Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Butterflies And Hooded Warblers

I started out Sunday morning with a visit to George Dudley Seymour Park in East Hampton. It was kind of quiet over there , but I did see a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I also saw a raptor deep in the woods, but never positively identified it. After leaving the wooded portion of the park, I searched the fields that border the river.I had a nice view of a mature Bald eagle flying directly overhead. The fields seemed surprisingly quiet. I just wasn't feeling it, and I didn't want to fake it. I decided to cut things short, and head back to the truck. On the way back, I did come across a couple of neat butterflies. That one on the stick really blends in. I found my little butterfly book, so I will look them up tonight. Do you know what kind of butterflies are in the photos?
I was in my truck supposedly heading back home. -(I say supposedly, because I rarely make it home on my first attempt. I usually have one of those imaginary light bulbs go off over my head as I suddenly think of another place to look for birds). As I was driving, it occurred to me that I had not made one visit to nearby Hurd Park this year. Three years ago, I had seen my first and only Hooded Warblers there. I wondered if there was any chance that I might see them again in the same area. I felt it was very unlikely, but not impossible.

I was able to locate the same trail that I had walked three years ago. It was a sunny morning, and already nearing 10 am by now. I noticed right away, that the birds seemed to be surprisingly vocal in this area. The woodpeckers and Pewee were the loudest, but I was tuning in to the what sounded like some sort of Warbler in the distance. I came to a small open area along the wooded path. I heard the sound the warbler again. I was a bit excited, because I knew i was not one of the more common warbler songs that I was familiar with. I caught a glimpse of a small bird landing on the outer limb of a tree. Just as I was getting ready to get a look at the bird, an older gentleman with a barking dog approached me. We chatted a bit about his dog which had gray hairs but was only a puppy. So I lost the opportunity to see this bird for the moment. As I walked further along the path, I heard the same warbler song -only now, it was coming from 3 different locations at the same time!

It was on my way back, that I got a great look at a beautiful male Hooded Warbler. The male is easy to identify, because no other warbler has a completely black hooded appearance. After it flew off, I had a look at a second male Hooded Warbler. Although I hadn't actually seen the warblers singing, I was sure it must have been the Hooded Warblers. I tried to get pictures or film one, but it they always moved before I could snap a picture. I decided to record the singing on my camera with the built in microphone before returning home.

When I returned home, I reported my findings to an open birding discussion line we have in Connecticut. I described what I had seen, and mentioned how I had heard 3 of them singing. Shortly after I sent my report in, I felt an unsettling feeling came over me.-What if the warblers I heard singing weren't the Hoodeds? What if they were another species that I just hadn't seen?-It wouldn't be the first time I made a mistake in identifying something because I jumped to conclusions. I decided to check out the audio that I recorded and see if I could confirm the identity of the singer(s).

The audio turned out to be pretty good. The song was similar to a Hooded Warbler recording that I compared it to---but it wasn't an exact match. I decided to send the audio clip out to a couple of birders including Vern from
Big Spring Birds. Between Vern's birding contacts and mine, I was able to get a definitive response. The audio was indeed, that of a Hooded Warbler. It was however, one of it's alternate songs. All was well again. Thanks to Vern and Paul C. for helping me out! Unfortunately, I couldn't figure how to upload an audio clip to blogger. Overall, it was an interesting learning experience for me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Have You Ever Chased A Rare Bird?

I check these reports each day to get an idea of what types of birds are being seen around Connecticut. For example, there were several reports of Red-breasted Nuthatches showing up around Connecticut last week. I kept an eye on my feeders each day, and sure enough a Red-breasted Nuthatch showed up one morning.

There is another reason that I like to check these reports. Occasionally, there may be a particular birds that I may decide to chase (Brits call this twitching). If a bird that interests me shows up on the rare bird report, I may go out to the reported location to try to find it.

How I decide which birds are worth chasing?

  • Probably the first thing that I look at is distance. If it is further than 40 miles away, I probably won't bother unless it is very rare

  • That would be my second consideration- How rare is it? If it is very rare, then I might be willing to drive a little bit further.

  • Another consideration is-How interested am I in seeing this particular bird? This one is hard to put my finger on. The idea of seeing some birds intrigue me more than seeing other birds-Is it colorful? unusual looking? Challenging to find or identify?-that sort of thing.

