30 September 2022

Posts Tagged ‘common merganser’

Noticing things

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Yellow-rumped warbler, Beech Hill, Rocpkport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

I was nearly wrong. I declared yesterday that towhees would be singing from now until fall at Beech Hill, thinking the four or five (or more) birds giving forth yesterday would hang around and nest. Well, on today’s morning walk up the hill, I heard no towhee songs at all. In fact, it was a very different hike.

Eastern phoebe, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Eastern phoebe.

At the trailhead, I heard only goldfinches and chickadees. The sky was clear and blue. The morning sun bathed the greening landscape. A brisk north wind had kicked up. Not sure if yesterday’s activity came from the dramatic swing in the weather or what—but today’s walk began about as uneventfully as yesterday’s was notable. I did finally hear a crow’s voice from up the hill and a herring gull’s from (no doubt) the little cow farm. Then about half-way up, I heard the subtle chip of a warbler.

I notice things like that. After thirty years of listing birds, my brain is attuned to their voices—whether a cardinal singing its incessant string of sweet, loud notes or an osprey’s scream from 200 yards up or the tiny two-note tee-deet of a nesting female hummingbird. Many (if not most) cultured folk don’t notice their native birds at all; they have other distractions involving family or the office or that strange new sound coming from under the hood of the car. The chip made my ears perk up. I had an idea of what it was.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Savannah sparrow.

I might’ve been wrong about the towhees, but I was right about this: a yellow-rumped warbler, hunting for insects amid new yellow-green poplar leaves. They come through early, the yellow-rumps, but will eventually be outnumbered by chestnut-sideds and yellowthroats—up Beech Hill, at least. A tilted planet turns, the photoperiod lengthens, yellow-green leaves unfurl, insects return. And with them come wood-warblers.

(It’s another thing I notice: the returns of insects. Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices the return of black flies and mosquitoes, but to me they mean not annoyance and bug spray but the return of insectivorous birds.)

Common eider, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Common eider.

Finally, at the summit, I heard the call note of a towhee coming from somewhere down the eastern slope. I suppose next year I might notice all the singing first arrivals of this species and realize they’re likely simply moving through, stopping off to check out the habitat—certainly wonderful towhee habitat, that’s for sure.

This late-afternoon, dog and I took a brisk walk along the breakwater. The highlight: a female common merganser diving near a low-tide rock on which were perched three double-crested cormorants. And (I noticed from their gentle peeps) more purple sandpipers moving through.

Beech Hill List
At 9:30 a.m., I walked both trails.

American goldfinch
Black-capped chickadee
American crow
Herring gull (voice)
Mourning dove
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Yellow-rumped warbler
Tree swallow
Eastern phoebe
Savannah sparrow
Eastern towhee (voice)
Common raven (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)

Purple sandpipers, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Purple sandpipers at the Rockland Breakwater.


House finch
Song sparrow
Northern cardinal
House sparrow
Common grackle
Double-crested cormorant
Common merganser
Common eider
Common loon
Purple sandpiper

Looking northwest from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Looking northwest from Beech Hill.


Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Hooded mergansers, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, Maine, 21 February 2010.

Hooded mergansers (?).

A tufted titmouse was playing the flute again in the trees out back when I awoke this morning. The temperature was much cooler than yesterday—right about freezing—and the sky mostly overcast. A couple of crows foraged for whatever food they could dig up in the brown yard across the road. About mid-morning, I looked out to see a few snowflakes flitting like flies in the air, but soon after the clouds dispersed and the day became partly sunny.

Female hooded mergansers, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, Maine, 21 February 2010.

Hooded mergansers (?).

In early afternoon my friend Kristen picked me up to drive us around to a few birding spots between here and Port Clyde. We figured we’d visit some shores.

First stop: the Weskeag. Loads of geese, as yesterday, along with some mallards, black ducks, and gulls. As we were leaving, I caught just a flash of brown floating in the little waterway at the Buttermilk Lane bridge. I was ready just to keep going, but Kristen turned around. Cool that she did, too, because what I spotted on our way back by were six ducks—three black ducks and three female hooded mergansers.

I love hooded mergansers. They used to stop by my quarry pond in Rockland nearly every year. The little hoodeds—smallest of our area’s three merganser species—are so neat and prim and clean-looking. The males’ striking plumage makes them seem a bit like dandies, but the heads and crests of the females are a such beautiful shade of brown. As we walked off into the spongy marsh, the black ducks took off, but I snapped off a series of photos of the mergansers. As I did, Kristen spotted an adult bald eagle soaring in the blue above what must’ve seemed a pretty fruitful hunting ground. Perhaps the eagle’s arrival is what spooked the little ducks, which took off on rapid wings.

We saw a raven en route down the St. George Peninsula, but not much else. The wind was high at Marshall Point Light—the view there of Monhegan Island made me nostalgic for last fall’s migration trip—but apparently no birds were crazy enough to be hanging round this wide, wild choppy chunk of bay.

Still, on our return trip, Kristen did notice a solitary red-breasted merganser (our common winter species) diving near the shore.

Bald eagle, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, Maine, 21 February 2010.

Adult bald eagle.

On a lark, we headed down Drift Inn Road. At a little turnout with a water view, we stopped and scanned the tide. Right away I noticed a pair of goldeneyes floating a couple hundred yards offshore. By this time the sun was bright, and I thought sure the female’s bill was orange, and the male’s telltale facial spot seemed particularly pronounced. I was ready to pronounce them Barrow’s goldeneyes, in fact, though Kristen disagreed. Then she pointed out another duck nearby, and (eager to make some sort of pronouncement) I pronounced this one a female common merganser. A long diving duck with a narrow bill and a lovely coppery head—what else could it be?

After consulting the field guide, we agreed that’s what this new duck was: a common merganser. But clearly the goldeneyes were also common and not the Barrow’ses I had wished for.

On the way back we saw a mourning dove and some buffleheads. But our three merganser species are what made the trip. Certainly a first for me.

Today’s List

Tufted titmouse
American crow
Black-capped chickadee
Herring gull
Ring-billed gull
Rock pigeon
Canada goose
Black duck
Hooded merganser
Bald eagle
Common raven
Rock pigeon
Red-breasted merganser
Common loon
Common goldeneye
Common merganser
Mourning dove

Monhegan Island from Marshall Point, St. George, Maine, 21 February 2010.

Monhegan Island from Marshall Point.

Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson

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