Readers’ wildlife photos

November 2, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have photos from biologist Jody Hey. His captions and narrative are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

For many years my family has taken vacations in the town of Tenants Harbor, Maine.  This is in the mid-coast region, about 15 minutes south of Rockland.   The town sees a lot of lobstering, as well as tourists who come by both land and sea.   Geographically the town is a bit unusual among small Maine coastal towns because the mouth of the harbor opens, not into a larger bay, or inlet, or estuary, but into the open ocean.   If you sailed due east out of the harbor, and stayed at that latitude, the first land you would hit would be southern France.

Our vacations to Maine are always in late July or early August, and so the wildlife photography is somewhat limited.  Every year we see pretty much the same things, and the birds are out of breeding plumage.  This post will be limited to photographs of birds who spend most of their time on or near the ocean.

Common terns (Sterna hirundo) are indeed fairly common here. They are speedy, acrobatic fliers and will interact with each other, and with other wildlife:

This picture is included, not because of the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but because of the common tern dive bombing it from behind:

Double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are great swimmers and fasts fliers, but have to do a lot of work to take off:

Black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) are the only alcid species that commonly occurs in the small harbors of Maine.  Alcids are sometimes called “penguins of the north” as they look a bit like penguins, use their wings to swim underwater, and eat lots of fish:

A variety of shorebirds (i.e. sandpipers and such that feed at the water’s edge) can be seen.  Almost all of these breed in the arctic and when seen in summer in the northern US are typically in migration.

I managed to catch these two greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) while they were flying:

This shot includes another greater yellowlegs in the foreground, as well as a short-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus), although I’m no expert on telling these apart from their sister species, the long-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) and I could be wrong:

Another dowitcher (I’m guessing short-billed), on its own:

A lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes):

Here we have sanderlings (Calidris alba) and semipalmated plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus).   The sanderlings are the gray ones with black legs.  For some reason these two species often flock together.  In the first shot they are fidgeting as the tide is coming in, and then a moment later, in the second shot, they have taken flight:


Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) are noisy and often not afraid of people,  but their effortless flight was part of the inspiration for the once very popular book Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) commonly breed here, though I can well remember back before the year 2000 when it was very unusual to see them:

And finally some non-birds.  Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are fairly common in the harbor.  Sometimes they pop their heads up to take a look at you, looking like puppy dogs when they do:

4 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. A nice set! We also see here a variety of bird beaks that are specialized for different kinds of foraging.

  2. Excellent bird photos! I agree with your dowitcher identification as Short-billed. One correction: the birds you photographed alongside Semipalmated Plovers are not Sanderlings but are instead Semipalmated Sandpipers. They are indeed gray with black legs but are noticeably smaller than the Semipalmated Plovers. Sanderlings would be as big or slightly bigger than the Semipalmated Plovers.

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