Sunday, January 15, 2017

No Car No Phone No Problem

 I found myself without a car this weekend due to some unexpected repairs. I could have rented a car or have my wife cart me around but I decided to get back to basics instead. I walked, used a somewhat limited bus system, and rode my bike to get around. I even shut my cell phone off. While waiting at the bus stop I heard interesting stories about life on the streets. One of the passengers told me about how he left everything behind to work on a pipeline in North Dakota for 6 months. Everything he needed was provided by the company including food, housing and a great paycheck. He saw all kinds of wildlife and said that it was a spiritual experience for him. 
When riding around on a bike you see things that you don't notice when you're in a car. I found this $5 bill on the ground when I was riding my bike through a ball field. 

It seems that we've become so dependent on cars, phones, and the Internet that many people feel lost without them. My father's generation talked about having to walk uphill in the snow both ways to get to school. I grew up without cable or participation trophies and our entertainment was playing outside. I wonder if the current generation wil be able to adapt to unexpected adversity? 
 Birding by bike is not something I do often but it has some advantages. I felt as though I had more birding time because every minute counted. When you're driving from one spot to another you miss a lot.  Being limited to a bike route is a good thing. You tend to stay more focused on your surroundings which helps to heighten your senses. Dark-eyed junco was the most abundant bird species of the day. I saw at least 100 of them.
 I followed the Connecticut River along an industrial road which led me across the railroad tracks and past brownstone quarries, ball fields and boat yards. I saw many Song Sparrows, 4 Bald Eagles and about 30 other species during my ride. 
 It was a nice quiet ride on a sunny day with almost no traffic or people to be found. The few neighbors I did pass by were friendly enough although this one seemed green with envy! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sunny Skies Minus Wind = Perfect Winter Day

The only day I've been out birding this year was on 
New Year's day. Winter isn't my favorite season but on days when the sun is shining and the wind is silent it makes for a perfect winter day. I could feel heat rising up from the sun-drenched soil as I was walking along the river trail. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make all the difference.
One of the bonuses of birding on the first day of the year is that every bird you see is the your first bird of the year but I'm still waiting for my first bird photo of the year (old photo). Golden-crowned-Kinglet (above))is on my wish list for next weekend.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Birds At The Power Lines

There are many people who don't like power lines mostly because of the electromagnetic radiation they produce and the land that has to be cleared below the lines. That being said, power line cuts are often productive places to find birds. 
On Christmas morning I took a walk along the power line cut crossing at East Cotton Hill road in Portland. I encountered a number of sparrows, wrens, cardinals and finches that were eating a variety of seeds and berries (male House Finch pictured above).
 Gold Finches aren't quite as colorful during the winter as they are in the summer but I'm always encouraged when I hear their whiny call that sound to me like "eaaaat". 
This Red-shouldered Hawk preferred perching on the smaller lines along the roadside.
The habitat can vary quite a bit as there is at power line crossings as you venture out toward the edges. It looks as though this crow of black has found its Christmas snack!

 Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Close To Brownstone Quarries On Birding Break

I usually like to have some sort of plan or theme in mind when I'm heading out on my weekend birding excursions. Occasionally I start out full of enthusiasm and then it suddenly feels as though I've blown a motivational fuse.Whatever great ideas I had don't live up to my expectations and I feel like calling it a day before I even get started.When I'm feeling that way I know it's time for a break. I might skip a day I would normally go birding or keep thing as quick and simple as possible.

I was feeling that way this week as we've had cold weather and snow set in so I decided to visit the river and brownstone quarries area within walking distance of where I live- (link to hog river journal article about quarries by Doe Boyle) . The tangled mess in the top photo is near a trail that passes along a slag pile where the unused brownstone used to get dumped from the nearby quarries. There are pockets and caves formed by the old brownstone pieces under the trails and you can see steam rising from the ground on cool mornings.
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 Here's a view of one of the quarries looking toward the Connecticut River which is just beyond the tanks in the background. The water in the quarry is about 100 feet deep in some areas. It is currently being used as a water park. As you can probably tell from the photos I didn't encounter a lot of birds during my walk. A few sparrows along with the usual suspects.
When I reached the river I was happy to see my first two town hoodies and since I was wearing a hoodie at the time I felt like we sort of bonded. It would have been nice if the sun was on my side of the river but that's okay. At least I got out there and even managed enough energy to post something. This weekend I've got a Christmas count coming up so there's no need for me to come up with a plan.