Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Camping Out At Pachaug Forest

Over the years, Fall has been my favorite time to go camping. There are only three state campgrounds that stay open past mid October. I chose Mount Misery Campground in Voluntown, CT because it offers something that the others don't: solitude. It would have been nice if my wife, Joan, came with me. The idea of sleeping in a tent with overnight temperatures in the 20's didn't appeal to her, although she did a great job recording The Red Sox winning The World Series-GO SOX!

Camping holds a special appeal to me. Spending time in a secluded forest tends to clear your mind from things that would normally distract you and helps you reconnect with nature. I prefer not to over prepare for a camping trip. Being without some of the modern conveniences that we have become so dependent upon forces you to rely on your own ingenuity to solve basic problems. For example, I discovered after my first night's stay that the ground was a little bit harder than I had anticipated. The next day, I stuffed leaves and fallen soft pine needles under the tent. It worked like a charm. Can you believe that I forgot to pack eating utensils? Not a problem. The ready to eat tuna & cracker snack pack I brought came with a spoon. Of course, it was small enough for a mouse to use. Well, they always say you should take your time eating meals-and I certainly did!

On the day of my arrival, I followed a trail that took me to the top of Mount Misery. The view doesn't seem to fit the name. I believe that the name came from the fact that the soil in the area was so rocky that it made it very difficult for farming way back when. Old cellar holes and miles of stone walls throughout the woods is evidence that the entire forest was once a farming community. Mount Misery itself, has an elevation of only about 400 feet, so it doesn't really qualify as a mountain. It's a little steep going up but makes for a nice short hike.
After my hike through the woods, I sat back in my chair and looked up admiring the view of the treetops set against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky. It wasn't long after this picture was taken before darkness fell. Thousands of stars filled the night sky. Cygnus (the swan), also known as the Northern Cross, was directly overhead.

This is a trail through a 26 acre Giant Rhododendron sanctuary. It has a short, packed gravel trail followed by a raised boardwalk that leads to a deck overlooking an Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. They say that visiting this site in late June or early July offers a breathtaking view of the blooming flowers.
Here is the beginning of the swamp located just beyond the Rhododendrons. Another nice feature of this whole area is that it's wheelchair accessible.
The first birds that I saw along the trail were two Hermit Thrushes. They can be found in Connecticut sporadically throughout the winter. Another sighting was that of a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I thought it was a male because it was starting to show red on the top of its head. Later, after consulting my field guide, I realized that both male and female show some red on the crown. The next time I see a juvenile sapsucker, I'll have to study it a little more carefully. A Hairy Woodpecker was within twenty feet of the sapsucker. It was interesting to compare the size and features of the two species. I had another interesting experience here. Early in the morning, I heard a small flock of birds singing a distinct but unfamiliar song. It was a fairly short song but filled with many rapid notes. The birds were picking at pine cones at the top of some very tall coniferous trees. The view was too distant to make out any details and flew off after a few moments. I suspect that they may have been some sort of winter finch. I went back later, with a scope hoping to get a better look, but there was no sign of them. I feel as though I missed a good opportunity to see a new species. Oh well, that's the breaks!
Some of the other birds I saw during my stay included: Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebirds, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows, 5 Brown Creepers, and 6 Red-breasted Nuthatches. The most numerous species of birds were American Robins and Dark-eyed Juncos. I saw hundreds of each. Oh yeah... I almost forgot! I found 8 Rusty Blackbirds feeding on the grass in the picnic area. That was a new species for me. I had to look at them for a while before figuring out what they were. They have a pale iris but a shorter tail than a grackle.

I drove down one of the many dirt roads to collect some of the fallen limbs for firewood. Some of the roads through this 24,000 acre forest seem to go on forever. It amazed me that there were picnic tables miles out in the middle of nowhere. The woods had a dark and eerie feel to them. I can see how the ghostly legends surrounding Pachaug Forest got started. Your imagination can get the best of you when you're all alone in the woods.

