Monday, July 30, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
So, why is the top photo of an American Goldfinch and not of a shorebird? In order to get a good view of shorebirds , you need to go when the tide is low. This way, you can observe shorebirds feeding on the mudflats. I miscalculated, and showed up when the mud flats were already submerged.
Time was running out, and I had to make a quick decision on where to do some birding. One of places in Connecticut that is a consistently good birding spot is Hammonasset State Park. I usually like to explore lesser known areas, but it's nice to have this park available as a fallback plan. This is a place that is a good location to see land birds as well as shorebirds.
The park didn't open until 8a.m , so I decided to grab a coffee and a bit of breakfast to pass the time. I walked out of a Dunkin Donuts and a Friendly's because they were too busy. I finally found a private breakfast restaurant where I had a ham and cheese omelet, along with a cup of coffee.
Upon arriving at the park, I saw this Willet sitting on a sign. It seems that the state has decided to train Willets to patrol no trespassing areas in order to save a few tax dollars. Awfully nice of them, don't you think?
Here are a few interesting facts about the Willet ( from the DEP):
- Willets are one of the noisiest of birds on their breeding grounds. When disturbed, the birds will fly around or perch on trees as they loudly scold the intruder. I can personally attest to this. There was plenty of noisy scolding going on.
- Adults have been observed moving their young from danger by clasping the chicks between their legs and flying to safety. I haven't seen this. Although it might be interesting to watch, it's probably better if the birds aren't in danger. Have you observed this behavior in birds before?
- The willet’s partially webbed feet (hence the species name semipalmatus) give them the ability to swim well, although they primarily walk or wade as they search for food.
- The willet was listed as a state threatened species when Connecticut first established its endangered and threatened species list in 1992. Surveys in the 1990's indicated willets breeding at several locations in Connecticut. In 1998, the willet was officially reclassified to a species of special concern.
I believe this is a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. I once had field trip leader point this bird out to me. I caught a quick glimpse, but it was nothing more than a little brown job to me. Today, I had a nice view, and took these two photos of the bird. It seems to have the field markings of the S S-t Sparrow (orange malar, long bill, flattish head,distinct streaks), but I wouldn't mind getting a confirmation from someone who is familiar with the bird. One bird that was seen but not heard, was a Marsh Wren. This would also be a lifer for me, but I'm holding off on putting that one on my list until I see it. I will make an H-for heard mark on my life list next to the Marsh Wren.
I did come across a few shorebirds on the way out. There were Semipalmated Plovers, a Dowitcher (not sure which one), and the Semipalmated Sandpipers seen in the photo (right?). They were probing for food and bathing in a little saltwater pond.
One of my favorite moments came when I was watching Cedar Waxwings hover over a salt marsh. I actually thought they were going to be Eastern Kingbirds when I first saw them. They must have been feeding on some sort of insect, which is a small part of their diet. This is the first time that I have observed this behavior. Up until today, I've only seen them eat fruit and berries.This Carolina Wren sang like a Carolina Wren, but was looking a bit tattered. I did see many other birds during the course of the morning including Osprey, Swallows, Flycatchers, Glossy Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and 18 Northern Mockingbirds!-That's right-I counted 18. They were all over the place.
On the way out, I was surprised to see a small flock of Monk Parakeets . They are considered a nuisance by many because of their habit of building huge nests on the tops of telephone poles. For me, it was a nice surprise to see them because I had never seen them at Hammonasset before.
That is my birding report for today. It didn't go exactly the way that I planned, but some times you just have to go with the flow. Have you ever had a sudden change in plans that led you to discovering something new?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I found these wasps buzzing around in a sandy area. I wasn't sure whether to take a picture of them, or run for my life.These are the biggest hornets that I have ever seen! They're almost two inches long! It was actually easy to identify them. I just googled large ground hornets, and these were the first to come up. I found out that they are not very aggressive. Only the female has a stinger, and they are actually considered to be a beneficial insect. Do you know the name of these wasps?
