Sunday, November 23, 2014

Notes From My Nest: Life Birds and More

1. Mere Point sunrise 11-23-14 Sunrise over Mere Point Bay 11-23-2014

November 23, 2014: After days of wind and cold the air warmed overnight and the dawn arrived flushed with pink and gold. Though it is still Autumn, it feels more like winter with a biting northwest wind that blew for days. Yesterday morning was still chilly and cold, but in the afternoon the temperature started to rise so that by nightfall it was warmer than noontime. It should be relatively warm here for the next couple of days, and then another shot of winter weather is headed here for Wednesday. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving this year since my daughter and her husband just moved back to Maine from Colorado! It has been over two years since I have seen her! She and I have been able to spend a little bit of time together since her return and I am so happy to have someone who not only likes nature like I do, but also likes to decorate for Christmas and watch girly movies with me!

2. me and Renee 11-13-14 Giving my daughter a hug 11-13-14

On Thursday I drove over Livermore to pick Renee up to spend the day with me. She and her husband only have one car and he needs it to drive to work. Renee was driving as we headed up the steep drive of Waters Hill Road, one of the back roads of Maine near Livermore. I don’t remember who spotted them first, but we saw some small birds alongside the road. There were farm fields on either side and as I looked at the birds it suddenly dawned on me what they were. Since she was driving I screamed at her to STOP THE CAR! STOP THE CAR! She quickly applied the brakes and I couldn’t leap out of the door fast enough, for there in front of me were Snow Buntings! After confirming it with my binoculars, I grabbed for my camera and walked up the road. The road was steep and bumpy. I was walking uphill with the sun directly in front of me, so the birds were backlit, but still, I attempted to get their pictures.

DSC_0599 Snow buntings-kab Snow Buntings on Waters Hill Road in Livermore, Maine 11-21-14

It was a small flock of five brown and white birds feeding along the road edge. As I got nearer they walked farther and I kept snapping away. Finally they decided I was too close for comfort and they flew off a short distance into the closely cropped farm field. By now I was freezing as a stiff wind reached inside my jacket and pinched my flesh! I decided I had enough Snow Bunting pictures and got back into the car! My smile was as wide as the Androscoggin River! Though I had seen snow buntings years before in the town of Jay, Maine I had not eBirded them. This made them a Life Bird on my eBird List.

3. Mere Point Boat launch 11-13-14 All the boats are gone from Mere Point Bay now 11-13-14

But, Renee must be my good luck charm, for later that day when we were at my cottage I went out to turn the car around in preparation for a trip to town when I heard the cry of a raptor overhead. Though I see Bald Eagles here on a regular basis, and lately I have been seeing Red-tailed Hawks, this cry was different. Fortunately I did have my binoculars with me and I looked up to see a large accipiter hanging on the wind.

4. Maquoit bay 11-18-14With the leaves off the trees I can finally see Maquoit Bay from my living room again!

It was light gray below and its size and shape made me realize I was looking at a Northern Goshawk! I ran to the back door for my camera, which I thought was in the kitchen, but it was not. Renee ran to get it from my office, while I stepped back outside to keep my eyes on that bird. It gave its wailing cry again as it slowly drifted over the treetops down towards Maquoit Bay. Just as Renee got to the back door with my camera, it disappeared from view! Too bad! I was alerted to the fact that a goshawk was hanging around the neighborhood by one of my neighbors who is a registered Maine Guide. So when I heard that strange cry that was not an eagle or a Red-tailed Hawk I looked up and found yet another Life Bird! That made two in one day! I was thrilled!

5. shorebirds 11-20-14 Wharton Point Ring-billed gulls and Dunlin at Wharton Point 11-20-2014

But today, on this sunny Maine day, I have more serious things in mind. I am about to leave for Connecticut to be with my mom as she goes through yet another breast cancer surgery. After being cancer free for three years, she has had a new cancer develop in her other breast. They caught this one while it is still quite small and we are hoping that she will have a successful surgery and only need radiation this time around.