I sat by the fire on the eve before my departure. I could hear the strange, but wonderful, vocalizations of the Barred Owl echoing through the night. The fire was slowly dwindling down and I had used up the last of the firewood. I played a few bars on my harmonica as I listened to the final words of a Dylan song: Strike another match, go start anew -And it's all over now, Baby Blue...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Hidden Gem Of A Nature Preserve

On Sunday morning I pulled my truck up along side the curb on Great Pond Road in Glastonbury. The wooden sign to my right read: Great Pond Nature Preserve. It is strange to see a nature preserve located in the midst of a modern exclusive neighborhood. We are talking about an area that has very large, perfectly aligned houses with emerald green lawns and automatic sprinkler systems. It almost felt as though I am trespassing just by being here.

As I began my walk, a Carolina Wren welcomed me with a loud song that reminded me of a soldier playing Reveille on a bugle. The first bird that I saw was a Black-capped Chickadee. It was close enough that I could feel the air from the force of its wings as it flew past my head. I could hear a tiny ringing sound coming from my right-kinglets or creepers?-I wondered. They both make a ringing sound. My question was quickly answered as two Brown Creepers were working their way up side of a tree. After they reached the top, they started back at the bottom and did it again.

There was a blanket of fog that covered a small field to my left. I could here the gentle song of an Eastern Bluebird somewhere in the field. I took a deep breath of the cool misty air before entering the wooded portion of this seventy acre preserve.

As I entered the forest, I found it to be both dark and quiet. The trees blocked out most of the light. I liked the way the trail was set up. On one side of the path, you are looking up the side of a steep hill and get an interesting look at the base of the trees. On the other side you are looking down a steep bank that allows you to get an advantageous view of the tree tops. At the bottom of the hill is a flat basin that must be somewhat swampy during the rainy season. The structure of the area seemed to block out the noise from the outside world. It was so quiet, I could actually hear the sound of leaves breaking off from trees and hitting the ground. Two Hermit Thrushes were perched on horizontal branches. They monitored my movements as I passed by. I could hear the sound of a Common Raven and American Crows in the distance.
Great Pond Preserve has a number of interesting features. There are a good number of Cedar trees growing here, including the reputed largest known Red Cedar in New England. There are also a lot of dead trees some of which are standing, and many others which have toppled over. This makes it a good area for many cavity nesting birds. There were lots of woodpeckers around, including one of my favorites, the Hairy Woodpecker.

I came across a very noisy mob of Black-capped Chickadees. They continuously made noise for six minutes. They were high up in the trees, so I never did figure out what all the fuss was about. I did notice that there was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Golden-crowned Kinglets in the same tree. I saw one male Golden-crowned kinglet that had such brilliant orange in its crown. It looked as though someone painted it on with phosphorescent paint.

There was one side trail that led me to a totally different habitat. It looked like an old farm field that had reverted to shrubs, overgrown weeds, and some modest sized deciduous trees. The entire area was filled with the chattering of hundreds of American Robins. Many were positioning themselves to get the best berry picking spots. A flock of one dozen Cedar Waxwings landed in the top of one vacant tree, but were almost immediately chased off by three aggressive robins. The only bird in the area that was able to rise above the noise level was a Northern Flicker that let out a loud piercing keew almost as if it was saying "shut up!" I had a nice view of seven bright red male House Finches in the top of a smaller tree. Other birds seen here include: Eastern Phoebe,Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows,Brown-headed Cowbirds,Eastern Bluebirds, Palm Warblers, and many White-throated Sparrows.
My last stop was Great Pond itself. This small glacially formed pond probably had a lower water level than normal due to the recent drought. I took some pictures of the birds I saw here. The ducks on the pond were too camouflaged by the vegetation and the shorebirds blended in with the background color of the shoreline. Besides the Mallards I saw here, I also saw at least a dozen or so Green-winged Teal. There were several Killdeer and Yellowlegs along portions of the shoreline. I actually took the time to go back and get my scope, thinking that there might be something mixed in that I couldn't identify with my binoculars. It turned out to be a waste of time, the scope didn't reveal anything new. On my way out, three Blue Jays played a game of tag with a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The birds took turns chasing each other from tree to tree.

I was really thrilled to explore this unique place. Its hard for me to imagine this entire area was slated for excavation and development. Fortunately, some people had the foresight to turn it into a nature preserve ( A man named William Reed being one of them). I'm looking forward to returning here in the future.
The preserve is located on Great pond Road which is directly off of Route 17 in Glastonbury. Park next to the guard rail, which is near the entrance sign.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jumping To Conclusions

I made a brief check of three local areas on Saturday to see what birds I might come across. It was a very casual morning of birding for me. Once in a while I like to go about my birding with a little less intensity.

