Monday, June 22, 2009

Magnolia Warbler Hitching a Ride

Back in mid-May Steve had an off-shore trip to Georges Bank. He's a marine biologist and goes off-shore at least a couple times a year. He and his co-worker Dave got some great pictures of the birds they saw while out there. Georges Bank itself is about 60 miles offshore, and then the area itself is 150 miles long by 75 miles wide. For more info:

Apparently they get a lot of avian ocean hitch-hikers, which I think is a great term for it, although not widely used. Sometimes birds get blown out to sea in a storm and are exhausted and need to stop and take a rest. As you can see, they picked up a migratory warbler, and they also had an Eastern Kingbird stop to take a rest.

They also saw plenty of pelagic birds. I wrote another post earlier this week about what I believe to be an Audubon's Shearwater. Can anyone help on this I.D.?

Unfortunately this storm petrel (I believe a Wilson's Storm Petrel- the one most commonly seen near boats) was extremely weathered and exhausted when it landed on the boat. Steve said they watched it for a while and it got progressively worse. Eventually they went to look for it and couldn't find it- they assumed it "committed suicide" and just jumped over the boat. Although, who knows? It could have had a miraculous recovery and flown off into the sunset!

Sunset from the boat:

Here are some other cool pictures from his trip.

Steve holding a giant fluke:

Mako Shark:

Porbeagle Shark:

Don't worry- these sharks weren't harmed. They were measured and then released.

Thanks Steve and Dave for sharing your pictures!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shearwater Identification

I'm excited to post pictures Steve brought back from his recent offshore trip to Georges Bank.

I'm having a lot of trouble identifying one of the seabirds though. I have zero experience with Shearwaters (or any pelagics for that matter), but Manx Shearwaters are a common sighting off Revere Beach right now so Shearwaters are at the forefront of my mind.
Looking at my guidebooks and pictures online Audubon's Shearwater looks like a close match. *UPDATE: Thanks to Steve from Shooting My Universe for the tip that this is likely a Manx. He lives in Gloucester and I consider him an expert on sea birds. Thanks Steve!

I also could be completely off- these might not be Shearwaters at all. Any ideas?


White Nose Syndrome in Massachusetts Bats

During the same trip where I saw the blue-gray gnatcatcher in Stiles and Hart, I also came across a bat on one of the paths.

It was completely unexpected of course since it was the middle of the day and the bat was on the ground. I had only seen bats in flight before so it was interesting to see one up close, but also concerning of course. I actually noticed it as I was walking over it, I stopped, took some pictures from behind, then walked over it again, saw it turn its head and look at me, then took one from the front.

I was worried it was sick, but it moved its head, so hopefully it wasn't too sick. I mentioned it to my dad and he told me about white nose syndrome, which is a mysterious disease killing Massachusetts bats. The name comes from the white fungus growing on the bats' noses. I didn't see any on this bat's nose so hopefully it's in the clear.
For more information on white nose syndrome:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Identification

I was birding in Stiles and Hart Conservation area a couple weeks ago and didn't have much luck with migratories (they've all moved on), but I did see my first blue-gray gnatcatcher. It wasn't until I got home that I was able to identify it. I couldn't get any decent pictures since it stayed in the canopy of the trees. But I did get to hone my birding skills by paying attention to important details and looking it up in my Sibley Guide later. I need to get better at that- it seems I rely too much on my pictures.
What first grabbed my attention was its wheezing call. Here is a good sample:

I spent some time trying to get a good grasp of its features and was able to pick up on its size (small) and coloring (gray with a white belly).

Source: North American Birds Photo Gallery Photo by Peter LaTourrette.

Eastern Bluebird at Crane Wildlife Management Area

Wayyyy back on Memorial Day Weekend I was on the Cape with my parents and did some birding at Crane Wildlife Management Area. I've blogged about it before, but this was my first time there if you could believe it. I used to drive by it every day on my way to work at New Seabury Country Club, but of course this was before I was a birder.
My parents and Marsy:

I got a good look at an Eastern Bluebird for the first time. I had seen one before on my street in Bridgewater, but at Crane Wildlife Management Area they have several bluebird houses set up so there's an active population. (My bluebird house on the other hand has Carolina Wrens living in it.)

Tree Swallow:

I also couldn't resist taking this picture of Lady Slippers. We used to have so many on the Cape but you see fewer and fewer lately. When I was younger I remember picking them in my back yard and my mom setting me straight- explaining that they were endangered. I'm not quite sure what the status of them is today but I know it's much worse.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Perched Nighthawk in Pittsburgh

My friend Chris (my friend Chelsea's husband) is also an avid birder and sends me cool pictures from time to time. They recently moved to Pittsburgh and these are the first wildlife pictures he's sent from there. (When they were living in Mashpee on Cape Cod he used to send pictures of hawks lingering near their feeder.)

I know very little about nighthawks but he explained that it's very rare to see them perched so he was obviously very excited:

He said it's been hanging around for a while actually. I'm sure they must be interesting to watch!