Songbird Stamps

The U.S. Postal Service introduced ten songbird stamps - these Forever® stamps are available in booklets of 20. 

Western Meadowlark, Mountain Bluebird, Western Tanager, Painted Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Evening Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, American Goldfinch, & White-throated Sparrow.

More more info:


Simple ID chart of birds & their songs:

The Birders Meeting at Bentley University in Waltham. MA on Sat., 3/8.

The Birders Meeting at Bentley University in Waltham. MA on Sat., 3/8.

The meeting has a cast of talented speakers who'll focus on a biological 
topic of significance to anyone who cares about birds and their future. 
Co-hosted by the Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Harvard Museum of 
Natural History, the theme of the event is EXTINCTION IS FOREVER: WHAT 

by Louis Agassiz Fuertes 

Joel Greenberg, keynote speaker and author of the recently acclaimed book, 
A Feathered River across the Sky, will discuss how the Passenger Pigeon, 
once the most abundant bird on earth was driven to extinction within 
practically half a century. 

This is a day-long event which includes lunch, raffles and many vendors 
with outstanding birding products, as well as an opportunity to obtain 
signed copies of the new and completely revised Sibley Guide to Birds.

More info:  

Good birding,

Bird Sightings - Essex County & Southern New Hampshire - 2/20/14

Main Street, Byfield:
Pileated Woodpecker

Newburyport Harbor, Newburyport:
Bald Eagle

Tuxbury Pond, Amesbury:
Field Sparrow

Ferry Road, Salisbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Methodist Church, Ipswich:
Peregrine Falcon

Route 133, Gloucester:
Bald Eagle

Plum Island Point:
Snowy Owl

Ring's Island, Salisbury:
Bald Eagle, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island:
Fox Sparrow, Snowy Owl, Thick-billed Murre

Plum Cove, Lanesville:
Barrow's Goldeneye, Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter

Way to the River, West Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Rye Harbor, Rye, NH:
Snowy Owl

Plains Road, Ipswich:
Brown Creeper

Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport/Newbury:
Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl

On board the Gulf Challenger out of New Castle, NH:
Common Eider, Common Loon, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Dovekie, Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Black-legged Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull 

Linebrook Road, Ipswich:
Eastern Bluebird, Fox Sparrow

Main Street, Amesbury:
Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye

Salisbury Saltmarsh:
Rough-legged Hawk

Crane Beach, Ipswich:
Snow Bunting, Sanderling, Snowy Owl

Lincoln Street School, Exeter, NH:
Turkey Vulture

Essex Bay, Essex:
Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead,  Common Loon, American Black Duck, Bald Eagle, Snow Bunting, Merlin, Common Raven, American Crow

Salisbury Beach State Reservation:
Merlin, Cooper's Hawk, Snowy Owl, Eurasian Wigeon

Deer Island, Amesbury:
Cooper's Hawk

Beach Road, Salisbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Merrimack Street, Newburyport:
Red-tailed Hawk

Hampton Harbor Bridge, Hampton, NH:
Peregrine Falcon

Eastman's Ramp, Seabrook, NH:
Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser
Exeter Wastewater Treatment Plant, Exeter, NH:
Mallard, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, American Robin, Northern Cardinal 

River Road, Seabrook, NH:
Snow Bunting

Various Areas on Cape Ann:
Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Great Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Purple Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow 

Upper Highland Road, Merrimac:
American Crow, Northern Bobwhite, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker

Route 110, Salisbury:
Sharp-shinned Hawk
New Hampshire Seacoast:
Spotted Towhee, Red-shouldered Hawk, Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk

Various Areas in Ipswich:
American Black Duck, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow

Ethelwyn Wetherald's The Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl by Nancy Smith

Hearing the strange night-piercing sound

Of woe that strove to sing,
I followed where it hid, and found
A small soft-throated thing,
A feathered handful of gray grief,
Perched by the year's last leaf. 
And heeding not that in the sky
The lamps of peace were lit,
It sent abroad that sobbing cry,
And sad hearts echoed it.
O hush, poor grief, so gray, so wild,
God still is with His child! 

Good birding,

Local Photos

Here are some bird photos from around the area.  Photos taken by Charlotte Fazio.

Male Common Mergansers

Immature Bald Eagle 

Immature Bald Eagle

Valentine's Day & Presidents' Day Weekend - 2014

We had a fantastic, long weekend with four programs searching for Bald Eagles. The condition of the lower Merrimack River was perfect for viewing these majestic birds.  We discussed the field marks, bill size and shape, cere and talons, wingspan, eyes and their hunting style, flight speed, their plumages and more. We witnessed stooping and taking prey to a tree over our heads. Our birding friends savored the joy of winter birding by seeing up to 15 eagles.

