The bird from last week is clearly a small passerine judging simply by the leaves in the background. The tail is too long for a Yellow Warbler, and the rusty spot on the chest rules out everything but an immature male Orchard Oriole. There aren't too many all-yellow birds to consider anyways. If you tilt your monitor downwards (cheating) you can see the black throat and lores which I hid by using this shot where he is preening.
Now... on to this week's quiz...
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Turner's Pond, Milton, Massachusetts, (12/3/2012)
Canon EOS Digital Rebel and EF400 5.6L @ F5.6 1/2000 ISO400 handheld
For some reason Turner's Pond seems to attract a whole host of waterfowl this time of year. Many of the birds are diving ducks and stay for less than a day, floating in the middle of the pond. However, when a group of dabblers show up like the nine Northern Shovelers pictured above it is at least somewhat possible to photograph them. Over the few hours that I stayed there the ducks got a little more used to me until I could cautiously approach them along the shore. Lucky for me the only parts of the pond shallow enough for the shovelers are right near the edge and that is where they were feeding. They fed in very close groups skimming the surface of the water with their huge bills, and sometimes, but rarely, dipping forward with their head all the way under the water. With their specialized bills the Shovelers strain small invertebrates and plant material from the water using their approximately 110 toothlike projections, which are somewhat like the baleen of a whale. I was thrilled to watch them feeding using a certain tactic I had only heard about where a pair of Shovelers facing towards each other swims in circles around each other with their bills in the water.
Update 12/5: They are still present on the 5th and I got to watch them employing an even grander version of the pinwheel feeding tactic. All ten (there are ten now; another must have flown over and popped down to join the flock) Shovelers swam out into deeper water to feed. As they had been doing close to shore they formed quite a tight group and began to feed. Since they were in deeper water they no longer could simply skim the surface of the water to get their food. They were now dipping the whole front half of their bodies under the water as a Mallard or Pintail does to feed. They formed a perfect circle, and employing this tactic, they swam around each other in loose rings as a turning wheel with different layers. They stayed in this spot for about 20 minutes. It was very interesting to watch.
I also observed a group of Mallards (4 or 5 individuals) seemingly emulating the typical "skimming the surface" feeding style of the Shovelers. They were not very good at it and made quite a bit of slurping noise. This makes me think of how I have often seen House Sparrows doing a similar thing; they seem to get ideas from other species and will only try something new if they see another species doing it first (at least in my backyard).
Like the other shoveler species and some teal the Northern Shoveler has striking light blue wing coverts, lined by white and iridescent green.
9 Northern Shovelers weren't the only birds at Turner's Pond on the 4th, there was also something much rarer. A Black-and-white Warbler, which if it is the same one, has been there for a while now. It started as two birds but now there just seems to be one. It is one of only two birds in Massachusetts being reported to eBird right now, and it will very likely try to overwinter (though it pretty much already is trying to since it is December and if it had wanted to migrate it would have done so already). It has been loosely associating with the local Parid (chickadees and titmice) flock. It is very hard to find.
The following link connects to an eBird map of Black-and-white Warbler reports so far this December. Zoom in to North America and you can see most of this guys relatives are literally in Florida right now. See those light purple blocks on Massachusetts? Those are our two birds (the other is in brookline). Zoom in and you can see the individual sightings and the checklists that accompany them. Yup, eBird is awesome.
For my full eBird checklist including other goodies such as Common Redpolls, a Fish Crow, and and American Coot this is the link:
And the think from the 5th, though not as interesting:
Header image (above):
Wilson's Snipe in Boston
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Weird things I've seen squirrels eating in my backyard:
• whole donut
• whole bagel
• snickers bar out of the wrapper
• whole potato
• Mass Audubon
• Friends of the Blue Hills
• Massachusetts Birding Listserv
• Maine Birding Listserv
• Rhode Island Birding Listserv
• Audubon Society of Rhode Island
• Massachusetts Young Birders Club