  • Will I need a scope to see this bird? I don't have a very good scope. If the bird is at too great of a distance to get a decent view, I probably won't bother.

  • Do I have enough free time on my hands. Some times, I just don't have the time to drive out of my way.

There are those who are very critical of people who chase birds. Some birders will travel long distances just to add one bird to a list. I'm not going to pass judgement on this practice, but you can if you so desire.

There are several reasons why I find this aspect of birding enjoyable.
  • Some times several birders show up looking for a particular bird. It's kind of fun to run in to some of these birders and make conversation.

  • At times, it can be a test of your birding ability to see if you can locate the particular bird.

  • It is a way that you can learn about new birding locations. You may see other birds of interest while you are there as well.

  • It can give you a particular purpose when you aren't sure what type of birding you would like to do on that day.

  • You can see birds that you otherwise might never see.

  • This can help you become a better birder, if you study the bird's field marks carefully.
I have seen several interesting birds this way including Townsend's Solitaire, Swallow-tailed Kite, Painted Bunting,White-winged Crossbill, Lazuli Bunting, Northern Wheatear, and a Rufous Hummingbird . I "dipped out"(failed to find the bird) on a Western Tanager, Blue Grosbeak (twice!), and a Sandhill Crane. The Kite was my favorite. It put on an hour long show as it fed on insects in mid-air flying directly over our (about 40 people) heads.

The other day, I took a short ride over to Rocky Hill Meadows to see if I could find a Buff-breasted Sandpiper that had been reported on B-mail. This was not a very rare bird, but it is very uncommon in CT. I had seen one at the same location the year before, but wanted to view it again so that I could identify it on my own.

When I arrived, a more experienced fellow birder by the name of Andrew was there. He put me on to the bird right away. This certainly takes away some of the challenge, but I don't mind. I would have had a tough time locating this particular Sandpiper. I had a clear but distant look through his scope. I noticed something that I hadn't the first time seeing one. It had a big, black, expressionless eye. To me, the side of the face reminded me of seeing a Mourning Dove. Adding that to other field marks, I felt much more confident that I might be able to identify one on my own.
Fifteen minutes later, another birder named Sarah showed up. I had run in to her once before, when we were both searching for a Painted Bunting. She found the Bunting first, and pointed it out to me. This time, I was able to relocate the Sandpiper so that she was able to see it. It all works out in the end.
If you are interested in checking rare bird reports, here is a link that should lead you to your state's birding hotline.

Have You Ever Went To See A Bird That Was Reported On The Rare Bird Report? If so, how do you decide which birds you are going after?
How far would you be willing to travel to see a particular rare bird?

If You never have, is this something that you might be interested in trying in the future? Why Or Why Not?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Don't Cut Those Purple Coneflowers!

A few years ago, I read about how you could attract birds to your yard by planting certain bushes and flowers. The first flowers that I planted were Purple Coneflowers. Each year, after the flowers drop their petals, birds come to pick the seeds off of the remaining centers of the flowers. Birds really go after these seeds with a vengeance, especially finches- (The first 3 pics can be enlarged-I still don't get how this works).
The other day, there was a period of about 20 minutes when the birds went in to a feeding and bathing frenzy. The Orioles, and Goldfinches were taking turns at the Coneflowers.
These crabapples seemed to appeal to the Orioles as well. I've seen them pick at the flowers in spring, but have never seen them eat the fruit off of this particular Tree. The Coneflowers, Crabapple Tree, and birdbath are all together in the same little 9'x5' flower garden. It's nice to see the birds making use of this area. Meanwhile, birds were literally lining up to take turns in the bath. The Common Grackles seemed to be in charge. Can you think of a caption for these three?
Several Orioles, including this male, joined in for the fun as well. I don't think he wanted to leave but..........
A Blue Jay came barrelling in and got down to some serious bathing. These photos aren't really giving you the whole picture. There were many other birds at the bath during the same period including: Cardinals, Chickadees, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The action was non-stop. I wonder what triggered these birds to get so active all at the same time?
Which tree, flower, or shrub is most popular with birds in your yard?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Songbird Lyrics Game

Name the song that the lyrics belong to and/or an artist who performed it. Let us know which ones you knew, even if it has already been answered.
Blue=Unanswered Grey=incomplete Black=already answered

1)We'll dress him up warmly and-We'll send him to school-It'll teach him how to fight-To be nobody's fool-(The artist's name was Andrew Gold).

