Pop up ducks


Discovered: the most buoyant substance on earth… eider ducklings!


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These tiny little fluff balls tackle the waves and waters of the alongshore North Atlantic with aplomb!


The mothers (and aunties?) do all the duckling care, leading them and taking turns watching them in groups known as creches.

Mother Common Eiders lead their young to water, and often are accompanied by nonbreeding hens that participate in chick protection. Broods often come together to form “crèches” of a few to over 150 ducklings.

Drive-by coastal bird watching


Owl watchers along Route 1A/ Ocean Blvd in Rye just north of Rye Harbor, yesterday in the late morning. On my way to walk the dog I pulled over, rolled down my window and snapped a few pics too.


Snowy Owl on a rooftop, patiently (sleepily) enduring the paparazzi.

I read on the NH bird list later that there was also a snowy owl a very short distance away on the restroom roof in Rye Harbor State Park, aka Ragged Neck.


In the neighboring marsh, the tide was high and a male Common Eider was close enough for a few decent photos.


Very cool looking duck!

A colorful duck of the northern seacoasts, the Common Eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. The male’s bright white, black, and green plumage contrasts markedly with the female’s camouflaging dull striped brown.


Their food is “aquatic invertebrates, especially mollusks, crustaceans, and sea urchins.” They dive to the sea floor to take their prey.


Also spotted fishing in the marsh, a Common Loon molting from winter to summer plumage. Sign of spring!

Yesterday was very warm for March in the New Hampshire Seacoast, with temps around 65, bright sun and a southwest wind. So good.




Belted kingfisher on a wire next to Philbrick Marsh, North Hampton, this morning around 11:30 a.m.


They are not very large birds, but their shape is distinctive even from afar.


Asters and rose hips.

I was having a nice seaside walk with camera over shoulder. It’s in the low 60s today, partly sunny to cloudy, and the fall colors are starting to come out.

belted kingfisher

A kingfisher is a bird that just makes you happy when you see one.

With its top-heavy physique, energetic flight, and piercing rattle, the Belted Kingfisher seems to have an air of self-importance as it patrols up and down rivers and shorelines.

belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfishers spend much of their time perched alone along the edges of streams, lakes, and estuaries, searching for small fish. They also fly quickly up and down rivers and shorelines giving loud rattling calls. They hunt either by plunging directly from a perch, or by hovering over the water, bill downward, before diving after a fish they’ve spotted.

belted kingfisher

These kingfishers are powder blue above with fine, white spotting on the wings and tail. The underparts are white with a broad, blue breast band. Females also have a broad rusty band on their bellies. Juveniles show irregular rusty spotting in the breast band.

A kingfisher visits our backyard pond too, mainly in summer, but I have never gotten a good picture of it.

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.


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.

Red-tailed hawk in frozen marsh

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk eats a duck in Hampton Marsh. I pulled over on the Route 1 causeway for this pic.

Red-tailed Hawk

My hand was not very steady at this level of zoom. But it’s still a cool shot. And it helped me and my birdy Facebook friends ID this hawk as a red-tail.

Most Red-tailed Hawks are rich brown above and pale below, with a streaked belly and, on the wing underside, a dark bar between shoulder and wrist. The tail is usually pale below and cinnamon-red above, though in young birds it’s brown and banded.

red-tailed hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.


Red tail, adieu.

Low profile loon

Common Loon

Common Loon, yesterday at Rye Harbor

Where do the loons go when the lakes freeze? See answer above.

Sometimes when I’m out doing errands I swing by the coast on the way home and see what I can see.

We moved here from South Florida almost 17 years ago. It took me a few winters to realize these birds on their smooth sea cruises, sailing along with streamlined bulk then disappearing in a dive, were actually … ah-oooo… loons.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Common Loon, Gavia immer

On a North Woods lake in summer, loons stick out conspicuously as large, tuxedoed birds swimming about in the middle of the lake. They can be very vocal and easy to locate, as the yodeling of one loon will often elicit a chorus response from other loons in the area. In winter, loons adopt a much quieter profile along coastal waters, wearing drab, gray plumage. They typically stay close to shore, though, so a scan out to sea with your binoculars will often reveal loons hidden among the waves.

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

Sea seekers


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.


A lone cormorant was fishing nearby.


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



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.