black-bellied Plovers.  The second time we saw zero Black-bellies and found the Mountain Plover in 5 minutes.

I actually could have been closer and obtained better photos but I am always a bit wary when other folks are around.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) - 26Oct2014

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a good bird.  They are endangered and endemic to the US which is part of the allure.  However, rarity aside, they are cool birds.  They hang out in social groups so if you find one, you probably will find a bunch. 

Here is one from Holly Shelter where they can be found pretty reliably.  A couple years ago "target shooting" became popular in Holly Shelter and all the Long-leaf Pines were getting shot up.  I saw guys in there that looked like they were preparing for World War III or maybe the Zombie Apocalypse.  Luckily after some of the shouting and screaming from birders like myself, they shut down the target shooting in there.  I hope to see a positive affect on the RC Woodpecker.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) - 07Feb2016

Picoides pubescens?  I understand where our Latin comrades were going with this "with the hairs of puberty" aka downy, but this anthropomorphic description does not do this cute bird justice.  Maybe in ancient Rome pubic hair was considered soft and nice but it just doesn't work nowadays.  I will stick with Downy Woodpecker.  What were the ornithologists thinking when they pegged this bird a pecker and then added insult to injury and compared his feathers to pubic hair.

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of the North American Woodpeckers and also the most cute.

This particular bird was photographed in the backyard of the Connors in Winston-Salem while waiting for a Buff-bellied Hummingbird to show.  At the time, I had no idea this pecker had been banded.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) - 03Feb2016

Down on the coastal plain in North Carolina, we don't have to worry about ID problems between Carolina Chickadee and Black-capped Chickadee.  Some people claim to have heard or seen Black-capped Chickadees in the Piedmont but eBird has weeded these reports out.

Although my feeder station is relatively boring, I always love watching Chickadees.  However, no one likes a feeder shot, so here is are some pics from this week on a Sweetgum at River Rd Park.  I love a good Sweetgum.

Note the lack of white edging on tertials (siri tried to change this to tortillas).

Wikipedia gives these names for Sweetgum fruit - Burr Balls, Gum Balls, Space Bugs, Monkey Balls, Sticker Balls and my favorite, Bommykockers.

Whatever you call them, birds love them.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) - 14Sep2015

Could you imagine all the rotting flesh that would be sitting around if it were not for Vultures?  The Turkey Vulture is a master of finding rotting flesh and eating it.  If only we could have the intestinal fortitude of a Turkey Vulture, I could stomach my wife's vegan dishes.  Never the less, the poor Turkey Vulture is maligned by most people and its greatest claim to fame is that Zone-tailed Hawks can look like them from a distance especially if you had one too many drinks.

I am trying to remember which famous birder said that the TV was his favorite bird.  Was it Roger Peterson?  I can see that.  Here's to you Eater of Carrion, Denizen of the Blue Sky, Vulture of Turkeys.