Monday, February 28, 2011

Mocking The Mockingbird

I enjoy watching the antics of Northern Mockingbirds. They plant themselves in a bush full of berries and guard them like a watchdog. They are also curious birds. While watching this mockingbird from inside my truck, I made different sounds to see how it would react. At first, It moved around in the bush unsure of what to do.
As I started talking to it, the bird hopped to the ground and came straight towards me. I wish I had some berries to offer it. It has quite the lengthy tail. I wonder why they hold it up so high?
I spent Saturday morning walking the trails along the Wadsworth Mansion and Wadsworth Park with another birder. It was a mild winter day with no wind and the trails were packed enough so that our feet only sunk into the snow occasionally. There was the usual birds you might expect to find in the Connecticut woods during the winter but their were also a few surprises. We had a nice view of a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. There was some crows chasing a Red-tailed hawk around the woods. A few Common Ravens passed overhead making there interesting vocalizations. We noted that the ravens and Red-tailed Hawk shared the same airspace without bothering each other.
On my way home I stopped by Harbor Park to see if there were any unusual gulls hanging around. They appeared to all be Ring-billed Gulls playing a game of "heads or tails? " It's good to know that Spring is just around the corner. I'm looking forward to getting outdoors for more extended periods of time now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Month Rolled By & The Blog Stood Still

February seemed to pass me by in the blink of an eye. I ran into a few minor situations that threw a monkey wrench into my weekend birding. My truck broke down, my spotting scope broke, and my shed collapsed. It may sounds like a depressing country song but there was a bright side to all these things. I was able to get my money's worth out of AAA towing service, my scope was covered by a warranty, and I secretly hoped for my shed to collapse when I saw the snow piling up on the roof. I already got more mileage out of it by covering it with rustproof paint and turning the broken sliding doors into hinged doors.

On a more positive note, I saw this robin and many others eating crabapples from the trees near the parking area at Rocky Neck Sate Park.
The Mallards picked through the leftovers that fell to the ground. It was cloudy on the days I got out this month making it difficult for me to get usable photos. I made a visit to Harkness Park in Waterford. It doesn't have the variety of birds and habitat that Hammonasset does but it is a beautiful place to walk. It has large open areas with mature trees and old vine-covered buildings on the grounds. The rocky shoreline had an ocean fresh smell that made me want to break out a pot and cook up some clam chowder. The birds in the background were mostly Brant and Canada Geese and I also came across Snow Bunting .
I came across this Turkey Vulture when traveling from one place to another.
I watched Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches
under the cedar trees at Wadsworth Mansion. The titmice were the most vocal, communicating back and forth using a variety of whistling calls and noises. Mostly, I just liked standing beneath the trees because I of the way they were lined up giving a tunnel effect. I looked for easy places to do some quick birding this month. I also tried snowshoes for the first time but decided to send them back. There just aren't enough days in the winter when Connecticut has white fluffy snow. It's more often the ice-crusted variety. I tried to cross a field and it sounded like I was marching through a giant bowl of Cap'n Crunch cereal. The birds wouldn't let me get 100 yards from them. I think I might have even started a winter migration.
I saw these Common Goldeneye along the Niantic Bay trail. I was happy to find a new walking trail near the shoreline.
It's just on the other side of the train tracks. Maybe I should take up train spotting. There's one for my 2011 list. Note the grayish metallic body with blue trim. I believe the species is Amtrak. I didn't intend to take a blogger break this month, things just happened to slow me down. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the birding trail and making up for lost time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

January Was Bigger Than My List

I'm still catching my breath from the winter we've had so far. We had 59.8"of snow in January which is a new record for Connecticut. After all the snow, we also had a bit of an ice storm. Ice-coated trees are a pretty sight in the winter but the additional weight of the ice also contributed to hundreds of roof collapses around the state. Fortunately, there hasn't been any serious injuries from these collapses.
Here is a photo of a Snow Bunting. I think they really stand out nicely against a snowy background. The weather conditions did slow my search for birds in January. I ended up seeing 82 species which is about 20 less than what I saw in the two previous years. Most of my birding was done by car along with a few visits to shoreline locations. There was too much snow inland. Here is my list for January 2011 in order that the species were seen:

1-Red-tailed hawk 2-Mourning Dove 3-European Starling 4-American Crow 5-House Sparrow 6-Northern Cardinal 7-Blue Jay 8-Red-bellied Woodpecker 9-Tufted Titmouse 10-Downy Woodpecker 11-Black-capped Chickadee 12-Song Sparrow 13-American Robin 14-White-throated Sparrow 15-Carolina Wren 16-White-breasted Nuthatch 17-Dark-eyed Junco 18-Mallard 19-Great Cormorant 20-Common Merganser 21-Common Goldeneye 22-Bald Eagle 23-Ring-billed Gull 24-Eastern Screech owl 25-Hooded Merganser 26-House Finch 27-American goldfinch 28 -fox Sparrow 29-Northern Mockingbird 30-Great Blue Heron 31-Herring Gull 32-Canada Goose 33-Northern Flicker 34-Ruddy Turnstone 35-Sanderling 36-Dunlin 37-Great Black-backed Gull 38-American Pipit 39-Common Loon 40-Purple Sandpiper 41-Red-throated Loon 42-American Black Duck 43-Fish Crow 44-Mute Swan 45-Common grackle 46-Bufflehead 47-Red-breasted Merganser 48-Snow Bunting 49-American Coot 50-Monk Parakeet 51-Long-tailed Duck 52-American Tree Sparrow 53-Red-shouldered Hawk 54-Cooper's hawk 55-Ring-necked Duck 56-Horned Lark 57-Brown Creeper 58-Belted kingfisher 59-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 60-hairy Woodpecker 61-Savannah Sparrow 62-Swamp Sparrow (Wangunk M.) 63-Turkey Vulture 64-Sharp-shinned hawk 65-Eastern bluebird 66-Peregrine Falcon (Portland bridge area) 67-Killdeer 68-Northern Harrier 69-Greater Scaup 70-Lesser Scaup (both at Long Wharf in New Haven) 71-Gadwall 72-Ruddy Duck(New Haven) 73-Greater Yellowlegs (Nature Trail at Long Wharf) 74-Lapland Longspur (Hammo) 75-Black-bellied Plover(end of Meig's Point trail) 76-Red-winged blackbird 77-Golden-crowned kinglet 78-Cedar Waxwing 79-Red-breasted Nuthatch 80-Horned Grebe (West beach hammo) 81-Hermit Thrush 82-Yellow-rumped Warbler.
I added the final 3 species on the last Sunday in January. I also found out that the a Common Murre was seen at West Beach by a large group of birders 5 minutes after I left the area. It was the first recorded sighting of this species in Connecticut.

By the end of the month I was spending more time shoveling snow and raking it off my roof than I was birding. It reminded me that some things are beyond our control and the weather would be one of those things. You just have to accept it and make the best of the situation.
I made sure that I shoveled a path through my back yard to where the fire bowl is. A little bit of music along with a campfire was a nice way to finish a long day of shoveling. Now I'm looking forward to see what February brings us.