Photographs by Frank

20 May 2014

Spring Migration at Star Island

Filed under: Birds,Spring — Tags: , — Frank @ 3:00 PM

Last Friday at about 10 AM we packed up the car and headed to New Hampshire’s extensive coast. Our eventual goal was Rye Harbor and a boat to Star Island  at 5 that afternoon. We spent the early part of the afternoon at Odiorne Point State Park.

The weekend at Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, was arranged for the peak of the Spring bird migration by Eric Masterson, author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire.

It was raining lightly when we left the house, but we out ran the weather system and had decent weather up to the time we had to head for the boat. We had a rather exciting six mile trip (on four foot swells) out to Star. It rained much of the night and on Saturday morning. Thus our first couple of bird walks (on Friday evening and Saturday morning) were a little damp. However, by lunch time on Saturday the weather cleared up and the rest of the weekend was spectacular. The boat arrived way too early (about 5:30 PM) for the trip back on Sunday.

I won’t go into all of the details, but coastal islands have the effect of concentrating migrating birds when they stop to rest. Thus, the high density of birds (both in numbers of individuals and species) combined with a preponderance of low vegetation and sparse spring foliage usually makes for some good birding and photography. We were not disappointed!

I spent much of my time on the island standing near various thickets trying to photograph small birds as they appeared on the “surface” or in any space that offered a clear view of a bird. The birds spend the majority of time in these thickets preying on small insects to “fuel up” for the next leg of their trip north.

Here are the “keepers” of some of the various migrants:

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Bobolink
Bobolink
Summer Tanager (immature male)
Summer Tanager (immature male)
Wilson's Warbler (male)
Wilson's Warbler (male)
Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler (male)
Yellow Warbler (male)
Magnolia Warbler (male)
Magnolia Warbler (male)
Nashville Warbler (female with prey)
Nashville Warbler (female with prey)
Black-throated Green Warbler (male)
Black-throated Green Warbler (male)
Northern Parula
Northern Parula
Black-throated Green Warbler (female)
Black-throated Green Warbler (female)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow Warbler (male)
Yellow Warbler (male)
Yellow Warbler (male)
Yellow Warbler (male)
Black and White Warbler (female)
Black and White Warbler (female)
Black and White Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Tennesse Warbler (male)
Tennesse Warbler (male)

In addition to the migrants there are a number of birds that are residents of the islands. Although these were not goal of the trip, I was not going to pass up an opportunity for a nice photo of the locals!

In addition to the expected seabirds (gulls and ducks) there were large numbers of swallows (both tree and barn swallows). The barn swallows nest under the porch of the main hotel building on the island.

Herring gulls were most common and there were also black-backed gulls present. Common eiders were the most common duck present. There were also a few mallards around.

It was mating season for the locals. There was much nest building and courtship/mating behavior evident.

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Northern Mockingbird with Prey (Odiorne Point)
Northern Mockingbird with Prey (Odiorne Point)
Herring Gull with Nest Material
Herring Gull with Nest Material
Herring Gull: Take Off!
Herring Gull: Take Off!
Black-backed Gull
Black-backed Gull
Common Grackle
Common Grackle
Herring Gull Pair
Herring Gull Pair
Tree Swallow Pair at Nest Box
Tree Swallow Pair at Nest Box
Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Common Eider Pair
Common Eider Pair
Herring Gull (courtship behavior)
Herring Gull (courtship behavior)

The boat ride back to Rye Harbor, on calm seas, was much less exciting than the trip out. However, we did see two large groups of white-winged scoters  winging their way north. All-in-all, we had a great time.

Thanks to Eric (for making the arrangements and being an amazing fount of ornithological knowledge) and to the Island staff (who allow this trip in the “pre-season”, i.e. while they are still getting all of the systems ready for the regular season). Thanks, also, to the roughly two dozen other interesting folks who were along for the ride.


2 Comments

  1. Wondering where you have been!

    Bird-watching who would have thunk??

    Another set of amazing images. You continue to expand your horizons from the odes to the landscapes to the birds.

    Comment by Just Joe — 20 May 2014 @ 3:22 PM

  2. Amazing shots of the warblers Frank. Yes you were definitely not disappointed. I still have not seen some of these warblers after hunting for them for many years. You had them all concentrated on one island. Amazing.

    K

    Comment by Kevin — 23 May 2014 @ 10:13 AM

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