Friday, June 29, 2007

Random Notes

The above picture is a Blue Jay that was fresh out of the nest last week. The jay didn't seem to know what to do when I approached it with the camera. Later in the week, I observed it trying out the birdbath.It jumped in to the water then flew right back out several times over. It was funny to watch.

The House Wrens have been chattering for weeks out in the back yard. The eggs in the nest box finally hatched.I've been watching the wrens bring bits of food to their young ones. Once in a while, a House Sparrow will sit right on top of the nest box. The wrens don't seem to like this too much.

Last Saturday, I went on a field trip to Mclean Game Refuge in Granby. It's about 4,000 acres of preserved land. Much of the area is loaded with big pine trees. It is a great area to visit in the summer, because the pines keep the area cool, dark, and light on the bugs.

Here are a couple of highlights from that trip: First of all, the trip leader was really excellent(Paul Cianfiglione). He can pick up birds equally well through sight or sound-(I some times wonder if he smells them too).

We had a lot of fun watching a Hairy Woodpecker encroach upon the nesting area of a pair of Great-crested Flycatchers. The Woodpecker seemed to have tunnel vision. It was pecking its way through a tree looking for bugs. The Flycatchers were making a lot of noise and swooping down near the woodpecker. The Hairy seemed totally unfazed. It just kept Pecking away. We watched the three of them for about ten minutes.-Lot of fun to watch. Later, we saw a Pileated Woodpecker Flying across the path.

Another thing that stood out was an almost sighting of a Winter Wren. Someone played back the song of the Winter Wren a couple of times. The wren came out to challenge the recording to a sing-off. Instead of staying low as these birds almost always do, it perched fifty feet up in the top of a tree to sing. We never saw it.-Beautiful song though. We also heard a Hermit Thrush singing deep in the woods. I was able to get some really nice views of waterthrushes. The first one was a very young bird. We were unable to make a definitive identification as to whether it was a Northern or a Louisiana Waterthrush. Further down the trail, we were able to get a nice view of a Northern Waterthrush.

A new birding blog I've been reading is called:
Birding North Central Massachusetts...And Beyond by Tom Pirro. Tom has been birding for about 20 years. He concentrates on birding mostly in his local area, and seems to do a thorough job of it. If you like birding, you should take a look.

I haven't been reading the blogs that I enjoy as much as I would like to. I've been working two jobs. Every weekday starts at 7am, and I often don't get home until 9pm (except tgif). There are times, I don't have enough left in my tank to blog, read, reply, and comment on my favorite blogs. I will do the best I can to catch up on weekends though.


Portland Riverfront Trail:
  • I recently saw a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the nearby field.
  • Last week, there were still plenty of Yellow Warblers, and American Redstarts around.
  • Great-crested Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, Wood Thrush, House Wrens and Carolina Wrens remain active in this area.

Old Marlboro Turnpike Power Lines:

  • Note Prairie Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Eastern Towhee singing in the vicinity.

Portland Fairgrounds and Portland Reservoir-

  • Bank Swallows and Belted Kingfishers were seen at both locations.

One other note-I saw an AMERICAN KESTREL hovering in a patch of field near exit 33 as I was heading south on 91.

My neighbor, Bob, reported a European Starling with an all white tail. It must have been a partial albino, or someone forgot to empty the bleach out of their birdbath.

O.K.,-that's all I've got for today. Hopefully, I'll be able to read some blogs later tonight or tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Songbird Lyrics Game

Name The Song That The Lyrics Belong To And/Or An Artist Who Sang It-Of the ones already answered, tell Us Which Ones You Knew.
a) Ones that are solved will turn to black.-b)Ones that are partly solved will turn to gray-

1)Between the silence of the mountains-And the crashing of the sea-There lies a land I once lived in-And she's waiting there for me.

2) The less I say the more my work gets done.

3) Tried to hitch a ride to San Francisco, Gotta do the things I wanna do.

4)It's your life-And you can do what you want-Do what you like-But please don't keep-a me waiting.

5) You've got me captured-I'm under your spell-I guess I'll never learn

6)Like my father before me, I will work the land, Like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.

7) I'm a-thinkin' and a-wond'rin' walkin’ down the road

8) Got my bags, got my reservations, Spent each dime I could afford.

