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Monday, August 26, 2013

Common Nighthawks, 2,202! - Epic flight!!

Common Nighthawk, male. Males have a white throat, white subterminal primary bar on wings and a white band on the tail. 

Common Nighthawk, female. Females have a buffy throat, smaller white primary bar and no tail band.

Common Nighthawk, male

Common Nighthawk, female

Common Nighthawk, male

Common Nighthawk, male

We were so fortunate Sat. night to witness historic Common Nighthawk migration here in NH and saw 2,202 birds in one night. We have gotten good flights before, but last night blew away our previous high count (1,058 in one night.) We live on a dammed-up section of a river, where the river flows north and nighthawks often follow river valleys on migration. We count from our deck and were joined Sat. night by our friends, Phil and Julie Brown and Henry Walters. Of the 2202 birds we saw, 1,772 were flying north, 430 flew south.

Common Nighthawk numbers have been declining in the Northeast so it was very exciting so see so many of them that night.

We also looked last night and saw about 250 nighthawks. This is still peak Common Nighthawk migration time, so get out and look. The best time to see them is at the end of the day from about 5 pm to dark.

Photos were taken with my Canon 1D Mark IV and the 300mm lens plus 1.4 teleconverter.

Friday, August 02, 2013

What Bird Is This?

What bird is this you may wonder. It sure does't look like a Red-winged Blackbird. Where's the red, where's the black?

This is a juvenile Red-winged Blackbird. The term “juvenile” refers to the first full plumage that a bird has when leaving the nest. You can see that this bird looks a little like an adult female, but has a more rich golden-buff ground color to its body and head (an adult female has a paler, whiter ground color to its body and head). Also, young birds at this time of year (late summer) have all new fresh feathers with little or no wear; adult birds at this same time have worn feathers, often looking very frayed at the edges. In juvenile plumage, the male and female Red-winged Blackbird look alike.

This juvenile bird will go through a molt from July to November, replacing most of its feathers. When done, male and female will look different, the female streaked brownish and whitish and the male more blackish with paler mottling. See page 717 of our The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America for photos and descriptions of these birds.

It's amazing how much you can learn about birds and increase your bird ID ability, just by looking closely at the birds in your yard. Now is a good time to be on the lookout for juvenile birds.

For descriptions of Juvenile birds and the timing of how long they keep their juvenile plumage, see our new field guides,

and its regional versions,

It is great fun, and a challenge, to keep learning about birds!!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

What's Happening Now with Birds in August, What You Should Know!

Hummingbirds are migrating big-time in August and into Sept. This Ruby-throated Hummingbird is visiting our Lady-in-Red Salvia. Both adult hummers and young ones are beginning to move and their populations are at peak. Keep your hummingbird feeders clean (clean every 2-3 days in hot weather so no black mold grows in feeders) and filled with fresh nectar and enjoy the hummingbird parade.

Here are resting Sanderlings.

Shorebirds are starting to migrate and will continue big time in Aug. Many shorebirds have completed their breeding cycle and are leaving their nesting areas in far northern North America and beginning their journey south. Birders on the NH coast are reporting seeing Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, and Semipalmated Sandpipers. MA birders who go to South Beach, off Chatham, Cape Cod, can see large numbers of shorebirds such as the ones just mentions plus, Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, Willets, Red Knots, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers and more. You can see shorebirds at coastal and inland water locations, so take your binos and see what you can find.

Here are some resting shorebirds, mainly Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Plovers and a few White-rumped Sandpipers, in a parking lot on the NH coast, trying to get much needed rest. These little birds must travel very far to their wintering grounds south of the U.S. They need to stock up on food to fuel them, and get some rest also. There are so little places left for them, this parking lot by a fishing coop must do today. To learn to ID shorebirds, do it by shape and size. If you are a beginner or intermediate get our Stokes Beginner's Guide to Shorebirds, sooo easy. For the full nine yards and THE most complete reference, get our best-selling The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America or the regional versions, The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern and Western Region.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plovers are migrating

Nestling Eastern Phoebes from a second brood

Being fed by their parent

Backyard birds are on their second and third broods. Some birds nest only once but many, such as Cardinals, House Wrens, Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebes, and more can nest two or even three times, especially in southern areas.

Here are nestling Eastern Phoebes in our barn, here in NH. The nest is on one of the lights in the rafters, just the kind of sheltered ledge that Phoebe's like as a nesting spot. This is the second brood of this pair who we think is the same pair that have nested in this same spot for the last 3 years. The nestlings are so cute and waiting to be fed by the parent.

Two days later they fledged into the big world. They will be fed for up to 3 more weeks by their parents. Then they will be on their own, having find their own food, survive the dangers of their first migration, then return to the north and find mates and breeding territories of their own. Quite a big challenge they have ahead of them.

So much is happening in the world of birds in August so get out, go birding!!