We watched Common Merganser drakes rowing with their wings during a catfish battle.  These handsome & agile males were highly competitive, and I thought of them as contending medalists.  The drake with the prey took flight, and the second drake continued in flight after it.  Within seconds of their flight, the two Bald Eagles that were perched and searching also joined in the pursuit. We never learned who was the victor of the catfish battle,  but I gave the mergansers and eagles high scores for effort.  Gratefully, some hot beverages and assorted snacks kept participants comfortable as we concentrated on finding birds at out of the wind viewing locations.

At Cashman Park, there are a loose flock of 6 Horned Larks gritting in the snow mountains.

Horned Lark

At Amesbury's Point Shore we saw an adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead, causing all the waterfowl to lift.  A flock of Wild Turkeys was wandering there, and one is nearly a blonde.

In Salisbury, we also found a few of this winter's charismatic bird, Snowy Owls.  Three Bald Eagles were active on the salt marsh - one eagle
was sporting adult plumage. We came across a Merlin and a Cooper's Hawk with prey.  That "entrance road Snowy Owl" is very cooperative and likely the most photographed Snowy in Massachusetts.

We ventured up the New Hampshire Seacoast and saw Lesser Scaup, Peregrine Falcon, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Eider, scoter and Sharp-shinned Hawk. On River Road, we saw two Snow Buntings looking for shelter from the wind.

Good birding,

Male Dark-eyed Junco Sings While I Roof Rake

The principle song is a high, rapid trill that lasts for approximately two seconds and maintains pitch.  Similar in sound to a Chipping Sparrow or a Pine Warbler - others have described it as a ringing telephone.

Here's a link:

Good birding,

Lemmings & Snowy Owls

Enjoy this Washington Post article on Lemmings & Snowy Owls:

Good birding,

Snowy Owl Video

Enjoy this Snowy Owl video which has awesome photos and text from so many Snowy Owl observers in Massachusetts!

Youtube Link:


Bird Sightings - 2/13/14

Salisbury Beach State Reservation:
Common Loon, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl 

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester:
Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow

Moulton Street, Newburyport:
American Tree Sparrow, Cooper's Hawk, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow

Upper Highland Road, Merrimac:
Wild Turkey, Red-tailed Hawk, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Great Horned Owl 

Bartlett Street, Salisbury:
Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, 
Tufted Titmouse

Deer Island, Amesbury:
Bald Eagle, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Great Cormorant, Scaup species, 
Salisbury Town Dock, Ring's Island:
Common Goldeneye, Canada Goose, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle

Atlantic Avenue, Gloucester:
Great Cormorant

Eagle Island, Salisbury:
Bald Eagle, Great Cormorant, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser
Lower Merrimack River, Newburyport, Salisbury & Amesbury:
Great Blue Heron, Carolina Wren, Bald Eagle, American Tree Sparrow, Great Cormorant, Common Goldeneye,
Red-breasted Merganser

Cashman Park, Newburyport:
Bald Eagle, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Ring-billed Gull, Horned Lark, Red-breasted Merganser

Powwow River, Amesbury:
Belted Kingfisher

Lincoln Street School, Exeter NH:
Turkey Vulture
Carr Island, Salisbury:
Bald Eagle

Jeffrey's Neck Road, Ipswich:
Barred Owl

Point Shore, Amesbury:
Bald Eagle

Fisherman’s Monument, Gloucester:
Ruddy Duck, Greater Scaup

Spring Lane, Newburyport:
Bald Eagle

Artichoke Dairy, West Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Bluebird, Rock Pigeon

Ram Island, Salisbury:
Bald Eagle

Atlantic Avenue, Gloucester:
Great Cormorant

Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury/Newburyport:
Red-tailed Hawk, Snowy Ow

Nashua Street, Seabrook, NH:
Snowy Owl

Jodrey Fish Pier, Gloucester:
Thick-billed Murre, Iceland Gull  

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island:
Cedar Waxwing, Northern Shrike

New Hampshire Seacoast:
Spotted Towhee, Harlequin Duck, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Sanderling, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon,
Mourning Dove, Snowy Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Horned Lark,
Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, 
Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Snow Bunting,  American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow,  
White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Eastern Point, Gloucester:
Red-shouldered Hawk, Dovekie, Iceland Gull
Main Street, Amesbury:
Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, Common Goldeneye

On the Wing: A Celebration of Birds in Music and Spoken Word

On the Wing: A Celebration of Birds in Music and Spoken Word 

Please join ornithologist Wayne Petersen with Berklee College of Music composer Andrew List  and poet Mary Pinard for the world premiere presentations of "On The Wing: A Celebration of Birds in Spoken Word and Music. The dates for the three local performances are Thurs., Feb. 13th and Tues., Feb. 18th and Sun., Feb. 23rd.  All performances are free and open to the public.

