25 July, 2010

Alder Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax alnorum

Population Estimate: 50M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Summers in most of Alaska, Canada and New England. Winters in a swath of western South America. Favors moist shrubland habitat.

Field Notes: Medium-sized flycatcher of wet thickets. Drab olive on upper parts with two white wing bars. White underneath. Partial eye ring. Essentially identical to Willow Flycatcher, though with limited overlap in range in the northeastern United States and distinct songs.

Personal Notes:

23 July, 2010

Red-necked Grebe

Scientific Name: Podiceps Grisegena

Population Estimate: 200K - 300K

Range / Habitat: The two subspecies of the red-necked grebe have distinct ranges. The North American and east Asian subspecies, Podiceps grisegena holboelli, is found in western Canada and the northwest USA, as well as eastern Russia, northeast China and northern Japan. In North America, the red-necked grebe breeds in Alaska, Yukon Territory and the Northwest territories, east to southwest Quebec, and south to Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and southern Ontario.

Field Notes: The upperparts are dark brownish-black and the wings are dark, with two prominent white patches. In breeding plumage, the red-necked grebe has a black cap that extends below the eye, with a slight crest and a large, distinctive pale grey check patch that has whitish margins and extends upward to behind the eye. The front of the neck and the upper breast are deep chestnut, becoming paler on the belly, while the sides and flanks are greyish.

Personal Notes:

21 July, 2010

Willow Grouse

Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus

Population Estimate: 40M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in Arctic regions throughout the world.

Field Notes: Mottled brown and white in the summer, all white in the winter. Males with orange or red markings above the eyes. Rock Ptarmigan is slightly smaller, found at higher altitudes with less lush vegetation, has more grey tones in summer, and may have a black eye stripe in winter.

Personal Notes: The bottom photo was taken on a soggy, foggy day on the Pinnell Mountain Trail outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Though I got a better photo at Denali, above, I left the bottom one in to show off the orange marking above the eye.

19 July, 2010

Mew Gull

Scientific Name: Larus Canus

Population Estimate: 2.5M - 3.7M

Range / Habitat: The common gull has a wide distribution, breeding throughout temperate and sub-Arctic parts of Eurasia. Two subspecies occur in Europe, the ‘nominate’ race L. c. canus is the subspecies occurring in Britain, extending through north-west Europe and reaching the White Sea in Russia. There is also a subspecies that occurs in North America. In Britain, this species breeds mainly in Scotland

Field Notes: It is generally similar in appearance to the herring gull (Larus argentatus) but is smaller, and has a smaller, thinner bill, a more rounded head and more active flight. The upperwings are pale grey in colour and have black tips featuring white spots known as ‘mirrors’. The white head develops grey streaks in winter and the legs and bill are greenish-yellow. Juveniles are greyish brown with brown upperparts.

Personal Notes:

Yellow-billed Loon

Scientific Name: Gavia adamsii

Population Estimate: 16-32K, Near Threatened

Range / Habitat: Breeds in Russia, Alaska and Canada primarily on inland freshwater lakes and ponds. Winters at sea mainly off the coasts of Norway and western Canada.

Field Notes: Typical loon shape and habits. Distinguishing feature is large, yellow, slightly upturned bill.

Personal Notes: A rare find in Fairbanks in a fairly small pond. This bird is not usually this far inland.

18 July, 2010

Sand Martin

Scientific Name: Riparia riparia

Population Estimate: 50M

Range / Habitat: Summers in the northern US, Canada, Alaska. Winters in the tropics. Also common throughout Europe and Asia. Favors inland wetland areas.

Field Notes: Typical swallow / martin that is brown above and white below with a brown chest band. The Northern Rough-winged Swallow is similar but lacks the chest band.

Personal Notes: Also known as a Bank Swallow. This was a pleasant (but not uncommon) surprise find in Alaska among several Tree and Barn Swallows.

15 July, 2010

Common Yellowthroat

Scientific Name: Geothlypis trichas

Population Estimate: 32M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Summers throughout most of the eastern US and Canada. Winters in Mexico and Central America. Favors inland wetland habitats. 

Field Notes: Olive-backed songbird with yellow throat. Males with prominent black mask and white stripe above (as in the photos), females without. Song a repeated "witch-it-ty."

Personal Notes: We first saw this bird on a trip to Rhode Island, to visit Ted and Jo. 

Northern Mockingbird

Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos

Range / Habitat: Year-round in shrub land throughout the United States and Mexico.

Field Notes: Medium-sized grey songbird with long tail, dark wings with white wing bars, and a black eye stripe. Similar overall appearance to both the Loggerhead and Great Grey Shrike, but the shrikes have slightly different ranges and wide black mask instead of an eye stripe. Townsend's Solitaire is also similar but has a more restricted range, is the same shade of grey all over, and has a white eye ring instead of a black eye stripe.

Personal Notes: It was remarkable to watch and listen to this bird with a seemingly endless array of different melodies.

14 July, 2010

Common Eider

Scientific Name: Somateria mollissima

Population Estimate: 3.5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Marine bird breeding in circumpolar Arctic costal areas. Winters extending only slightly south of breeding grounds. 

Field Notes: Large duck with prominent wedge-shaped bill in both sexes. Breeding male unmistakable as above. Female dark brown with heavy black barring. 

Personal Notes: Our first view of an eider duck was while walking around Sachuest Point NWR, Rhode Island with Ted and Joanna Rolfes. Later seen at Acadia National Park. Finally, seen in huge rafts of birds in Iceland during breeding season.