Sunday, July 1, 2018

7 Advantages Of Birding Along A Rail Trail


They opened up a new stretch of the Airline rail trail which runs through Portland. The trail has always been there but by clearing away the path and putting down crushed gravel it makes it more accessible to every one. I had mixed feelings about turning a rustic trail into a public one but decided there were several reasons why I preferred the new version after using it for the first time. It has many advantages for birding. Here are some of the reasons why:
1) The widened trail makes it easier to see birds: It's easier to view birds when you have some space around you.
2) It reduces the bug factor: The gravel-packed trail helped reduce the number of ticks, mosquitoes, and deer flies.It also keeps the poison ivy away from contact distance.
3) The linear nature of the trail help keeps you on track: There is something relaxing about walking along one straight trail while birding. It feels very orderly and relaxing to move along focusing on birds and not having to decided which direction to walk next.
4)The trail brings you past a variety of landscape and habitat: When they built this railroad they blasted right though ledge and whatever else was in their way. This allows for miles of varied scenic viewing.
 5)There is lots of vegetation, berries, and flowers:This makes for a good place to find butterflies and other insects.
6) There are lots of birds! I saw and heard wall to wall birds along most of the trail. I also found a good variety of species (49).
 7) There are remnants of the historic past along the way:
 I used to think that these crosses were some sort of metallic memorial tombstone but it was actually part of a railway storage rack.

Naturally, rail trail habitat can vary depending on the area but I plan to make several trips to the Airline trail this year.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sunrise At Harbor Park In Middletown


This sunrise scene along the Connecticut River In Middletown as viewed from Harbor Park precedes the first day of a week-long heatwave.
This is a view of the Arrigoni bridge along with the smaller railroad
bridge.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Failure Presents Opportunity Says Green Heron

I was on my way to doing a little weed whacking when I realized that I had forgotten the battery pack and would have to go back to drive 10 miles back to go get it. Instead of lamenting about it, I used it as an excuse to look for birds along an urban pond o the way back. I was happy to find a Green Heron looking at its own reflection in green water. A reminder that failure can lead to opportunity.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Very Productive Power Line Cut Birding

 I was disappointed when the power company started doing some heavy cutting along the power line cuts in our area.I didn't see nearly as many birds in some of my favorite spots but that led me to a further investigation of this section of power line cuts on East Cotton Hill Road.It's a hilly path that turned out to be loaded with birds (52 species) for about a 2 mile stretch. I recorded numbers of Prairie Warblers that prompted eBird to question if I was really seeing that many (12 but it was probably closer to 20).

 Now that I am out of the mode of chasing new year birds for my list I can take my time carefully counting every bird and taking pictures of species like Chipping Sparrows.
 and Indigo Buntings.
 I wish I could have gotten a better photo but was thrilled to get such great views of Scarlet Tanagers.
It was quite a hike up the hill and back. I wish that I brought some water because I was worn out by the time I started back and I didn't like the way this vulture as looking at me. I considered laying down to see if the vulture would come down to check me out but I ruled that out because there were too many ticks.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

It's Time To Change Routines Birding Routines


 It was a good morning for me birding along the shoreline. I added 5 new species to my year list: Marsh Wren,Willow Flycatcher, Clapper Rail, Little Blue Heron, and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
I'm at 164 species for this year in Middlesex County. I only reached 172 last year and had a lot more free time so I think that it's time for me to switch gears again.
 During the summer when the pace slows down I'll start to do things like look at grackles in a puddle or rabbits on the patio.
I'll feel a need to change my routine by taking different approaches to birding, birding with different people and taking things as they come instead of trying to make things happen.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Good Birds In Bad Weather


 I went out birding at a stretch of powerline cuts in Portland last weekend. As you can see, it was a very foggy morning.
If it weren't for the fog I might have captured a really nice photo of a Scarlet Tanager.
This is another crappy photo of a Wilson's Warbler which I rarely ever see.
 They have been clearing a lot of trees and vegetation this year  from some of my favorite spots which has decreased the number of migrating birds I usually see there. 