On the Wing: A Celebration of Birds in Music and Spoken Word exalts birds as symbols of wonderment, freedom, and beauty. On the Wing will showcase 12 original songs by Andrew List, played by noted pianist George Lopez, Artist-in-Residence at Bowdoin College, and sung by renowned mezzo-soprano Krista River. Interspersed through the song cycle will be poems written and recited by poet and Babson College English Professor Mary Pinard and commentary by Wayne Petersen, Mass Audubon’s Director of Important Bird Areas. On The Wing includes songs and poems about backyard birds, birds of the field, shorebirds  and vanishing species.
The program will conclude with a question-and-answer period between the artists and the audience, moderated by Andrew List.


Thursday, Feb. 13, 7:30 pm David Friend Recital Hall 921 Boylston St. Boston Berklee College of Music
Friday, Feb. 14, 4 pmSaturday, Feb. 15, 7:30 pm Sudzinski Recital Hall Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 5:30 pm Glavin Chapel 231 Forest St. Babson College, Wellesley, MA
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2:00 pm Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, 180 Main St. Andover,MA

Bald Eagle Class - Northern Essex Community College - February 9, 2014

A delightful group of students from Northern Essex Community College joined me to enjoy an afternoon with the Bald Eagle, one of our national symbols. Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack River which provides perfect winter habitat for these majestic birds. During our outdoor class, the students learned about eagle field marks, bill size & shape, cere & talons, eyes & their hunting style, flight speed and altitude, and their plumage & more. The class took place along the Merrimack River’s edge and we had stops at three viewing sites.

Bald Eagles by Phil Brown

While viewing Deer & Eagle Islands, we saw a Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, three eagles in varying plumages & a Carolina Wren.

At Mersen, we saw a three year-old eagle with an Osprey-like head.

At Newburyport Boat Basin, we watched eagles on both Carr & Ram Islands.

Good birding,

Essex County, MA & Southern, NH Weekly Bird Sightings - 2/5/14

Rowley Shore Road, Gloucester:Barrow's Goldeneye 

Merrimac Street, Newburyport:
Wilson's Snipe, Red-tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren, Rusty Blackbird

New Hampshire Seacoast:
Spotted Towhee, Barrow's Goldeneye, Thick-billed Murre, Gray Catbird, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Bald Eagle,

American Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker 

Bridge Road, Salisbury:
American Robin, European Starling

Wenham Lake, Beverly:
Bald Eagle

Hampton Beach State Park, Hampton, NH:
Snowy Owl, Glaucous Gull

High Road, Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey

Argilla Road, Ipswich:
Red-tailed Hawk, Red-headed Woodpecker

Newburyport Rail Trail:
American Kestrel, Eastern Screech Owl

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester:
Ipswich Sparrow, Lapland Longspur, Peregrine Falcon, Short-eared Owl

Nelson Island, Rowley:
Bald Eagle, Eastern Bluebird

Salisbury Beach State Reservation:
Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Common Eider, American Black Duck

Lincoln Street School, Exeter, NH:
Turkey Vulture  

Riverbend Conservation Area, West Newbury:
Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Bald Eagle, Carolina Wren, Downy Woodpecker

Bartlett's Reach, Amesbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Island Road, Essex:
Snowy Owl

Halibut Point, Rockport:
Black Guillemot, Dovekie, Razorbill, Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin Duck

University of MA Marine Research Site, Gloucester:
Barrow's Goldeneye

Jodrey Fish Pier, Gloucester:
Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Ruddy Duck, Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Mallard, Common Eider

Bartlett Street, Salisbury:
Carolina Wren

Riverwalk, Amesbury:
Bald Eagle

Plum Cove, Gloucester:

Cashman Park Boat Launch, Newburyport:
Horned Lark  

Mudnock Road, Salisbury: 
Brown-headed Cowbird,  Red-winged Blackbird

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island:
Eastern Meadowlark, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon

Seven Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester:
Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe,Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, 
Purple Sandpiper, Dovekie, Common Murre, Razorbill, large alcid species, Black Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Bonaparte's Gull

Broad Street, Merrimac:
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow 

Eastern Point, Gloucester & Gloucester Harbor:
Brant, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter,  
Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, 
Purple Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Snowy Owl,  
Peregrine Falcon, European Starling, House Sparrow 

Salisbury Saltmarsh:
Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Crow, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird

Red-throated Loon - 2014

Red-throated Loon - 2014

Red-throated Loons are flat gray with tiny, scaly, white speckles on its back and has a white and gray, slender head and neck. This regal, elegant and solitary loon floated like a miniature, cargo-laden freighter.  It then dove close towards the jetty.  Under, gone, up, low in the water, gone, under, up again, diving, and then slowly resurfacing…

This foot-propelled swimmer can dive deeply.  The fully webbed toes are on strong, large feet that are set back at the rear of a streamlined body and function as paddles.  Loons paddle both feet at once with ease.  Like all loons, the Red-throated is graceful and agile on water but ever so awkward and vulnerable on land.

