Friday, July 19, 2019

I Chose Responsibilities Over Birding


There are always things that I could be doing or should be doing when I'm stomping around fields watching birds. 90% of the time  getting my weekend dose of nature takes priority. I'll squeeze in taking care of responsibilities with whatever time is left. 

Occasionally there comes a time when I become too distracted thinking about what I should be doing to enjoy birding. That is the time to put the binoculars and camera back in the drawer and get to work knowing
the only way I'll have piece of mind is to get the work done first.

That has been the case so far in the month of July. It feels good to get things done so I can get back out in the field with a clear conscience.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Lazy Summer Birding Time

 As the hot summer days roll in my motivation for birding in the humid weather decreases. I like to get out early without much ambition and just pick any old spot to see what's around.
 There was a ton of these dragonflies around but I'll be darned if I could get one in focus. That's when the light bulb went off. Since I was in summer mode I decided to look for the macro-focus which I never use. After a few minutes of fumbling around I found it and it worked! I'll have to try that again some time within the next 5 years.
 Where there are insects there's bound to be some flycatchers like this Great-crested Flycatcher.
Hmm-I wonder what this Red-winged Blackbird is eating?
 It's kind of nice seeing a great Blue Heron out of the water and in a tree for a change. That's what summer birding is all about for me. No hurry, no goal, and an early finish to beat the heat.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

First Summer Weekend Shore Tour

 We had beautiful weather for the first official weekend of the summer. I decided to visit the central shoreline where there were still several bird species I have not yet seen this year.
 I haven't done a lot of reading lately but I've noticed these little free libraries popping up everywhere. What a great idea! You can take a book to read for free and leave a book that you've already had the pleasure of reading (or not reading). It's the 10th anniversary of the start of the little free library. You can read about the history of its beginnings here: Little Free Library.
 I stopped by to see my old cottage at Cornfield Point. I never owned it but I can't tell you how many times I used it as a landmark while out on the sound in my fishing boat.
 There are so many Osprey down at the shore these days that I wouldn't have time to count them all. It's a good problem to have.
 Also numerous are the egrets. Here is the Great Egret enjoying a little morning snack. 
 Here is a Snowy Egret proudly showing off his posture.
 There were about 2 dozen oystercatchers along side the egrets. I saw them all in an area called Pilot's Point. It is a great place to get up close to the birds during low tide. They are so busy eating that they aren't easily spooked.
Yellow-crowned Night Herons are a little more difficult to find but I've been able to find them in Clinton the last few years.

So it was a nice start to the summer for me. Gorgeous weather and 4 new species for the year: Little Blue Heron Yellow-crowned Night Heron, American Oystercatcher, and Least Tern. 

How did you spend your first weekend of the summer?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

No Bird No Body No Focus No Eyes No Tail

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. If I don't have anything interesting to say, I count on an interesting photo to help me tell a story. If a photo is good enough then I don't have to say anything. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words. It seems that recently the photos fell short of inspiring me to write a post.

This bridge photo was taken in the wee hours of the morning.I wanted to write about how it was a beautiful area that didn't have a big variety of birds but was a great place to find Acadian Flycatchers. I heard them and got a glimpse of one but no photo and no post.
I took a couple of head shots of a Great Egret and............
a Great Blue Heron but they didn't come out as I hoped so that was the end of that post.
 I heard a Bobwhite calling and was excited about it since few Bobwhites exist in the wild in Connecticut. This one was standing on a fence post singing the Bobwhite song. It might have been raised by someone and released but I love  seeing and hearing it sing that clear 2 note song. I was only able to get a photo that was good for identification.
Boat-tailed Grackle singing in the rain. Can you see him? That's great but I don't know if he can see you without any eyes!
Not a bad Red-winged Blackbird photo except for one minor detail. For 5 points can you tell what part of the bird got cut off in this picture?
I found a pink lady slipper! If only it were a bird! Maybe it will give me good luck for next weekend!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Just Another Big Black Bird From A Distance.

 Birding is a great hobby but one of the drawbacks is you are constantly scanning the area looking for birds even when you're driving. I was passing by a city pond when a black bird caught my eye (note the arrow). Of course I had to turn my car around so that I could go back and take a closer look.
Double-crested Cormorants look like just some big black bird from the distance but they have some interesting features when you get a closer look. I think the spiky tail, aqua-colored eyes and distinct hooked bill are some of my favorite features of this prehistoric-looking bird.  They are related to the frigatebirds and boobies. Not everyone is fond of them, especially around fishing areas because they consume a lot of fish but I find them to be interesting.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Can Birds Ruin Our Connection With Nature?

 You might wonder how birds could possibly ruin our connection to nature? Birds should help to enhance our connection with nature. Unless, we become too obsessed with birding.
 If my only goal was to find the most bird species, I would probably pass over the chance to go hiking at a little known mountain laurel preserve. Instead, I would opt for a sure thing, where I knew there would be lots of birds.
 Finding a hidden towhee or two wouldn't be enough to satisfy my birding appetite. Then I remembered the thrill of seeing a towhee for the first time. It amazed me that these birds had always been around, yet I'd never seen one! I was probably hiking in a place just to enjoy the beauty of the landscape at the time.
 There was a time that being deep in the forest enjoying the sound of a brook spilling down the steep, wooded hillside would be enough to give me that thrill of nature. 
The sound of a Yellow-throated Vireo singing in the background would only enhance that experience.

 If we become focused only on tallying birds we may forget to appreciate the beauty of the habitat that surrounds us. Without it, there would be no birds, and their would be no us.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Two Warbling Migrants That Won't Keep Quiet!