6. mere Point Bay 11-10-14 Sunset on Mere Point Bay 11-10-2014

In this new world of cancer I was surprised to learn that there is more than one type of breast cancer. So, this is not the return of her old cancer, but a totally new cancer. Her surgery is first thing tomorrow and I hope to be back in Maine before Thanksgiving. Gus is off, so he is here to take care of the house and pets. Our little dog, Miss Blossom, is nearing the end of her life and needs much more care and attention than she used to. It is an unpredictable life we all live, and ours is a bit tenuous right now, but there are still sunrises and sunsets, and plenty of birds to make me smile. With the spotting of the Goshawk I am now up to 105 Yard Birds here on Mere Point. Recently I have had a female Red-bellied woodpecker hanging around. The American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have returned from the boreal forest of the north, and yesterday I observed a Brown Creeper climbing the trunk of the apple tree where one of my bird feeders hangs. Life is good.

7. Nest 11-22-14 Brunswick My new favorite store in Brunswick, Maine 11-22-14

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If Wishes Were Horses

1. horse-kab There is an old nursery rhyme that says:

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,

If turnips were watches I’d wear one by my side.”

~Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes

Well, if wishes were jaegers the bird below would be one. But it is not. It is an immature Laughing Gull. I wanted it to be one, but wanting does not make it so. I use to tell Chris Rohrer this all the time when he and I first started birding together. I really do want to be accurate in my bird identifications. I realize this is and always will be a learning process. Once again I have had to correct my records after too hastily jumping on the hope that this bird was a jaeger. I received much help from the Facebook Group, Maine Birds, especially from a young man named Kyle Lima and Dough Hitchcock, the Regional eBird Reviewer and head of Maine Audubon, who pointed out that this bird’s bill and neck were too long and narrow for a jaeger. I also learned that Laughing Gulls do have a darker breast with a white belly and a dark terminal band on the tail. But with this mystery solved, I still have another one on my hands…

2. laughing gull-kab Immature Laughing Gull 9-6-2014 at Wharton’s Point

I am still trying to figure out these sandpipers. I realize these photos are  not the best, so I have posted the originals, and then a duplicate that is lightened and cropped to see if that helps anyone help me. I went back to the eBird checklist for this location on this day and looked at all the possibilities. I’ve narrowed it down to these choices:

    • White-rumped sandpiper
    • Baird’s Sandpiper
    • Red Knot
    • Stilt Sandpiper

I have eliminated Stilt Sandpiper as an option because the neck and legs are not long enough, the head is not small enough. That leaves me with White-rumped, Baird’s and Red Knot. Baird’s is more rare than the other two, so I am not even considering it at the moment, but would listen to any arguments as to why it could be that species. Both the White-rumped and the Red Knot have a white eyebrow. White-rumped has wing tips that extend beyond the tail, but it looks like red knots do the same, though it does not say that in the bird guides. Red knots have dark tips to their wingtips, but in some images, so do White-rumps. White rumps have a more scaly appearance, and so do these birds, but Red Knots are larger and these birds look large to me, especially when compared to the yellowlegs in the last photo. As you can see, this is what one has to go through when learning a new species and trying to identify a bird. I have pulled out several bird guides and still have not come to a conclusion and I am reluctant to add a species to my eBird list until I am sure. These photos were all posted in the previous post. I am going to share this around the internet again and see if I can get some definitive answers on these sandpipers!

So scroll on down to see what you can see. Any help would be greatly appreciated, but please tell me why you think it is that species!

(We have an answer! See update posted below!)

Disclaimer: I know these photos are bad, but they are all I have!


DSC_0191a Same photo as above but cropped even more and lightened.






DSC_0195 I am not sure this is one of the above sandpipers, but I think it is. It has the same time stamp. I included it to show the bird’s posture and the shape of its bill, which seems to droop slightly at the tip. It also shows the overall scaly appearance to the feathers on the back.


After seeing this photo of a Red knot on the world Shorebird’s Day post I am thinking these are Not Red Knots! What say you? Follow the link to see what I mean and vote if you want to:

DSC_0199 Mystery Sandpipers and yellowlegs 9-6-2014 at Wharton Point

***Update 11:35 AM: After posting to The Facebook Bird ID Group of the World  and Maine Birds the Conclusion is these are Semi-palmated Sandpipers!

