I get tons of eastern towhee shots in the spring. They are perhaps the most prolific bird at a park I frequent in mid April and early May. The sightings die down dramatically in the summer, but I did manage to get this guy to sit still long enough for a photo in July.
Yesterday, I featured the American redstart in this series. Today, it’s another warbler without the word “warbler” in its name. The common yellowthroat is one of the more commonly seen warblers in New England. They breed throughout the region and are therefore seen from late April into the fall. Pictured is a male with its bandit-like eye mask. Females are a duller yellow and lack the distinctive markings of the male.
I have written several times about the difficulties of bird identification in the fall. I have noted that males often lose their breeding plumage and look much more dull in the fall. The other day I spotted a male scarlet tanager in an apple tree. It looked nothing like the spectacular red-and-black bird that it looked like in the spring. Rather, it was a dirty yellow overall, but the dark wings gave it away as a tanager.
I have noted that first-year birds are heading south for the first time and haven’t reached adult plumage yet. Also, female birds, which often do not resemble males, are not quite as secretive as they are in the spring and are seen more often this time of year. What I failed to mention, however, is that late summer and early fall is also when many birds are going through a molting process. This only adds to the confusion of the challenging fall migration.
I was reminded of this when a photo came through from Elena of Winchester showing a very oddly plumaged bird. The rusty, or rufous, feathers on its side gave the bird away as an eastern towhee, but otherwise the bird looked nothing like the male or Continue reading →
Birdwatchers are used to looking up. Most of the birds we see are flitting among the trees, perched on branches, flying overhead, or otherwise above eye level. (Ducks and other water birds are an obvious exception.)
Now is the time many birdwatchers really look up, as in look to the sky. High, high in the sky where, literally, the eagles soar. But it’s not only eagles birdwatchers look for in the fall. It’s vultures, osprey, falcons and about a dozen types of hawks that pass through New England on their way south for the winter.
It’s hawk watch time — the time when birders flock to mountains, coastal areas and other open places that afford sweeping views of the sky. The hawk migration actually started in early September and will continue into November.
The peak season depends on your perspective. Broad-winged hawks pass through en masse in mid-September when birders can see groups (kettles) of more Continue reading →
Those who guessed savannah sparrow were right! Look for these streaked sparrows this fall migration in open areas, including farmland, fields and marshes. They are often found on the ground. The yellow on the head is not always as prominent as seen in these photos. Sparrows can be tricky, which is why many birders simply lump them into the LBJ (little brown job) category. Take your time and study the patterns, bills and anything else that stands out (eye ring?) in your bird to increase your chances of a positive ID.
Here are some more photos of that savannah sparrow. Thanks for supporting Birds of New England.
Here’s a quick quiz to kick off your Labor Day Weekend (even though it’s a day late for that). Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, which means it’s time to transition into fall. With that in mind, keep your eyes to the sky, woods, brushy areas and fields for fall migrants. There will be many sparrows around and they can be tricky in the fall. This quiz will help get you ready for those LBJs. Email or comment with your response. As usual, there is no prize associated with a correct answer, only the joy of playing along with a BirdsofNewEngland quiz. Thanks for joining in.