Winter Visitors

Winter is hanging on with another big snow storm. But our winter bird visitors will be leaving in the not too distant future so I take every opportunity to see them. These are some photos taken over the past few weeks.

Horned Larks are relatively common during the winter. Lapland Longspurs are a little harder to find. This photo is from a mixed flock that was foraging in some bare spots in the Salisbury State Reservation. There were an unusual number of Longspurs in the flock. The Longspur is on the left, with the Lark on the right.

We have a few Rough-legged Hawks visit us. Like the Longspurs, they are not particularly common. These pictures show the distinctive pattern on the underside of the wings and the white rump patch. These hawks hunt by hovering over a field while searching for prey, a maneuver called “kiting”. I have seen Red-tailed Hawks hover, but only in high winds where they can use the wind to their advantage. Generally, if you see hawk hovering over the fields or marsh, it’s a Rough-legged Hawk.

Three shorebirds visit us in the winter. Sanderlings are found in sand/mud along the water. Purple Sandpipers forage on the rocks right at the very edge of the surf. Dunlins can be spotted in both places. This is from a flock of about 40 Sanderlings foraging on the river bank at low tide. The darker bird with the longer, droopy bill is a Dunlin. It was the only one in the flock. I find that it is fairly common to see a few birds from other species mixed in with a larger flock of another species.

These two Purple Sandpipers were part of a small flock we spotted in Gloucester. One was relaxing the sun for a bit as the other gingerly made its way down to a rock at surf level. They joined up to look for some yummy morsels.

More winter birds coming soon.

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