Sunday, September 30, 2007

Enjoying The Moment

This past Saturday, I was standing at the edge of a field on Ridgewood Road in Middletown at 7am. The air was cool and dry on this beautiful Fall morning. I was leaning back against my truck, thinking about how The Boston Red Sox had won first place in The American League East division for the first time in 12 years. Even though the ultimate goal is winning The World Series, the team went all out to celebrate this milestone. I was glad to see that they did. There is no guarantee that they will even make it to The World Series, so why miss out on a special moment?

Many times in life the things that we look forward to may not live up to our expectations. Instead of finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we might just find a pot of-well you know what I mean. Some moments in life may seem insignificant when we are experiencing them, but as time passes, we may look back at those same experiences with fond memories.

As I was thinking about all this, 4 Northern Mockingbirds we moving about in some nearby shrubs. On this particular morning, I decided to take some time to watch them. I have seen them so many times, but how often have I really seen them?
Their long tails and grayish bodies stood out in sharp contrast against the brilliant blue sky. I watched as one bird performed it's territorial dance. It would fly several feet straight up in to the air as it flashed the white under its wings. It then swirled back down to the top of a bush and repeated this ceremony several times.

Another bird flew 20 feet to the right and landed on a different set of bushes. Seconds later, it looped back around to its original position. It perched at the very top, and we stared at each other for what seemed like several minutes.Then it reached down and plucked a berry.

I could hear some of them performing a softer version of their songs. Some Mockingbirds have been known to have as many as 200 songs or sounds in their repertoire. I find it admirable the way it defends not only its nest, but also its winter supply of berries. This is a bird that knows what it wants.

I later traveled around to several other areas by morning's end looking for a so-called "good" bird . I saw a total of 37 species of birds, but none captured my attention more than the Northern Mockingbird. Many would say that it is a common bird that will always be here for us to enjoy. The question is, will we always be here to enjoy the Northern Mockingbird?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Walk Along The Forgotten Tracks

On Saturday, I decided to explore an undeveloped portion of the Airline Rail Trail. The trail was a former railroad line that ran from Boston to New York City. You can read about its fascinating history here.

It was a cool, overcast morning with much moisture in the air. I started my walk at Depot Hill Road in Portland. There was a parking area near a gate. Apparrently, this area is owned by a utility company. Right from the start, there was a flurry of avian activity-Northern Cardinals,Blue Jays,Tufted Titmice,Red-bellied Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches,White-breasted Nuthatches,Common Yellowthroats greeted me with a disorganized symphony of sounds.

There was something odd about the Yellowthroat that I saw. It had little dark marks on its cheeks. I later realized upon checking a field guide, that it was a first winter male.

After passing through this initial area, I continued to see a variety of birds. I was hearing chip notes coming from inside the tangled bushes along the way. I became a bit frustrated after a while as they turned out to be little brown sneaky birds that didn't want to come out in play. I doubt that they were Song Sparrows, as I have no problem phishing those birds out in to the open. I did see Carolina Wrens and House Wrens along the way.There were also a few Palm Warblers around. The have a habit of flicking their tale like an Eastern Phoebe does. I had a nice view of an Indigo Bunting which has a "wet" sounding chip note.
I passed through some areas that was just bursting with berries. The smell of wild grapes was delicious! As the fragrance wafted through the damp air, I could actually taste the grapes in the back of my throat. I walked through an area where the ledge had been blasted. It left a long rock corridor. Water trinkled down from the sides, even though we haven't had any real rain for weeks. It made the air seem thick, so that taking a deep breath required effort.

At one point, I heard a group-(It's actually called a murder of crows but it seems odd to say that )- of American Crows harassing a Common Raven.-(a group of Ravens has historically been called an unkindness of Ravens, but I only saw one Raven anyway. The Crows were being unkind to it though).