9)I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do-

10)Standing in line marking time--Waiting for the welfare dime-'Cause they can't buy a job

11)When Mountains Crumble to the sea-there will still be you-and me

12) But it's all right now-I learned my lesson well

13) So high I can't get over it-So low I can't get under it

14) And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing, And it echoed through the canyon -Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

15) You told me to leave you alone- My father said come on home

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Birding Challenge For You!

There are many different ways that you can enjoy birding or birdwatching. Some birders like to see the most species possible. Others like to find rare birds. Sunday I decided to try another variation. I wanted to visit a location in my home town that I had never birded before.

The location I chose to explore the area surrounding The Portland High School. I did not choose this location because I thought it to be prime birding habitat. There are no ponds, abandoned fields, or swamps there. It is a series of ball fields surrounded by a shallow border of woods.years ago, there was a pretty deep patch of woods surrounding the school. Some how, houses managed to squeeze their way in to these areas over the years.

My main motivation was just plain old curiosity. I just wanted to find out what birds would be there. For the most part, it was what I expected. Pretty much the same birds that I see at my bird feeders on a daily basis (not that there's anything wrong with that). I found it very refreshing to search for birds in these new surroundings, and there were a few surprises.

The first surprise, came when I ran in to a group of 8 Tufted Titmice. Many of them appeared to be young birds.They were making every sound that I recall Tufted Titmice ever making.they were squeaking, whistling, squawking, talking, and hissing. It was quite a show! They were bouncing in and out of branches at a furious pace. So I learned, this must be a nice area for these birds to raise a family.

I was also pleased to learn that there were plenty of Eastern Bluebirds here. I came across a few adult birds and several young ones.

It was nice to find several fruit bearing trees, pine trees , and a healthy patch of blackberries bordering the school grounds.

Some of the views like this one looking off in to the distance were rather pleasent. This is a photo of a hill they call the sleeping giant, which is about 40 or so miles away. Can you see the sleeping giant?

I was also enjoyed observing some flycatchers. The one pictured above, was flying out from its perch to snag insects. It didn't bob its tail but looks like an Eastern Phoebe because of the dark head. There was also Great-crested Flycatchers in the area. I don't know if there is an increase in Great-crested Flycatchers this year, or if I'm just getting better at finding them. They make a kind of croaking call, or some times a giant weeeep sound.

Other birds of note were: Barn Swallows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers,Baltimore Orioles, Northern Flickers, Chimney Swift-(looks like swallow with a cigar shaped body when it flies) , and Cedar Waxwings. Is there anything particularly special about the birds I saw? The answer is all relative to your expectations. The birds I saw on this particular day at this particular location, were exciting to me.






Saturday, June 23, 2007

What You Talkin 'Bout Willet?

My vacation came to an end last week. It went by all too fast.-Doesn't it always seem to be that way? I decided to stop at a few spots along the shoreline last Thursday. On the ride down, I listened to a novelty c.d. someone had given to me. It contained theme songs from famous television programs. I think this may have altered my birding strategy a little bit. Almost every time I would see a bird, a television character seemed to come to mind. For example, I was trying to decide what kind of bird the shorebird in the above picture was. Suddenly, the voice of Gary Coleman popped in to my head.-"What you talkin 'bout Willis?"-Willet !-that's it.-thanks Gary.

The Willets were flying around the park making lots of noise.They have a really nice white wing pattern when they fly. They would sometimes land in the tops of trees and start squawking.It looked like they might be keeping track of their young.

After seeing these two elegant birds, I thought of a title for an avian movie review show. . They could call it "Ibis And Egret" -or---maybe not. I believe the top picture is a Glossy Ibis. I don't know why the bill is so white looking on this one-it sure is a unique looking bill though. I think it's probably due to the lighting. Glossy Ibis is the most likely Ibis to be seen in Connecticut. There is an interesting article about Ibis identification in the latest edition of Birdwatcher's Digest. The second photo is a Snowy Egret. Note that is has a dark bill with yellow lores at the base, and a tuft of feathers off the back of the head. They also have yellow feet (not seen).The similar Great Egret, has a yellowish bill, no plumes on the back of the head, and dark feet.

"HOLY COMMON YELLOWTHROAT BATMAN"-Do you think this Common Yellowthroat, looks a little like the boy wonder from Batman? He sure has the right mask for the part. Can you think of any other birds that are ready for prime time?

