Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scenic Sunday - Dromore Bay

Dromore Bay, Phippsburg, Maine October 2011

Dromore Bay is tidal. It is near the mouth of the Kennebec River on the west side. The salt marsh provides important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Waterfowl are abundant. Raptors which hunt other birds and small mammals cruise the marsh grasses looking for prey. Osprey fish here. Animals that eat mollusks and crustaceans frequent the marsh. White-tailed deer, raccoons, mink, fishers and foxes are abundant.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Tiniest Kings - Ruby-Crowned and Gold-Crowned Kinglets

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula Phippsburg Maine October 21, 2011
The red smudge on the crown of this bird's head raises up to a nice, ruby crest when it's trying to attract chicks during breeding season. It does not fully display its crest often. It's not as flashy as its cousin that sports a golden crown no matter what it's up to. Maybe because it's smaller, the Golden-crowned feels the need be ostentatious.
Gold-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa Phippsburg, Maine October 24, 2011
(this bird was a window strike. It lived to rule the forest another day)

     This tiny bird is sitting on the end of my index finger. I have small hands and often wear children's gloves when I garden. It's hard to find gloves that fit so that the finger tip doesn't fold over. That should give you an idea of just how diminutive this bird is. Next to Ruby-throated hummingbirds, these are our smallest birds The Golden-crowned Kinglet in the bottom two images is about four inches from bill tip to tail tip. The Ruby-crowned is a smidge longer at four and a quarter inches. Given how small they are, it must be hard for them to find crowns that fit.
     I feel their pain. Not only are my fingers short, so are my legs. I'm wearing a "petite" bathrobe that is slightly too long. When the Golden-crowned Kinglet hit the window, I leaped to its rescue and almost fell on the floor, hobbled by the hem of the robe. My inseam is only twenty seven inches. To buy pants that don't drag on the ground, I have to shop in obscure places. I can't walk in to a store and buy off the rack and expect a positive outcome. Even when a garment says "short" or "petite" on the label, I can't assume that means short enough for me. Lately, I've been buying pants at Denim & Company, an online  QVC store. Because I have found this source for pants that fit perfectly, I have anxieties that suddenly, the next time I need a new pair, Denim & Company will have vanished. It is a universal rule that when you find a product that you love and become dependent upon, it will  cease to be available. I appreciate many of the challenges these precious birds face out there in the wild. I wonder if the Kinglets have problems while crown shopping. Is there a crown outlet somewhere amidst the vast malls of New Jersey ? If a Kinglet wears a crown that is too big, thus slipping on its head, it could be fatal. My crown has slipped a few times nearly killing me. I get it.
   There are six species of kinglets on the planet. We have two in North America, the ones you see here. The scientific name Regulidae comes from the Latin word regulus for "petty king" or prince. That comes from the colored crowns of adult birds. Loosely, these little guys fall into the class of Old World Warblers along with Thrushes and some of their buddies, the Tits and Dippers, which doesn't sound very classy at all if you ask me! They sound like performers at a strip club.
     Kinglets have an elongated fourth, hind toe for suspending from branches. However, this still doesn't make them good at pole dancing. They perform in the tree tops preferring mixed woods. The Golden-crowned especially likes the tops of conifers, though I often see them in birches and alders. Both kinglets are insect eaters. They will also eat the eggs of insects and the pulp of berries. Their rapid metabolism and small size mandate that they eat constantly, even while nest building. Kinglets that can't eat can lose a third of their body weight in twenty minutes and may starve to death in an hour.They flit and twiddle around at the ends of branches, hovering as they glean bugs from the leaves. Ruby-crowned kinglets are recognizable by their constant wing flicking. Keeping the crown firmly on the head is an imperative during this kind of acrobatic food hunting. They are fast moving, energetic birds that are hard to photograph. They don't sit still for studio work very well, unless stunned like the Golden-crowned shown here.
     Kinglets aren't endangered, though some studies suggest population declines due to habitat loss in some areas. Many of them, though not truly migratory,  move further south from their breeding areas in the winter months. But, many of them stay here. They eat insects in the tree tops all winter and especially fancy the caterpillars of moths and snow fleas. Rumor has it that during the winter, they wash the bugs in their mugs down with single malt Scotch. For me to stay in the top of a spruce tree for the winter, it would take Glenfiddich. And, you could keep the crown.

Sibley, David A, The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2000, Pg 394
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

And, Dr. Herb Wilson, Judy Scher, Robeta Lane, AnnieO, Kristen Lindquist, Julia, Sean Smith, Sharon F. and Joel Wilcox for information and resources.

This post just recieved Editor's Pick on Open Salon ( It is my twelfth Editor's Pick.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

FLYday - Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile, Bald eagle, Phippsburg, Maine
(I took this photograph while wearing my bathrobe!)

FLYday is an homage to what our feathered friends do best, fly.