I passed under route 66 through a tunnel. Looking at the map, I had never seen this tunnel from the road, as it was completely hidden. I found that to be interesting. Even more interesting, was that there was a Northern Waterthrush piddling round in some puddles at the very end of the tunnel.I enjoyed watching it for a while as I slowly came closer to it. Northern Waterthrushes prefer slow running or still water where as the Louisianna Waterthrush prefers running water. During migration this rule does not hold as true. This particular bird clearly had a yellowish-tinged breast, which made identification easier.
The last portion of the walk was a real surprise for me.The path cut right down the middle of a swampy area, but my feet stayed nice and dry-perfect viewing area. I enjoyed nice looks at 4 species of Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Phoebe, unknown Warbler, and a myriad of other birdies. I stopped my walk at a road called Alden's Crossing.You could see a portion of the track tarred over.There was a nice little wooden bridge that stood above a stream.This made for a nice viewing area also. I had a terrific look at Wood Thrush, in all of its spotted glory.On my way back, I noticed the two bikes that had been abandoned in the tunnel. It was kind of sad to see the two bikes rusting away inside this old train tunnel. There was probably a time when these two bikes were cherished by the kids who owned them. Do they still come back to visit these trails? I can just imagine the number of people who must have traveled along this route, and the memories that traveled with them. These trails that have been left behind are a wonderful gift.

On my way back, I could detect the smell of a charcoal grill. Not a bad smell,-just enough to snap my mind back to the present. I'll be looking forward to walking the rest of this historic trail in the days ahead.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's This Stuff?

Thanks to all of you who participated in previous "What's This Stuff?" posts. I've learned about some plants, butterflies,fungus, and insects from the answers in the comments section.

Here are 8 photos I've saved from some of my walks over the past couple of months.
Can you identify what's in the photos?

First On The List -Wopowag Wildlife Management Area

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have made a list of potential birding locations to explore. I have noticed a little area on the map called The Wopowag Wildlife Management area for some time now. On Friday, I finally decided to check it out first hand. It is located off of Wopowag Road, near the junction of 196 and 151 in East Hampton.

This area is a 400 acre patch of preserved land near the Salmon River.The accessibility to open area seemed to be very limited with a dirt road leading to the river being the primary path.There were also a couple of other short paths leading to the river through the woods.The woods were mixed deciduous and evergreen.There was also a lot of shrubs and thicket areas with areas of overgrown grass.

I only spent about 45 minutes in the area. My favorite birding moment came when I spotted one of those sparrows that I was not able to identify upon first spotting it. First I had to remind myself to keep my hands off the camera until I tried to get a better look at field marks. It had a rusty cap, eye ring, and a sort of pinkish bill.The bird had a dull washed out look overall.I checked the field guide and voila-it was a Field Sparrow ! It's not always that easy for me with sparrows. Some times I don't make a decision on the i.d. with juvenile birds. I was pleased to have been able to make the i.d. this time. One down, many more sparrow challenges to come.

Then I heard a noisy keeyar, keeyar, keeyar call. Oh I know that one-easy-a Red-shouldered Hawk-right? Wrong-It was a Blue Jay doing an imitation of one. I'll bet you that I was fooled by that call a couple of times over the last month and didn't even realize it.

Can you tell what kind of tree this is ? Every time that I find a patch of these trees, I find a bunch of birds in them. There were House Wrens, Palm Warblers, and several other birds bopping around in them.

I worked my way down to the river where I saw the little flock of Canada Geese. It makes for a nice seen when they're in a river versus along side a pond where they walk all over their own droppings.

Across the street from the parking lot was a swampy area. I had a nice look at some male Eastern Towhees. There were four of them all together.

I would rate the area a c+. It has some potential, so I will be checking it out again in the future. It's one of those places that's worth a look before heading on to somewhere else. One of my favorite areas, Machimoudus Park, is right up the road.

I visited an undeveloped portion of the Airline Rail Trail today. I'll tell you all about that in my next post.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's Not Too Early To Enjoy The Future

Having things to look forward to in the future has always been an important part of life for me. For example, I love to plan for vacations far in advance. Through the process of planning, I am able to imagine what it will feel like when I'm at that place I want to be. If I have a tough day, I can pull out my calendar book and remind myself a vacation is coming. Even if it is months away!

