Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spring Flowers

So everyone on the bird listservs has been dedicated to pointing out the Turkey Vultures and blackbirds as signs of spring. However, these don't really signal spring for me. Rather, I really first feel spring as soon as I see my first Skunk Cabbage in bloom. I'll be sure to snap some photos of these delicious smelling coughliecough plants this spring as I don't seem to have any.

Yet, in honor of the recent rainstorm in south-eastern New Hampshire (when we were supposed to get snow) and in honor of my first migratory Red-winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Turkey Vultures of the year... I'll grace my blog with some photos of spring flowers... Yes, PLANTS!!! WOOHOOO! Who knows, maybe you'll spot one of these this spring and actually know what it is...

While they say "April showers bring May flowers", some of these are plants that can be found blooming before May depending on where you live.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot was historically used as a dye and herbal remedy for native americans. The dye comes from the red-ish sap that is particularly evident within the roots.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum)

This is a common garden plant. While I like native wild plants best, I can't help but share this photo of this beautiful flower from Longwood Gardens.

Choke Cherry (Prunus virginica)

The bark of the roots of choke cherry were used by native Americans to treat sore throats, colds, fever, and stomach problems. The fruits from the plant can be used to make jam, syrup, and/or jelly. However, the fruit is quite bitter so be sure to add lots of sugar!

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

This plant is also known as "Virginia cowslip", "Roanoke bells", and "lungwort oysterleaf". They are found wild in forests, wetlands, and bluffs. Additionally, they have been cultivated and are a common backyard plants. They are usually pollinated by butterflies and bloom early in the year from March to May and are usually dormant by early June!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weekend on the coasts of MA & ME

Despite the fact that the coast is slow this time of year, I spent my weekend touring the coast. What may shock you all more than anything is that I didn't go to the NH coast at all! Instead I birded the southern Maine and northern Massachusetts coasts! Needless to say it was not really by choice but a matter that I agreed to tag along with UVM's Ornithology class that Ben is the TA for. We started on Saturday in Massachusetts on Plum Island:

Unfortunately there really weren't that many birds out and most things were pretty distant, but the scenery was still nice and the students had a good time.

While the students scoped some Black Scoters, Red-throated Loons, and Red-necked Grebes, I spent some time photographing the scenery as the birds were really too close to shoot most of the time. Here's a neat little effect of the sun in the sky:

The clouds were really neat during the day and created all sorts of fun effects as well. Throughout the day I tried to capture some of them - here's one of my favorite shots of the clouds over the dunes at Plum Island.

Sunday we switched gears and birded Maine a bit. On our way up to meet up with the class a Rough-legged Hawk flew over the car. We spent time at Scarborough Marsh and along the beach looking at Common Eider, Long-tailed Ducks, etc. Then we headed down to Marginal Way to look for Harlequin Ducks on the cliffs.

The trip had to end there as the students needed to get back. After they left I took some time to crawl along the rocks and try to snap a few shots of the Harlequin Ducks. Unfortunately the lighting was a bit tough but still fun to see them and the photos are better than anything I had previously.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Northern NH in Winter

As much as I love coastal NH birding, one thing is for sure... in winter things are stagnant! While this doesn't mean that there isn't a lot to look at, it does mean that the same routine gets a bit dull after a while.

For example, things like Common Goldeneye abound, and while pretty, seeing them in the same place day after day gets a bit old as we all need a change in our routine.

Northern Pintail also overwinter in south-eastern NH; however, they are never "common". This is one that has been hanging around Seabrook in a duck pond for some time now.

Glaucous Gulls are another "unusual" find - especially when so close to adulthood. Young birds are much more common and can be seen across the state particularly at landfills, water treatment facilities, etc. This near-adult has over-wintered in Seabrook Harbor for the second year in a row. Hopefully it will return as a full adult.

While these birds are always fun to see, the routine got to me (and others) recently which spurred a spike in trips to the northern part of the state; Coos County. In winter, Coos County is pretty much left for snowmobiles and snowmobilers. This is so much the case that border patrol was particularly suspicious of our activities and questioned us this past Thursday when I was in Pittsburg with Mike and Jason. So why go to pittsburg? Why treck into the true north country? ... these little guys:

...also known as White-winged Crossbills. These, along with Red Crossbills and other winter finches abound in Northern NH in the winter. Although, finches aren't the only thing to be searched for. Gray Jays, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Ravens, and Boreal Chickadees can still be found in winter (although Boreal Chickadees are way more common in summer!).

Here are the Pittsburg, NH area totals from a trip on Thursday:

Gray Jay - 4
Blue Jay - 30
Common Raven - 37
Black-capped Chickadee - ONLY 27
Boreal Chickadee - 7
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 27
Purple Finch - 117 (!!!!)
White-winged Crossbill - 16
Evening Grosbeak - 45+
American Goldfinch - 55