Archive for the 'Water and Shore' Category

Jul 05 2017

Kingfisher Envy

Published by under Travel,Water and Shore

Two common kingfishers, Alcedo atthis (photo by Lukasz Lukasik via Wikimedia Commons)

Two common kingfishers, Alcedo atthis (photo by Lukasz Lukasik via Wikimedia Commons)

Though only the size of a sparrow, the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) found in Europe, Asia and Africa looks anything but common to birders from North America.

Our much larger belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is plain by comparison.

Belted kingfisher, Seattle (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Belted kingfisher, Seattle (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

What’s not to love about a tiny iridescent electric blue bird?

I am suffering from kingfisher envy.

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)

One response so far

Jul 01 2017

Looks A Little Different

Published by under Travel,Water and Shore

Pied avocet, Netherlands (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Pied avocet, Netherlands (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There’s something odd about this avocet.

The ones we see in Pennsylvania have orange heads in breeding plumage …

American avocet (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

American avocet (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

… and white heads in basic (winter) plumage.

American Avocet in basic plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

American Avocet in basic plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

 

The bird at the top looks different because he’s a pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), native to Europe, Asia and Africa.

Our avocets are “American avocets” (Recurvirostra americana).

Fortunately we can identify both birds as avocets.  All we need is the right adjective.

 

(first two photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals.
avocet in basic/winter plumage by Robert Greene, Jr.
)

No responses yet

Jun 28 2017

Sleepy Eyes, Thick Knees

Published by under Travel,Water and Shore

Eurasian stone curlew in France (photo by Pascal Aleixandre via Wikimedia Commons)

Eurasian stone curlew in France (photo by Pascal Aleixandre via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a page in the Birds of Europe that shows a “curlew” unlike any found in the United States.  In fact he’s not related to them.

The Eurasian stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) and his Burhinidae relatives have been hard to classify.  They somewhat resemble bustards so were placed in the crane family, Gruiformes, but now they’re with the shorebirds in Charadriiformes. Even so, stone-curlews are far away in the family tree from our curlews, the true sandpipers Scolopacidae.

Eurasian stone-curlews breed in dry open places in Europe and spend the winter in Africa.  They’re nocturnal birds the size of whimbrels with thick knees and large eyes that look perpetually sleepy.  At night the stone curlew sings a loud wailing song.

We have no stone-curlews or thick-knees in the U.S. but they are in our hemisphere.  The nearest species lives in Central and South America, the double-striped thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus).

Double-striped thick-knee in Costa Rica (photo by Steve Garvie via Wikimedia Commons)

Double-striped thick-knee in Costa Rica (photo by Steve Garvie via Wikimedia Commons)

Photographed northwestern Costa Rica, this bird is showing off his thick knees.

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)

No responses yet

Jun 27 2017

Spoonbills Here and There

Eurasian spoonbill (photo by Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eurasian spoonbill in the Netherlands (photo by Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net, via Wikimedia Commons)

A bird this unusual must surely be from the tropics, but not this one.

The Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) is a large white wading bird with black legs and a spatulate bill that’s black with a yellow tip.  In breeding plumage they have feather crests and yellow chins. Click here for another view.

Spoonbills live in fresh and saltwater wetlands where they hunt for prey by sweeping their long bills side to side below the surface, snapping them shut when they feel prey close by.

Amazingly this spoonbill nests in both temperate and tropical zones.  Though they’re sparse in Europe, their range extends to Africa and wide swaths of Asia (see map).  Four hundred years ago Eurasian spoonbills disappeared from the British Isles. Happily, they returned to breed in the marshes of Norfolk County in 2010.

Breeding range of Eurasian spoonbill in Europe (map from Wikimedia Commons)

Breeding range of Eurasian spoonbill in Europe (map from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the six spoonbill species on Earth, all but one are white.  The pink one lives in our hemisphere, the roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).

Roseate Spoonbill (photo by Steve Gosser)

Roseate Spoonbill (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

Click here to see the six species of spoonbills, Platalea.  Ours is the one with “A ha ha!” in his name:  Platalea ajaja!

