Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bluegrass And Birds On A Rainy Day

It rained all day Saturday. I decided to stick to birding by car, or in my case, birding by truck . I headed out towards New Britain to find Batterson Pond and Stanley Park. I've never been to either of these places but have seen reports of some interesting birds in this area. Most recently there were Lesser Scaup seen at Batterson Pond, and Stanley Park has had Red-headed Woodpeckers in past years. During my travels, I listened to the Kevin Lynch Bluegrass Show on WWUH, which is broadcast Saturday mornings on FM radio 91.3 or on the Internet via this link.

I listen to a wide variety of music, but I really prefer music that has a live, unrehearsed feel to it. I like a band or performer who puts a lot of emotion into what they're doing. A lot of music is over produced for the purpose of selling more records. Good music doesn't need a lot of production. That's what I like about traditional bluegrass. It doesn't sound overly produced. The performances stand on their own. Bluegrass also conveys to me an image of a simpler life. Man's attempt to continually fix the world has made life more complicated than it needs to be.

After a couple of missed turns I found my way into Stanley Park. There seems to be different sectors of this park. I started out in an area that had several Crab apple Trees with fruit still intact. I spent about 45 minutes there watching birds feeding on crab apples in the tree and on the ground. I first noticed American Goldfinches eating small dark fruit from one of the trees. I thought this to be odd because I'm pretty sure that they are primarily seed eaters. I wonder if they were extracting the seeds from inside the fruit the way that Pine Grosbeaks do? Then there were the robins, including the two seen in the top photo. They were stuffing their faces at a pretty good rate. I noticed that they paid no mind to the goldfinches but when some Cedar Waxwings showed up they really ganged up on them. They chased the waxwings off in a very noisy show of force. I did capture a video of a Cedar Waxwing eating crab apples, but due to the rain and lighting, it was very grainy . There were some Brown Cowbirds, European Starlings, and Common Grackles feeding in the grass across the way. Of course, there were many other birds in the area but I like to focusing on birds that were the most significant to me. The ponds in Stanley Park didn't produce any surprises for me. There were Mallards, domestic geese, and Canada Geese.

My next stop was Batterson Pond. I pulled off in an area that offered access to the pond along a stretch of grassy area. There were about 14 Hooded Mergansers there, but outside of Mallards, I have a hard time sneaking up on waterfowl. When I moved towards them, they moved away from me. We were like two repelling magnets. I tried sneaking up behind a tree but they knew it! Anyway, here's a photo(above) of two that I saw there. Maybe I should paint the hood of my sweatshirt to look like a male Hooded Merganser next time. I also some Ring-necked Ducks, a Belted Kingfisher, and a few gulls here but not much else.

I'm going to talk about the European Starling a little bit. Most of you know that starlings are not native to North America. One hundred birds were released in New York City's Central Park in the 1890's. They were released by a group of people that wanted to bring all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works to America. Since then, their population has grown to an estimated 200 million birds. Many people hate these birds with a passion. They are known to aggressively compete with other native species of birds for nesting cavities. Although, from what I have read thus far, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only species whose population decrease has been proven to be directly linked to starlings. They form large flocks that can make quite a mess and can wipe out your backyard suet cakes in no time. They are also a problem for farmers who grow fruit crops because they consume a lot of fruit. There is another side to the story though. Some of their habits are considered beneficial in that they eat insects including clover weevils, cutworms, ants, wasps and several types of beetles.

I'm not trying to convince anyone to be an admirer of the starling. I'm just pointing out that as with anything else there is more than one side to the story. If there is good reason for having to control their population, then so be it. I will say this though; the starling didn't ask to be introduced here, so what sense does it make to be angry at them for being here? They may not be a native species but they have certainly done a good job of surviving. Isn't trying to survive what a species is supposed to do? It doesn't seem that they're going away anytime soon. I'll bet that if they're near extinction in 50 years there will be people that desperately try to bring them back. We have a habit of killing things off then trying to bring them back. Although starlings aren't one of my favorites birds, they can be very interesting to watch.

So with that, I will leave you with a video of 3 starlings taking a bath in a puddle on a rainy day.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful day and glad you are capturing videos! What a shame about the grainy waxwing video! Keep up the great reports!

steadyjohn said...

Nice musical accompaniment to the starling baths; sounded like The Stanley Brothers, how appropriate! Oh wait, it was earlier that you were in Stanley Park!

Spring has not quite sprung but baseball spring training and bird mating has begun. So let's celebrate both events with a Sandhill Crane in Right for the Washington Nationals. This occurred yesterday n an exhibition game between the Nats and the Cleveland Indians.

Lana Gramlich said...