 I've never walked the whole length of this particular stretch of powerline cut before and was very encouraged by the large number of Blue-winged Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Prairie Warblers (in photo) that I saw (about 15-20 of each species). I downplayed my numbers on eBird a little because they wanted evidence to justify the high number of particular species I was seeing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mystery Bog Bird Sounds

I got a call from someone telling me that there was a mystery bird making strange sounds out in the bog across from his home. I heard the strange sounds and did not know what to make of them because I could not find the source of the call. I thought maybe a cuckoo or a marsh bird of some sort. I even fell into the water trying to track this mystery bird down. After falling into the water and failing to match up the sound on google, I decided to ask for help. 
  
There was a birder who lived nearby who is a step up from me in the birding skills department that offered to help (thanks Tim). The mystery bird happened to be a Pied-billed Grebe which I have seen many times but never heard. They sound a lot more interesting than they look! I never did see the grebe this time as it turned out to be a very sneaky one. You can click on this All About Birds Link and listen to some of the sounds I was hearing from the Pied-Billed Grebe

Have you ever come across a bird vocalization that you couldn't identify?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

eBird Helps Draw Attention To Nature Preserves

 One of the features I like most on eBird is the ability to view recently visited areas in your region.This is helpful in viewing lists of birds in areas near you. Often you will see familiar hotspots listed which is helpful if you are interested in seeing particular species of birds. What interests me the most is when I see a place listed that is not one of those popular hotspots. I am curious to see what sorts of birds have been seen in some little-known nature preserve or land trust.
 I was recently driving around the Maromas area of Middletown when I came upon a sign which read: Katchen Coley Mountain Laurel PreserveWhen I read that sign I immediately felt the need to stop and explore the trail. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not only loaded with Mountain Laurel but also had a nice stand of pitch pine complete with Pine Warblers.
The first bird I encountered was A Great-crested Flycatcher which was making its croaking call and its loud WEEEEP! cry.
As with many of the nature preserves I've explored there was not a huge diversity of species but the habitat which included powerline cuts,vernal pools and a small trickling stream running through the woods seemed to attract a large number of particular species.
I saw and/or heard several Prairie Warblers(above), 8 Eastern Towhees, and at last 6 Worm-eating Warblers. Not to mention my first Barred Owl of the year........... 
..............and 3 Indigo Buntings!.................

There is usually something unique about a nature preserve that made it worth saving in the first place. Submitting data into eBird can help bring attention to these special places that might otherwise be overlooked.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Sometimes It's A Relief To Have Fewer Choices

 In this day and age it sometimes feels like there are too many choices. It's nice to have options but it can be overwhelming to search through hundreds of channels on a television or trying to navigate through a supermarket trying to find just the right thing.I recently cut cable and found it a relief to only have to choose from a dozen or so stations that come in using an over the air antenna. It doesn't take long to decide if there is something worth watching or if it's time to break out a book.

I get tired of trying to decide here to go birding sometimes so when time or circumstances limits my choices it is a relief in some ways. I only had enough time to pop into the fairgrounds one morning to watch a Killdeer wading in a mud puddle.
 I was on my way home and had just enough time to check a short trail in Hurd Park where I was able to find a Hooded Warbler!
 I was without my car one morning and had to resort to finding a place within walking distance to go bird-watching. I was ever so happy to see a Black and White Warbler. If I had my car I would have probably been eager to find the next best place and the next best bird. Fewer choices can= less stress and more appreciation of hat we do have.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Didn't Expect Rain Or A Beaver At The Beach

I was planning on doing a little birding down at the shore this morning. Unfortunately, it was raining when I got there. I didn't see much bird activity and when I saw a beaver swimming in salt water I decided to call it a day. Time for breakfast-over and out.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Frenzy From Turkeys To Waterthrush

 This time of the year gets crazy for birders. You feel like you want to be out every chance you can get looking for birds because they are suddenly everywhere you look. From Tom turkeys displaying their fans...
 to Snowy Egrets showing off their yellow feet. There is so much to see it is overwhelming.
We wanted to move on from the fairgrounds to search the forest for new arriving warblers but we can't ignore a female bluebird that seem to be posing for us.
Then a male bluebird shows up and you just can't resist stopping to admire his brilliant blue and orange plumage.
 We finally made it out to the forest where a Louisiana Waterthrush sang his song from a branch above us.