My first stop was at the Portland Reservoir. The photo is of a small pond that is across from the reservoir. There wasn't much bird activity here, but it's a nice place to view the foliage. I did get a nice view of a Belted Kingfisher which was perched up on a dead tree in this pond, but I was too distant at the time to get a decent photo. I enjoyed hearing it's rattling call as it flew across the reservoir.

I ran in to an amateur photographer while I was there. He told me that he was trying to capture a photo of the sunrise over the reservoir but the low clouds put a damper on his plans. He said that snakes were his favorite photography subject. He hopes to get a photo of a
Timber Rattlesnake at some point. There is a healthy population of them in Portland.

My next stop was at the Cox Road power line crossing. This a nice spot that you can sometimes see interesting birds within twenty feet of your car. There is a stream that runs underneath a thick mass of berry-bearing bushes (say that 10 times fast!), cedar trees, and some nice weedy areas that makes for good sparrow habitat. There were a lot of White-throated, Chipping, and Swamp Sparrows on one side of the road.

One particular bird caught my attention on the other side of the road. It appeared to be a sparrow or finch type of bird with pronounced black markings on the side of its face. I saw it on the ground underneath a bush. What could it be? I spent fifteen minutes trying to relocate the bird, but saw no sign of it. I decided to flip through a field guide hoping for the possibility that I may have seen a rare bird. That was a mistake because my view of the bird was so brief, that I didn't have enough time to gather details. Be sure to observe a bird very carefully before considering the possibility of a rare species. It is important to take detailed notes of a rare bird sighting before reporting it. Of course, taking a photo would be a big help if you can get one. I'm not writing this to preach to you. I need to repeatedly remind myself not to jump to conclusions.

I searched the area a little bit longer. Suddenly, a bird landed in the same location that I had seen the mystery bird. I studied it carefully. It turned out to be a bird that I was fairly familiar with, a female Purple Finch. This one had particularly bold facial markings. My guess is that the lighting had played tricks with my eyes before. There was a combination of sunlight and shadowing casting down upon the area where the finch had been. I'm also more familiar with seeing Purple Finches in trees.

My last stop was at a little known nature preserve in Glastonbury called Great Pond. I found this place very intriguing. I decided to come back early Sunday morning rather than explore it halfheartedly. I'll tell you all about Great Pond Nature Preserve in my next post.

Have You Ever Mistakenly Thought That You Had Seen A Rare Bird?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photography Is For The Birds!

I think that I finally figured out the mystery behind why some pics are clickable and some aren't. Both of these pics are clickable.
I spent much of my day off at Hammonassett State Park (Madison, CT) on Monday. It's usually much easier for me to find birds there than almost any other place I visit. This was one of those days when I didn't bother making notes or keeping a list. I really just watched birds and watched people photographing birds.

The first birds to catch my attention were White-crowned Sparrows. For some reason, there are lots of them in Connecticut right now. I saw six of them on Monday. I don't normally see that many in one place. There was a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilling some neatly aligned holes in a tree. When I saw its big bill, I briefly mistook it for a Hairy Woodpecker. There were birds of prey flying at low altitude throughout the park including a Merlin, Northern Harrier , Red-tailed Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. This year I discovered that Sharp-shinned Hawks sometimes make a sound that falls in between a croak and a squawk. I observed Black-bellied Plovers feeding in the Nature Center parking lot. Only one out of about a dozen actually had a black belly. There were Great Egrets, Double Crested Cormorants, and Black Ducks in one pond. I was really shocked by the number of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. I counted hundreds, so there must have been thousands. At times, they nearly missed my head as they flew across the path. There were dozens of both Ruby-crowned and Golden-Crowned Kinglets. There were also some Brown Creepers which I haven't seen in a while. I thought it might be nice to have a picture of a Golden-crowned Kinglet but...........

Truth be told, my main interest is birding, not photography. I bought my (point and shoot) camera so that if I came across a rare bird, I could take a picture for photographic evidence. Now that I'm doing this blog, it comes in handy to give a post some visual interest. I get frustrated trying to get decent photos of birds. The only exceptions would be birds at my feeders or those that stay still (like Mourning Doves). I thought having a point and shoot camera would make it a cinch. It hasn't worked out that way. Bad lighting, shaky hands, and birds that are too far away or don't stay still are just a few of the problems I often run in to.