There were plenty of other birds along the shoreline. A nice flock of about 20 Cedar Waxwings, and a Brown Thrasher are a couple that come to mind. On this day, I spent more time watching indivdual birds rather than focusing on trying to see lots of species. It was a nice way to wrap up my vacation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What's This Stuff?

I know that many of you are good at identifying butterflies, insects and plants.I'm going to take a look in a small butterfly i.d. book to see if I can identify the butterflies, but I'm not ready to start looking up plants and insects yet. So-let's make a game of it. We'll start with the butterflies.-I saw this beauty at the Portland Reservoir.-give it a click.-Can You Identify Me?
I saw these two butterflies in the field near the Portland Riverfront Trail. Why do butterflies keep flying in circles before they finally decide to land? I was losing my patience waiting for them. -They look kind of similar in color but only one seems to have tails at the end. Are they different species? Can you identify them?
Here's a plant that was growing in the tidal sand along the Connecticut River near the fairgrounds in Portland.-What's This Stuff?
I can't believe that I took pictures of ferns. It must be one of those nature blogs like A Passion For Nature or Somewhere In New Jersey that has me looking at stuff like this. I saw these in the shaded woods below the pines in Portland Reservoir.They look different-are they? What kind are they?

Here's two more plants I found in the fields and woods near the river.They were minding their own business when I came along. Can you identify them?

Finally, here are some insects. The top one, I saw in New Hampshire last week. The bottom one I saw today. This is really bugging me.-What are they?
Are you seeing these same plants, butterflies, and insects in your area?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Songbird Lyrics Game

Name The Song That The Lyrics Belong To And/Or An Artist Who Sang It-
Let Us Know Which Ones You Knew- If They've Already Been Answered
a) Ones that are solved will turn to black.-b)Ones that are partly solved will turn to gray-c)Blue=unsolved.
1)Through all these cities -and all these towns-It's in my blood- and it's all around...

2)Sometimes I'm right- and I can be wrong- My own beliefs are in my song..

3)Who am I to disagree? -I travel the world -And the seven seas...

4) People say that love's a game- A game you just can't win...

5) The road is long-With many a winding turn-That leads us to who knows where-Who knows when...

6)all my instincts, they return-and the grand facade, so soon will burn- without a noise, without my pride-I reach out from the inside

7)The birds, like tender babies in your hands-And the old men playing checkers by the trees

8) 'Know it sounds funny but I just can't stand the pain-

9) Can't you hear the pitter-pat-And that happy tune is your step-Life can be complete...

10) I've been in my mind,-it's such a fine line...

11) Love you ev'ry day girl,-Always on my mind. One thing I can say girl,-Love you all the time...

12)Take me- to the magic of the moment- On a glory night -Where the children of tomorrow- share their dreams -With you and me

13) He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below, saw everything as far as you can see.

14)He came, on a summer's day-Bringing gifts, from far away

15) Good Christians, fear, for sinners here-The silent Word is pleading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fooled By A Kinglet -The Final Chapter

When I Boreal Chickadee -(not too hard to locate).Unfortunately, I didn't find either one of those species. These Gray Jays showed up to console me. The top one is an adult and the bottom one is the darker juvenile. They are fairly tame around people and will look for a handout. I didn't have any food, so they didn't hang around for long.
I walked down a desolate logging trail for about 2 miles. This is the second year in a row that I came across a cluster of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies.This must be a common occurence in this area during the month of June. I still think it's an awesome sight to see.

Among the birds that I saw was the familiar American Redstart. I see lots of those during the spring and summer down in Connecticut. I never get tired of seeing them though. One bird that I'm not used to seeing in Connecticut is the Bay-breasted Warbler. I came across two males. I forsook the photo opportunity in order to enjoy a nice view though the binoculars. They did not show themselves for long. Two of my best views were of a Canada Warbler(lifer), and the flaming orange Blackburnian Warbler. The Canada Warbler gave me a nice view of the black necklace.

I was in a territory called Scott's Bog. It seemed there was no one around for miles out in this secluded area. Suddenly, an SUV appeared from no where. A woman and her husband pulled up along side of me to find out what birds I had seen this morning. Wouldn't you know it turned out that I knew them from a birding field trip I had been on in Connecticut.