 

(photo credits:
Eurasian spoonbill by Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net, via Wikimedia Commons
map of European breeding range from Wikimedia Commons; click on the map to see the original
Roseate spoonbill by Steve Gosser
)

3 responses so far

Apr 21 2017

Throwing His Head

Hooded mergansers are headed for the woods where the females will nest alone in hollow trees.  On the way they’re choosing mates.

What features are the ladies looking for?

Based on the video above, I’ll bet they’re impressed by the biggest white hood.

Most of these birds have moved north of our area but a few breed in Butler, Crawford and Erie counties.

If you see a pair cruising together, wait to see if he throws his head.

 

(video by Alex Galt on YouTube)

One response so far

Mar 10 2017

Vaudeville Gulls

It’s Vaudeville time with duets of gulls singing and dancing.

Above, two yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) sing in Europe.

Below, European herring gulls (Larus argentatus) dance in Penzance, UK.

Their acts are serious business.  Gulls sing when they’re courting and dance for their dinner.

You’ll hear lots of gulls singing in the months ahead as they enter the breeding season.

But you’ll be lucky if you find a dancing gull.  In Europe gulls stamp on the ground to bring worms to the surface.  I’ve never seen them do it in North America.  Have you?

 

p.s. I guessed at the identity of the dancing gulls. If you know they’re not herring gulls, please tell me what they are.

(videos from YouTube)

One response so far

Mar 02 2017

The Shock of Swan Divorce

Bewick's swans (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bewick’s swans (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On Throw Back Thursday:

Some birds are so faithful to their mates that it’s absolutely shocking when they divorce.  Such was the case with two pairs of Bewick’s swans at Slimbridge in 2010.

Read more here in this vintage article:

Swan Divorce

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)

One response so far

Feb 17 2017

The UnSpotted Sandpiper

Published by under Water and Shore

Spotted sandpiper in February at the Yucatan (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spotted sandpiper in February at the Yucatan (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spotted sandpipers (Actitis macularius) in mid winter make you wonder how they got their name.

They spend the winter from the southern edge of the U.S. to Central and South America, but no matter where you find them they are spotless at this time of year.

Their behavior provides a clue to their identity as they forage alone and bob their tails.  The photo above, taken in the Yucatan in February, shows a blur for the bird’s tail because it’s moving.

Next month they’ll start to molt into breeding plumage before they travel north.  By the time they reach western Pennsylvania in April they’ll look like this:

Spotted sandpiper in breeding plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

Spotted sandpiper in breeding plumage (photo by Bobby Greene)

 

During this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count, they’ll be “unSpotted” Sandpipers.

 

(photo of (un)spotted sandpiper from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original. Photo of a spotted Spotted sandpiper by Robert Greene, Jr.)

One response so far

Jan 06 2017

I’m Not A Sea Gull

Published by under Water and Shore

Ring-billed gull in non-breeding plumage, Lake Erie, Ohio (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Ring-billed gull in non-breeding plumage, Lake Erie, Ohio (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Some people call them “seagulls” but this species doesn’t care about the sea.

Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) are surprisingly continental birds. Most breed in interior North America, migrate near fresh water, and spend the winter on the coast or at inland lakes and rivers, landfills and shopping malls.

They like to live near water because it’s safer to sleep on water than on land, but they don’t need the ocean at all. A lake or river will do.  And parking lots are marvelous for daytime loafing.

The ring-billed gull’s range map, linked here from All About Birds, shows their inland preference.  It’s the reason why they’re so plentiful in Pittsburgh in the winter.

Range map of ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis), linked from All About Birds website

 

To prove their land-loving ways, here are three ring-billed gulls courting and arguing far away from the ocean. The parking lot is in Crystal Beach, Ontario across the water from their large nesting colony in Lackawanna, New York.

 

Ring-billed gulls will tell you, “I’m not a sea gull. I’m just a gull.”

 

p.s. That’s why birders call this group of birds “gulls” not “seagulls.”

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, range map linked from AllAboutBirds.org. Click on the images to see the originals in context.  Gull video by Jay Burney on YouTube)

One response so far

Dec 29 2016

No Regrets

Snowy Egret (photo by Kim Steininger)

Snowy Egret (photo by Kim Steininger)

 

On Throw Back Thursday:

Because of a poem, I have another name for snowy egrets that describes how I feel when I see them:  No regrets!

Snowy Egrets, No Regrets

No responses yet

Next »