Their eyes are adapted for both aerial and underwater vision.  As visual feeders, they often peer below the surface of the water [snorkel] just prior to diving.   As fish eaters [piscivorous] that chase their prey underwater, they grab it with their bills.  Red-throated Loons eat small fish, frogs and other aquatic invertebrates.  They are well adapted to waters both fresh and salt.

Compared to an elongated Common Loon at 32 inches, the diminutive Red-throated Loon measures in at 24 - 25 inches.  Its body seems to slope back toward the rear.   The slim head is smaller with a tapered forehead and is carried on a short neck. This floating aristocrat with an angled up head is equipped with a long, sharp bill.

Red-throated Loons weigh an average of 3 pounds with males being slightly heavier and larger than females.  The Red-throated Loon rides low in the water. The plumage is dense and provides great warmth.

The large oil gland [uropygial gland] aids in waterproofing.  Proctor and Lynch's  "Manual of Ornithology" reports loons having 16 - 20 tail rectrices.  In water, loons appear to be without a tail even though they have very short, stiff tail feathers.  The uropygial gland at the rump is located above those rectrices.  Puzzled by why I've rarely seen Red-throated Loons in flight in winter, I consulted Roger Pasquier's "Watching Birds, An Introduction to Ornithology", and he mentions that loons have a flightless stage on their wintering grounds where they can escape danger just by diving.

Sibley's "Bird Life and Behavior" mentions their bones being denser than other birds' bones to help them dive.  Chris Leahy's "Birdwatcher's Companion" states that loons' bones are less pneumatized or heavier.  While in Alaska, I enjoyed those Red-throated Loons that had brick-red, arrowhead-like patches on their throats, and those arrowhead points faced up toward the lower mandible.  My observation of them was limited to isolated, freshwater, shallow pools and ponds.  They took flight to forage in the coastal area and returned with fish for their  young.  In their nests, I saw one or two chicks.  The young were not carried on the adults’ backs as I've witnessed with Common Loons.  I recall the adults being whiter on the belly and quicker on the wing than Common Loons.  Unlike the larger, heavier Common Loons, they took flight effortlessly, not running along the water's surface.

Frank Gill's "Ornithology" states: "Specialized water birds such as loons, auks, gulls, ducks, cranes, and petrels invaded aquatic niches during the Eocene epoch, 37 to 54 million years ago."  Wow, that brings the terms "ancient divers" and "primitive" into perspective...

Good birding,

Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend - 2014

Birdwatchers from New England and beyond participated in the Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend. Cape Ann is known worldwide for its exciting concentrations of winter seabirds, and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce & Massachusetts Audubon Society offered a weekend full of events for all levels of birders. Expert speakers offered presentations, exhibitors showcased their programs and products and artists displayed their art and gave demonstrations at the event headquarters at the Elks at Bass Rocks and at other venues in Gloucester.

On Saturday morning, expert guides led bus trips to the winter birding hot spots on Cape Ann.  Our group was pleasant & expressed great interest in the birds, their behavior and the natural history of Cape Ann.  Bus #1 tour was led by Jim Berry, Miles Brengle, Liam Waters and me had some wonderful, prolonged looks at the following: 

Canada Goose  225
Gadwall  6
American Wigeon  2
American Black Duck  41
Mallard  60
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)  2
Common Eider (Atlantic)  200
Harlequin Duck  40
Surf Scoter  54
White-winged Scoter  84
Black Scoter  11
scoter sp.  80
Long-tailed Duck  40
Bufflehead  100
Common Loon
Common Goldeneye  44
Red-breasted Merganser  90
Red-throated Loon  3
Common Loon  32
Horned Grebe  12
Red-necked Grebe  2
Great Cormorant  42
Purple Sandpiper  79
Razorbill  13
Black Guillemot  8
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  220
Iceland Gull   7
Glaucous Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  100
Rock Pigeon  90
Snowy Owl  1
American Crow  4
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  8
Song Sparrow  2
House Finch  5
House Sparrow  20

Good birding,