We spent a short time watching birds together. There was a nice view of Osprey flying overhead. Some how it was more of a treat to watch them out in the woods than it is to see them down by the shore where there are dozens of platforms set up for them.

There was one bird that had us totally confused. It was singing away at full volume from the top of a Pine Tree. For a while, we could hear the bird but not see it.What could be singing such a bold song?-a Robin-no it wasn't a Robin's song. Then we had a glimpse of the head and part of the body. It was surely too big to be a Warbler, and didn't seem to have a Warbler's song. The head seemed to be darker like a Blue-headed Vireo but it had a different song. No other Vireo seemed to match the description. Finally, we had a glimpse of red on top of the head.

It was none other than the Ruby-crowned Kinglet , which is a nesting bird in Pittsburg New Hampshire. I had never heard a Kinglet sing in Connecticut. In Connecticut they flit from tree to tree making barely audible ringing sounds. They do not perch at the top of a tree with their body fully outstretched singing delightful songs. Laugh if you want, but we were fooled. I'd be embarrassed to tell you some of the identification guesses that we made but that's one of things that makes birding fun.

I didn't get to do as much birding as I would have liked to. I'm already looking forward to visiting this area next year, in hopes of finding the Boreal Chickadee and Black-backed Woodpecker.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New Hampshire's Connecticut Lakes-Part II

There are so many fishing possibilities in Pittsburg, that you just can't cover all the possibilities in a week. There is also a nice variety of restaurants for such a small town-(there was a total of nine graduates this year). It's hard to tell who works at the restaurants and who owns them. The owners often sit out and fraternize with the customers.

Most of the locals tend to be very friendly. Some call people from out of state - "flatlanders". They are unhappy with some people from out of state who have been purchasing land and building fancy houses for occasional use.

I had my fill of fishing and eating for the week. I'd been looking forward to venturing out on one of the logging trails to see what birds and wildlife I might encounter. Moose like the one in the top photo are a common sight along route 3. People ride out to a certain portion of the road called "Moose Alley" to look for moose each night. Usually a dozen or more moose can be seen. Route 3 is really the only main pave road. It takes you right in to Canada. Pretty much all other roads are dirt roads or logging roads off of route 3.

This Red Fox seemed to be preoccupied with it's young ones.One can be seen poking its head over the rock.

There are plenty of Common Loons in the area. I passed this one on the First Connecticut Lake on my way to East Inlet-(known to be good for birding).

Did I have a sudden urge for Ice Cream at 6am in the morning? Maybe-but that's not why I stopped here.
There were Cliff Swallows nesting under the eaves of the building, so I stopped to get a photo. It seems as though I'm getting off track a bit, so I will finish with Part 3 tommorrow.-

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Hampshire's Connecticut Lakes-Part I

If you're looking for excitement, Pittsburg- New hampshire is probably not the place to go. There's not much in the way of culture or entertainment. So what's so special about this area? Almost all of the woods and water are protected here. People come for fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, moose watching, and let's not forget my personal favorite-birding.

I was officially here as part of a group fishing trip. Not surpringly, I still managed to squeeze in some birding during my stay. Even if I din't look for birds, they would find me anyway.

We were greeted by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers upon arrival. The male has a brilliantly colored red throat. It makes a sound that reminds me of one of those little squeeze toys. They stayed near our cabin during our entire stay. This was a treat, because I don't often see them in Connecticut.
Our Cabin sat upon the bank of The Connecticut River. It is just a stream in Pittsburg, but turns in to a major river before it empties in to long Island sound in Connecticut. Common Mergansers, like this one, would repeatedly fly upstream, then drift by our cabin.

Red Squirrels, and chipmunks also kept us company. One chipmunk ran across the top of my foot when I was sitting on the porch. One thing that I can not understate, is the chorus of bird song we heard. Black-throated Green Warblers could be heard singing from every direction from our cabin from dawn till dusk. Northern Parulas, Pileated Woodpeckers, Belted Kingfishers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Swainson's Thrush, American Redstarts, and Winter Wrens were other birds that we could hear on a daily basis. The Eastern Phoebes were nesting under the eave of the porch.