I don't mind starlings, although they also compete with one of the bird types we get at our feeders (don't recall which right now.) I haven't seen a starling since I moved to Louisiana 4 years ago. I'm sure they're around, I just haven't seen them.
I also don't have much use for today's music. Gads, I sound like my parents! <:O

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Sounds like a great day and you got to see a lot of different things considering how early in the year it is. Lots of birds are just starting to come back though. I don't mind starlings, but if they hog the feeders too much, I will sometimes walk up to the window, which is enough movement that they fly off and the smaller birds can have their turn. Starlings are really kind of pretty if you take the time to look at them. Nice shots of the robins and I liked your video, too.

Anonymous said...

The ducks with the white on their heads- I didn't know what they were- there is a bunch of them at the resevoirs on rt.66- going middlefield towards Meridan- on the right.


Anonymous said...

I think I saw this bird on my deck today. It looked just like the chubby one on the left except it had like a white stripe around its eye.


Mary said...


The bath video is great with the music accompaniment! Starlings are good for removing grubs from your lawn. Other than that, they destroy agricultural crops and cause all sorts of problems in the farming industry. But, you know what? I've been watching them closer lately and trying to get some good photographs. They're brilliant in the right light. Beautiful birds. Can't say that much for house sparrows, though.


Larry said...

Monarch-The video of the waxwing was o.k. but I figure one grainy video per post is good enough and I like the starlings taking a bath one better.

Steadyjohn-Yes but this video actually is from Stanley Park.-It's just that the video ended up on the bottom.

lana-Good music is timeless.

Sandpiper-It was a rainy day so I was just relaxing and birdwatching-not trying to build up a list.I often bird that way.

momhawk-I'm not able to see the photo because your link was cut short.-Hooded mergansers are around inland ponds and the CT River quite a bit during the winter.If you are looking for them you can find them.

Mary-The music was actually a mistake.I just forgot to turn my radio off when I was recording the video but it worked out well anyway.

Larry said...

momhawk-I'm wondering if you might have sen a female Red-winged Blackbird? They have a stipe over their eye and have kind of a brown mottled appearance.

Anonymous said...

The repelling magnet thing...that's why God created spotting scopes! Actually I find what you say true at most places but there are a couple of places I know of where the waterfowl always seem oblivious to my presence. Maybe those lakes are places of reverse polarity in the earth's magnetic field....Can you tell I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night?

Anonymous said...

I looked up a photo of a red winged......and YOU'RE RIGHT! That picture was exactly it!

OMG I told my daughter it was a wren.
the other day we were looking from the cromwell park river at birds flying. All that I knew was that they were raptors-blackish of some kind. I kept telling the kids- hmm maybe its an eagle, maybe a vulture (but it wasn't flying V)..couldn't see it
s head.......

I think I need a class! LOL
female red wing black bird. Thankyou.

Unknown said...

I'm waiting for the robins to reappear. None yet. The juncos are busy and the cardinals have been singing madly in the mornings. Sure signs of spring on the way.
As for starling, they are annoying but they sure do have lovely plumage. Especially when the light catches them just right. The fact that they were introduced always bothers me since you have to wonder what they have done to competing species.
Happy birding.

Mel said...

It sounds like a cool day, love the music! ;)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
Sounds like you had a pretty good birding day, in spite of the poor weather. I hope to see some spring birds soon.

Thanks for your commentary on starlings. I dislike them also and there are a few that regularly visit my yard. I do have to respect them though for their intelligence and the fact that they eat insects from my yard. It's fun to watch them as they cross the lawn, industriously pecking for insects and chattering amongst themselves.

Patrice said...

I recently read a news article about starlings wreaking havoc on local blueberry crops. The farmers use noise canons to scare them off, but the neighbors don't like the noise. Now they want to introduce certain raptors into the mix. It all sounds pretty complicated. I hate to say it, but I like blueberries and I don't care for starlings, even though I like to think of myself as a nature lover.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Starlings. What a debate you could have! I once heard author and photographer Stan Tekiela ask just how long 'til we accept them as anything other than "non-native". Guess it takes longer than 100 years!

Cathy said...

I just love your videos. And that was certainly an eloquent defense of those little forced immigrants :0)

Larry said...

pa-birder-I sure would love to find a pond where the ducks are oblivious to me-hasn't happened yet.

anonymous-glad I could help!

sarala-I know-the Starlings are a tough sell-but I tried.

mel-Glad you liked it.

ruthiej-It sounds like you don't particularly like them but at least you take the time to observe them.

Patrice-You are not alone when it comes to hatings starlings.I was trying to give a little balance to the argument.

Zen-I have to wonder the same thing.-Last I checked-there are very few Native Americans in the USA.-I'm glad we don't hate each other the way we hate starlings!

Cathy-Glad you appreciate the effort.-I tried.