This week I have found much enjoyment, by making a list of places that I would like to go hiking and birding. I have gone though the process of looking though topographical maps, hiking books, birding hotspot books,land trust information, books, and trail information websites.The whole process increases my anticipation to explore new areas.

This week, I heard a program on NPR with a guest talking about hiking in Connecticut. I found it very interesting listening to hikers talk about all that the Appalachian Trail has To offer. The guest, whose name escapes me now, mentioned that one of the most beautiful portions of the trail is right near the border of Massachusetts and Connecticut. I can't wait to explore that part of the trail. I will have my binoculars with me and enjoy seeing whatever birds I might happen to come across.
I was also very pleased when I read the 2007-2008 winter finch report out of Ontario Canada. The idea of being able to see winter finches such as: Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Purple Finches, and Pine Grosbeaks, in Connecticut this year is very exciting! I plan on visiting areas where I'll have a chance to find some of these species. One area that I'm interested in trying is the Eugene D. Moran Wildlife Management Area which I learned about in the book Birding Western Massachusetts.This area has been known to have Pine Grosbeaks, White-winged Crossbills, and even an occasional Boreal Chickadee. I may not see any of these birds, but I'm sure looking forward to trying.

I now have a new wish list of places I'm looking forward to visiting. Type of habitat, points of historical interest, and finding places that are unfamiliar to me are all factors I've considered when choosing these destinations.This may not lead me to the best birding spots, but how do you know unless you try? What's important is enjoying the overall experience. It's not always just about birds and hiking. It's also about reconnecting with our place in the natural world. On a good day, it can lead to a feeling of spiritual renewal.

Do You Enjoy Planning For The Future? What Are You Looking Forward To?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sunday's Double Feature

Part I-The Wangunk Meadows
It sure was a beautiful day Sunday! It was only about 50 degrees or so when I arrived at the Fairgrounds in Portland at about 6:30 am. I took a nice 5 mile round trip walk along side the Connecticut River in the Wangunk Meadow area. I check this area regularly to see what's coming and going.

The first thing that caught my attention was the sound of Indigo buntings.they were making their little "spik" sound. Someone told me it sounds like a wet chip note to them. I saw 8 Indigo buntings in a relatively small area. They were mostly females in non-breeding plumage.

I was listening to a Carolina Wren repeating its pit-a-tweet, pit-a-tweet, pit-a-tweet song (my version). Suddenly a Gray Catbird started making the classic catbird squawk right near the wren. The Carolina Wren continued with the same song pattern, but switched to a higher octave after the catbird started making noise. Was this just coincidence? I'll have to pay attention the next time I hear a wren change octaves. Have you noticed any interesting bird behavior recently?

One thing that I thought to be strange, was that I did not see a single Red-winged Blackbird.There is usually Red-winged Blackbirds here right in to the fall. Last year, there was huge flocks of them for most of October. I wonder if it has anything to do with the area being so dry this year, or if they've moved on already. Are you noticing any migration patterns or changes in your area?

Other birds of interest included: Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawks, Belted Kingfisher, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, and 4 Wood Ducks flying over. I also saw a female Purple Finch.The white eyebrow was visible, but it was a distant view.

Part II-Backyard Cousins
I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon just relaxing in my backyard. I haven't done that often enough this year. This little Black-capped Chickadee seems to be waiting for water droplets to land in his mouth. These birds are definitely one of my favorites. They're always buzzing around, and don't mind me getting close to them .They seem to scold me when I'm nearby, but they stand their ground.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about this bird:

  • Their song(chick-a-dee-dee) is one of the most complex vocalizations in the animal kingdom. It serves as a contact call, an alarm call, to identify an individual, or to indicate recognition of a particular flock.
  • They can remember where they hid their food for up to 28 days! I can't remember for that long (of course I wouldn't want it after 28 days).
  • They can drop their temperature by about 10-12 degrees Celsius at night to conserve energy.
  • They have a definite pecking order within a flock.