Two of the more common spring migrants in our are the Yellow Warbler (above) and the Warbling Vireo (below).Yellow Warblers operate mostly near ground level. I saw 4 males in one location this weekend chasing each other around and trying to out-sing each other in an effort to see who claims rights to which real estate.

 They are frequent victims of Brown-headed Cowbirds who lay their eggs in the Yellow-Warblers nests in order to pass off the parenting responsibilities to the poor Yellow-Warbler. However, the warblers have figured out a way to outsmart the cowbirds by building another nest over the top of the cowbirds eggs!
Most new birders are haunted by the sound of the singing Warbling Vireo. They have a song that repeats the same pattern over and over all summer long but they aren't always the easiest birds to see. When you do find one it can be a little disappointing to find out that the source of all this singing is just a plain, drab grayish bird!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Red White & Blue

I saw this cardinal 10 years ago. I was standing silently in the middle of a mess of small trees. It landed so close to my face that I had to lean back to take a picture and I still couldn't get the whole bird!
I recently saw this great Egret at our local fairgrounds. I enjoy seeing these birds away from the shoreline where most of them seem to be.
I saw this Indigo Bunting at Machimoodus Park. They appear kind of black when the light isn't reflecting off their feathers. The park is already chock full of birds but someone likes to throw seed down to attract them to certain areas.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Falling Rain And Falling Birds

 Every year there comes a time in May when birds are literally dripping from the trees.This weekend brought rain and with it came a storm of migrant birds.
 The warbler action really started picking up as many new species have arrived including the Prairie Warbler that has an ascending song that reminds me of a glass being filled by pitcher of water.
 I didn't have the time to count all of the Great Blue herons at their nest sights so I stopped at 75.
 Even though it was cloudy with a light rain, it still turned out to be an incredible morning of birding, seeing about 50 species  including a handful of  Wood Ducks hiding in trees.

It gets a little crazy during the month of May. While you're trying to track down the movements of one bird you notice several more in your peripheral vision moving around in the trees. It can be a  tiring but it's a nice problem to have!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hidden Birds In A Hidden Frontier

 In the southeastern corner of Middletown Connecticut lies an area of land called Maromas. A long time ago it was a fishing/farming village. Today with the exception of Pratt and Whitney, it is sparsely inhabited. It is sometimes referred to as Middletown's last frontier. There are plenty of streams, forest, marsh , and reservoirs in the area making it a good birding destination. 

I heard my first of year  Louisiana Waterthrush singing at this stream but never got a look at him.
 It was a cloudy day and although there were dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers only 1 landed near me when I had the camera handy.
Within the hidden village of Maromas there are also hidden birds. If you look closely you can see a little tail sticking out of what looks like a clump of tree bark but is actually a nest.
The tail belongs to this bird, the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
 As you walk up an old stretch of railroad tracks you are surrounded by marshland on both sides. I scared up many Wood Ducks along the away and saw some Great Blue Herons but not much else was visible.

Even the Mute Swans were hiding which doesn't happen too often.

I love areas that are overlooked and underbirded. Maromas is one of those special places and I plan to return there several times this year.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

5 Things I Learned From The Annual Flood


 The Connecticut River headwaters start in New Hampshire near the Canadian border. The melting snow and runoff from overflowing streams drain into the river. Every year there is a stretch of route 17a in Portland CT near the river that floods. This has probably been going on since the Wangunk tribe inhabited the area. 
 When I was around 19 I pulled up to the edge of the water in a pick-up truck. As I looked across in awe at the flooded road a curious thought came to mind. I wonder if I could make it to the other side? After all, it doesn't look that deep, I thought.

 I put the 3 speed chevy into low gear and slowly started my journey. About half way across I noticed the water was pouring up over the hood and I said "uh oh" (clean version). Water seeped through the bottom of the doors and onto the floor. It's a good thing the floor wasn't carpeted. The truck actually floated at one point until the tires finally touched down on the tar again. You could even hear the bubbling sound coming out of the exhaust pipe which was submerged under water ( Maybe it's time that I share this story with my father since it was his truck and 30 years has passed?)

I finally made it to the other side. I  learned several lessons that day: 
1) Flooded areas can be much deeper than they appear!
2)Trucks can float a little.
3)Truck engines can continue to run even when the tailpipe is submerged.
4) You know you're in a small town when one of the biggest entertainment events of the year is a flood.
5) Maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was.
 Despite the flood and continuing rain, there was plenty of dry ground in town. No need to drive my Corolla through the flood to find them.  I found a White-throated Sparrow scratching the ground for food. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Fighting My Way Through The Fog

 I had the bright idea this morning to drive down to the shoreline expecting to see my first Great Egret and Glossy Ibis of the year. What I hadn't anticipated was that the entire shoreline would be blanketed with fog. I can appreciate a little fog at a rock concert or if I'm watching a scary movie but not when I'm birding.

The top photo really doesn't reflect the true color. I just became so bored with seeing fog that I decided to put a color filter on it.
 Slooowly the fog started to recede from the land until it was mostly over the water.
 I took a test photo of a pair of Bufflehead but it seems they couldn't even find each other.
 Finally I found a relatively fog free zone. I was so enthusiastic that I took a photo of a Canada Goose who unfortunately seemed to have his head up....never mind. 
This male American Goldfinch made a good effort to change his winter coast but has a little bit of work to go yet.
Waxwings usually seem to hang around for pictures, probably because they're drunk on berries half the time.
 I finally got to see my first egret. it turned out to be a Snowy Egret (black bill-yellow feet) instead of the Great Egret. So the fog may have slowed things down a little bit but in the end it was all worth it.