2)For many hours and days that pass ever soon,The tides have caused the flame to dim. At last the arm is straight the hand to the loom,Is this to end or just begin? -Led Zeppelin-All Of My Love

3)In restless dreams I walked alone-Narrow streets of cobblestone-

4)I see her face everywhere I go-On the street and even at the picture show-(The name of this group was the Chi-lites.They Also sang "Oh Girl").

5) Can you remember- remember my name-As I flow through your life-A thousand oceans I have flown-(this was on their comeback album-Lead singer is Ian Gillan).

6) For when your troubles start multiplyin' -and they just might-It's easy to forget them without tryin'-With just a pocketful of starlight

7) Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no-Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas, fish full of mercury-(was tragically shot and killed by his father).

8)Put on my blue suede shoes- And I boarded the plane Touched down in the land of the Delta Blue-

9)A woman on the radio talks about revolution-when it's already passed her by-but Bob Dylan didn't have this to sing about- you know it feels good to be alive-Right Here Right Now -by Jesus Jones

10) I'm gonna take a freight train, down at the station-I don't care where it goes-

11) Any place it goes is right-Goes far, flies near, to the stars away from here-Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf

12) 'Cos I know what it means-To walk along the lonely street of dreams -

13)You got me runnin' and hidin' all over town, you got me sneakin' and a-peepin' and runnin' you down.

14)So the Maples formed a Union-And demanded equal rights-'The Oaks are just too greedy-We will make them give us light' (Canadian Rock Trio).

15) Isn't it rich? Are we a pair?-Me here at last on the ground ....and you in mid-air

16)Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun-from-To Autumn By John Keats

17) Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.(name poem and author).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Birds That Don't Want Their Picture Taken

The title about sums up my birding adventures for last week. Let's start with the Cedar Waxwings. I've been seeing a lot of Cedar Waxwings all along the Connecticut River in Portland lately. Unfortunately, they don't seem to want to come anywhere near me. What's up with these birds? Come a little bit closer so that I can take a picture!

I had asked the farmer in charge of haying some of the local fields to leave a portion of them uncut. He did as I requested, and it seems to have paid dividends. I saw a few Bobolinks right down the road from my house. The male and female both have the same yellowish color this time of the year. One Bobolink that I observed must have been a male. It had a few black blotches on it's body. There was also a Cooper's Hawk hunting on the main riverfront trail-It flew before I could lift the camera. I saw an adult Bald Eagle near the fairgrounds. I've seen several Indigo Buntings along the river as well. I've also had a Red-breasted Nuthatch at my feeder and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher(first time) in my yard.

I've been checking the farm fields at Rocky Hill Meadows lately too.This little Barn Swallow was catching some droplets during a rain shower last week. I usually try to visit after it rains, hoping to see some shorebirds gathering near the puddles and torn up sod. So far, I've only seen Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and one suspected Pectoral Sandpiper at this spot.

I visited a wildlife refuge in West Granby Saturday. I had seen the sign for it when I had passed by it during work. I'm always curious when I see signs like that.I know enough that birds and wildlife don't read the signs. It's not as though they're going to stay in a certain portion of woods just because it has been designated for them. Nevertheless, I like checking out places like this one. It had lots of pine trees throughout the trails, along with a few open swampy areas.The sound of my normally noisy footsteps were nicely muffled by a thick bed of pine needles beneath my shoes. I heard little chip notes in the trees. It turned out to be Pine Warblers.There really didn't seem to be many birds around. It was a very windy day. It felt like Fall, which is just fine with me.I had a nice eye level view of a Veery. The bird sat on a branch looking at me so silently before disappearing to the forest understory.There was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks working their way through the area. They were noisy as could be- Keee-yur Keee-yur keee-yur they called as they moved through the woods.