The Tufted Titmouse seems to be a little bit lest trusting than the chickadees. They are fun birds to have around as well though.They make a lot of interesting sounds. Many times, they fool me with their sounds, making me think they're another bird.

Here are a few facts about the Tufted Titmouse:

  • Most individuals spend their entire life within an area of just a couple of miles.
  • They only live in areas where they get at least 24" of rain annually.
  • They were regarded as messengers according to Cherokee legend. I could see that-they definitely are talkative birds.

I don't have anything to say about this Red-breasted Nuthatch, except that I'm glad that he's still hanging around my feeders. Who's been hanging around your feeders lately?- (besides your neighbors).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Remembering Lake Nahmakanta

It was about 4 years ago that I was a part of a small group of fishermen who spent a week at Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camp in Maine. It was about a 10 hour drive to reach the camp, with the last hour being a drive down an old logging road. This is not everyone's idea of a vacation spot. It is in a remote area located in the middle of Maine's wilderness. It also lacks most modern conveniences. These are the types of areas that I prefer. I love hearing the sound of loons calling across the lake.

What follows are a few of my memories from this trip. Unfortunately, I never bothered taking photos ( I rarely did on these trips).

The Mysterious Animal At The Top Of A Tree
I believe it was the first day after we arrived, that I went for a walk on an abandoned logging road with my cousin Scott. The area was full of dead trees, many of which were filled with woodpecker holes. As we rounded a corner, we came to a sudden stop. There was a strange animal near the very top of one of the dead trees. We were totally confused. Was it a bear cub?-no, not a bear. The strange part was that it looked like a primate the way it used it's hands to grip the tree. It seemed to be eating bark. The animal then started climbing back down. Not knowing what we were dealing with, we decided to leave.

When we returned to the camp, we described the animal to Don (the owner), and asked him what it might be. At first he suggested a Fisher, but after further description he decided it was probably a Porcupine. I had no idea that Porcupines climbed trees. I thought that they looked like little balled up woodchucks with a spiked hairdo. We're still not certain as to what we saw, but we'll go with Porcupine. Here is a link to Porcupine. It sure didn't look like the one in this link.It's body was stretched out, it didn't have quills sticking up, and it had hands that really gripped the tree.
The Ravens In The Prehistoric Forest
On a second hike to a different area, we walked through an old growth forest. The whole area reminded us of a scene from Jurassic Park. The base of the giant trees had many exposed roots.These roots were covered with a thick moss, and there were tons of fern all around. We came to the edge of a cliff, that overlooked a huge gorge.It was then, that we started to hear the strange sounding communication taking place between two large black crows. Although I wasn't a birder at that time, we figured out that they must have been Common Ravens. We watched them interact and communicate for at least 20 minutes.We were fascinated by their array of strange sounds. We also decided by their actions, that they must be very intelligent.

Two Years later, I would once again find myself in awe of Ravens. On a very windy day, I saw two Ravens seemingly being blown all over the place by the gusty winds. It wasn't until I watched them more closely, that I realised that they knew what they were doing. They put on an aerial acrobatics display that blew my mind. They were rolling, tumbling, twirling-you name it.They seemed like they must be having fun in some sort of way. Ravens are awesome!

The Boat-flipping Dust Devil
There was a group of us standing along the shoreline of beautiful Lake Nahmakanta on a bright and beautiful sunny day. As we looked to our right, we saw some trees rustling at the top of a steep hill. A burst of twirling wind could be seen traveling down the edge of the hill. It seemed to form a small cyclone.It was clear, but started to pick up debris as it traveled along the shoreline in our direction. We stood and watched with great curiosity. It wasn't until the funnel came within ten feet of us, that we decided to step back a bit. This turned out to be a good decision because of what happened next. Two boats were suddenly lifted 10 feet in to the air and flipped face down in to the lake. We watched as the funnel continued to travel along the lake and finally disappear. -(I used the term dust devil, but I believe there is a specific name for these type of mini-wind storms that occur in Maine. If you know what they are, please let me know)

We dragged the boats out of the water, and on to the shore. One was a canoe, and the other a fourteen foot Lund with a motor. The owners had taken a day trip to buy supplies for the camp. We wondered what the owners would think when we tried to explain what happened to their boats. An older gentleman who had been listening from his cabin said "Don't worry boys, I saw the entire thing." We were glad that he had seen it too.

