Black duck, check

black duck

American Black Ducks, a male and two females, in the marsh creek next to Petey’s restaurant in Rye, N.H.

I just learned to tell these ducks apart from the ubiquitous mallard and yesterday I counted 13 of them in this location (“Massacre Marsh at Parson’s Creek”) along with 23 Canada Geese, 17 Mallard and 1 Herring Gull. I entered my observation on my eBird life list, begun January 2014, and the black duck is #100 on the list.

The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck.

And…

Large, bulky ducks, nearly identical in shape to Mallard. Mostly dark brown overall with pale head/neck. Males show bright yellow/green bill, duller olive on female.

A bird from my bigger “backyard”

sunrise hampton beach

Sunrise Hampton Beach, N.H.

My husband and I went out for a bagel and coffee at Jumpin’ Jacks Java yesterday morning. Great beach views from their front windows on Route 1A/ Ocean Boulevard.

A little bit later we were driving north along the coast and saw a couple of crows mobbing something at the top of an evergreen tree in North Hampton, just across from the ocean on the Little Boar’s Head promontory.

bald eagle north hampton

It was a bald eagle! I have seen them over the Merrimack River and Great Bay in winter, but never in (my town) North Hampton.

A local birder reported 3 others in the area yesterday too.

Looks like the good trend continues…

Concord Monitor last February: Bald eagles enjoying resurgence in N.H.

During a January bald eagle count, volunteers with New Hampshire Audubon set a new state record. On Jan. 12, they counted 67 eagles in five regions, the most in one day in the event’s 30-year history. The previous high was 61, which had been recorded three times since 2008. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 volunteers counted 83 birds, one shy of the state record for the annual two-week watch.

“The bird is finally almost fully recovered from a real depressed population back in the 1970s,” said Chris Martin, a senior biologist and predatory bird specialist with New Hampshire Audubon.

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Based on the annual mid-winter counts, the number of bald eagles in the state has doubled every decade since 1983, when volunteers tallied only seven birds. In 1993, 21 eagles were recorded. Ten years later, 40 birds were spotted. While the numbers aren’t definitive, organizers use a consistent number of volunteers to check the same areas at the same time of year.

“I’m not saying there are exactly 67 bald eagles in New Hampshire. There are clearly more than that,” Martin said. “But by using the same method every year, we see where the numbers are going, which reflects the population throughout New England is recovering and growing in a big-picture way.”

bald eagle talons

Eagle flies away. Nice talons.

More photos from our January Saturday morning on Flickr.

A visit from Santa Owl

snowy owl

A Visit from Santa Owl
By Amy Kane, with apologies to Clement C. Moore

Twas a few weeks before Christmas when along the coast
Mice quaked in fear when they saw the white ghost
A fearsome large owl from the snow-covered north
From the vast frozen tundra took wing and flew forth
The birders were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of rare birds danced in their heads
When they read the reports next day, oh my
They sprang to their Subarus and drove east to Rye
Then in a twinkling they set up tripods and scopes
Spotted Bubo scandiacus, fulfilling their hopes!

snowy owl rye
His eyes how they winked, his feathers how fluffed
Having recently eaten he was looking quite stuffed
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old raptor
With his majestic beauty he was the humans’ captor
It was cold, it was bitter, and the wind it was blowy
But now birders looked forward to a winter quite snowy
Over dunes, rocks and marsh, if you see white wings prowl
It’s a rare gift from the north, our Christmastide owl.

Flickr photo album: Another two owl day

Yoga among the shorebirds

plover

Sweetness and light.

8 a.m.: I ditched the backyard scene, with the gobbling, molting grackles, the squabbling, naked-headed bluejays (also in molt) and I headed a couple of miles east to my beach backyard where I blissed out on sandpiper cuteness.

sandpiper

Semipalmated sandpiper?

One hundred? two hundred? sandpipers and plovers were running around in the washed-up seaweed at North Hampton State Beach. They camouflage nicely so I guess that’s why the runners and walkers and beach-chair ocean-starers were ignoring the charming little birds.

shorebird seaweed

Some people were doing yoga with their mats rolled out on the clean sand closer to the ocean’s bright edge and the freshly risen sun. One class ended and another began while I was there. The instructor collected checks for $100 from a few people as they were leaving.

Some of them saw me taking pictures of the birds, but they didn’t seem to really see the birds. People see other people. Birds see other birds, and the hulking shapes of people when they are too close.

plovers

Plovers would chase each other sometimes, if one violated another’s breakfast-gathering zone, but they ignored the other sandpipers.

At one point I was standing right behind some people in beach chairs, while snapping bird pics, and I sensed they didn’t like how close I had come to their beach zone, reserved early on what promises (with sunshine and calm winds) to be a busy late-summer Sunday.

shorebird

When there is a lot of seaweed on the sand like this, there is less space for people and more room and food for birds. So I consider the mild stench of rotting seaweed to be worth it to help the big job of shorebird migration.

 Semipalmated Sandpipers from eastern populations probably undertake nonstop transoceanic flights of 3,000 – 4,000 km (1,900 – 2,500 mi) from New England and southern Canada to South America, powered by extensive fat reserves.

plover

Is this a semipalmated or piping plover? I don’t know enough to tell the difference. But one is endangered and protected, and limits human use of certain beaches during breeding season, and the other is in good shape.

Staring through a telephoto lens in bright morning sun at tiny, vivacious shorebirds is one way (that works especially well for me) to increase serotonin levels in the human brain without drugs.

A distinct sensation of elation was with me on the car ride home and still, an hour and a half later, now. Let the day begin.

Sea seekers

Gull

Gull (Herring?)

Not exactly in my backyard, but just a few miles away.

Eighty degrees inland and 70 right along the water today, with sunny skies, low humidity, and big waves rolling in for the surfers. It was impossible to resist the coast.

The Wall, North Beach

The Wall, North Beach in Hampton, N.H.

surfer Bass Beach

A few miles north, a surfer at Bass Beach.

Cormorant

A lone cormorant was fishing nearby.

cormorant

These sleek, black seabirds look like they are wearing wetsuits.

cormorant

Dive!

From All About Birds:

The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.