It was a real treat just to sit on the porch and look across the river to see nothing but pine trees. There was also a dead tree that was over 100 feet tall on the opposite banks. Several birds including Cedar Waxwings, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Common Ravens could be seen perching on it. I am still trying to catch up with things at home, so I will continue with more details in Part two.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Songbird Lyrics Game

  • Name the song that the lyrics belong to and/or someone who performed that song.
  • I will turn the lyrics to black as I notice that they have been answered correctly.
  • Feel free to mention the ones that you knew but didn't get a chance to answer.

1)Born in the heat of the desert- My mother died giving me life- Despised and disliked by my father -Blamed for the loss of his wife -(performed live by a man they nicknamed "The King.")

2) When I was young-I never needed anyone

3) You are the one -who can make us all laugh-But doing that -you break out in tears.(Lead singer of the group that performed this song was Steve Winwood).

4) Mm-mm, you can almost taste the hot dogs and French fries they sell.

5) The canvas can do miracles-Just you wait and see.

6) My old man worked 20 years on the line and they let him go.-Now everywhere he goes out looking for work they just tell him that he's too old.

7)There's a tugboat, huh, huh, down by the river dontcha know.

8) When it all was over-We had to find another place-But Swiss time was running out-It seemed that we would lose the race.

9) Well, I’ve got to run to keep from hiding-And I'm bound to keep on riding.

10) People say I'm the life of the party-Cause I tell a joke or two

11) I was caught- In the middle of a railroad track -I looked round-And I knew there was no turning back -------

12)But your thoughts will soon be wandering -the way they always do- When you're ridin' sixteen hours and there's nothin' much to do.

What's This Stuff?

I planted these two flower plants a year or two ago. Now, I can't remember what they are. What is this stuff?

I saw about a dozen of these clumpy looking green plants in a field. It looks like it's going to turn in to something. What is this stuff?-thanks on all accounts.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Close Call With A Tornado In The Great North Woods

I have gone on a fishing trip nearly every year, for the past 30 years. My father and I, along with a few of the guys, rent a cabin in northern Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont. Some of these areas are very remote. Large portions of northern Maine have territories instead of towns. Over the years, I've had some interesting experiences on some of these trips. I never bothered taking photos, and I didn't keep a journal. The following story is based on a memory from one particular fishing trip in Jackman Maine , about 25? years ago.

It was mid May. I was with my father and another guy named Fred, sitting in a small aluminum boat on Heald Pond. We had hauled this boat, along with a motor about half a mile through thick woods to get to this pond. We were always willing to put forth extra effort to find a fishing spot that had the promise Trophy Brook Trout, or square-tails as the natives called them. We enjoyed some tremendous fishing that day. This was one of the few times that a place actually lived up to its reputation.

I remember at one point, I observed a fish jump 2-3 feet out of the water. What was it doing? I wondered. It turns out that it was a Landlocked Salmon. It had picked up my worm from the bottom of the pond, and I didn't even know it.-enough of the fishing. Oh yes, I should mention that I enjoyed seeing the Common Loons swimming around us. I was amazed at how long they could stay under water .

We were drifting in the middle of the pond, which was maybe a mile wide. The weather was perfect. It was a sunny day with bright blue skies and very little wind. After spending a couple of peaceful hours fishing, I noticed a wall of very black clouds way off in the distance. They seemed to be many miles away, so I ignored them. A couple of minutes later, I noticed that they had cut their distance in half already. I said "Dad, maybe we should move a little closer to shore. Those clouds seem to be gaining on us." My father wasn't impressed with the clouds, but started to casually move us in a little closer to the shore.

We didn't make it 50 feet , before this storm was on top of us. The rain poured down so hard, that I couldn't even see the shoreline. The sky was so very dark, and the black clouds seemed to be just over our heads. We were going full speed ahead, hoping to find any portion of the shore. We actually crashed in to the bank. The three of us, ran in desperation, trying to find some shelter. We ended up in a dirt hole from a large uprooted tree. I was able to make out a white blurb in the center of all the black clouds, and there was a strange whistling noise. I think it was Fred that mentioned the possibility of some sort of Tornado. Seconds after the white blurb passed by, we heard trees crashing in the woods. The sound reminded me of the original King Kong Movie. You could hear the sound of an awesome force smashing trees to the ground but Kong was not visible. Hearing, but not seeing added to the drama.

