Seeing Semipalmated Plovers at the Seashore

plover pocasset july 2010
Here's a familiar shorebird friend, the Semipalmated Plover. Semipalmated Plovers are so named because of their partially webbed feet (semi = partly, palmate = webbed). Unfortunately , that's a feature you cannot see here because his feet are in the mud!

plover II  pocasset july 2010
There are a lot of similar looking plovers in the world, but if you see one like this around here, chances are it's a semipalmated. Semipalmated plovers gave have a single, dark neck band in all plumages.

plover III  pocasset july 2010
In breeding plumage the bill is distinctly black-tipped and orange-based, and a white dot is visible behind and above each eye.

plover IV  pocasset july 2010
In breeding plumage, the white forehead is surrounded by black. In non-breeding plumage, both the band and the head are brown instead of black, and the bill is more black than orange.


Raptors Roost on House Chimneys in Framingham!

red tailed hawk chimney 8 2008
We were packing up the car for a weekend wedding in Vermont when my husband glanced up and saw a big raptor on the chimney.

red tailed hawk chimney IV 8 2008
What a stunningly beautiful bird, huh? A big guy, too. He was surveying the yard as if checking out the various meals to be had at each of the very crowded feeders.

red tailed hawk chimney III 8 2008
Since Red Tails aren't known for eating feeder birds, I'm not sure why he seems so interested.

red tailed hawk chimney II 8 2008
I was impressed to he could turn his head nearly as far as an owl!

red tailed hawk chimney V 8 2008
For an idea of the odd scenario we are seeing here, and the size of this bird, here is a look from afar.


Fawn in the Backyard!

backyard fawn 1
I was surprised to a spotted fawn and her mother in the backyard around 11:00 this morning.

backyard fawn
I've seen mother and fawn in the yard before, but it is usually around dawn. I was so shocked I practically scared them both away running for my camera and fumbling to turn it on. I didn't have time to change any settings, so what you see is what I got!

backyard fawn 2
The fawn has actually grown quite a bit since the last time I saw her. She is still half the size of her mother, but she looks more graceful and doe-like. Still has her spots, though!

fawn fly 2
I was frantically snapping pictures through the window, and this little one flicked her ears at every shutter click. I didn't even get a real close look at her until I reviewed the images this afternoon. That is when I noticed there was something on her face in every picture. It turned out to be a big, fat fly.

fawn fly
My husband said the biting flies we saw at the cape were deer flies (as opposed to horse flies or green flies, who bite as well). It took a ton of bug spray to keep those flies away from us. I just hope the deer are thick-skinned about it, because those things really hurt!

Identifying a Cape Cod Sandpiper

least sandpiper pocasset
This little guy flew in to the edge of a little pond in the marsh. I find sandpipers difficult always, but one lone sandpiper with no other birds for size or shape comparison is even harder on me! I usually start by assuming it's the most likely species seen in the area. The most prevalent sandpiper here at this time of year is the Semipalmated Sandpiper. But Semipalmated Sandpiper's have black legs, and this bird has yellow or greenish yellow legs. This fellow is definitely not a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

least sandpiper pocasset 2
There are a lot of other sandpipers on our beaches this time of year. I knew I would have to pay attention to every detail if I didn't want to post inaccurate information on the Internet. I hate when that happens!

When identifying shorebirds, the first step is supposed to be determining the age of the bird. I have difficulty with that still, so my first identifying feature is usually size. Size is hard to judge in a vacuum, but I would say this guy was certainly small. The smallest sandpiper of all? I couldn't tell.

least sandpiper pocasset 3
The yellow legs were a big clue. Most other smallish sandpipers that you would expect to see around here have black legs. Those with yellow or greenish yellow legs often have yellow bills, as well. The pool of possibilities shrunk to small sandpipers with yellow legs and a black bill.

least sandpiper pocasset 4
I noted the all over brown coloring, but what really convinced me of the identity of this bird's species was the slightly downward droop to his bill.

Now, I could well be mistaken about this ID because there are SO MANY sandpipers that all resemble one another. And it really is hard to ID a solitary bird in terms of size and coloring. Nonetheless, after consulting all my books and scouring the web for pictures, I've determined that this small sandpiper with yellow legs and dark bill that is slightly tipped downward is indeed a Least Sandpiper; the smallest sandpiper of all!


Greater Yellowlegs: A Lifelister

greater yellowlegs pocasset II
We spotted this Greater Yellowlegs from the car as we were headed to Monk's Cove in Pocasset. Even though I had never seen one before, I didn't have a hard time identifying the species. I have seen plenty of pictures of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs in my 3 books on shorebirds (thank you, Melinda, for my birthday book!), so even though I have never seen one in person, I knew this bird was one for my life list!

greater yellowlegs pocasset III
It is easy to see why I had no trouble recognizing the species. His most striking and noticeable feature was his intensely bright yellow legs!

greater yellowlegs pocasset IV
It was more difficult to determine which of the two Lesserlegs species he belonged to. My first clue was his size. He was pretty large for a shorebird, more Willet-sized (or Marbled Godwit-sized, according to my husband!)than sandpiper sized.

greater yellowlegs pocasset V
My second big clue was the size of his bill. The Greater Yellowlegs has a long, thin bill (approximately 1.5 times the length of his head) that is slightly upturned. If this was a Lesser Yellowlegs, would have a shorter bill (about equal to the length of his head), and it would be straight without any curve. This bird's long and upturned bill, in conjunction with his large size, identified him as a Greater Yellowlegs to me!

yellowlegs pocasset 2
In case you have any doubt about how yellow his legs were, this slightly overexposed shot will give you a good idea. Pretty cool, right?


A Close Encounter with Great Egrets

egret pocasset July 30 2010
We had time for a very short trip to Pocasset on Saturday, and our first stop was our favorite conservation area. When we left the path and entered the marsh, we found ourselves face to face with a Great Egret! We snapped away until he noticed us and took off screeching. Two others joined him in a thunder of giant flapping wings and loud calls.

egret flying pocasset III
A Great Egret in flight is a marvelous thing to behold. The massive wingspan, the translucent wings, the graceful body, and the striking contrast of bright white, jet black, and bold yellow combine to create a masterpiece in the air.

egret flying pocasset II
The size of a Great Egret's wings compared to it's body allows them to take of more gracefully than many other large birds.

egret flying pocasset V
The three we surprised at the Leary Conservation area in Bourne made quite a loud protest at our trespass. They circled overhead for a few moments before landing on the other side of the marsh.

egret flying pocasset IV
Looks a little like an angel, doesn't it?