As of Today, December 24th, I have seen 247 bird species in Barnstable County, MA in 2014. I got married this year, and had a full time job, and still managed to put up a pretty good number! I did not expect to see so many…and there have definitely been a few challenges, and near-misses. I still have the next week to fill out the list and perhaps hit 250, but most of the remaining birds can be tough to find. I’ve been putting together a list of potential remaining birds for the year…some are more likely than others
…Some target species I need, and can still get with a little luck are:
Among the highlights of the year, all of which were lifers:
-Cape May Warbler
Among the near-misses that eluded me despite my efforts:
I don’t usually spend too much time taking pictures of birds at my feeders, but this was a cool moment outside my window I was happy to see. A Hairy Woodpecker, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker came to one of my suets at the same time and made for an excellent two-for-one shot. Hairy Woodpeckers are practically identical to the abundant Downy Woodpecker, but they are slightly larger and have a bigger bill. In this case, the Red-bellied was more aggressive, and pushed the Hairy away for position on the suet.
I always like to see male/female bird pairs next to each other…especially ducks. It makes for a nice image, and also shows the species plumage as a whole. Buffleheads are undoubtedly the cutest ducks…they are diminutive, but the striking white males have a beautiful iridescent rainbow sheen on their heads that shines when the light hits them at the right angle. I got a nice low-angle look and picture of this pair the other day.
This week, a male Tufted Duck has been seen among a raft of Scaup on a pond in my neighborhood. These ducks are Eurasian, and only show up in the U.S. when single individuals get blown across the ocean by the weather…it is a pretty rare event. A rare bird like this draws a lot of attention from birders, and many people travel hours just to get a glimpse of it. Although the duck spends a lot of time sleeping with its head tucked away, I was able to get a distant snap of the duck that clearly shows the “tuft” on its head. Other than the tuft, the main features that separates this duck from the rest of the Scaup are the black back and the sharp white flanks. Fortunately, this pond is 5 minutes from my house, so I did not have to travel far to get a look!
I got a nice close look at this Savannah Sparrow recently…the hint of yellow on their lores is the only bit of color they have, but they have some very crisp lines and details, which makes them easier to ID from further away. This particular bird turned its face into the morning light at just the right moment for me to catch this snap too!
I can always appreciate Crows when I see them. The detail in an entirely black bird can be hard to see, but when the light hits a Crow just right, they have a vibrant sheen that really sets them off. Crows, and Ravens are also up there with the most intelligent species…they can recognize human faces in a crowd, and they have demonstrated problem-solving abilities that rival those of most human children. Crows are also very social birds, and are often seen in groups. These groups can be very domineering and aggressive, so it is not uncommon to see, or hear a pack of Crows mobbing a predator in a demonstration of their strength in numbers.
Some video I took recently of Hooded Mergansers doing mating rituals…the males enthusiastically chase the females and bob their heads up and down in an attempt to impress a mate.
Last week I posted a blog about how difficult kinglets are to photograph…I was pretty happy with the photo I had, but this one from the other day is definitely my best one yet. The biggest challenge is to get a clear photo of the bird that also displays the golden crown. Kinglets are so quick and restless, it is almost impossible to get them to sit still…I am glad I caught this guy with his crown exposed.
Last week this female Indigo Bunting showed up at my feeders during a snowstorm, and she has been present ever since. These are really neat birds to see under any circumstances, but to see one in the snow, in my yard, in Massachusetts, in December is a very rare treat! I don’t know why this bird is this far North this late in the year, but I assume she will stick around as long as I keep putting food out. Although she is not a brilliant shade of blue like a male, you can still see hints of blue on her tail and on her flanks…if it were not for these highlights, it would be very difficult to ID this bird, especially because she is such an unexpected visitor.
Cardinals are extremely photogenic. They may be common, but Its hard to ignore their striking red plumage…even the subtler females are gorgeous. Cardinals are not migratory, so the Cardinals in your yard in winter are often the same ones you saw in the summer. I could take photos of these beauties all day…here is a nice one from the other day 🙂