I spotted three cars parked close together at the end of a grassy parking lot near East Beach. I thought that someone may have found a rare bird, so I sauntered over to investigate. It turns out they were photographing birds. It's the way that they were photographing birds that had my interest. All three cars were pulled up along side of brush piles that had been purposely constructed to attract birds. Someone had even thrown bird seed into the pile. The lenses on their cameras reminded me of megaphones. They looked to be about two feet long! The photographers stayed in their cars and photographed sparrows with the lenses just a couple of feet away from the bird's faces. I decided I would try the same thing before the day was over.

I spent the next couple of hours trying to find a Saw-whet owl, or get a picture of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I could hear those little buggers, but they hardly ever showed themselves. When I did see them, they were flitting about in the trees. I finally did get a couple of pictures, but they weren't very good.

On the way out, I drove up to the brush pile and took 6 pictures of a Savannah Sparrow within a couple of minutes. They all came out much better than the Kinglet picture. I still don't enjoy using a camera, but the pull-up-your-car-to-the brush-pile method is a great idea. It was also a heck of a lot easier than trying to chase down a Kinglet.
What frustrates you about photography?
Do you have any bird photography secrets you would like to share?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Drive Down Country Lane

On Sunday morning I hopped in my truck armed with my binoculars and camera ready to go. There was only one problem, I really wasn't sure where I was going. I just started driving, finally deciding to head towards the Lebanon/Franklin area. This is one of the more rural areas in the state.

My first stop along the way, was some farmland along Route 16. I've seen deer and Wild Turkey in the field numerous times over the years, and wondered if it would be a good birding spot. I pulled up my truck along the side of the road, and looked for an entrance. There was an open gate in the corner, and I no sign of trespassing signs-so in I went.

I spotted two areas that I wanted to concentrate on. The first was an area of overgrown weeds near a marshy area. There were a fair amount of birds here, mostly Song Sparrows. I also spotted a Blue-headed Vireo , which have recently been reported moving throughout the state.

I quickly moved on to the second area, which was a big old tree standing smack dab in the middle of the field. There were about 20+ Eastern Bluebirds flying back and forth from the tree to the grassy area beneath it. It seemed to me Bluebird populations decreased in our area over the last year (not very scientific). Finding all these Bluebirds was an encouraging sign. Not surprisingly, there was a pair of Red-tailed Hawks patrolling the field. I could hear the tiny ringing sound of kinglets in the woods at the edge of the field. I only spent about 20 minutes in this field and then headed back out on the road again. Thanks to the owners, whoever they are.

I started to drive along Route 207. There are plenty of undeveloped areas and farm fields in this part of the state, so finding suitable bird habitat should be easy-right? Only it didn't work that way. Many of these fields were lacking the food and water that birds find appealing. I ended up wasting gas because I couldn't find the type of habitat I was looking for. Being in a rural area doesn't guarantee that everywhere you stop will be haven for birds. You still have to find good habitat, and there are other factors that come in to play as well. In some ways, this can be easier to find in a more populated area, since there is less ground to cover. Looking at a map, I noticed that I was fairly close to The Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area. This is a place that I was always curious about. As an added bonus, it was Sunday, so my chances of being shot at would be greatly reduced.

By the time I reached The Wildlife Management Area, my level of enthusiasm had diminished just a little. I'm always fascinated by swamp habitat and I enjoyed getting a view of the area. There was a burst of bird activity just as I neared the swamp area that included: White-throated Sparrows,Black-capped Chickadees,Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Woodpeckers-(RB,NF,Hairy& Downy),and an Eastern Towhee. I took a quick tour around the swamp, but the rest of the area was not as productive.

The fall ride through the country was a visual treat, even though I didn't find the hot spot I was hoping for.
Here is a little assignment for those of you who are interested:
1) Find a small area that looks as though it would be good bird habitat.

2) Make sure it is an area that is not a known birding area and you have not visited before.

