Category Archives: Nature

Life List Bird Game #35

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 #35

341. Great Gray Owl
342. Vermilion Flycatcher (terrible quality photo)
343. Fieldfare (terrible quality photo)
344. Painted Bunting
345. Brown Booby
346. Magnificent Frigatebird
347. Snowy Plover
348. Brown Pelican
349. Black-necked Stilt
350. South Polar Skua

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

Mushrooms: Thin-walled Maze Polypore

Photo of <i>Daedaleopsis confragosa</i> top

Thin-walled Maze Polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa) specializes in breaking down hardwood logs. Fruiting bodies have no apparent stalk, may arise singly or in clusters, and have caps with alternating zones of earthy browns and tans. The pores on the under surface vary in shape and can be round, elongated, maze-like, or even gill-like. Their tendency to turn red when bruised is a useful identification feature. To learn more about this common, inedible wood-eater, visit

Photo of <i>Daedaleopsis confragosa</i> bottom

Seabirds: Great Shearwater

Photo of Great Shearwater

Great Shearwaters are common pelagic birds found off the New England coast, roughly from June through October. Frequently spotted from fishing or whale watch boats, these stiff-winged gliders may also be seen from land at select coastal sites if food and weather conditions are right.

Spending nearly all of their life at sea, it's during our white season that Great Shearwaters visit land to nest. Large flocks assemble on a small number of islands in the South Atlantic, where each successful pair raises just one chick, who, if all goes well, will fledge by mid-spring. The adults then head north for their circuit through the North Atlantic, leaving their young to fend for themselves and eventually follow.

Great Shearwaters belong to an order of seabirds known as tubenoses (Procellariiformes), so named for the tube-like structures covering their nostrils. Salt glands allow these seabirds to desalinate ocean water on demand, with excess salt being excreted in solution from their nostrils.

To learn more about these pelagic birds, visit Audubon's Guide to North American Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Fish: Ocean Sunfish

Photo of Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) are large, bony fish who often bask on their sides near the surface of the open ocean. The roundish, flattish body of an Ocean Sunfish features a large dorsal (top) fin, a similarly sized ventral (bottom) fin, and two small pectoral (side) fins. Swimming with his or her dorsal fin above the water, this fish may, at first glance, be mistaken for a shark, that is until you see the fin flopping from side to side in classic Mola mola fashion. The next time you venture off-shore for a whale watch, schooner cruise, or deep sea fishing trip, be on the look-out for this jellyfish-eating ocean creature.

To learn more about Ocean Sunfish, visit Animal Diversity Web. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Shorebirds: Stilt Sandpiper

Photo of Stilt Sandpiper (Sept)

Stilt Sandpipers are uncommon, mid-sized shorebirds who nest in the tundra of northern Canada and Alaska. In New England, they're most often observed in July, August, and September, as they stop over to forage in shallow, standing water at both coastal and inland sites.

Stilt Sandpipers often feed by probing their bills into mud in sewing-machine-like fashion, much like dowitchers, or picking food off the surface like Lesser Yellowlegs. But whereas dowitchers have long, straight bills, and Lesser Yellowlegs have short, straight bills, Stilt Sandpipers have medium-length bills with an obvious droop, much like Dunlin.

To learn more about these waders with yellow-green legs, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.