This area is great for birding, wildlife, and fishing. The camp is run by Don and Angel
Hibbs. They are very nice people, and also very knowledgeable about the area. Their are canoes located at a dozen different ponds located 1/2 mile to 4 miles from the Maine Camp. All of them are completely undeveloped.

You have the option of cooking yourself, or preparing your own meals. We did a little of both. The food that Angel prepared was excellent. My favorite was the blackened salmon. Click here, if you would like to learn more about Nahmakanta Lake Camps.

Thursday, September 13, 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)She didn't know what she was headed for-And when I found what she was headed for-It was too late...

2)The lock upon my garden gate's a snail, that's what it is.

3)I've paid my dues-Time after time-I've done my sentence-But committed no crime..

4)And there's nothing short a' dying -That's half as lonesome as the sound- Of the sleeping city sidewalk....

5)Give me time- to realize my crime-Let me love and steal-I have danced inside your eyes-How can I be real....

6)Company........., always on the run-Destiny........, oooh, and the rising sun..

7)So I was the one with all the glory, while you were the one with all the strain.

8)I don't want to leave her now,You know I believe, and how.

9)Hands-touchin' hands-reachin' out-touchin' me-touchin' you...

10)Three thirty in the morning -Not a soul in sight- The city's lookin' like a ghost town- On a moonless summer night..

11) You always won- every time you placed a bet-You're still damn good, no one's gotten to you yet..

12)I was a willow last night -in my dream-I bent down over a clear running stream

13)Don't it always seem to go-That you don't know what you’ve got-‘Til its gone

14)A dream that will need-All the love you can give, Every day of your life- For as long as you live.

15)Oh - thinkin' about all our younger years -There was only you and me -We were young and wild and free..

16)What happened to the world we knew? When we would dream and scheme

17) We had a dream, we'd go travelin' together, We'd spread a little lovin'- then
we'd keep movin' on.

18) You know I can be found, sitting home all alone, If you can't come around, at least please telephone.

19) Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream- I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been..

20)You used to be so amused-At Napoleon in rags- and the language that he used-Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse..

21)I remember to this day-The bright red Georgia clay-And how it stuck to the tires-After the summer rain

From Famous Poems:

1)But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay. Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain.

2)The purple petals, fallen in the pool, Made the black water with their beauty gay; Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool, And court the flower that cheapens his array.

3) Would you be calm and placid-If you were full of formic acid?

4)Calmly the wearied seamen rest -Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest, For there is purity.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Birds Were hard To Come By

I decided to combine a little exercise with my birding Saturday. I hiked up Mount Higby in Middletown. This area is part of a long volcanic ridge. I've never seen any bird reports come from Mount Higby. My hope was that I might see a few birds on the way up, and perhaps some migrating hawks on the way back(they like to use the updraft from these ridges). The hike and view were very nice, despite the extreme humidity. There was a strong breeze, so that helped cool things off a bit.

Surprisingly, I only saw 3 birds on the way up! American Crow, Mourning Dove, and a Wild Turkey. I did hear a few birds including: Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwings, Blue Jays, and American Robins. I did take note of the fact that there wasn't any sign of water up there. No brooks,no puddles, not even ant spit.
I could have hiked all the way over to West Peak, but I forgot to bring water with me. Besides, I didn't want to take a chance of running in to the Black Dog. There is a
legend about a strange black dog that has been seen roaming the area by hikers. It supposedly makes no sound when it barks. I'm always curious as to how a legend originates. Are there any well-known legends where you live?

I decided to head back but did manage to see one more bird on my way out. It was a Red-breasted Nuthatch. It seems like I always see that one last bird on my way out from a hike.