Here are two sets of prints. Do you know which animals these belong to?
There were several hundred of these mushrooms in one area. What kind are they? Are they poisonous?
THESE ARE STUBBORN WEEDS THAT SHOW UP IN MY YARD EVERY YEAR!
The first three weeds are very aggressive, and really get on my nerves. I try to tell them they're not welcome in my yard, but they don't listen. Do you know what they are, and the best way to get rid of them? Do any of them have any provide any benefit?
The last one likes to get in my trees and hedges. They're not much of a problem, and I like the bright colored berries. I'm guessing birds would probably eat these too. Can you tell me what they are?
Monday, July 23, 2007
Here is a photo of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. It was fluttering its wings while probing its beak in to a bush trying to catch bugs. Kinglets seem to have that same type of fluttering motion. These birds have a tail with a white boder on the outside edge. It is kind of difficult to see that from this photo.
This is a young American Redstart featuring a grayish head, yellow on the sides, and yellow showing on the side of the tail in this photo.
This is a Blue-winged Warbler. There was no bee-buzz sound today though. I think that they are fresh out of bee-buzz for the year. Fall migration is just around the corner.
I was fortunate to be able to get reasonably close to these tiny birds. They usually don't stay out in the open long enough to give me a chance to take their picture. Other times they stay within the foliage, and end up coming out blurry.
I also some other interesting birds. I spotted 4 Bobolinks mixed in with the 100's of Red-winged Blackbirds flocking in the main field. I saw a Solitary-Solitary Sandpiper picking through the mudflats along the river bank. There was a variety of Flycatchers: Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Kingbird, Black and White Warbler,Great-crested Flycatcher, and Empidonax Flycatchers. The Empidonax flycatchers are getting on my nerves a little bit. They're not giving me any clues by making some noise.
I like birding alone, but wish you could have a life-line like you get on one of those quiz shows. It would be nice if someone like Ken Kaufman or Julie Zickefoose would suddenly materialize to help with a difficult identifications.
A fellow blogger, who also reads my blog, recently sent me an e-mail. It suggested that the phrase- "novice birder" which I use in my heading, does not match my birding ability. I have been birding every weekend for about 4 years now. If I were to talk to a non-birder about birds, they would think that I'm very knowledgeable. When I am birding with an experienced birder, I am a novice who makes many mistakes. I don't own Leica binoculars or scopes. I've never been birding in Texas, South America, or any other any other exotic locale. I'm uncomfortable trying to identify many sparrows, shorebirds, and Warblers within my own state. I often seek second opinions on the identification of birds. Thanks , but I'll stick with the title novice birder for a few more years. What level would you classify yourself as a birder? What are your strong points and weak points?People have a habit of abandoning their cars at Wangunk Meadows. I've been looking for something that gets better gas mileage. This one has a few miles on it, but with some new tires and a fresh coat of paint, it should be as good as new.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Along the way, I heard the keeyuur keyuur call of the Red-Shouldered Hawk but never did actually see the bird. There was a the sudden flash of a Pileated Woodpecker flying across the trail. The view was brief but unmistakable. I heard a loud PIK sound coming from a tree on my left. After careful searching, I was able to get a brief but clear glimpse of a Hairy Woodpecker. I heard the song of the Wood Thrush. The bird was in a ravine which seemed to amplify the song and create a beautiful echoing effect. My last memorable view was that of the Black-throated Green Warbler pictured above. The photo was taken from a distance, but you can clearly see the field marks. So often I hear the zee zee zee zee zo zeet song of this bird but rarely get a good look at this bird. I was fortunate to have such a nice view of one on this day.
On the way out, I came across a couple of dogs. I called this one Toto. He seemed to pop up out of the woods from nowhere. Apparently, I was getting a little too close to his property boundary.
This dog recently had stitches and is wearing the cone so it doesn't take them out. When I see a dog wearing these, it reminds me of the old RCA Victor records which featured a picture of a dog sitting next to a Victrola. In this case, it looks like the dog got his head stuck in a Victrola.
