Friday, July 30, 2010

Expect The Unexpected When Birding

I recently took a ride down to the Old Lyme area to look for shorebirds. There were a few sandpipers around but not as many as I had hoped. For no particular reason other than I like the place, I made a stop at the DEP Marine Headquarters. If you've never been there, it's worth checking it out. They've got a boardwalk that goes under a railroad bridge and leads to a marsh restoration area and you get a great view of the Connecticut River. I hear a Marsh Wren on the way in , saw the usual Osprey on the platforms, then I zeroed in on the Double-crested Cormorants.

I've probably seen cormorants dozens if not hundreds of times over the years. My usual reaction when I see them is to have a quick look through the binoculars and then move on to the next bird. For some reason, this particular day I had a different reaction. The first thing that caught my attention was the way the webbed feet wrapped around the edge of the beam it was standing on. Hmm, never noticed that before. I had a good look a the bill which is serrated so that it can better grip its prey. I had a good look at the tail which reminds me of one of those corrugated Chinese paper fans. Then a thought or a feeling came over me that I was looking at a species that must have been around for a very long time. I later read that cormorants had similar ancestors that dated all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. I always thought they look pretty cool when they spread their wings out to dry. "Hey Mr. cormorant-"Where's a good spot for me to drop a line and do some fishing? " cormorant response-"I suggest you head down river about a mile and try underneath the Osprey nest."
I was on the road that leads to The Great Island Boat Launch when I saw this pheasant on the side of the road. I'm not sure what I was expecting to see at Great Island but I can tell you that a pheasant would be at the bottom of my list. It was at this point that I could imagine Forrest Gump saying-"Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you're gonna get."
I drove a little farther east towards Four Mile River boat launch in Niantic. I usually have good luck finding egrets there but on this particular morning, not a single one. What I did see was a hawk that spent 20 minutes in a tree doing warm up stretches before it finally flew off into the woods where its parents were waiting. I'm guessing this is a Cooper's Hawk since they are the more common species in Connecticut this time of the year.
It was interesting to watch it contort into such odd positions. It looks like he lost his head for the moment- Nice look at the tail here. I could come up with a better caption but I'll be polite.
I was on the Branford Trolley Trail talking to an elderly birder who was intently studying an Osprey family. Suddenly across the marsh I spotted a fawn with its mother. I should say I saw the fawn since I can't take credit for giving it spots. The birder who was with me said this was only the first time she had seen any deer here in years. As I was on my way home I looked out into a flooded farm field and saw egrets. Not just the 3 in this photo. I counted nearly three dozen of them and those were only the ones which were in my immediate view.
video
click to play
This video clip gives you an idea of the number of egrets that I was seeing last Saturday. I'm not even sure which road I was on at the time.

16 comments:

Cindy said...

Larry, love this post. It's nice when surprises come your way in the field. What a great catch to see a pheasant. I love the photos of the hawk doing it's wing exercises!

BirdingGirl said...

Larry- I love the pictures of the hawk stretching/preening. What a cool shot of the tail fanned out like that! And I also really enjoyed your commentary on the "ordinary" double-breasted cormorant. And finally- WOW! I can't believe that video of the egrets. I wouldn't have believed you saw that many unless I saw it with my own eyes :)

Happy birding! Your part of Connecticut sounds like such a great spot. I have to stop through one of these days.

Ruth said...

Glad you did not take credit for "spotting the fawn"... :-)
The best thing about birding is finding something unexpected. Your pictures are great!

Larry said...

Cindy-thanks-I watched that hawk for quite some time. That was nice opportunity to get a close look at the behavior of a young hawk in training.

Larry said...

BirdingGirl-Yes-there was a lot more than I showed in the video.I really like the tail shot too.Connecticut's so small state that you can bird the entire state no matter what part you live in. Although, I don't like to drive more than an hour.

Ruth-I could have spotted the fawn if I wanted to but I don't like to interefere with nature's art.

forestal said...

Great post. Moments when you can really study even a common bird up close are great. I often find the day turns out much different than expected, but is special in the end. Great photos.

dan

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on all of the great sightings! I never knew egrets went that far north...Keep them safe for us please. Lord knows the Gulf's no place for them now...

troutbirder said...

Now that was what i cal a great outing. Thanks for taking me along!

Larry said...

forestal-Thanks-I agree with both your points.I can't say every outing is special-some are just okay-a few are great- but unless something bad happens I always enjoy them.

Lana-We'll be sure to send them back when we're finished admiring them for the year.

troutbirder-Every time I see your name I think of troutfishing.I'm looking forward to the Fall when I plan to spend a weekend trout fishing and birding.

jen said...

Nice, sounds like a really good day! Your blog makes me wish I had been paying attention to birds for the 18 years I lived in CT!

Tim said...

Beautiful wildlife! I remember when pheasants were common here in southeast Pennsylvania when I was a kid - but unfortunately they are a rare sight now and usually if one sees one, they were raised domestically.

Larry said...

Jen-Thanks-Don't feel bad-I ignored most Connecticut birds for about 35 years.

Tim-thanks-they stock them here for hunters but I think they also reproduce naturally.

Chris said...

This post is magnificent Larry and I agree with your title!! Always be aware of the fact that splendor might pop up when birding! Love your pictures and your text as always!!

Roy said...

Hi Larry, thanks for visiting my blog. You mentioned that you were still stuck on using auto mode and a point and shoot. Well, from what I have seen of your blog you are doing pretty good with that. I started out with a Fuji S5500 zoom PAS. The Canon S2 you are using is a pretty good starter and very flexible for the kind of activities you do. We all have to start somewhere and you are definitely on the right track. Regards.

Larry said...

Chris-Thanks Chris-I will have to see if you are off vacation yet.

Roy-thanks for mentioning the Canon. You reminded me to update my profile because I'm now using a Panasonic FZ35.

Harold Stiver said...

Good point about the ancient look of Cormorants. We have a large colony in Ontario I often visit and have thought the same thing