The storm passed as quickly as it came. When we returned to town, we saw more destruction.The front of a store had been ripped off and a logging truck, loaded up with trees, was determined that it had been a Tornado.We never saw the funnel cloud, but the experience certainly left a lasting memory.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Silence Sweet Silence

I visited a somewhat overlooked State Park today, called The George Dudley Seymour State Park. The land used to be part of the estate owned by the Clark Brothers.The family tried to turn it in to a resort around the time of The Great Depression but the business failed. It was then purchased by the state with the help of George D. Seymour.

The entrance to the park is at the end of a dead end road. There are three giant cement blocks that barricades a bridge leading to an abandoned road. Once you cross that bridge everything changes.

The road follows a stream that flows thirty feet below the road. Walls of rock surround you on both sides. Large trees converge overhead to create a tunnel effect. I could feel the temperature drop significantly as I continued further down the rapidly declining hill. Something else happened too. I started to hear the sound of silence. All I can hear now is a babbling brook and birds singing. The effect this has on me is sudden and powerful. My breathing slows down and gets deeper. My mind is free and clear.

I was hearing some familiar songs around me: Baltimore Oriole, Black-throated Green Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Scarlett Tanager, Eastern Wood-pewee. and Wood Thrush.

Suddenly I heard a powerful sound echoing through the woods. It was the sound of an owl-but which kind. I've rarely seen or heard any owls while birding other than the Great horned Owl. I started to remember that the Barred Owl has a "Who Cooks for you?" call that seemed to fit what I was hearing. It was very close, and I loved hearing the sound of this owl's call echoing through the woods. I climbed the side of a large rock and entered a little further in to the woods until I saw a pair of big eyes staring at me.I took a couple of pictures, knowing that my camera does not take good pictures in poor lighting. I filmed the owl as well, but seeing the finished product would give you motion sickness. I spent about half an hour watching the owl. Several times it was mobbed by Jays and other birds.
I thought about calling it a day. I figured that nothing could top my excitement of seeing the owl but I continued on as it was still very early. I exited the woods and entered the portion of the park which is comprised of fields and swamp bordering the Connecticut river. A seemingly distressed Great Blue Heron passed overhead making very loud squawking sounds. Two immature Bald Eagles landed in a tree at the far end of the field. That's good to see-not all the eagles are adults.

I came to a point where the grass was high and wet.That meant I would have to get wet if I wanted to continue through the fields.-Is it worth it?-I thought to myself. probably not, but what if there is a rare bird at the other end of the field? So I continued on.

Tree Swallows,Yellow-billed Cuckoo-nothing rare. Now the bugs were starting to get hungry, even willing to eat through deet. I was getting a bit agitated. Sometimes when bugs are bothering me, I write an imaginary letter-so I started one:

Deer Flies, Please get off of me. What have I ever done to you?

After stopping for breakfast (Texas French Toast with strawberries and bananas)-I went back to the spot where I thought that I heard a Kentucky Warbler yesterday. It wasn't there.

I did see the above flowers growing in the middle of a farm field. Does anyone know what it is?

So today, the magic moments came as I traveled though the silent tunnel. Once I got to where I was going, I turned around and went back. Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.-Don't you think?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I was able to get in about an hour of birding this morning between 6am and 7am before I had to tend to the mighty list of chores.

Since my time was limited, I decided my best option would be best to have a look at my local patch. Brown Thrashers are a species of special concern in Connecticut. I wanted to see if I could find evidence that they might be nesting in the area. I carefully checked out various thick shrubs along the Connecticut River. this was where I had found them in previous years. I heard a sudden ruckus as two Yellow Warblers chased a Blue Jay with Gray Catbirds squawking during the whole scene. I'm curious about how Catbirds and Yellow Warblers interact with each other. They seem to nest in the same areas and I'm curious as to whether they interact with each other in any way. Cardinals are often in the same vicinity too, but they seem to keep to themselves.

After 20 minutes of searching, I found no sign of a Brown Thrasher. I was about to leave the area, when I heard the familiar double talking songs of a Brown Thrasher. It was coming from within a large, dense shrub. I waited several minutes to get a look. Finally, a Brown Thrasher popped up on a branch for a few seconds before disappearing in to another shrub not to be seen again. With the way these thrashers behave, I wonder if they might be more common than we think. It seems very difficult to see them during nesting season.