Sunday, I decided to start the morning at Rocky Hill Meadows.there have been good numbers of Baird's Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and American Golden Plovers spotted in this area. I really like to check these fields out after it has rained. Unfortunately, it has not rained for some time. These shorebirds are considered to be "good birds" to see at an inland location. I could tell from the comments in reports, that the area was starting to get mobbed by birders. For this reason, I decided that I would be the first one there and the first one out. I quickly came upon two American Golden Plovers. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were at first. I forgot my field guide, and have seen only one Golden Plover which happened to be in breeding plumage at the time. I identified it later using the photo. . This one has quite a prominent eye stripe. It's amazing how different shorebirds can look in different stages of plumage. Several cars started showing up, so I decided to head out and explore other areas. I took a ride to an area that is owned by the State of Connecticut. There are a few fields and wooded areas surrounding some mental health facilities. I caught a glimpse of these turkeys as I was driving along. I then traveled to a field on the corner of Silver Mine Road and Farm Road.It was there, that I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk, 5 Black Vultures, and a Brown Thrasher.
I pulled my truck over to get a photo of these Double-crested Cormorants that were in a dirty little city pond along route 17. Maybe it just looks dirtier than it is. I enjoyed seeing signs of life here.
I continued to look for potential birding spots along the way.- I checked out a few cemeteries in the area to see how much land and how many trees they had. It seems that every fall, someone finds interesting birds such as a Lark Sparrow at some cemetery in Connecticut. I'd like to find one on my own some time! I ended the day getting a close view of this Red-tailed Hawk. Almost made for a good picture if I could have just seen more of it's face. I never committed to birding at one spot this weekend. I felt as though I was digging for change underneath couch cushions. Next week, I'm picking one nice spot that has water. I'm going to do a few hours of birding in that one area.
What was your favorite bird sighting this weekend?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Two Connecticut Nuthatches

Connecticut has two nuthatches, the Red-breasted Nuthatch (top pic), and the White-breasted Nuthatch (bottom pic). Both have the unique ability of climbing the trunk of a tree -head down -(don't try this at home!).

Note the distinct black eye stripe and white supercilium on the Red-breasted Nuthatch. It has a song described as a series of clear, nasal rising calls repeated slowly eeen eeen eeen...(Sibley). Some say that they sound like they're blowing a little tin horn.The ones that I've come across, have had a consistently quiet but nasaly song. It is the smaller (and quicker!) of the two nuthatches.

The White-breasted Nuthatch has a white face and dark crown stripe. Its call is described as a nasal yenk or renk slightly descending-often trilled or rolling (Sibley). I've run in to small groups of this species while out in the woods. They can be mighty noisy with a lot of variation in their songs.They are pretty well-behaved at my feeders .

For more detail about the two species go to Cornell's All About Birds and click on:
Red-breasted Nuthatch or White-breasted nuthatch.

I was happy to have the Red-breasted Nuthatch as a visitor this week. They are much less common than the White-breasted Nuthatch which are at my feeders all year. Both of them eat peanuts, and sunflower seeds.There have been reports of increasing numbers of the Red-breasted Nuthatches moving through the state over the last couple of weeks.

I can tell you that the Red-breasted Nuthatch has been very feisty. I caught it jabbing its bill in to the side of a House Sparrow at one of my feeders. I felt bad for the poor House Sparrow...NOT!!!

Outside of an occasional visit at my feeders, I some times find Red-breasted Nuthatches where there are stands of Pine.

How many species of Nuthatch do you have in your area? Which are the most common and least common?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I Judged The Book By It's Cover

I just finished reading a book titled "Red-Tails In Love" by Marie Winn. I've noticed this book many times over the years, during my visits to the Town library. I never really considered reading the book, because I didn't like the title. I wondered what could be of interest to me, in a book with a title like that-it's just too sappy sounding .

Recently, I overheard a couple of birders talking about the book. I could tell by their conversation, that there was more to the book than I had previously thought. I finally decided to check the book out, and give it a chance. I say give it a chance, because I won't read a book unless it has something to capture my interest within the first 20 pages.