3) Record all bird species and interesting behavior that you observe in a 20 minute period.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Sparrow Crawl

On Saturday, I met up with members of The Mattabeseck Audubon Society for their annual "Sparrow Crawl." There was no actual crawling involved, but we did see quite a few sparrows. The Mattabeseck Audubon is a local chapter of The National Audubon Society. They offer a few birding field trips each year, but their primary focus is on the environment, not so much birding. I look forward to the few trips they have to offer. They tend to have smaller groups, and visit lesser known birding spots in the local area.

On this day, Larry and Pat were the trip leaders and they like to move along at a leisurly pace, which I like.. There's much talk about changes in the habitat, invasive plant species, native plants, and the effects that development is having on our local environment. They will spend time carefully observing field marks of an individual bird, and discuss their preferred habitat. .

We managed to see several species of sparrow including: Savannah, Song, Chipping, White-throated, Field, White-crowned, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee (heard). We found the White-throated Sparrows in a place referred to as the bean field in Middletown, and also in a field located on Miller Road in Middlefield. Three of the five sparrows were adults, with bold black and white crowns.

I think that might be one of the problems some of us run in to when it comes to identifying sparrows. Once we see the key field marks that lead to making an identification, we tend to move on to the next bird. If the field mark aren't obvious on a particular bird, we suddenly feel lost. Perhaps the key is to take the time to notice other, more subtle features of each species- (or individual bird) -that make it unique. By doing this, we may feel more comfortable trying to identify sparrows that are new, or less familiar to us. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. I certainly don't take this approach with every bird, so this is definitely a long term plan.

We also came across a lot of Purple finches. It started with a few at the bean field.We later visited The Middletown Nature Gardens on Randolph Road in Middletown where we saw about 20 or so. The vast majority were females which have a bold white eye stripe. I've seen a few of these finches in Connecticut at a time, but I've never seen this many at once.

A few of the other birds we saw included Peregrine Falcon, Tree Swallows, Black Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cedar Waxwings, Palm Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

We had nice fall weather for the trip. I'll be looking forward to their Eagle Watch, which won't be until March of 2008. I also plan on meeting up with some of the members for this year's Christmas Count.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

These two photos of birds enjoying rain puddles can be clicked to enlarge. Connecticut has been in the midst of what is categorized as a severe drought, so I had no complaints about the rain today. I don't think that the birds minded it much either. I was able to catch some American Robins and White-throated Sparrows taking puddle-baths along the side of the Road At Cedar Hill Cemetery.

I drove around a little bit today, looking for flocks of birds. One method that birders use to find uncommon/rare birds during is to carefully search through flocks of birds one by one. It's kind of like that game where you have to pick out the picture that is slightly different from all the others-do you know that game? This can be a tedious chore if you are checking a large flock.

About 2 years ago, I saw a report of a Lark Sparrow that was found among a flock of Chipping Sparrows in a cemetery. I stopped by this cemetery after work three days in a row looking for the Lark Sparrow. It wasn't until the third day when the sun appeared that I finally found it. When I saw how different it was, I wondered how I could have ever missed it. So if you come upon a flock of birds, remember that it may be worth your while to carefully scan through the whole flock ( I'm not saying that I always do this, but I'm trying to do it more often). Dana from Backyard Birds recently did a post on identification tips. Have you ever found an interesting species mixed in with a flock of birds?

Another thing that I recently did was to buy some White Proso Millet. Thanks to Lynne from Hasty Brook for reminding me (I can't remember which post). During the fall and winter, I spread this millet under feeders, along hedges, and in the weedy remains of my gardens. I also leave the remains of plants and don't remove my tomato stakes(birds love to use them as perches, especially in winter. I've attracted some sparrows that are less common in my area using these methods. Fox Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow are two visitors that I look forward to seeing.there are actually a few variations of the Fox Sparrow. I usually see what the call the Red Fox Sparrow variety around here.

I plan on meeting up with The Mattabeseck Audubon tomorrow for a field trip referred to as a "sparrow crawl." This should help me brush up on my sparrow i.d. skills-or should I say lack thereof. They do many field trips, but I like them because the groups are usually nice and small. I'm looking forward to catching up on some blog reading tonight (in between innings of the Red Sox/Indians playoff game). What do you have planned for this weekend?