I had to work to see the birds today. I would catch a little bit of a song, and then search carefully to catch a glimpse of the songster. I would often catch only brief glimpses, making it a challenge to make an identification. I liked it that way for a change. Some times, less is more. It's reminds me of a good book or movie that builds suspense. I don't always need to see everything in full view. A brief sound or glimpse helps to build a sense of curiosity.
It was not just the birding that I enjoyed. As I walked along the former train tracks, I wondered about the people who traveled through here in the past. The numerous stone walls winding through the dark woods added to the mystery. When walking old trails, do you ever think about the people who may have walked the same steps before you?
Friday, July 20, 2007
- Portland's plan to build a a Connecticut River boat launch near the Portland fairgrounds was halted by the DEP. The reason? There is a nearby island that is home to the Puritan Tiger Beetle which happens to be a threatened species. The sandy beaches of the Connecticut River, and the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, are the only known places that they exist. I've owned a boat for many years, but I didn't want a launch built at the fairgrounds. I wasn't worried about beetles. I was worried about the effect it would have on some of the birds that I see in this area. I must admit, I thought this beetle thing was a silly reason to stop a boat launch. Now that I've read a little bit about it-maybe it's not so silly.
- The Audubon Society has determined that many common species of birds are in rapid decline. This is no big surprise to me. The world's population has grown from 3 billion in 1960 to nearly 7 billion today, and we are continually ripping up land for development.
- I recently read about Argentavis , which was known to be the world's largest flying bird. It had a wingspan of 21 feet. Can you imagine a bird with a 21 foot wingspan flying over your house? That would be such an unbelievable sight.
I hope to do a little bit of birding Saturday and Sunday. I'm also planning to spend some time at the Hartford Jazz Festival. I'm only a casual fan of jazz, but it sure is a nice way to enjoy a summer day. Have a Great Weekend Everyone!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Granby had an event called the painted horse parade this year. Local artists painted scenes on horse statues which were displayed around town. Apparently, some of the horses didn't know the parade was over, because they never went home. Does this type of event take place in your region? After making a stop at East Granby Farm-(Nice views of Killdeer, Swallows, and a Wood Duck), I ended up at Northwest Park in Windsor. I didn't spend much time there because it was a bit crowded with joggers, soccer teams, and people walking their dogs. This turtle came over to say hello to me.-What kind of turtle is it?
My best view of the day was probably of this Green Heron. This bird is not uncommon in Connecticut, but I don't see them all that often. The whole scale of common, uncommon, and rare doesn't match what I see anyway. I commonly see some uncommon birds, and rarely see some birds that are considered common. Wasn't it nice of this Heron to help the frog back in to the pond?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
PART I-THE GOOD: Seeing a new bird in your backyard can be a thrilling experience. A few years back, I remember an exotic looking bluish bird visited one of our feeders. Look at that beautiful blue color! What is it? After a little research, I figured out that I had seen an Indigo Bunting.
My wife recently had such an experience. Over the past month, She has been observing the courtship behavior of one dominant male pigeon in our yard. She has been impressed by the way the male fluffs his feathers, up and herds all the other pigeons like a flock of sheep. Last Wednesday, she was talking to me on the phone and said she noticed a pigeon with oddly colored feet.-"Wait a minute-It has a different colored band on each leg!" she exclaimed excitedly. She described the various coloring of feathers and overall size to me. Also noted, was the number 41 was on one of the leg bands (I'm not really that interested in pigeons but I'm pleased that my wife is subtly honing her birding skills). After asking around, we discovered that this was more than likely a racing pigeon. I don't know much about pigeon racing. If you are familiar with this sport, I would appreciate any additional information you could give me. This Pigeon is surely going to lose the race. It's been hanging out in our yard all week now.
What bird had you excited the first time you saw it in your yard?
Other than the pigeons, Tufted Titmice and American Goldfinches have been the most common visitors to our feeders this month. There has also been plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers , Common Grackles, House Finches, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Black-capped Chickadees and Blue Jays at the feeders.