I read the book-in one sitting. It gave a background history about the birding and birders of Central Park. The author did a nice job of showing the connection that many of these birders shared. I really enjoyed hearing the details that various birders included in the Central Park Birder's logbook. It was also interesting to learn a little bit about the personalities of the birders themselves.

Reading about the struggles of Pale Male ( the male Red-tail), and the females he attempted to reproduce with was at times both compelling and sad. In the end, it made for a good story. I have to admit, that I judged this book by it's cover-literally.
It was brought to my attention by Laura, from Somewhere In New Jersey ,that the Marie Winn has a website which icludes additional information on the topic.
Here is the link: Marie Winn's Website.

Here are a few other birding books that I own, or have read before. I'll just make a quick comment on each, because it's been a long time since I've read some of them.

Kingbird Highway by Ken Kaufmann-This is my favorite birding book so far. It is a book about Kaufmann's adventures as a young birder, traveling across the country. I was glued to the book from start to finish.

Going Wild-Adventures With Birds In The Suburban Wilderness by Robert Winkler.-This writer is from Connecticut. I was really able to draw a connection with the type of birding he was doing. It was easy to read and it included a bit of humor. I remember him describing his experience with being dive-bombed by a Northern Goshawk near a nesting site.

How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher-by Simon Barnes-This book included a lot of humour mixed with the joys of birding.

Sibley's Birding Basics-by David Sibley-This is a small book that is what the title says. It's not very exciting, but does contain worthy information for a beginning birder. Sibley seems more like a scientist, than a writer. I've gone back to this book several times to slowly digest the information.

The Sibley guide To Bird Life And Behavior-by David Sibley-This book disappointed me. I was hoping that it would give some secret insight to the life of birds. It lumps families of birds together in it's descriptions instead of giving details of each individual species. Again, I do go back to this book for reference. It does contain good information, but I was hoping for more.

The Complete Birder-A Guide To Better Birding -by Jack Connor-Loved this book! I read this when first developed an interest in birds. After reading this, I was pumped up to go look for birds! The author gives his own personal take on the ins and outs of birding. He gave good advice on how to tackle identification problems along with other great tidbits of information. Some of the information in the book is outdated, but it is still definitely worth reading if you are fairly new to birding.(Someone was just raving about this book-who was it?)

Pete Dunne On Birdwatching-by Pete Dunne-Ditto on this book. Pete Dunne includes lots of his personal birding experiences and advice which made this a pleasure to read.

Birding Western Massachusetts-A Habitat Guide to 26 Great Birding Sites from the Berkshires to the Quabbin-by Robert Tougias-If you are planning a trip to The Berkshires, or are interested in doing some birding in Western Massachusetts, this would make a great companion guide. It also includes a lot of information for someone that is just getting started.Some of the sites listed caught my attention. I plan to take a day trip to check out one or more of the listed locations very soon. Here is the author's e-mail if you would like a copy of the book:

Good Birders Don't Wear White-50 Tips From North America's Top Birders-The title says it all. This contains nice tidbits of information from several top birders in a very entertaining way. It is light reading, but a fun little book.

There are more detailed reviews of most of these books on Amazon.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones did you enjoy or not enjoy?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Does This Day Have To Come To An End?

It was Sunday morning, and I was already heading toward one of my most familiar birding spots. Suddenly, I decided to turn around and head in another direction. I was due to try a new location. Some times it's sort of like an internal battle to try something new as opposed to the status quo. I find this applies to life in general, not just birding. I ended up at the grounds of The Wadsworth Mansion on the grounds of Long Hill Estate. The estate was owned by Colonel Wadsworth, who was an authority on the science of forestry and conservation. He had the same guys do his landscaping that designed Central Park in New York. it's a really nice area with a variety of plantings, surrounded by dense forest.
It offers a nice mix of History and natural beauty. I don't know why I've never bothered visiting this spot, but I'm glad that I did. As I was walking one of trails through the area, I spooked up a couple of young White-tailed Deer. I enjoyed views of Pileated Woodpeckers, Pine Warblers, and Common Ravens. There was a couple of drawbacks to birding here. The trees were tall and dense. This made it a bit difficult to lock in on some of the birds. There also had to be hundreds of American Robins there.

