Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pine Siskins Have Arrived In Connecticut

During my camping trip two weeks ago, I saw hundreds of Pine Siskins fly past a place called Blueberry Hill in West Granville, Massachusetts. I wondered at the time if some of them might end up in Connecticut. I don't have to wonder any more because I came across them in Glastonbury, Colchester, and most recently along the abandoned railroad line right here in Portland. There were about 30 of them in a tree along with a few goldfinches. All of them were eating what looks like miniature pine cones in a deciduous tree. Are those what people call catkins? If you've never seen them before, it would be easy to overlook them. They sort of look like female House Finches to me but with darker streaking and pointier bills. I was looking to catch a little of the yellow that they have in their flight feathers but didn't notice any. Even though they aren't particularly colorful or flashy, it's nice to have them visit on the lookout at your birdfeeders!

A Brief Summary Of Birding Experiences During My Vacation

  • Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Ruby-crowned kinglets were present in good numbers at all of the places I visited.

10/13/08 Wangunk Meadows-I took a quick walk through the meadows today. My favorite sighting was of two adult Bald Eagles that were perched on Gildersleeve Island in the Connecticut River. They took flight and headed further south along the river. There was so many sparrows today that you would have thought that the state came in and stocked them by the truckfull. There were large numbers of Swamp, White-throated, Savannah, and, of course, droves of Song Sparrows. I also saw 2 juvenile White-crowned Sparrows, 3 Field Sparrows, and 2 Chipping Sparrows. It was fun watching so many sparrows hop up on small branches and then immediately take cover after taking a peek around. Imagine if people did that-hide in bushes and pop up for a second as you passed by before taking cover again.

10/15/08-I left the house at about 7:30 am today. It was foggy and about 50 degrees. I originally intended to visit Wangunk Meadows again but it was the first day of duck hunting season so I decided to stay away. Instead, I briefly checked the pond at Great Meadows Preserve off of Route 17 in South Glastonbury. I noticed that there were a few Wood Ducks mixed in with the Green-winged Teal and Mallards. The wooded portion of the trail was very quiet so I decided to move on. I later climbed to the top of Great Hill in Portland. By the time I reached the top, it must have been about 65 degrees. I enjoyed watching a few raptors glide around including 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 8 Turkey Vultures,1 Red-shouldered Hawk , and 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks which seemed to be headed west.

Sunday, October 19th-Glastonbury Meadows-I ran into Andrew D. this morning at the meadows. He is a Glastonbury resident who visits here often. Andrew has been birding since he was about eight years old, so identifying most birds is a cinch for him. We walked the fields for about 4 hours. Birding this spot requires a lot of walking but it is a very productive spot. I always visit here on Sundays to avoid hunters, especially during Pheasant hunting season. Some of the highlights today included: 20+ White-crowned Sparrows, 1 male American Kestrel, 2 Osprey, which were slowly making their way along the river, dozens of American Pipits, Eastern Bluebirds, 1 Blackpoll Warbler, and 6 Pine Siskins. I saw one bird of which I was uncertain of its identity. It appeared to be a sparrow but I could only see the back of it. I told Andrew that I thought it might be a Lincoln's Sparrow but it wouldn't show itself again. On the way back, we spotted the bird in the same location and it did turn out to be a Lincoln's Sparrow.

10/20/08 Babcock Pond Wildlife Management area-This is an area of land that is set aside for hunting. It is accessed by taking a dirt road called Miles Standish Road directly off of Route 16 in Colchester. The above photo was a little orchard that was set in a wooded area. I was intrigued by the combination of Pine Trees, fruit trees, and shrubby field area. Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, 8 Pine Siskins, Hairy Woodpeckers, and two Pileated Woodpeckers were the birds that I found most interesting here. I also enjoyed watching dozens of American Robins eating the fruit. They were making so much noise that I wondered if they were getting intoxicated from the berries.
10/20/08-Burnham Brook Preserve -East Haddam- I visited the Burnham Brook Preserve for the first time today. It was a cool morning but it was sunny and there was virtually no wind. The preserve was a pleasant place to take a walk on such a pretty Fall day. Shortly after passing the entrance, I passed by a private field where I saw at least a dozen Eastern Bluebirds flying between the nest boxes and the edge of the woods. Bluebirds seem to enjoy hanging around nest boxes even when they're not really using them. The wooded trail was very well marked with blue dots and arrows. The majority of the woods seemed to be made up of mostly deciduous trees but there were areas of Cedar and Mountain Laurel as well. I passed by old stone walls and a small stream (Burnham Brook) during my walk. One thing I like about the area is that the trees are not that dense so it makes it easier to get a nice view of your surroundings; making it easier to spot birds. The website advertised that there have been 180 species of birds at this preserve. I've learned from past experience not to pay much attention to those statistics. The 180 species were probably seen over a period of many years. I didn't see many species on this day. There was a nice population of woodpeckers there including: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers. I saw the Pileated Woodpeckers at an interesting angle as they flew across my path at a height of about two feet off the ground. A Golden-crowned Kinglet gave me a nice view as it hovered in a tree above me and showed off its crown. I'm planning to make a trip back here next May.
This poem was on a plaque that was attached to a giant rock. I've never seen the poem before but kind of liked it.
I saw so many of these White-throated Sparrows during the last week that I had to take at least one photo.