After finding the Thrasher, I had a look though a different area. I spotted a Cuckoo passing through but don't know which one. People I've talked to seem to get excited about Cuckoos and want to know where to find them. I've been seeing them most of the places I've visited over the past few weeks.

Naturally, I saw lots of other birds along the way, but there are two that I had particular interest in. One was an epidonax flycatcher that seemed to be giving a two syllable call. I believe it was a Willow Flycatcher, as I went back to listen to the song on c.d. I was glad to hear it call, because I haven't had much experience with epidonax calls.

As I came to the last part of my walk, I listened as several American Redstarts were singing. There was one song mixed in that stood out in stark contrast from the others. It was a call that had similarities to a Carolina Wren or an Ovenbird. After listening and pondering a bit, I decided it might be the song of the Kentucky Warbler. I had seen one a week before at a different location. I could not get a look at this bird after 20 minutes of searching and it was time to go. I decided to record the song using a built in recorder on my camera.

When I arrived home, I was very disappointed to find out that I hadn't actually recorded the song. I must have done it wrong. The type of camera I have, is supposed to be for clueless people like me who just want to point and shoot. There are so many potential settings on it, you would think it was designed for a professional photographer. Kentucky Warbler would have been a nice find on my own stomping grounds. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Switching Gears For Summer

Spring Migration has been terrific. I didn't get to see every bird that I wanted to, but I certainly wasn't disappointed. I always prefer to be left wanting more.

Now it's time to switch gears, and prepare for some summer birding. I know of some birders who consider summer a time to take a break from birding all together. I see it as an opportunity to be more selective.

There are a few things I don't like about the summer birding such as heat, humidity, mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks, and dense foliage. How do we deal with these problems?
  • Heat/humidity-One way I deal with this is by getting up extra early to go birding 5am is best but no later than 6am. Even in the hottest part of the summer, it tends to be reasonably cool early in the morning. There also tends to be fewer bugs first thing in the morning. -Other ways of staying cool are to bird in the deeply shaded woods, higher elevations, or near the shoreline, where there is a breeze.
  • Mosquitoes/biting flies/ticks-I use long sleeved clothing made of light material and lots of insect repellent with deet. I really don't like using this stuff but I couldn't tolerate birding if I was getting bit by mosquitoes all the time. It's just a necessary evil. Just shower it off when you get home.
  • Dense foliage-If you go birding at the shore or in an open field, it's not a problem. I sometimes prefer to be deep in the heart of the woods.In the summer, that can make it extremely difficult to see birds. The solution? 1-Work on your birding by ear. Try to use your own personal strategies to figure out which birds are making what noise.-take notes, check your field guide-listen to bird song cd's etc. 2-The other strategy I like to employ in this situation, is to select an area you believe will be good for birds-(maybe near a stream for example)-and sit. If you stay in one place, birds should eventually come in to your viewing area. I've seen some really neat birds this way. I remember watching nesting male and female Hooded Warblers landing right near me , acting as if I didn't even exist.

There are several other things that I am looking forward to during the summer months:

  • One thing is vacation. I'll soon be going on a fishing trip to the Connecticut Lakes Region in Pittsburg New Hampshire (top pic). Here, I will be able to look for some of the Boreal species of birds that I'm unable to see in this area such as the Boreal Chickadee and Black-backed Woodpecker.
  • I will also be checking the B-mail for reports of rare species. If there is an interesting species reported that's not too far , I may take a ride to see it. I'm not big on listing, but it never hurts to see new birds.
  • This is also a good time to check out some new areas. Since you don't feel like your missing out on anything, you can take your time to investigate new areas.
  • I'm looking forward to experimenting with my camera, to see if I can get better results. Maybe I'll even read the owner's manual.
  • Summer is a good time to relax and enjoy the birds and flowers of your backyard. Add to that a little music, a book, or a cold glass of iced tea-ahh-The Good Old Summertime.
  • I can work on learning shorebirds. This is the group of birds that I've most neglected to learn.
  • Why not try to do a little sketching or start a little birding diary?
  • I plan on looking for some lesser known field trips, or maybe I'll lead my own field trip.
  • For those of you who live in CT., don't forget to check out A Connecticut Birding Year. This is an excellent rescource provided by the COA. It has birding strategies for each of the different seasons in Connecticut.

So-as you can see, the approach of summer does not mean birding is over and done with.

-What are you looking forward to over the summer?-