I was heading back to my truck when I hear what sounded like someone hitting a tree with a hammer. I suspected that I was probably hearing Pileated Woodpeckers. What happened next was totally unexpected. Two Pileated Woodpeckers landed in a tree just 10 feet directly above my head. I did not move from that spot for the next 10 minutes. They were hammering away on opposite sides of the same tree. Wood chips were literally landing on top of my head. Let me tell you, these birds can chisel out some serious chips! My hope was, that they would move in to a position where I could get a decent photo, but it never happened. The above photo was all I could get. Shortly after, they flew way off in to the distance. I've been close to Pileated Woodpeckers before when they've visited suet feeders, but this was much more exciting. Seeing birds at a feeder is nice, but there's something special about seeing them in their natural surroundings.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gathering Berries And Acorns For The Winter

I decided to gather a few acorns and a variety of berries today. What do I do with them?-you ask. I collect them and store them. The berries go in a can that I keep in the freezer. The acorns are kept in a can in a shady part of my yard. When winter comes, I put them out in my yard on a tray for the birds and critters. The reason I wait until winter, is that fruit and acorns are much harder to come by that time of the year. Birds are more selective about the type of berries they will eat when they are able to pick their own right off of the tree/bush. I will usually wait for a very cold day or a snowstorm, when the birds are extra hungry. I smash the acorns up before serving them. The birds go after them with much enthusiasm. By the way, does anyone know what kind of tree is in the top photo? I have one in my yard, and the birds gobble the berries up quickly!

This is an idea that saves you a little money. More importantly, it's just something fun to do. It's interesting to see which birds will go after these natural foods.

  • If you collect berries, make sure you know what you're picking, store them in a safe manner, and wear gloves!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shade Grown Coffee Is For The Birds

A few months back, Patrick of the Hawks Owl Nest mentioned shade grown coffee in this post. It was not the first time that I had heard about shade grown coffee but it was the first time that I made the decision to look into buying some. If you haven't heard of shade grown coffee, let me summarize why it's important for the birds. Shade Grown Coffee Plantations don't cut down their trees in order to grow coffee beans. Other coffee plantations clear forests to produce their coffee beans, which has a devastating effect on the migratory bird population.

Of course the idea had to percolate in my head for a few months before I finally took action. It turned out to be a little bit of a chore trying to find the stuff. There are a lot of companies that offer shade grown coffee for sale on the Internet, but I really didn't want to purchase coffee that way. I found out that the shelf life of coffee is not as long as one might think. If I'm going to pay more money for my coffee, I want it to be fresh. I'd feel a whole lot better about buying my coffee with cash from a local coffee shop.

I thought that finding a local coffee shop that sells shade grown coffee would be easy. I talked to two businesses that specialized in selling coffee along with a health food store. None of them even knew what shade grown coffee was.I finally found a place in Glastonbury called Daybreak Coffee Roasters who assured me that their organic coffees were shade grown. The coffee I purchased their had excellent flavor. They roast their beans right in the store. I am hoping they will do a better job promoting their shade grown coffee. Nothing on their website or store talks about the shade grown aspect.

There is another coffee business in Goshen CT. called Coffee, Tea, Etc. that uses only shade grown coffee. Starbucks is also offering shade grown coffee in their stores. I tend to avoid Starbucks for my own personal reasons. Audubon offers shade grown coffee over the internet.

Here are a few things that I found out about shade grown coffee:

  • It is more expensive at $8.00 to $13.00 a pound. That doesn't bother me much because people spend $3.00 for one cup of Coffee from you know where.

  • Shade Grown Coffee beans have more flavor because it takes them longer to grow. They also come form hardier plants. I've tried it-So far, it's better than the coffee I've been buying at the grocery store.

  • Up until the 1950's, all coffee was shade grown. Over the years coffee plantations have been clearing forests so that they grow plants that produce higher numbers of lower quality coffee cherries. The Coffee plants that are grown in sunny conditions require much more fertilizer and pesticides.

I was surprised at how much there is to learn about coffee from the time it's planted until the time it makes it in to your cup. Here are some additional links if you would like to learn more: Shade Grown Coffee, Migratory Bird Center , Bird Friendly And Shade . Did you know that once coffee is opened it is supposed to be used up within a week? I didn't. Here is some information about Brewing And Storing Coffee.

The bottom line is- if you care about birds (which I know you do), and you like coffee, -think about making the switch to shade grown coffee if you haven't already. If you've already made the switch, spread the word!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Return Of The Black Vultures

"Return Of The Black Vultures"-sounds like the sinister title of a 1940's radio program, or maybe a 1950's sci-fi movie doesn't it? Last August, I encountered two Black Vultures, but failed to identify them at the time. Here it is a year later, August of 2007. It was time to make a return visit to our beloved temple of trash-The Portland Transfer Station. Birds do have a tendency to return to certain areas at certain times of the year. I figured it was worth a shot.

