Sunday, February 24, 2008

Keeping It Simple

The weather wasn't so great Saturday morning. It was cold and it had just snowed overnight. This wasn't anything that was going to stop me from spending time outdoors, but it limited my options a little. In a way, it's almost a relief when my options are limited because it's easier for me to decide what it is that I want to do. Fewer choices-easier to make a decision. I decided to stay local and keep things simple. Not just on Saturday but for the entire weekend.

  • I stopped at Wethersfield Cove Saturday morning because it was reported that there were 7 immature Bald Eagles hanging out there. I found six Bald Eagles. Four were perched in the same tree across the cove and two were perched in a tree on my side of the cove. A couple of times two of them flew out together and looked as though they were going to lock talons but never actually did. I talked to one of the locals who was confusing Greater Black-backed Gulls with eagles. I made sure that I was ever so subtle in the way I corrected him because I've been there before-quite a few times. Maybe not with eagles but with plenty of other species.
  • I've been taking the time to look at gulls a little more closely this year. Just simple things like paying attention to the color of their feathers, legs, and eyes. I think gulls would be much more interesting to me if I could just find one of those less common ones such as a Glaucous or Iceland Gull on my own. They never seem to be there when I'm looking for them though. I've had someone else point these gulls out to me once or twice but it just isn't the same unless you can find them for yourself. I recently read a nice article from the Jan/Feb issue of Birdwatcher's Digest about identifying the age of gulls based on plumage. The article explained how to do this in a way that seems so much easier than I ever thought it could be. I'm going to carry a chart with me that highlights the key points of the article. Being able to tell the age of gulls should be fun in the way that it's fun to identify a new species of bird. I'm actually looking forward to doing this.
  • It might be a bit difficult to see in the top photo but there were a lot of Common Mergansers along with the gulls. I counted about 40 of them in the cove.
WINTERGREEN WOODS PARK-There are two must own books if you are looking for places to go birding in CT. One is called Connecticut Birding Guide (sold at Audubon Shop in Madison) and Finding Birds In Connecticut. I believe both are available at the ABA sales website or can be taken out from the library (Portland has them both). Finding Birds In Connecticut list a lot more sites (450) but does not give a lot of specifics. I found Wintergreen Woods Park listed in the Wethersfield section which worked out nicely as a second stop right down the road from Wethersfield Cove. It turned out to be a small park with paths leading through a small stand of pines and a few small boardwalks that lead past a few vernal pools. There is a small stream that runs through the area and a portion of the park that has what I call drabitat- (dull looking habitat). I did catch a quick glimpse of a hawk-probably a Cooper's, but possibly a sharpie-I'll just call it a Carpie. No matter how much I talked to that wren in the above photo, it wouldn't look at me and say "cheese".
Sunday was a gorgeous winter day, warm and sunny! I stuck to to my plan of simplicity by staying right in town. Well almost, I did stop briefly at nearby Cromwell Meadows where I saw a Gray Catbird and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Those are birds that are a little bit harder than average to find in Connecticut right now, so I was pleased when I found those two. There were also droves of Northern Cardinals. The male Northern Cardinals seemed to be singing everywhere this weekend.
Most of the birding that I did in Portland was in between various weekend errands. I made a stop at a local boat yard (above) to have a look around with the scope. It was so nice, no one was even around . Unfortunately, neither were the birds.
I was able to find 3 Hooded Mergansers at Great Hill Pond. These mergansers seemed to be taking a nap. There was also one Hooded Merganser occupying a tiny patch of open water in The Brownstone Quarry. While I was at Tri-Town Foods grocery store, I saw a Black Vulture with its silvery tipped wings, flying very high above. I noticed what I think was a small scratch on its left foot, but my eyes aren't what they used to be.

My favorite birding moments of the day took place right down the road from my house at a place we call The Portland Riverfront Trail. There is one area that sits 20 feet below the main trail which is well hidden by brush. There is a secret path that leads to this flat, swampy area. For some reason, there always seems to be lots of active birds at this spot. There is a miniature stream that runs-no, not runs, I would say that it seeps through the area. It rarely has more than an inch of water in it but never seems to run dry. Oddly, it never completely freezes in the winter. I enjoyed watching a pair of Downy Woodpeckers race each other up a tree trunk like two lumberjacks in a tree climbing contest. The birds were seemed so lively here that I just sat still and watched them for more than an hour.
click on play button to view robin video
I'll leave you with this video of an American Robin probing for food in that tiny stream I described (the sound you hear is my lens cap bouncing off the tree that I was leaning up against) . There were actually 30 or 40 robins in the area, all looking for food in this inch deep stream. I know robins are very common birds but it was a serendipitous moment as I watched so many of them foraging for food. They seemed oblivious to my presence. For that hour, I felt like a welcome guest in their secret little world.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I really appreciate that you enjoyed the time just sitting back and watching- that's my favorite way to spend time birding and I love the way you describe yourself as a "welcome guest in their secret little world". That's perfect!

Anonymous said...

Birding is at its best just being out in God's good creation. I know after a really hectic week last week which just left me frayed. I took yesterday afternoon off and just walked out along field and wooded trail. I brought my binos and saw some birds (noting special), but it was just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenated me. Sounds like you might of had one of those type mornings on Sunday.

Ruth said...

Some of those robins may be here by mid-March...I hope. Another great birding/outdoor day.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Great news about the eagles at the cove. We drove by there on Saturday morning. I guess we should have stopped.

I've seen a lot more common mergansers around here this year than I ever have before. There were gazillions out in Southbury last weekend and I saw some in Oakville last week, too.

If you haven't been over to Machimoodus Park in past couple of days, check out my blog for Feb 25th, Larry. I've posted some pictures you might enjoy.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the hints about the cove. We were there last fall, biking through main street to see the witches- and wondered WHY EVERYONE WAS STANDING AT THE COVE WITH BINOCULARS!

