Sunday, July 16, 2017

Watching Birds From A Single Stretch Of Track

One of the things that can detract from a bird watching experience is moving around too much. Sometimes you can see more birds sitting in one spot than you can walking through miles of trail. I made a compromise this morning by confining my birdwatching to a single 100 yard stretch of railroad track. 
 I moved around a little bit to get different views of the marsh but was able to keep my focus on observing, not walking. 
There were plenty of birds to be seen in the marsh including cormorants,blackbirds, Wood Ducks, and Great Blue Herons (above).
There was also several Belted Kingfishers, with this female being the noisiest of the bunch.
 I could hear more birds in the woods than I could see but there were plenty to be heard. I believe this mystery bird which was perched quietly in the woods is a young cowbird. I don't feel like double-checking it so correct me if I'm wrong.
 It's always worth looking up too. I caught an eagle and hawk in the midst of airplay. 

Memo to self: Make sure that you spend more time observing birds than just walking around looking for birds to observe!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Indecision, Procrastination, And Birdwatching

  One of the things I struggle with at times is making a quick decision. Sometimes it is necessary to analyze things carefully in order to make a decision but when you spend more time thinking than doing it can lead to missed opportunities and procrastination.
Lately I've been trying to get out early with my camera and binoculars before I have time to think about it. 

I remember a poem which I can relate to titled: "When Thomas Takes His Pen" that I found in an old book. I got a big chuckle when I first read it. I found a copy of the Poem by Elsie Hill on HistoryProfessor.Org

Friday, June 30, 2017

3 Favorite Moments 1ST Tablet Post

     I still use a flip phone and have avoided touch screens up until now. My lack of familiarity with this technology has caused me to miss out on a couple of opportunities.
Trying to write this is like trying to thread a needle while wearing mittens.  
I will get right to the point. My 3 favorite sightings from top to bottom are:  Black-Backed Woodpecker from Victory Vermont ,Fork-tailed Flycatcher from Hadlyme ferry, and American White Pelican which flew over my back yard. The end and Amen!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back To The Kid-In-The-Field Mentality

 When I was a young boy I didn't know that people who called themselves birders walked around fields specifically looking for birds. Any field meant a treasure hunt for me. I was curious about everything I found whether it be a rusty old farm nail or a dragonfly. It really didn't matter. Everything was fascinating.
 As the years went by, I lost some of that curiosity and excitement. I became more selective about what I was willing to take the time to look at. Now I find myself walking along the predetermined paths looking mostly for birds (Bobolink above). When I as a kid there was no such thing as a path. The only path was between where I was standing and where I wanted to go.
As I wandered around the Frederick White Farm in Durham my memory carried me back to what it was like being a kid out in a field. I was still there looking for bird like I do now..... (Eastern Kingbird above)
 but I also spent time looking at the butterflies (Cabbage White above) and damselflies (Ebony Jewelwing below).  
I can never truly be a kid in a field again but maybe remembering what it was like can add a little spark. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Just Enough Time For The Power Lines

 I think that many of us, including me, wish we had more time to do the things we want to do. Birding falls into that category. I had only had a little time to spare this weekend so I took a quick trip up to the local power lines. I just noticed that my car is down at the bottom of the picture.
 Another category are the things that I should do. There a lot of things that I should have done but put them on the back burner and went birding instead. The deer seems to be looking down at me in judgment.
 It was only an hour of birding but it was a valuable hour. My trip to the power lines was worth it as I had nice views of Indigo Buntings  and this Prairie Warbler hiding in the cedars. Right now I am locked me into category 3: things that have to be done. Some times you don't get a choice. Birding will have to take a back seat for now but I'm going to try to squeeze in an hour of birding each week.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cuckoo Birding

 I haven't posted on the blog for a while but I've still been out and about birding over the last couple of weeks randomly visiting places with no real strategy in mind.

 I'm not sure what that Killdeer (above) is eating but it looks as though whatever it has passed the "sell by" date. 
 I made a visit to Devil's Hopyard. A singing Winter Wren, Magnolia Warblers, and Acadian Flycatcher were among the more interesting birds I found at this location.
 I like to get out early as we start to enter warmer weather and have seen deer like this one which was crossing the road at Gillette Castle state park.
 I did a little cabin camping at a privately owned campground. State campgrounds that I usually stay at are opening late this year and some have been closed due to budget cuts. It was a different experience staying at a private campground which had a store, swimming pool, and even had music playing in their bathrooms.
I was happy to get a nice view of this Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Gillette castle park. They seem to be plentiful this spring but are more often heard than seen. I usually have a difficult time even getting a glimpse of one. 

Yellow-billed Cuckoos eat as 100 tent caterpillars at one sitting.You can find more information about these unique and interesting birds on Cornell's All About Birds website.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

5 Ways I've Been Taking Shortcuts While Birding

 There are so many new birds arriving this time of year that I find myself taking shortcuts while birding. Here are 5 examples:

1) Ears only:When I'm walking through the woods I rely mostly on my ears to hear signs of bird activity. If I don't hear anything then I keep moving unless...
2) Scanning for movement: I scan treetops for movement. I ignore common birds like robins and chickadees while trying to locate movement of warblers or other migrant birds.
3) Skip the list: Sometimes I don't keep a complete list of birds if I'm looking for particular species. I just look for new species and don't bother tracking birds I've already seen. Sorry eBird. I know that is frowned upon.
4) Right bird right location: After a while you get to know when and where you can find certain species of birds in your area. For example, Chestnut-sided Warblers can be tricky to find in my town so I went to the exact same spot I saw one last year and there was one waiting for me when I arrived.
5) Driving through the state forest at 5mph with my windows down and eyes wide open: this method allows you to cover a lot of ground that you wouldn't be able to cover by foot.