Sunday morning is the best time to search for Vultures at the dump. Since it is closed, the Turkey Vultures are roosting, flying and sunning their wings like the one in the top photo. I tried to sneak up on them, but I guess they saw me because they flew off in a hurry. Maybe I shouldn't have worn my tap-dancing shoes. Anyway, there was plenty of Turkey Vultures, like the ones shown above. However, there was no sign of the much less common Black Vulture.

I switched gears, and decided to take a hike up to the top of Great Hill. I don't climb Great Hill expecting to see a lot of birds. It is the highest point in Portland, and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding Connecticut River Valley. I always feel better after taking a short but vigorous hike to the top. Is it the exercise that feels so good, or is the symbolic act of being able to rise above the troubled world that lies below?Whatever the case, I like it-especially after I have a few cups of shade grown coffee.

Although I don't go to this location just to see birds, I usually see something of interest. On this particular day, birds of prey seemed to be the primary attraction. They were taking advantage of the thermals, and surprised me with several stunning views. First I saw this one particular hawk, which was making several tight circles. I thought that I heard it yelp out a keyuur-keyuur call, that would leave me to believe it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. Hawks in flight are another weak point of mine though, so I remain uncertain.

I was also pleased to see a pair of Osprey patrolling the area. One of them plucked a fish out of the nearby pond and flew right by me. They don't usually hang around inland locations all that much in our area. Some of the other birds I encountered included: a Barred Owl calling, a Black & White Warbler, and a Cooper's Hawk.

Just as I was about to leave, I looked to my right and saw a large, dark, bird flying toward me. It actually flew right past me, just 30' above my head. What was it? -silvery wingtips-short tail-darkish head-could it be?-It's a Black Vulture! and what an excellent view!
Unfortunately, I really didn't do a good job getting pictures. They all came out blurry. I even contemplated experimenting to see how long my camera would take to reach the bottom of a 400' hill-but only briefly. I saw the Vulture fly off to the left and it joined up with a second Black Vulture. The fun part was watching them flap their wings somewhat vigorously, which is is something that separates them from Turkey Vultures. Above is a distant side view of one of them. I wouldn't be able to tell this was a Black Vulture unless I had actually been there. It almost looks like a crow or something-only it's not.

Here is a much better photo of the ones that I saw last August. I wonder if they were the same ones? Could they have nested somewhere up on the rocky terrain of the Great Hill area?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sandy Point In West Haven

My destination for this morning was Sandy Point in West Haven. I was here about a year ago when I received an introductory crash course on shore birds from one of my fellow Audubon members (thanks Fran). What makes Sandy Point special is that you you can get a close up view of some of the shorebirds here. I decided to leave my bargain scope behind, and just use binoculars. I picked the perfect day. The tide was low but coming in early. As the tide comes in, the shorebirds come in with them. It was also cool and sunny. Very nice indeed.

I arrived at 6:30 am, and was delighted to find that I was the first one there. The first birds I encountered on the way in were not shorebirds at all. This is a photo of one out of a group of about 20 Monk Parakeets. I will say that they are pretty noisy birds-"Polly Want A Cracker?"As I stated in another post, some of these birds have been euthanized because they build too many giant nests in unwanted areas (like the top of telephone poles). I'm not sure what to make of that issue. As I walked out to the point, there were a number of Plovers within close view. Most of them were Semipalmated Plovers. They have some similarities to a Killdeer but have only a single dark breastband compared to tow on the Killdeer.They are also smaller, and have yellowish legs-(Killdeer have pinkish legs). I also saw Piping Plover which are very light in color, and only a partial breastband-(I'm looking over, a Piping Plover-which I overlooked before)-.There were a number of Black-bellied Plovers as well which can be confusing because their plumage color goes through many stages. Some of the other birds that I saw were: Ruddy Turnstones, American Oystercatchers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Spotted Sandpipers. I spent a lot of time looking at individual birds, so that I really didn't build up a big species list.

While I am not very confident with my ability to identify shorebirds, I was pleased to know that I'm not completely clueless as I was last year. Over time, I'm sure that I my shorebirding skills will eventually improve.

This is the first year that I've looked at Terns through binoculars. So far, I've only identified Common Terns . I don't think the title common fits them. They're actually very elegant looking birds. I am looking forward to seeing other species of Tern in the future.