A great Big THANK YOU to everyone who helped with this ID!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

World Shorebird’s Day Challenges me with some Mystery Birds

1. Yellowlegs-kab Yellowlegs in Flight at Wharton Point 9-6-14

I’ll make no bones about it. I am still learning my shorebirds, so when I went out to count birds on World Shorebirds Day at Wharton’s Point in Brunswick, Maine, wouldn’t you know I would encounter some bird species I could not identify. This is, of course, an excellent opportunity to learn, but I think I need some help with some of these. I could tell they were different, but have yet to figure out who they are! However, I do know Black-bellied Plovers and Double-crested Cormorants when I see them!

DSC_0164Black-bellied Plovers with Double-crested Cormorants in the bay.


DSC_0166 Double-crested Cormorants in Maquoit Bay 9-6-14

These Snowy Egrets below were pretty easy to figure out!

DSC_0167 In spite of the tall grasses, their white feathers are a beacon against the green and gold!

But then I spotted this fellow bobbing in the waves!

DSC_0170 Mystery Bird #1

Notice the way is rides in the water. It is different than a gull.

DSC_0168 This is it in comparison to some gulls. The mystery bird is on the right.

Suddenly the bird took flight and I snapped some shots.

DSC_0173 Notice the gray to brownish breast, the white belly, the dark legs, and the gray to brown terminal band on the tail. I cannot find a picture like this in my bird guide, except maybe a jaeger? Perhaps a shearwater? But I could not find one colored like this.

DSC_0174 Here’s another shot as it banked and turned.


DSC_0175 This is hugely cropped, but this is the best view from below.

Any ideas anyone?

Update: I now believe this is a Parasitic Jaeger and have added it to my eBird checklist for this day! (see correction below)

11-19-14 **Double Update: This is an immature Laughing gull!  

I have now deleted Jaeger from my eBird checklist and added Laughing Gull. Thank you Doug Hitchcock and Kyle Lima for your help!

DSC_0179 This Greater Yellowlegs is much easier to identify!


DSC_0182 I love to watch them feeding in the water by sweeping their heads back and forth!

You can see that those long legs are very useful!


DSC_0184 Front view of the Greater yellowlegs in the surf.

But then there were these two to baffle me again.

DSC_0191 They are about the size of a Black-bellied plover, but the bill isn’t right.




DSC_0195 Any ideas anyone with more shorebird experience than me?

In the shot below you can see their size in relation to the yellowlegs.

Once I get this figured out I will post the answers here.

World Shorebird’s Day sure was fun as well as a challenge!

DSC_0199 Now that winter is almost here, all these shorebirds are long gone.

But the good news is, we have our winter birds returning!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Barnes Landing-a photo essay

1. Barnes landing-kab

Barnes Landing is a little known and little visited cove on the shores of Middle Bay in Brunswick, Maine. I went here on September 6th to count birds for World Shorebirds Day. As the clouds and mist rolled in and the wind sprang up, I felt I was alone in the world in a wild place where the lines of Longfellow’s poem sprang to mind about “the forest primeval” and such. It is the sort of place where one feels the need of a weathervane or compass to guide your way, where all nature is close and ready to offer you gifts if you are receptive to her voice.

2. weathervane-kab Weathervane

3. barn and lawn 9-6-14 The Old Farm at Barnes Landing

4. 9-6-14 rocky shore at Barnes landing Barnes Landing

5. least snadpiper-kab Least Sandpiper

6. horseshow crab-kab Horseshoe Crab exoskeleton


7. sandpiper in eeel grass-kab Least sandpiper among the eel grass.


8. sea mat-kab Grass mat growing down to the tide line

9. shells-kab Seagull leftovers


11. rocky ledge9-6-14 Rocky ledge

12. seashells and seaweed 9-6-14 Portrait of the rocky shore

13. shoreline-kab Low Tide at Barnes Landing

14. gifts from the sea 9-6-14 Gifts from the sea

15. Least Sandpiper-kab Least Sandpiper

16. barnes landing-kab Middle Bay

17. barn-kab