Monday, August 25, 2008

If You're Passing Through Portland

There have been a couple of times over the last couple of weeks that I had planned to go hiking and then suddenly lost my ambition. Instead, I ended up wandering around Portland. This morning I was heading west on route 16 when a Black Vulture caught my eye. I turned back hoping to find the bird before it took off. this is the less common of the two species of vulture which are found in Connecticut. The Black Vulture is smaller than the Turkey Vulture and has a sort of grayish skin on the head that extends down to the neck. The feathers are more black than those on the Turkey vulture and have a more smooth appearance. The Black Vultures also show silver wingtips when in flight.This is the second time that I've seen a Black Vulture on the ground. I had previously seen one at The Portland Transfer Station off of Sand Hill Road. Both of these sightings came in the month of August.

click to play
Here is a typical Turkey Vulture seen at the Portland Transfer Station. It has a more brownish appearance than the Black Vulture and also has reddish skin about the face. If you happen to be driving through Portland on route 66 during the summer, you may want to make a quick stop at the transfer station to check out the vultures. The time to go would be when the dump is closed-before 7am after 4pm, or on a Sunday.
If you were traveling on Main Street Portland, you'd never know that you were so close to the Brownstone Quarries. I took these photos from Silver Street, a short road that connects Main Street to Brownstone Avenue. You can get a nice view of the quarry from Silver Street. You need to be careful though since there is no protective barrier and it is about an 80 foot drop before you reach the water. There have been some unfortunate accidents here over the years. If you look off in the distance you can see some of the oil tanks which line a portion of the Connecticut River. There is actually a second quarry that can be seen from the other side of Silver Street but it can probably be better viewed from Brownstone Avenue.

From this angle you can see a portion of the newly developed Brownstone Exploration And Discovery Park. From what I understand, the quarries have a maximum water depth of about 90 feet. It has a fascinating history which you can read about in a short article here. I found another in-depth article about the quarries written by Alison Guinness that you can find here. If you ever happen to be passing through Portland be sure check out the quarries which are now listed as a National Historic Landmark. After I took in the view of the quarries from Silver Street, I took a right onto Brownstone Avenue and followed it to the end. There is a trail that you can take from there that follows a portion of the Connecticut River. This is where they used to dump all the unwanted pieces of brownstone. This is actually a decent area to go birding. There are some trails that wind through the woods and a privately owned horse pasture at the end. There were several Carolina Wrens in the area along with a Hairy Woodpecker and a Belted Kingfisher. I spotted several Monarch Butterflies and the field was loaded with grasshoppers. It was difficult to avoid stepping on them.

I also found a red dragonfly with a little piece of its wing missing. Does anyone happen to know what kind of dragonfly this is?


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Cool black vulture! You got a terrific picture of it. I love TV's but have never seen a black vulture. They are quite uncommon here. It sounds like Portland has a very interesting history.

Sorry, no clue on the dragonfly.

Lana Gramlich said...

We have black & turkey vultures down here. For such hideous birds, nothing has more grace in flight. Just amazing.
Love the quarry. Reminds me of old haunts in Canada. :)

Larry said...

They're still somewhat uncommon around here too.-The History of Portland is a lot more interesting than the present.

lana-Glad you liked the quarry photos.-Quarries seem to move a lot less than birds.It's easier to take their picture.

Jayne said...

Interesting place Larry! I like seeing the vultures too. No clue about your dragonfly. :c)

Mary said...


We have both vultures here but the Black ones are more common. I might see one a week on the side of the road.

Quarries scare me - I know (knew)someone who perished in one... And your comment about "no protective" barrier to view the quarry made me queasy. THANKS!

Great post :o)


Larry said...

Jayne-I suppose I should have some kind of insect field guide but I don't.

Mary-I can relate to your uneasiness about quarries.I had a friend whose father ended up paralyzed after a failed dive into a quarry.

Ruth said...

I believe your dragonfly is a Ruby Meadowhawk. We have a lot of them around this summer. I have never seen any vulture but a Turkey vulture.

Larry said...

uth-Thanks for the i.d. ruth!

Patrice said...

Great photos, Larry. I do NOT want to meet a black vulture in a dark alley. Or in a well-lit alley. Not ever!

Kathie Brown said...

I'm glad to see the black vulture. I thought I had seen them in CT years ago but then I started to doubt myself, it has been so long. Now I know it was possible I had seen them. I saw a huge flock of them down by the Mexican border in Rio Rico this Labor Day. I have not seen any up here near the north end of the Santa Ritas even though we are only about 30 miles away.