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. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Waiting With Birds At Abandoned Greenhouse

  I showed up early at a parking lot to meet a fellow birder so that we could carpool. As I was sitting in my car I noticed an abandoned greenhouse that was bordered by trees at the edge of a quarry cliff.
 As soon as I walked over to the area I was greeted by 2 Eastern Phoebes. One was perched on a tree branch.
 The other phoebe was on top of some old netting material.
 There was a curious robin that seemed to lean in to see what I was doing from an overhanging tree branch.
While this titmouse looked up at the robin above him.

There are birds almost everywhere all the time. One of things that I've come to realize is that it is very easy to overlook birds if you're not paying attention. They can be anywhere from a mountain of trash to an abandoned greenhouse. Another thing is that there is no better time to take the camera out when you are waiting to meet another birder as you will soon be busy with binoculars.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Red in The Morning Sailors Take Warning!

 When I was a kid I used to go fishing with my father in a small aluminum boat. As we made our way out of the mouth of the Connecticut River and entered the Long Island Sound, my father would look out at the sky and say "Red at night, sailors delight-red in the morning, sailors take warning!" I don't know how accurate that saying is but it's a saying that sticks with me till this day. The photo above is the sky as it looked at 6am this morning (probably closer to fuchsia than red).

 It's currently sleeting as I'm writing this post at 5pm so maybe the morning sky was a predictor of the afternoon weather?
The morning started out okay. It was a little cold and damp for this time of the year with temperatures in the 40's. Not cold enough to discourage a Song Sparrow to pop up and say hello but cool enough for me to make my birding trip a short one.
 I visited a tiny, local nature park. I thought my glasses were dirty when I first uploaded this picture then realized I must have clicked on some sort of photo filter. I decided to just leave it instead of going back to fix it.
I believe the Carolina Wren is the culprit behind many of the inquiries I get about the source of a mysteriously loud bird song.  They are only about 5" long and weigh less than an ounce but you would swear there was a bird blowing a bugle in the backyard when you hear it sing. Here is a link from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to an excellent site called All About Birds: and here is a direct link on their site which includes a sound sample of a singing male Carolina Wren.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Birding In The Sunshine & Blogging In The Rain

 My only opportunity for birding this weekend was Sunday morning.The forecast called for rain but the birding gods rewarded me with a bright, blue sky.
 I spent most of my time walking along the main trail at one of my favorite local spots, the Portland reservoir. It has trails that lead you through pine forest, across forest streams and circle around the edge of the reservoir. What more could I ask for on a beautiful spring morning?
 I'm not sure why people are always making rock piles like this but I think it has to do with some sort of game.
 I was happy enough with the beautiful scenery and cooperative weather but birding would not be much fun without birds.The Dark-eyed Juncos will soon be heading north and....................................
The male Red-winged Blackbirds are make their arrival known with the their unique call that is described as sounding like: conk-la-ree. Bird call descriptions are kind of subjective so they don't always make sense to everyone. It's sort of like looking at constellations in the night sky. You really have to use your imagination to see the star pictures the way they are described.

It was sort of nice that it rained in the afternoon while I was doing this blog post- (at an unnamed coffee place with green on their cups). Birding in the Sunshine and blogging in the rain. Almost sounds like a song title. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

I'm Ready For Some New Birds!

 I've seen enough gulls in the month of March!

 One day this month I counted an amazing 35 Black Vultures in back of a shopping plaza setting up their own bedroom! eBird warned me that this was an unusually high number of Black Vultures to report for this location at this time of the year. Warning! warning! warning Doctor Smith!
I can't say I get tired of seeing Bald Eagles. They just about disappeared from Connecticut at one point due to ddt but they are back in full force now!

I am excited to see the new birds starting to show up already. Today I saw my first of year: Eastern Phoebe, Killdeer, Wilson's Snipe, Tree Swallows, Northern Shoveler, and Red-necked Grebe. In another week or 2 the warblers will be arriving, then it's game on!

I was recently introduced to a new website called Optics & Lab. Here is their link to a page for bird blogs entitled: "Best blogs for bird lovers".

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Eagles and Ducks On Connecticut River

I can start to sense Spring Coming along the Connecticut River. New birds like Killdeer and Osprey are starting to show up.
I continue to keep my eye an eye on the Bald Eagles.....
..and the Bald Eagles keep an eye on the ducks (Ring-necked).

Side note: I had to replace my 8 year old laptop with a new one. The HP seemed like a good deal when I bought it but a lot of programs that used to come with it for free aren't free any more. By the time the sales person started adding all the options of extended warranty, virus protections, and programs I need the price doubled. I decided to take my chances opt for free programs that I found on-line. It has taken me a while to figure all that stuff out. We'll see how it goes.