I really enjoyed walking around these grounds though. I want to take a trip back here when there are fewer leaves on the trees.

After I left, I drove by the house that I spent the first six years of my life in. The house and yard did not look the way that I remembered it. One thing that did occur to me was that we were somewhat poor in the material sense. I had no awareness of this at the time. I only have good memories of living in that neighborhood. It's amazing how much fun we created (kids in the neighborhood) with so little. I never worried about what we ate for supper, or whether my sneakers had holes in them. We didn't have a lot of fancy toys. In some ways, I feel sorry for kids of today that have so much to keep them entertained. You don't need to use your creativity to have fun anymore.
Do You remember your first home?

I took a ride to nearby Miller Road in Middlefield. There are a few large houses in the area, but they managed not to wreck the surrounding land.Birding this area is a little different for me.You actually just walk along the road which is bordered by fields, swamp, streams and woods. I often end up talking to the neighbors walking by, who are proud that they've been able to help protect the remaining land.

The weather was so beautiful today, that I moved along at a snail's pace. The cool, crisp air was so refreshing. It didn't matter which birds I saw because they all looked incredible standing out in sharp contrast against the blue sky. I did see a male Scarlet Tanager in non-breeding plumage. It was a kind of greenish yellow color with black wings. For a moment, I thought that I had spotted something really unusual. There was also about six Palm Warblers feeding in a couple of trees.
I noticed the way Red-winged Blackbirds react when they are scared off by me. A few fly off followed by a few more, and then the whole crowd. Like a Cavalry abandoning a battlefield. Blue Jays, on the other hand, seem to have a specific strategy in mind.There was a group of about 8 Blue Jays in the area.They started making alarm calls when I entered their territory. They then took position in certain trees that surrounded my location. Keeping contact through vocalizations, they slowly worked their way closer to me until they reached their desired locations. I like Blue jays. They seem very clever to me.

I wished this morning could have lasted longer. I felt like dropping all of my responsibilities, and just savoring the entire day. I know that Fall is almost here. I know there will be more days like this one. I am thankful for that.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Common Nighthawk

I met up with a large group of birders at Rocky hill meadows on Saturday morning. We were there for the first official fall field trip offered by the Hartford Audubon Society. This area is known to be very good for inland shorebirds during fall migration. The sod fields were very dry, so the birding was slow. Sharp-shinned Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Bobolinks were some of the more interesting birds we saw.

It was nice way for birders to reconvene for the first time since spring. Who else can I talk about birds with? If you follow a sports team, it's easy enough to find someone to strike up a conversation with. It's hard to have a conversation about birding with anyone else but another birder. Who do you talk to about birds/birding?

The weather has been terrific this week. Clear, sunny , and in the 70's. I decided that my morning field trip wasn't enough. I went for an evening walk on the nearby riverfront trail in Portland. I wasn't trying very hard to find birds, but I did have my binoculars just in case. I did come across the first Brown Thrasher that I've seen here since spring.

As the sun began to set, I was watching the skies for any flyover birds.I was surprised by of two pointy-winged birds that flew directly over my head.I was thinking to myself-Is that some kind of Falcon? I noticed that the wings had a nice pattern with white patches on the underside of the wings.Then it came to me-it was a Common Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is not a hawk at all. It is a member of the
Caprimulgidae family which includes Nightjars (Whip-poor-will etc). I'd never actually seen one through binoculars, but I remembered checking them out in the field guide.These were awesome birds to see in flight. I was really pleased that I had the opportunity to get such a nice view of them.
I didn't take a picture until after I had a good look at the birds through the binoculars.This distant photo was still helpful in confirming my identification afterwards. Can you see the pointed wings with the two white marks ?

Bill Schmoker has some nice photos of Common Nighthawks-click here. Have you ever seen a Nighthawk?