I went to check out Machimoudus Park, which I'll be making a visit to during an upcoming Christmas Count on December 14th. I couldn't resist recording a video of this hyperactive Mockingbird. I don't think it stopped singing the whole time I was there. I recognized several interesting calls in its song, including a Scarlett Tanager and an Eastern Wood-Pewee. See what other calls you can recognize.
Here is a very short video of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I must have seen 100 of these little birds during the last week but I never get tired of seeing them. I never get tired of vacation either but it has once again come to an end. I'm always perplexed when I hear someone say they are tired of their vacation and ready to go back to work. I suppose the exception would be if what you do for work is the same thing that you like to do in your free time-like a photographer, for example. I don't mind working but I never get bored when I have free time on my hands. Jobs use up such a big chunk of time in our lives- and time is a precious commodity.
What birds visit your area this time of the year?


Lana Gramlich said...

Although not right in our yard, I have seen a bald eagle & an osprey not far from here. They're primarily winter residents, although I do know a few ospreys stick around throughout.
Not much going on at my feeders. Hurricane Gustav really threw a wrench into the birds' lives, I guess. It's been preternaturally quiet--makes me kind of sad, really. Looking forward to our usual winter visitors; chipping & white throated sparrows, goldfinches, robins, etc.

Jayne said...

Wow, that is some travel log Larry. Lots of birds to see and enjoy! Those Mockers can really sing, can't they? :c)

Patrick B. said...

Isn't that where Fats Domino found his thrill?

Nice pics of great birds! Siskins have come to NJ too. I personally haven't seen any though since I've only been birding once in the last two months.

RuthieJ said...

Lots of cool birds you saw, Larry. I heard eastern bluebirds 2 weekends ago while out bowhunting, but none this past weekend, so I think they've headed south. Saw a big flock of robins and still seeing the kinglets--RC and GC. I had a little wren come check me out while I was all dressed in camo for bowhunting Saturday morning--it had just started getting light, so I'm not sure but thinking it might have been a winter wren--it wasn't much larger than the RC Kinglet.

Did you happen to catch Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes last night? He had an interesting commentary on why he'd rather work than do anything else.....obviously he's never discovered birding! ;-)

Mary C said...

I guess we can put those kinglets in the same category as chickadees and titmice, the hyperactive flitters - LOL. ;o) It looks as though you had a full and enriched vacation, Larry. Now, lots of photos and memories to sort through. Did you have sunny weather the entire time, or a mixture? How were the temperatures? As for the birds visiting my "corner of the world" I have to admit that I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary. But then I really haven't done much birding in the last 2-3 weeks.

Mary said...

Vacations fast forward, don't they?

When I had Pine Siskins, I thought they were House Finches until Monarch told me so...

And, believe it or not, I have a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet visiting my house but the tiny flitter won't sit still for a second.

I enjoyed that poem very much. I'd copy it and display it here...

I don't have many birds visiting, Larry. My feeders are stored away for a while. I have two ever-present Mockingbirds and a kinglet, so I'm out looking around when I have time. I look forward to seeing the White-Throateds and Dark-eyed Juncos again. :o(

I'd love to see your Connecticut birds.

Michele Wassell said...

Very interesting posts... Lovely photos! Sweet little bird.. :)

Patrice said...

I love the poem, too. Thanks so much for including it. Great post as usual.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, sounds like a great vacation to me! I wouldn't want it to end either! I use to pass Miles Standish Road all the time when I lived in Colchester. I really enjoyed the video of the mockingbird singing!

Larry said...

lana-Osprey and bald Eagles are great birds to watch flying overhead. Don't be sad about seeing the same old birds.Just look at them in a different light.

jayne-It is true that the Mockers can sing like crazy-I have a CD by JJ Cale called Travel Log.

Patrick-I was wondering if someone was going to go there with that joke.-I don't think I could resist that one myself.-Wow-once in two months! You really have been busy!
I hope other interesting birds will wander south into CT this winter.

ruthiej-You're seeing some cool birds ruthiej-I didn't see the Andy Rooney segment.-I used to watch that show every Sunday but stopped years ago.-I always got a kick out of Andy Rooney. Good for him that he enjoys what he's doing so much.-He must be like 90 years old by now.

Mary-that's not a bad idea to display the poem-it is a poem that I can really relate to.-I also wondered if a siskin was a female house finch when I first saw it although I did suspect it looked different.


Patrice-Glad you liked the poem.

Kathiebirds-I looked at that Miles Standish Road dozens of times without ever driving down it. Curiosity finally got the best of me.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

So many reports lately of siskins, lucky you. Haven't seen 'em here yet.