We attended the Eagle Festival- my daughter was THRILLED to have a saw whet perch on her arm.

We then went to the poconos for a few days- picked up a cheap pair of binoculars at the flea market. Didn't see many birds there but lots of deer.

Thanks so much for all that you put on here......I come daily looking for new've helped with our new love of birding.

By the way, we have driven past that car in the tree- on the way to the native american festival at Hammonassett.....and STOPPED, went back to look at it.

WHY is it there?

In the poconos- the delaware watergap area there were trees covered in what reminds me of catapillar nests.....the gypsy moth stuff from the late that what it is? Do you know?

thanks again.


Mary said...

Robins are common but they always turn my head. I'm glad you spent time just watching and relaxing. I stop and watch while running errands, too. It's a nice break in the routine. Also, I'm glad you went easy on the poor person with a mistaken ID. We've all been there and it's just a recent memory for me. I once shouted to Michael, "Stop the car! There's a bald eagle out there!" I ran across the road to find Osprey in a nest. Not a bad find, at all, but boy did I feel dumb.

I like the name Carpie. May I use it? LOL!

Cathy said...


What is the sweet bird singing in the background of that wonderful Robin video? I just can't get it.

(How kind of you to go gentle about the Atlantic Black-backed/ Bald Eagle.) You're right. We've all been there.

Kathie Brown said...

Nice post Larry. The robin video is so peaceful. Sounds like you had a great weekend!

Larry said...

Lynne-That is my favorite way too. I am often too restless to settle down in to one spot but I a'm always glad when I do.

Pa-birder-you've got me pegged.-Being out in nature means a lot to me.

ruth-thanks Ruth-maybe some of them might be the exact same ones-you never know(unless Monarch tagged them-then you'd know).

Machimoudus is one of my favorite spots-It's really nice for birding in May.-I hope the state doesn't develop it any more than they have.I certainly will check out your blog post.-You're photos and descriptions are excellent!

Momhawk-I'm glad I didn't scare you away with too much information! Sounds like you've been having a grand old time.-I'd like to post more often but the reality is that I only post about twice a week.-Maybe a little more often in Spring or when I'm on vacation.-Thanks for reading my blog-I really appreciate it!

Mary-Not only have we all been there but I can assure you that I'm not done "being there" yet!
Careful not to hurt your neck when thse robins turn your head!

Cathy-That's a Song Sparrow singing in the background-they do have a sweet song.-According to the guy who wrote The Singing Life OF Birds,Song Sparrows have several songs that are variations of the same song.If you listen carefully you can notice different amount of notes that start similar songs-some times at diferent rates of speed etc.

Lana Gramlich said...

Wrens are very cheeky that way.

Patrice said...

Thanks for taking us along on your week-end outing! I really needed that. Loved the video--so did my cat...

Mary C said...

Hi Larry - I also read that BWD article on identifying gulls. I like the idea about making a chart to highlight the key points to take along. Oh, I love that nickname "Carpie." I'll have to remember that the next time I see one of those birds (and can't distinguish between the two). I love your photo of the Downy. Gosh, I wish I could get that close to one for a photo. Maybe sometime this year... And your robin video was cool. I saw a robin early this morning in my birdbath and was wishing I had my camera in hand and had taken a video of it taking a bath. That would have been so cool. Oh well, maybe another time I'll get one. Glad you had a profitable weekend.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article. And a proof that one does not always have to travel far away to see amazing birds.
Yesterday I spend two hours watching the fights between 5 male Eurasian Blackbirds in our garden. That was very interesting. Those little fellows can be quite aggressive. They only stopped fighting for some time when a Eurasian Sparrowhawk appeared.

RuthieJ said...

That was a nice post Larry and I was happy that you got a nice sunny day on Sunday to go out birding.
I loved the robin video--they're fun birds to watch aren't they, when they're picking around through the duff for a special morsel. Like Cathy, I also wondered what the bird in the background sounds different than my song sparrows with a Midwestern accent!

Birdinggirl said...

I really enjoyed your post Larry- it was great hearing about your weekend birding adventures. I haven't been doing much lately with the snowy/rainy weather- I try to ID the ducks in the river each morning on my way to work, but that's the extent of it. You're certainly motivation to take a walk down to the river and see what I can find in my neighborhood. Honestly though- I'm really just wishing it was spring already! :)

Larry said...

Patrice-Glad you and your cat liked it. What better bird video critic than a cat?

Mary c.-There's usually only a couple of articles in each birding magazine that really catch my attention-that was one of them.I like when I'm able to get close up to birds also.It was a good weekend-different but good.

Larry said...

markus jais-Thanks-I think that your level of enjoyment with watching birds has much to do with your frame of mind at the time.

ruthiej-Glad you liked the video-They are actually fun birds to watch but its easy to take them for granted since there are so many of them.

birdinggirl-Enjoy the approach of Spring too because Spring will come and go in a blink of an eye.

Cathy said...

Larry, I watched the video again. You know? That really is a particularly lovely scene. The light values are wonderful. The Robin's ablutions are so comfortingly familiar. AND that sweet Song Sparrow! But I swear: he's got a different dialect than my Midwestern sparrows.

Larry said...

Cathy-I'm pretty sure that Song Sparrows do have different regional dialects-glad you like the video.

Anonymous said...

Love the robin video and great list of birds! Did you say catbird! Very cool bird for this time of the year! Bravo!

LauraHinNJ said...

Good luck learning those gulls, Larry! Ick - I don't have the patience for that yet.

Common mergansers are among my favorite ducks, but I don't think I've ever been able to see 40 together - what a treat!