This is a Mimosa Tree in our backyard. Many birds, including Baltimore Orioles and Hummingbirds enjoy picking at the flowers on this tree. Recently, I found out that this tree is considered to be invasive. From what I understand, they are a a problem in the southern states. They don't seem to be a problem in this area. Does anyone know if having one of these trees in your yard can cause any problems?
PART II-THE BAD: The weather has been extremely hot and humid this week. Extreme humidity is like Kryptonite to me. It has dampened my enthusiasm for birding, or any other activity that involves physical movement.
On a more serious note, the towns of Bloomfield and Granby have been leveling huge sections of wooded areas and Farm fields for industrial development over the past few months. No wonder bears and foxes have been visiting us at my worksite (Granby/Bloomfield border). They're running out of space to live. This should be good news for House Sparrows though.
PART III-THE UGLY: Despite the heat, I decided to take a short walk to do some birding on a nearby nature trail. Seeing this pile of junk in the middle of the trail entrance, was enough to make me turn around and go back home. I tried to envision what type of person would leave a pile of debris consisting of discarded vinyl siding, nails, shingles, insulation, and various other rubbish.
Then it dawned on me. Maybe somebody was trying to make their own contribution to the park. Maybe they thought this would add some visual interest to the area.-Or maybe they thought that this would make a nice play area for children. What a wonderful gift! How could I have been so cynical?
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Let us know which ones you knew, even if it has already been answered.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
I had the Eggs Florentine. They stated in the menu that the Mornay Sauce is real, and therefore must be kept at room temperature.Why is Canadian Bacon called bacon?It's really just round slices of ham, isn't it? Anyway, I enjoyed this tasty little breakfast. I washed it down with a little high test coffee.-Good to go!
I investigated the land along these railroad tracks, but not much was going on there. I decided to ease on down, ease on down the road.
I investigated a series of fields along the river in Cromwell Connecticut.The area is called Deadman's Swamp. This field seemed to be filled with the same type of grass. Is this a particular type of grass?
Here is a close-up of the grass which has golden seeds at the top. Can you tell me what it is?
While your at it, here's a couple more. I see the top ones all the time. They look like miniature daisies to me. Are they related to daisies? How about the bottom ones?
There's not a lot for me to report as far as birds go. I saw a lot of Common Yellowthroats and Woodpeckers, like this Northern Flicker. I had a nice view of Eastern Bluebirds and a Great Blue Heron. I enjoyed seeing nesting Baltimore Orioles and American Robins. My favorite moments came when I saw 4 Red-tailed Hawks patrolling one field. I get a little tired of seeing these hawks on the top of telephone poles along the highway, but they're beautiful to watch in a natural setting. They were screeching out their calls continuously. Even the one in the photo can't keep its mouth shut. I wonder what they were saying?-Maybe-Intruder! or Get The Out Of Our Field!
Much time had passed, and it was time to check on my truck. They were supposed to call my cell and update me. It was now 11:30 am and I hadn't heard from them-not a good sign. When I arrived at the service desk, I noted that there was a new guy in charge that I'd never seen before. I asked them to replace my brake pads which were supposedly guaranteed for the life of the car. Some how they came up with a list of repairs, and gave me a rough estimate of $2,300 to fix all of the problems (which is slightly less than the value of the truck). I had about two things to say.-Give me the keys please and goodbye. The only reason I went to this place, is that they were the ones who had put the lifetime warrantied pads in. In all fairness, I didn't give them any chance to explain. I felt the need to leave stat, before I lost my cool.
I immediately dropped the truck off to another mechanic, that I new well. He was unable to detect most of the problems that the other garage found. He informed me that it would be $150.00 to fix my brakes. He suggested that I have the other garage put the free pads in. I asked him to just go ahead and fix the brakes himself. It's kind of like when you're at a restaurant and complain about the food. I'd rather just not pay for a bad meal, rather than have them cook me a new one. You never know what the chef might do to your food after you've complained about it.