Sunday, December 1, 2013

How Sniper Got Its Name

The word sniper comes from a common wetland bird, the snipe. When flushed, these cryptic gamebirds of marshes zig-zag their way into the sky.

In days of yore, when rifles were not very accurate, you were considered an excellent marksman if you could shoot one, and given the name sniper.

Wilson's Snipe © adrian binns /

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's in a Name? Semipalmated….

The name Semipalmated, as in Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus derives from the latin semipalmatus meaning half (semi) palm (palma) referring to the partial webbing between their toes, as can be seen in this photo.
photo © adrian binns /

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Yellow-rumped Warbler's favourite berry

We see a large influx of Yellow-rumped Warblers during the fall months as they move through the Delaware Valley and Mid-Atlantic region. They are without a doubt the most numerous fall migrant warbler.  While the majority of our wood-warblers head to tropical climates for the winter, many Yellow-rumps overwintering in our area.

They are often found actively foraging in flocks feeding on insects and small berries that have a high fat content.

Two of these plants are amongst their favourite foods, Bayberry or Wax Myrtle, hence the name of the Eastern subspecies, "Myrtle" Warbler, and Poison Ivy, pictured here. The berries of both these plants are timed to ripen when the 'butter butts' move through, giving the birds the fuel they need to sustain them through the colder winter months.
photo © adrian binns /

Friday, July 20, 2012

How the Black Skimmer got its name.

The Black Skimmer gets its name from skimming the surface of the water with its longer lower mandible. It was originally known as Cut Water, named because it cuts through the water surface leaving a thin wake behind.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the Nest

Two Ruby-throated Hummingbird chicks, about 17 days old, fill their nest. The older of the two is on the left. Watch as their mother comes in to feed them, followed by the chicks preening, stretching their wings and the older bird practicing to fly.
Taken at John Heinz NWR, Philadelphia - June 21, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

House Wren dismantling a chickadee nest

In mid-march Carolina Chickadees built a nest in our nest box. The nest was abandoned due to harassment from House Sparrows. Yestreday the first House Wren of the season showed up and it did not take him long to inpect the nest box! House Wrens are naturally aggressive, and since they use twigs to build their nests, he began to dismantle the soft moss and hair nest the chickadees had constructed, and lay claim to the box!