After spending a couple of hours watching birds, I saw a group of about 10 birders approach. Each with their own spotting scope. They waved politely as they passed by, but didn't seem interested in making conversation. I was hoping that I could pick up some tips from some of the more experienced birders, but decided this was not the appropriate time. As I headed back, I realized that the tide had come up to the point that I wouldn't be able to avoid getting my feet wet. Oh well, it was worth it anyway. I ran in to a few more birders on the way out. One of them was an 80 year old gentleman that I had run into a few times in the past (god bless him-he's still going stronger than ever). I chatted with them about what I had seen, and they shared some information about the shorebirds in the area with me. Shorebirding still isn't my preferred type of birding, but I think it may be growing on me just a little bit.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do Songbirds Respond To Music?

In October of 2003, I was camping out in a tent at Pachaug State Forest. This is a heavily wooded area, and I remember being disappointed that there didn't seem to be any birds or wildlife around.

I decided to play some c.d.'s. To my surprise, several birds immediately emerged from the woods and perched on branches surrounding my campsite. They seemed to be quite curious . I can't recall all of the details as to which birds they were but I remember Black-capped Chickadees and Downy-Woodpeckers were in the mix. The music I played that day included Bob Dylan, Bela Fleck, Led Zeppelin, Jazz, and Classical. There have been several instances since then where I suspected that birds may have been attracted by music I was playing.

I have no scientific evidence to prove that birds respond to music, but in my opinion they do react to music. One of these days (maybe on a vacation), I would like to try some informal experiments. I was thinking about choosing the same observation time for a period of days. I could play certain types of music on some days. On other days, I would play no music. I would then compare results including number of species, number of individual birds, and any behavioral observations. The other option would be to go to a clearing where there are no birds in sight. I could then try to draw birds in using different types of music.

This probably sounds like a strange idea, but it might be fun (and-relaxing too)! If you ever decide to try any version of this idea, please let me know what your findings are.

I did some googling to see if anyone has tried similar experiments. I didn't find out too much through my internet search, except for this article.
Do you know of any research that has been done on this particular subject?
Have you ever suspected that birds might be reacting to music that you were playing?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Songbird Lyrics Game

Let's finish this one up! -take note of the blatant clues next to the unanswered ones.
Name the song that the lyrics belong to and/or an artist who performed it. Let us know which ones you knew, even if it has already been answered.
Blue=Unanswered Grey=incomplete Black=already answered
1) I wonder how you're feeling-There's ringing in my ears-And no one to relate to, 'cept the sea.

2)Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom-July is dressed up and playing her tune-

3)I must take a trip to California,-And leave my poor sweetheart alone.

4) Didn't you love the things they stood for? -Didn't they try to find some good in you and me?

5)One look from you and I would fall from grace -And that would wipe this smile right from my face.

6)I know your anger, I know your dreams-I've been everything you wanna be ohhh…

7)I've got my suitcase in my hand-Now, ain't that a shame-I'm leavin' here today-Yes, I'm goin' back home to stay-

8)Before the rising sun we fly,-So many roads to choose-We start our walking and learn to run.

9)Hitchin' on a twilight train-Ain't nothing here that I care to take along-Maybe a song-To sing when I want-

10)So you put on the TV and you're watchin Johnny Carson segway in right into the Tomorrow show -but that don't got the go so you turn it off ya turn on the radio-This one is by the son of a famous old-time folk singer-The song is a long story/song that takes place in Massachusetts-a place where "you can get anything you want."

11)I'm waiting in my cold cell, when the bell begins to chime. Reflecting on my past life- and it doesn't have much time.

12)The exodus is here-The happy ones are near-Let's get together-Before we get much older.-This is a rock group that has a question for a name.

13)The highway's jammed- with broken heroes -on a last chance power drive

14)The mountain is high-The valley is low -and you're confused on which way to go-

15) Rain gray town known for its sound-In places small faces unbound-This is by a group that David Crosby was in before he joined C-S+Nash-It is a song of great heights.