The fun and frenzy of Spring migration has just begun!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Checking In On The Heron Rookery

 We are very fortunate to have a large heronry or heron rookery as it's more commonly called. There are dozens of Great Blue Heron nests and often in excess of 100 herons at its peak. The location used to be a secret only known by a few but now all the local birders and photographers know about it. Fortunately, the nests are well protected by a body of water surrounding by a strip of land. It is a good distance away from the viewing area and chock full of nests.
The herons are all over the areas gathering food and nesting material. Even my point and shoot can catch an occasional flight shot. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Avoid Wind Most Of The Time...But

 I'm still waiting for that warm spring morning for that ultimate birding experience. I've been contending with the wind the last couple of weekends. I'm not a big fan of wind while birding so I've tried to stay in protected areas like ravines or dense forest.
 Fortunately, there are plenty of birds like this Song Sparrow that like to stay out of the wind too.
 Cedar Waxwings sometimes get so intoxicated on berries that the wind blows them into the woods. 
A male bluebird deep in the woods can brighten up even the cloudiest day!

As a rule I don't like wind but there are some exceptions:

  • I like wind if I'm going to fly a kite. I haven't flown a kite since I was about 12 but if I were going to fly one then I would probably welcome a little wind.
  • I like watching the wind blow leaves around on a mild fall day.
  • Naturally, I like a breeze on a very hot summer day.
  • I enjoy the look and feel of the wind that kicks up during a thunderstorm.
  • I know that strong winds can sometimes drive new birds towards the ocean shoreline.
I think that just about covers it but if you an think of more examples feel free to share,

Saturday, March 31, 2018

5 Reasons I Now Use Pocket Binoculars

One of the first things I did when I started to become interested in birding was to research what would be the best choice of binoculars for birding. After talking to experienced birders and trying out various models I came to the conclusion that a high quality 8x42 roof prism binocular would work best for me.

 I later purchased a more compact 8x32 pair as a back-up option but hardly used them.I still preferred the optics of the 8x42 even though the 8x32's were a little bit lighter.

At the time, no one recommended using pocket binoculars because they were not considered to be good enough for birding but pocket binoculars hae improved over the years. I recently traded in my 8x32's for Swarovski CL 8x25 pocket binoculars (seen above resting on a standard sized smart phone). I truly can stuff them in my coat pocket when I'm walking around and that has some advantages. 

Here are 5 reasons why I have been getting a lot of use of these new pocket binoculars: 
1) The newer models of high end pocket binoculars are really bright and sharp!: I don't feel like I'm missing much using the smaller Swarovski 8x25 pocket binoculars. They seem just as sharp and clear as my larger binoculars with the only sacrifice being field of view. There is a smaller exit pupil which means they shouldn't be as good as larger models in lower light but I haven't noticed that much of a difference.
2) They are great to bring with you while hiking: I was into hiking before I became more interested in hiking. It's much easier to carry pocket binoculars around a just in case  your run into some interesting birds while hiking deep out in the woods.
3) It's easier on your neck and shoulders: You don't have to walk around with heavy binoculars hanging around your neck and it's less stress on your arms and shoulders when staring up into trees. 
4) Less equipment to carry when carrying a camera and/or scope: Sometimes you might be primarily focused on using your camera or scope. Being able to carry your binoculars in your coat pocket in these situations is convenient.
5) They are perfect for the glove compartment: It's nice to always have binoculars available when your driving around. You never know when you come across a bird you want to check out. These binoculars easily fit in your glove compartment even with their protective case. 

I'm not giving up on using my full-sized binoculars but the benefits of the smaller ones are such that I plan to give them equal time this year. 

Note:There was recently an interesting article in Birdwatcher's Digest comparing the different models of pocket binoculars.I purchased mine from the Audubon Shop in Madison.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Early At The Shore With Oystercatchers


 I made a stop down at the shoreline early in the morning. I was trying to catch low tide hoping to find shorebirds.
 The only shorebirds I came across were American Oystercatchers.
 They had no problem finding plenty to eat.
 The oystercatchers were boisterous making lots of noise communicating with each other. I also saw my first 3 Great Egrets of the year.