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People Blog and Unusual July Birds

As Sam walks along the Backshore and elsewhere on Peaks Island, he sights gatherings of unusual observers – watching people. Birds are watching us. As we, the people, give birds descriptive names based on their plumages, behavior, or calls, the birds are doing the same – they are naming us. Ornithologists recorded some of what these birds were saying. They shared it with a clever and talented news team for the Ferry Home Companion during the Peaks Island Fest. The audience went wild. Here it is:

Ferry Home Companion at the Peaks Island Fest

“Penelope: Speaking of hydration, our news team has come up with a new feature, our Peaks Island Science Report. Stephanie, what’s up with this?

Stephanie: It’s fascinating! Ornithologists have been recording the vocalizations of local seagulls and have discovered that these squawking birds have created a “people blog”.

Translated into English and published by PILP, the blog notes the activities and movements of summer “people species”.

(Bird choir takes turns naming the species and producing sound effects).

  • The Ruby Crowned Sunburner, which can be found recumbent on Centennial Beach (ow ow ow ow ow ow ow)

  • The Ruffled Grouch, seen frequently looking for a public restroom or herding his offspring past the ice cream store (please NO please NO please NO please NO)

  • The Rock Taloned Cairnbuilder, with its distinctive cackle and competitive rock aerie construction techniques (plunk, plunk)

  • The Sharp-shinned Skateboarder: These birds have interesting feather colorings, curious designs on their skin, and are known for their speed, agility, daring and grace (dude, dude, dude)

  • The Pie Billed Peaksfester: These birds have the curious habit of once a year dipping their entire heads into a free meal served outside St. Christopher’s (schlurp, schlurp, schlurp)

  • The Voracious See-food Swallow, which grabs and devours lobster rolls at the top of Welch Street with its huge beak (greedy seagull sounds)

  • The Blue Lipped-Blue Footed Diving Cannonballer: A social species known to cluster at the end of the dock and leap into the wake of the ferry (kersplash, kersplash, kersplash)

  • The Rainbow Crested Accordion Player: The only one of her kind, she is frequently spotted downfront, thrives in a rainy climate, chirps merrily all day, and sports a crest which closely resembles an umbrella (let a smile be your umbrella)

For more information on these species, visit the new PILP People Blog or come down to the derry fock with your binoculars.“ (1)

And it does not stop there. Another people species was spotted at the ferry dock (derry fock): “I’m astonished that no one but Maggie and I have seen any Variegated Wandering Waddlers. If anyone is interested, they seem to collect in the middle of traffic at the crossroads of Welch and Island and mill around. I’ve never seen milling to such perfection before.” [ML]


And there is more.

Maniraptoran theropod dinosaur = Bird

Several bird oddities are drawing attention to the island. Unusual birds (2) are sighted along the Backshore and they are coming in and out of the Gem Gallery. What are these large birds seen outside the Gem, that later pop up in gardens around the island? Maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs? Birds? Yes to both. After all, birds are direct descendants of this dinosaur lineage – the Maniraptora - also known as the “hand snatchers”, with their long and slender arms and fingers. Through millions of years of change, these slender appendages develop into the graceful, yet powerful, wings of our modern birds. (3, 4)

Canada Geese Photo © Kathy Hanley

Examples of these birds are the handsome Canada Geese that are apparently migrating both north and south, and in and out of the Gem. A Great Blue Heron, a primitive looking bird, reminding us of its ancestry in the world of dinosaurs, finds its way from the Gem to a garden on the South Shore - close to its favorite foods in the tide pools there.

Great Blue Heron in Gem

Great Blue Heron in a South Shore Garden

We all know that the mischievous Blue Jay is usually up to no good. A prankster, it follows in the footsteps of its other corvid family members – the crows and ravens. However, this Blue Jay, either has a conscience or it was coerced into confessing for its sins – to a Northern Cardinal! More than one can say for our crows that delight in making trouble at daybreak as they teach their young in “Prankster Behavior 101” classes.

Blue Jay confessing to Cardinal

American Crow

Swallows were seen inside the Gem and on the outside entrance – but they have left. Will they migrate south along with these young Tree Swallows at Battery Steele marsh, or will they stay here on Peaks Island?

Swallows in the Gem

Swallows Leaving the Gem

Juvenile Tree Swallows in Battery Steele Marsh

The three terns did find a home – a Christmas present – probably being placed near a warm fire under the tree. No need to migrate with such accommodations.

Three Terns

And finally, what is this new bird, as rendered by a local artist at Battery Steele? Does anyone have a descriptive name for this new island species? And who is the artist?

New Peaks Island Bird Species?


1. Sam Saltonstall, Rebecca Stephans, and Stephanie Elliot, and more. Authors of People Blog at Ferry Home Companion

2. Kathy Hanley, Peaks Island Artist. Creator of unusual birds.


4. S. Chartterjee. The Rise of Birds. 225 Million Years of Evolution. 2nd ed. John Hopkins Unversity Press, Baltimore. 370 pages.

Other Information

By: Patty Wainright

Reviewed by: Michelle Brown, Marty, Michael LaCombe (ML), Sam Saltonstall, Kathy Hanley

Canada Geese Photo © Kathy Hanley

If you have any additional bird sightings you would like to share or questions regarding Peak's bird life, you can send them to:

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The Backshore Bird Blog


The objective of The Backshore Bird Blog is to share the wonder and diversity of bird species seen along the Peaks Island shore.

If you like birds...

take a look at our list of the 100 varieties of birds that have been spotted around the Island here. How many can you spot?

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