16) I do believe in you-And I know you believe in me

17) And I was born in the back seat of a- Greyhound bus-Rolling down highway forty-one

18) Let me travel this la-and -from the mountains to the sea-'Cause that's the life- I believe He meant for me-This is by the most famous male country singer of all time who died at the age of 29-It's title is the same as number 17.
Next Songbird Lyrics Game will be August 22 at 7pm.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Problem With Juvenile Sparrows

I decided to survey our local Wangunk Meadows Sunday to see what was around.
It was sunny, cool, and dry. A drastic change in weather from the previous day. I quickly came across Belted Kingfishers, flocks of Cedar Waxwings, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Bobolinks, and so on and so on.

Now, let me get to the point. Do you see that sparrow in the top picture? What is it? I had a pretty good idea that this was a juvenile sparrow. The juvenile sparrows don't have the same markings as the adults, making things more difficult. To me, it looks like a possible Song Sparrow (there's a bunch of variation of the Song Sparrow too), Swamp Sparrow, or maybe a Savannah seems like a possibility too. Another problem is that sparrows in the field don't always match what you see in a field guide. I don't think that I see white under the throat like a Swamp Sparrow. I don't think Lincoln's Sparrows breed in Connecticut, and the bill looks too big. I'm going to put some effort in to learning sparrows this fall. I know the obvious ones, but stuff like this can drive me crazy. If you know for certain what this is, please tell me.
This is kind of an odd picture. Too much sun was reflecting off of this bird, but it looks to be a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak scratching herself. I actually saw several of them moving though the area. My stay here was brief due to the arrival of halfa dozen atv's which aren't even supposed to be there. I saw this handsome butterfly on the way out. I know I've seen this butterfly a few times this year but I lost my butterly guide.-Is this the Spicebush Swallowtail?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

One Hot Morning

Where should we go to look for birds on this hot, humid summer morning? Maybe we should take a ride down to the shore. On second thought, that would take too much time. Let's just take a short walk at Machimoudus Park in East Haddam. We'll park over here.

The birds seem awfully quiet this morning-don't you think? I don't see the Orchard Orioles that were here the last time I came. I wonder if they're gone for the season? We'll walk up the main trail to the Salmon River Cove overlook. Look over there-to the right.There's an male Indigo Bunting in that bush right in the middle of the sandpit. Isn't the color beautiful with the sun reflecting off of it like that? All right, let's head up to the top of the hill. Wait a minute. Look at that brightly colored mushroom.-That thing looks like it would be poisonous! I'm going to see if I can get a picture of it. At least I know it won't move.
I don't even have a mushroom book. Do you have any idea what kind it is? I hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee in that big Oak Tree over there. Let's see if we can get a little closer. Look, it's sitting right out there on a branch. That's odd, I think it's another bird making the pee-a-wee sound. Now I don't know if this one is the same species. That's all we need-ventriloquist Flycatchers. I'll take a picture of it.

Rats!-It came out blurry. That's o.k., I'm putting it in anyway.

Have you ever checked out any of the Internet birding forums? There's actually quite a few. Anyway, I was following an interesting exchange between birders in one particular state last week. There were a few reports from birders talking about how the shore birding on the western shoreline was really picking up. A couple of the people who sent in reports posed the question: Where are all the birders? Some of the other birders who read the forum took offense to this question. They made the point that not everyone lives near the western shoreline and has the extra money for gas to drive over that way. They also pointed out that not all birders have the free time on their hands to go birding as much as they like, and in some cases don't even own a scope needed to bird these areas. The people who originally posted the question explained that they meant no offense.They just wanted to encourage more birders to get out in the field as to increase the chances of finding rarities.That brought on another discussion about bird observation versus chasing rarities. Some people may be put off by reading these types of heated exchanges-I rather enjoyed it. In these days of political correctness it seems that people are too often expected to keep their opinions to themselves. I wish that we could have more open conversations about our differences as a society.

Reading these exchanges made me realize that the birding community is made up of people from all different social classes. I've been birding with doctors, dentists, teachers, construction workers -rich-unemployed-you name it. I probably never would have met any of these people if we hadn't shared an interest in birds.

I've got to be honest, the heats really getting to me. Let's just head back down the hill and call it a day. Is that o.k. with you? Be careful!-this part is a little steep. We don't have much farther to go now.

Hey! Check out that little butterfly-We've got to get a picture of that before we go!

I think that's one of those Pearl Crescent Butterflies-what do you think? Well it's been fun. Maybe we'll do a little birding again in the fall when the weather is nicer and there's more birds around.-Thanks-have a nice weekend!