Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bulletin #92 – Maine

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
October 17, 2009

Bulletin #92 – Maine

Hello friends,
My wife and I spent last week in Maine at Bar Harbor on Mt. Desert Island. I wanted to go there for several reasons. It was during the height of the fall tree color and I hadn't seen autumn colors in 10 years. I grew up in Ontario, Canada so I appreciate the fall foliage. The only problem is, that leads on to winter and cold that I detest.

The second reason was that on a family vacation as an 8 year old, I almost drowned on a beach there (my first trip to the ocean) and sort of had a feeling that I had to go back there again.

Lastly, I was hoping to photograph some eastern and northern bird species.

There was a report of a rare European goose in Maine 2 days before I left. I also wanted to see a moose (never seen one) and I scheduled a whale watching trip to see some new mammals and the Atlantic pelagic species. I missed the goose, the moose and there were no whales on the trip!

This was also a bad time to be birding as the summer residents had all left, and most of the winter birds from the arctic hadn't arrived. There were only 2 species of shorebirds despite this being an island with 30 miles of coastline. The birds were at only 1 location - nowhere else. I am sure spoiled to be on the upper Texas coast. There are birds everywhere, all year long.

Here is a Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) in winter plumage. The term semipalmated means that the feet are partially webbed. You can see this feature on his left foot. The second photo of 2 birds shows the one in front with s few rufous feathers around his head. The rufous coloration is the breeding plumage, so he hasn't completely molted to winter plumage yet.

The other shorebird was a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus). He is also in winter plumage with yellow legs, brown back, a single ring on the chest and no black on the forehead. As you guessed, he would also have partially webbed feet, but this photo doesn't show it.
If you would like to see a photo of this bird showing the webbing, I have one taken in Texas in 2007. Photo

A new bird for me to photo was the American Black Duck (Anas rubripes). These very dark plumaged ducks are sometimes considered to be the same species as mallards. For the present, they are different species, but they do hybridize with mallards where their ranges overlap. They look like a very dark female mallard, but have a violet speculum (wing patch), rather than the blue of mallards.

Here are a couple of photos with the second showing the violet speculum.

Another duck was the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima). This large (24") duck is the only duck with an all white back in eastern North America. The male in breeding season has white back and black breast. In non-breeding plumage, he is more brown. the female is all brown. The bill is yellow and extends onto the face up to eye-level. Here is a male on the ocean and a second one closer-up sleeping on a rock just offshore. The third photo is a female. This was a lifer for me.

I also got some photographs of a Common Loon (Gavia immer). This bird is known as Great Northern Diver in Europe. These large (32") water birds cannot walk on land as their legs are so far back on their body. In breeding plumage, they have a black head and neck with partial white ring around the neck. The back is spotted. This bird was just starting to molt from breeding plumage as he has white cheeks.

A moment later, I caught him rearing up out of the water with wings extended. Waterbirds often do this, but you have to be lucky to catch it on film.

The last bird is a Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle). There are 5 members of the alcid family exclusively in the North Atlantic . I had hoped to see and photograph all of them, but this was the only one I found. In breeding plumage these birds are all black with a large white wing patch. In winter. they become mostly gray. Here is a bird that appears to have caught an eel-like fish.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonaldemail:

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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1 comment:


So now my question is, where do you like the birding the best? North, South, East, or West? Any particular state as a favorite? Thanks for sharing your adventures!