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Jan 11 11

Breaking Gull News

by Bryan

Ted Murin strikes again. He’s found what is most likely a third-winter Slaty-backed Gull at the Sandbar Causeway across Lake Champlain between Milton and South Hero. This large, dark-backed gull breeds in the northern Pacific from Siberia to northern Japan. It is a regular visitor to Alaska. But the species does tend to wander far in winter. This one, seen most recently on January 9, would be Vermont’s first.

Pictured here (including above) is an adult Slaty-backed Gull I photographed in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on December 26, 2007. Note the dirty head, bubble-gum-colored legs, broad white edge to the tertials and the distinctive “string of pearls” on the primaries, a row of submarginal (interior) white spots on most of the outer primaries. The mark is also visible in the slow-motion-flapping portions of my video below; pause the playback periodically for views of the wing tips.

YouTube Preview Image

Ted and another one of Vermont’s elite birders, Allan Strong, would have liked better looks at this gull. It wasn’t particularly cooperative, and they both know well that it can be tough to rule out hybrids or other gull oddities, which are many. To be sure, these guys are careful and cautious observers. Each is reporting this bird — and writing it up — as a Slaty-backed Gull. That alone is enough to get you out to the Sandbar Causeway. A fish die-off has the place lousy with gulls and Bald Eagles.

Stay tuned for updates on this amazing find… .

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Jan 10 11

Rough-legged Hawk in East Montpelier

by Bryan

Here’s a digi-scoped photo of a dark-phase Rough-legged Hawk in East Montpelier, Vermont, on Monday, along US Route 2 just east of its (new) intersection with Vermont Route 14.

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Jan 5 11

A Bird in Hand – Part II

by Bryan

You’ve got to hand it to Joan Thompson. Well, actually, Joan Thompson hands it to songbirds. Joan’s elegant photos of songbirds feeding from her hand are making a return visit to The Daily Wing. I first displayed Joan’s work in a blog post last year.

These images are but a fraction of Joan’s avian acumen. Using only her trusted Canon point-and-shoot camera and her binoculars or a spotting scope, Joan has photographed 545 574 bird species during her travels near and far. She has mastered the art of finding a bird and using one side of her binos as a zoom lens for capturing images. It’s a lot tougher than it may seem. Not incidentally, Joan, who will soon turn 83, is a woman of many talents. In the final photo below you’ll find her as first cellist with the Vermont Philharmonic. I took that shot (click on it for a better view) during First Night festivities in Montpelier last week

Lately, Joan has been close to home in Morrisville, Vermont, with her winged visitors. She is now working on coaxing Common Redpolls into her hand. I’ll post that shot when it happens. In the meantime, here are a few Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees to enjoy.

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Jan 4 11

Redpolls Return

by Bryan

In Arctic regions of the New and Old World, Common Redpolls are among the most abundant breeding songbirds. Only during winter do they show up across much of Canada and the northern US. They’re here now, having arrived during the past few weeks. Huge numbers of redpolls are driven south by broad failure in seed production among high-latitude tree species — particularly spruce and birch. We call these movements “irruptions.” If they’re not munching your seed at the feeder, redpolls are often picking at birch catkins for the tiny seeds sheltered inside.

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Jan 1 11

Northern Hawk Owl – Update

by Bryan

Update – 3 Jan 2011:

At least four groups of birders looked for but did not find the Northern Hawk Owl in Berlin, Vermont, on Sunday, January 3, 2011. It would still be worthwhile to search for this bird. Meanwhile, Kenneth Hunt reports a Northern Hawk Owl from Fletcher, Vermont, on Sunday.

The NHO was plainly in a leafless tree on the Fletcher Road just as you enter Fletcher from Fairfax. There is a sharp bend by a yellow for sale home on the other side of the road.

The Northern Hawk Owl discovered by Nat Shambaugh late last year was last seen hunting along Three Mile Bridge Road on New Year’s Day in Berlin, Vermont, just east of Jones Brook Road near Montpelier. (Some folks might erroneously think this location is in the town of Middlesex.) Look for it on the utility poles, wires or occasionally in trees near the power lines. Bring your scope. This image is NOT the Berlin bird, but rather the Northern Hawk Owl in Ferdinand, Vermont, last winter.


View Northern Hawk Owl in a larger map

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Dec 23 10

Getting Squirrely

by Bryan


They are essentially introverts, yet they hunt and feed and breed in plain view in our own backyards. They can be ruthless predators, merciless vandals, or unwitting comediennes. Sure, they’re rodents, but spend some time this winter getting to know your squirrels.

After all, squirrels are our most abundant and accessible wild mammals. With thousands of miles in the woods behind me, I have encountered but a handful of black bears, a few fishers, and a grand total of two bobcats. Squirrels are far more obvious and yet equally charismatic. (OK, maybe not quite as charismatic.)

Across much of northern New England, we all know the two common species: eastern gray squirrel, which prefers deciduous woods, and red squirrel, found more often in evergreen woods. But our three four other squirrel family member are woodchuck, eastern chipmunk, northern flying squirrel and southern flying squirrel. The chipmunks are in burrows for the winter and flying squirrels are nocturnal. But winter is a fine time to turn your binoculars toward red and gray squirrels, which, by the way, don’t need warmth in order to get hot in the woods. where can i trade binary options

But first, what makes a squirrel and squirrel? What makes them so, well, squirrely? To my reckoning, it is teeth, toes and tail. Teeth and toes can reveal a lot about how an animal moves, what it eats, how it survives. But the tail may be the most endearing and interesting component of a squirrel’s body plan. read more…

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Dec 17 10

The Counting Begins

by Bryan

Highlights from scouting Friday for the Montauk (NY) Christmas Bird Count included four Greater White-fronted Geese, roughly 100 Razorbills and one Lesser Black-backed Gull (below). Those are my pals, from left to right, showing their best sides, Brian Kane (Massachusetts), Hugh McGuinness (New York), Peter Polshek (Florida) and Rick Prum (Connecticutt). We’ll be on Gardiners Island all day Saturday.

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Dec 16 10

Christmas Bird Count Season Begins

by Bryan

Starting Saturday, I’ll be blogging from various Christmas Bird Counts across the Northeast, each a parade of odd birds, winter landscapes and, yeah, some eccentric people. First stop: Montauk Point, NY. In the meantime, here’s a blog post on Christmas Counts from North Branch Nature Center (my favorite nature center). And here’s a Purple Sandpiper.

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Dec 12 10

Monday Morning Birding Basics – No. 8: Getting Gulls

by Bryan

They soar and glide with the grace of our most elegant birds. They are content exploring the high seas for fish or picking through Dumpsters for leftovers. They are approachable and audacious. They even offer us an enduring intellectual challenge.

But please do not call them “seagulls.” It is a dismissive term for a gull, even those spending much of their lives at sea. Gulls are living proof that nature is far more diverse than we know. Earth is home to about 50 gull species. They live on every continent in a medley of habitats. Among the few animals surviving closest to the North Pole is the exquisite Ivory Gull. The Kelp Gull is found on the Antarctic Peninsula. In between, the planet downright is “gullible.” We see a dozen or so species here in New England.

So why watch gulls? Better yet, how can you learn to identify them? read more…

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Dec 10 10

Digital University – Enroll Now!

by Bryan

Most of us have digital cameras but few use them well. So here are four workshops to solve your digital dilemmas. Whether you’re shooting flowers, birds, landscapes or grand-kids, these courses will unleash your photographic and creative potential. If you like the photos on this blog, you’ll love these workshops. I’ve been teaching them for years. read more…

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