Barnacle Goose - a really rare sighting from Europe!

barnacle goose
These Barnacle Goose pictures were captured by my son, Pete, in Concord, MA on October 24, 2010. Barnacle Geese are not native to the United States, so this is a very rare sighting indeed. These birds are from Greenland and Norway, so this guy must have been blown clear across the Atlantic Ocean to end up here!

barnacle goose 2
This is why I'm losing my Lifelist competition. Pete also saw Sandhill Cranes this month! Worst of all, I taught him how to use ebird and massbird to select birding locations in the first place. I don't mind losing, but I do mind losing by a mile! I'm getting destroyed in this competition, and I'm not taking it well!

barnacle goose 3
Until recently, we were pretty even - mostly because we had different specialties. Pete is an expert at finding little forest birds like warblers and phoebes and flycatchers, but he has no patience with shorebirds, terns, and gulls. I can't even see the speedy little birds he likes so much, but I could spend years with shorebirds, terns, and ducks. I love ducks!

barnacle goose 4
Lately, however, Pete has developed an interest in ducks, shorebirds, and everything else that exists in Massachusetts. In the past month alone he must have added 10 new species. He must have added 5 species while I was sick the past two weeks!

barnacle goose 5
Isn't he a beautiful bird? He was around the concord area for over a week, and I went out to find him on Thursday. I got hopelessly lost, however, and saw nothing at all!


My First Evening Grosbeak in 30 Years!

my first evening grosbeak in 30 years
Evening Grosbeaks used to be common backyard birds when I was a kid. In fact, we had an Audubon tea towel decoration in our kitchen called Common Backyard Birds and there was an Evening Grosbeak pictured.

evening grosbeak 2
I haven't seen on in at least 30 years. It was so long ago that I couldn't include it on my lifelist - not according to the rules of a current competition that I'm involved in. You have to have a clear and distinct recollection of the sighting to include it in your life list - and a photo is actually preferred.

evening grosbeak
FINALLY I'm able to claim an Evening Grosbeak. Right in my own backyard, even. Better yet, my competitor has yet to see one at all! After two weeks of being too sick to go birding, I still feel great about this fall!


And the Feathers will Fly; Gull Fight!

great black-backed gull aggression
This impressive display is evidently a Great Black-backed Gull's way of threatening other gulls.

great black-backed gull threatening
There were two GBBG's competing for proximity to some fishing poles.

more great black-backed gull threatening
They screamed at each other and followed each other around for a while.

great black-backed gull chase
Then one of the gulls got serious about chasing the other away.

great black-backed gull attack
The attacker was like a whirling dervish as he pursued his rival. Pretty soon he had the beach to himself.


Tern Test!

DSC_1576 copy
One of the terns in this picture is decidedly different from the rest.  Name that tern!

tern sony 2
This tern is in breeding plumage.

juvenile tern sony
This tern is a juvenile.

tern flight
What is this flying tern"

Tern closeup 2
Can you identify this tern flying?

group terns rock
If you look hard, you'll find one tern in this group is different than the others.  What species is he?

masked avenger

Post a comment with your answers!


Sandpipers and Sanderlings

sanderling bubbles 2
Sanderlings are the most common little bird we see at the beach.

sanderling w bubbles
They dart along the water's edge looking for food and running from the waves.

sanderling bubbles 3
They look much different as juveniles than they do with breeding plumage, which is a rich reddish-brown. You can always tell a Sanderling from most other peeps by his lack of a hind toe. This is what makes Sanderlings such great runners!

semipalmated sandpiper webbed
The Semipalmated Sandpiper is a bit smaller and has a less rounded head. But Semiplamated Sandpipers also have one fairly unique feature that sets them apart from the masses of little shorebirds - Semipalmated Sandpipers have partially webbed feet! The slightly webbed toes help him walk on mud.

semipalmated sandpiper run
Semipalmated sandpipers do have a hind toe, which is a way of distinguishing them from Sanderlings.


Northern Harrier, another hawk for my life list!

northern harrier hunting
When I first saw this bird, I swore to my husband that it was an owl. Of course, an instant later I knew it was a hawk and not an owl. A view of the hawk in profile revealed an extremely long tail, at which point I knew it was a Northern Harrier.

northern harrier landing
It was an understandable mistake to confuse this hawk with an owl because Northern Harriers have facial disks like most owls do.

northern harrier treetop
A Merlin and a Northern Harrier in one weekend is A-OK with me!


A magical Merlin!

merlin 3
This Merlin was a big surprise - and a lifelister for me. We saw him while looking for night herons at Hemenway Landing in Eastham, MA. Would you know what it was at first sight?

At first I thought it was a Peregrine Falcon, and I really wanted it to be one. (Excuse the blurry pictures, please. Bad photos are allowed on a first sighting!)

merlin 4
It didn't really look quite like a Peregrine, but I thought it could be a juvenile or immature or molting or something. Every other bird on the cape that weekend fit into one of those categories! But a careful look at the field guides convinced me I had seen a Merlin - which was an even more magical experience (pun intended!).


Great Egret Gulping

great egret fluffed up
The Great Egret just spend 5 minutes trying to swallow a large crab. He was pacing and moving his neck up and down and seemed to be in distress. In the end, however, he recovered quite nicely!

great egret eating
Here he is with the crab (or whatever it is) in his mouth. You can see it's pretty large for that slim neck!

great egret eating 2
The crab is on it's way down the gullet!


The deadly side effects of fishing

ducks in fishing line plum island
I hope this isn't the tragedy I first thought it was, but check out the fishing line wrapped around the duck's bill!

black duck fishing line 2
One can only hope the line is not wrapped around so tightly that it cannot eat. Even if the bird can eat, though, it would still seem likely that the duck is in danger. Can it fly with a nylon line dragging behind? A million things could go wrong!

gull fishing line
Less than 30 minutes later, we saw another bird tangled up in fishing line. This was a gull, and if anything the fishing line was more entrenched than the one on the duck had been.

gull fishing line 2
It is hard to see, but if you look closely you can tell that it is protruding from the bird's nostril and that there is about a foot of tangled line curled behind him.

gull fishing line closeup
My son tells me that fishing line is made to dissolve these days precisely because this happens to birds and animals so often. I just hope the fishing line dissolves quickly enough to save the lives of these birds!


Weird Ugly Provincetown Eiders

weirdly ugly eider
The water is beautiful, though!

weirdly ugly eider two
It's not nice to call any species ugly, and I don't really mean it, but . . .

scary eider
He didn't appreciate me dissing his appearance.

somewhat handsome eider
A big, handsome duck!


Plovers and Peeps on Cape Cod

yellow semipalmated plover eyes
I love the yellow eyering!

plover and peep Twins
Here is a semipalmated sandpiper and a semipalmated plover together. Thank you, corvid01, for the species' IDs.

plovers big and small
A cute little Black Bellied Plover.

vested semipalmated plover
A cute Semipalmated Plover that looks as if he's wearing a vest.