I'm not thrilled taking shortcuts. I'd rather just get out there and walk about slowly savoring every bird I see but there is just so much to see right now and getting warbler neck (pinched nerves from looking up in trees) is no joke. I need to get it out of my system before I can slow down again but that is something I am looking forward to.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ibises And Egrets Break Prior To Warbler Rush

 There are a ton of birds to be seen over the next month as birders
try to figure out the most effective use of their time before warbler migration reaches its peak in May. This weekend I switched back to the shoreline to search for big birds that I haven't seen yet this year. There was about 200 Ibis hanging around the Clinton area.
 We made several stops along the shoreline between Clinton and Old Saybrook including the Stewart B. Mckinney Wildlife Refuge Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook.
 I remember when I first started birding I was told some of the things to look for when identifying Snowy Egrets included: black bill with yellow lores, black legs, and yellow feet. I used to get confused before I realized that yellow feet aren't always yellow if the Snowy Egrets feet are covered with mud. This was my first snowy of the year.
The number of Osprey along the shoreline is amazing. You can see them at almost every turn. 

Despite the drizzly day we were able to see a number of new year birds before the arrival of the great warbler rush in May.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Field Sparrow Singing At Machimoodus Park

 I visited visited Machimoodus Park this morning which is one of my favorite local go-to spots in the area. One of the things I like about this park is the open areas which makes it easier to get better views of birds as opposed to being in dense woods.
 There were a lot of Field Sparrows around today. They have a pink bill, unmarked breast, and a white eye ring. They are pale looking overall compared to most of the other sparrows. I usually find them in open fields that are moderately overgrown. They also have a very distinct song that helps with identification.
click to play
 Machimoodus also has lots of woodland trails to explore.
I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of a Barred Owl tucked away in some evergreens off in the distance. 

It was a beautiful morning to be out with the birds this morning. The temperature reached 80 degrees in today in Connecticut.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Herons And Osprey Return To Their Nests

 I made my way down the long path to the local rookery to check on the status of the Great Blue Heron population. I counted 65 on or near the nests and saw many more in flight. This picture shows just a small portion of the numerous nests.
 Some of the nests are looking a little skimpy after the long winter and might need a little reinforcement.
 Someone built a single nesting platform along the river in Portland and it didn't take long for the Osprey to find it. Usually I see my first osprey near the shore where there are dozens of nesting platforms so it was a nice surprise to find my first pair right here in town!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Hometown Coming And Going Birds

 This is the time of year that I headed out to search for birds hidden away in the flooded fields at Wangunk Meadows.
 Over the last couple of weeks I've noticed Wilson's Snipe have been arriving in good numbers.
There are also a variety of ducks passing though like the Green-winged Teal.
The Common Mergansers seem to be moving out of our area. The last pair I saw were swimming in the rain-what a glorious feeling they're happy again! I know I can some up in the northwestern corner of Connecticut if I want to visit them in the summer.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mud Hen Pool Party

 I stopped by south cove in Old Saybrook last weekend. There were plenty of ducks to be seen there including my first Northern Pintail of the year.
 This place is always loaded with Mute Swans. Many times I have counted over 100 hear, not that anyone's counting.
There was also a good number of American Coots. They are not more closely related to Sandhill Cranes and rails than they are to ducks. Some people call them mud hens. There are a lot of interesting details about coots that you can read about on the excellent All About Birds website from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
click to play
I captured a video of them swimming around diving for food just below the causeway bridge.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What's Worse Than Forgetting My Camera?

 Sometimes when I get up  early to go birding on the weekend I forget some of my birding gear because I'm in too much of a hurry. If I forget my scope it's no big deal. I can still get by with the use of my camera and binoculars. Forgetting my binoculars is more of a disappointment but then I usually concentrate my efforts on getting better photos. 

The one thing that bothers me most is when I forget my camera. I  don't like being without it because I know that will be the morning when a great photo opportunity will present itself. 

So what could be worse than forgetting my canon 50x superzoom camera? The top photo is of a kodak Duaflex II camera which was recently discovered packed away in an old box down in the basement. I wouldn't even bother taking photos of birds if I had to use that old camera. I don't know what a "kodet' lens is but I doubt  it would take close-up pictures of birds and I wouldn't want to bother developing the film.
I forgot my camera this weekend but decided it was worth the ride to back for it. Even an average photo (Red-breasted Merganser) from the Canon would top my best efforts using a kodak Duaflex. I'm sure that it would come in handy if I was living in the 1950's but for for now I think I'll just put it on the shelf as a reminder of how much cameras have advanced in technology since then.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Thankfully Pileated Woodpeckers Aren't Extinct

I remember a few years ago there were reports of a possible sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker which was thought to have been extinct. It must be quite a sight to see a 20" long woodpecker with a 30" wingspan.
We don't have any Woodpeckers quite that large in Connecticut but we do have the Pileated Woodpecker which is about 16" long with a 26" wingspan. One nice thing about Pileated Woodpeckers is that they are definitely not extinct (listed as least concern). They are in fact plentiful, although you do have to be at the right place and right time to get a good look at one. I always take time out to watch them when I come across them because you never know if they might become more scarce in the future. Let's hope not!
Here's a 30 second video

Sunday, February 26, 2017

More Sun- More Food -More Birds

 We had a winter warm-up this week with temperatures exceeding 60 degrees. Most of the snow melted and the birds were loving it. I've seen Mourning Doves basking in the sun....
 American Robins have already started their switch from a winter-berry diet to picking out meaty morsels as the surface of the soil begins to thaw.....
...and this Northern Cocky-mocker left its highly guarded berry-bush to head out on ground patrol. We've had a nice taste of spring and the real thing will soon be here!