Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Vermont's First

Since its introduction to the Bahamas in 1975 and appearance in Florida during the late 70s, the range of Eurasian Collared-Dove (ECDO) has steadily expanded westward through the Gulf Coast states and subesquently into the Southwest, Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and locations northwestward. By 2006 the species' distribution included about two-thirds of the land area occupied by the lower 48 and southern Saskatchewan (Alderfer 2006). For whatever reason the westward progression initially bypassed the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Great Lakes states. Massachusetts' first occurrence was in 2005. I have not been able to find out whether there are any accepted records for New Hampshire and Maine. If any readers of this blog know, please feel free to add a comment. Now being ECDO sightings come from across southern Canada it was only a matter of time before the species would make an appearance in Vermont.

Well, this apparently happened around mid November at a Norwich bird feeder with ECDO confirmation made the morning of November 25 by several local birders. The sighting was posted that day by Chris Rimmer and the news was out to the Vermont birding community.

Yesterday's high winds convinced me to postpone my visit until this morning arriving at the residence of John and Dianne Dunn at 8:20 a.m. No other birders were present, but within a couple minutes I was joined by Jim Mead and Dwight Carsgill from northern Vermont. Just as they walked up to where I was standing, I spotted the ECDO perched in a white birch at the opposite end of the Dunn's house. The bird was backlit by the morning sun and far enough away that we retrieved spotting scopes from our vehicles for better views. The bird obliged our viewing for only a few minutes before flying to the ground in a low lying area out of view. Soon after Hugh and Bunni Putnam of Springfield and another birder from Enfield, NH (failed to get his name) joined us. Several minutes later the ECDO reappeared and put on a good show and comparisons with accomapnying Mourning Doves (MODO).

The ECDO appeared to be somewhat unsettled with the human activity and tended to keep distance from us despite the nearby presence of feeders. Even though it kept "company" with several MODOs, it seemed to maintain some separation and even showed what I interpret to be mild aggressive behavior toward them.

Below are a couple digiscoped images of the Norwich ECDO. The bottom photo shows the underside of the tail: broad buff-gray terminal band, undertail coverts, and hint of the black tail base.


Alderfer, J., editor. 2006. Complete Birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pink-footed Geese, Yarmouth, Maine

Recently hearing of the continued presence of three Pink-footed Geese in the Yarmouth, ME area, since first discovered a month and a half ago, motivated me to get on the road early Saturday morning and make the three hour drive. The last time I had an opportunity to see the species was February 11, 2006, when two geese were reported on the Connecticut River at Enfield, CT. I struck out. So the Maine sightings gave me some hope that this time may be productive.

The weather forecast for the day was not good...a nor'easter with heavy rains. Leaving home in a light rain, it was a wet drive until I got to the NH-ME stateline. From there north it was dry, cloudy but the rain was not far behind. Arriving at Idleknot Farm around 9 a.m. I found no other birders checking out the fields where the geese have been regularly seen. A couple hundred Canada Geese were visible feeding in the farfield, but no Pink-foots. Given the rolling terrain I suspected there were more geese than could be seen from my vantage point on Woodville Road. Soon I was joined by birders Don Mairs of Belgrade, ME and Letitia Lucier of UT. Don saw a new list serve post for the day that the Pink-foots were seen around 8 a.m., so the prospects were still good.

Jennifer Cummings, who lives in the house near our spotting location, came out and told us about seeing the geese earlier in the morning and that they very well could be hidden behind the far fields as we suspected. She kindly offered us permission to access the fields and suggested how we might go about getting the best view without agitating the geese. Approaching a slight rise, many more Canadas were revealed and Letitia was the first to spot the subjects of our efforts. K'ching! Pink-footed Geese are striking: short bicolored bill, pink legs and feet, grayish brown mantle and flanks with prominent white bars; gray tertials and paler gray secondaries with white edges, and dark brown head and neck. Size-wise I'd guess they are about 2/3 the size of the Canadas.

I began digiscoping the geese at the time the rain arrived. Go figure. So between the rain and less than optimal lighting conditions, the photos are of marginal quality.

Thanking Jennifer for her hospitality, we headed out our separate ways. For me a long but satisfying drive back home in pouring rain. A life bird for me and reportedly a new bird species for the Pine Tree State.

Check out Derek Lovitch's October 1 post at for his account of the first Maine sighting, and for general information on the species.