17.02 | Nature Notes (Jan 8-14)

Photo of Barred Owl
Barred Owl | Kennebunkport, ME | 9 Jan 2017

Highlights of the Week

I heard a few species of songbirds singing this week, including House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and a Brown Creeper.

I observed a Northern Shrike hunting from treetop perches at the California Fields Wildlife Area in Hollis.

On Wednesday evening, as the nearly full moon rose in the east, Venus (very bright) and red-tinged Mars (more subtle) were visible in the southwest sky.

Wild Edible of the Week

Photo of Digging Atlantic Surf ClamsOn Tuesday, I joined a local group of naturalists at a beach to dig clams during low tide. It took some poking around, but we were all able to unearth sizable Atlantic Surf Clams.

Back at home, I scrubbed them clean and steamed them in a pot until they opened. The flesh was tasty, though tough (I'll need to experiment with future preparation methods), and the cooking broth was wicked good!

Nature Challenge of the Week

Locate one constellation and one planet in the night sky.


 

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Patreon Update #2

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Life List Bird Game #34

Identify the birds in the following photographs, all of which were taken by me in New England. This gallery of untitled photos is randomly arranged and includes more than one photo of most species. If you get stuck, the 10 possibilities (in my Life List order) are provided below. If you're reading this post via e-mail, visit the blog to view the full-size images.

The Birds of Life List Bird Game #34

331. Swainson's Hawk
332. Barnacle Goose
333. Cackling Goose
334. Western Kingbird
335. Sabine's Gull
336. Blue Grosbeak
337. White Wagtail
338. Long-billed Dowitcher
339. Bullock's Oriole
340. Pink-footed Goose

Hint: You can use the photo filename to check your guesses. For example: 008grca.jpg corresponds with my 8th Life Bird: Gray Catbird.

Not Just Any Goose: Pink-footed Goose

Photo of Pink-footed Geese

In the afternoon of the second day of 2017, a mid-coast Maine birder noticed a pair of Pink-footed Geese among a flock of Canada Geese feeding on a snow-free athletic field in Rockland, ME. Since this would be a life bird for me, I ventured to Rockland the following morning, where I quickly located the geese at the previously reported spot.

Pink-footed Geese nest in Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard and migrate to parts of Europe to spend the winter, except when they don't. Increasingly, small numbers of Pink-footed Geese are seen in northeastern North America in fall and winter (see this eBird occurrence map). The Maine Bird Records Committee lists nine records for this species in the state, all within the last decade. This Rockland duo will be the tenth state record, and the first record for Knox County.

Photo of Pink-footed Geese

Given their smaller size, brown (instead of black-and-white) heads, and bubble-gum pink feet, spotting a Pink-footed Goose within a Canada Goose flock isn't too tough, assuming you can get close enough to the flock; although, they don't stick out as obviously as another goose with pink-feet, shown below.

Photo of Pink-footed Geese and Snow Goose

17.01 | Nature Notes (Jan 1-7)

Photo of American Robin
American Robin | Biddeford, ME | 5 Jan 2017

Highlights of the Week

On New Year's Day, I witnessed an early morning movement of 175+ American Robins in Kennebunkport; elsewhere I encountered flocks feasting on the fruits of Winterberry and Crab Apple.

I located an active North American Porcupine den in a large, partially hollow Northern Red Oak. In addition to hearing sounds from the creature, I noted fresh scat and a white quill near the cavity entrance.

I've seen two species of warblers so far this year: a rare Orange-crowned Warbler, who's been feeding in the wrack line at Pond Cove in Cape Elizabeth since 23 Dec 2016, and a small number of Yellow-rumped Warblers, who regularly overwinter at select coastal sites.

Wild Edible of the Week

On Saturday, I gathered two dozen Common Periwinkles during the midday low tide. At home, I rinsed them off, boiled them in water for 2 or 3 minutes, drained the water, and one-by-one removed them from their shells with a pin and ate them. Delicious!

Nature Challenge of the Week

In your travels this week, locate at least three trees/shrubs currently holding red fruit. If you already know of three such plants, then check on them this week to see if any wildlife are feeding on them.


 

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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!