Wednesday, October 10, 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) He tipped his hat, and took a seat- He said he hoped he hadn't stepped upon my feet-He asked my name- I held my breath-I couldn't speak because he scared me half to death-

2) A dreamer of pictures-I run in the night-You see us together,chasing the moonlight...(This guy performs at farm aid-use to play with CSN)

3)Got my bag, got my reservation-Spent each dime I could afford.-Like a child in wild anticipation-Long to hear that "All aboard"

4) Blacker than night where the eyes of Feleena-Wicked and evil while casting a spell-My love was deep for this Mexican maiden-I was in love, but in vain I could tell

5)Well I told you once and I told you twice -But ya never listen to my advice-(from a famous English 60's rock group who still perform today).

6) Oh, I could hide 'neath the wings-Of the bluebird as she sings.The six o'clock alarm would never ring, But six rings and I rise; Wipe the sleep out of my eyes. My shavin' razor's cold and it stings

7) Standing in the sunlight laughing-Hiding behind a rainbow's wall-Slipping and sliding-All along the water fall

8)I'm not talking 'bout movin' in-and I don't want to change your life-but there's a warm wind blowin' the stars around....

9) There's a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall-There's a dead salmon frozen in a water fall-There's a blue whale beached by a springtime's ebb-There's a butterfly trapped in a spider's web-

10) She's got a smile that it seems to me-Reminds me of childhood memories

11) I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand-Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man

12)I woke up in a Soho doorway -A policeman knew my name -He said "You can go sleep at home tonight, If you can get up and walk away" (The answer is in the question).

13)Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene- Put his ear to the wall, then like a distant scream (A rock group that has a name that makes it sound like they are not from this country).

14) You've got your mother and your brother, every other under cover telling you what to say (former mouseketeer-from most recent cd/video-dance music).

15) Baby cried the day the circus came to town-'Cause she didn't want parades just passin' by her-So she painted on a smile and took up with some clown-
While she danced without a net upon the wire-(new song-I just put it up-70's song-female vocalist)

16) I'd gladly lose me to find you-I'd gladly give up all I had-To find you I'd suffer anything and be glad..(same group as number 12-title is something that you might find at a discount store)

17) If you think I'll sit around as the world goes by-You're thinkin' like a fool cause it's a case of do or die-Out there is a fortune waitin' to be had-You think I'll let it go you're mad.....

18) Now we’re up in the big leagues-Gettin’ our turn at bat. As long as we live, it’s you and me baby-There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

19) Thy trivial harp will never please -Or fill my craving ear; Its chords should ring as blows the breeze, Free, peremptory, clear-(poem)-

20)Nobody's right till somebody's wrong.-Nobody's weak till somebody's strong.
No one gets lucky till luck comes along.-Nobody's lonely till somebody's gone
.-(from a movie soundtrack that starred Paul newman and Tom Cruise).

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Results Of The Portland Field Trip

Here is a summary of the Portland Field trip that I led on Sunday for The Hartford Audubon:

A total of 8 birders met at 7:30am on Sunday for the Portland field trip. It was an unseasonably warm morning.The clouds stayed with us throughout the trip, but fortunately the rain held off. We started our day at Wangunk Meadows, which we entered via The Portland fairgrounds. We had just started to scan a tall weedy area, when-surprise!-we spotted an adult White-crowned Sparrow. We had a nice view of this bird form two different angles. Other Sparrows seen were White-throated, Song, and some of us very nice views of Swamp Sparrow.There were a few sparrows of whose identity we were uncertain of. The tall, overgrown weeds made it a challenge at times.
There were quite a few raptors in the area as well. We had impressive views of Coopers Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a Peregrine Falcon which all flew over at low altitudes, making them easy to see. Fran D. provided some helpful identification tips throughout the trip, particularly for sparrows and hawks.

There was one particular tall tree that was well stocked with birds. White-breasted Nuthatch , Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Yellow-rumped Warbler were among those that we were able to identify.

There were good numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds seen throughout the trip; both on the ground, and flying overhead. We were able to hear the harsh croaking of a Common Raven in the distance. The American Crows seemed to have their wings full all morning chasing Ravens and raptors. They were constantly squawking.

The highlight of the trip may have come from a bird that is quite common, the Black-capped Chickadee. Seeing a chickadee is always a delightful experience. On this morning we saw flocks of 30 at a time flying from tree to tree. All together, there may have been as many as 100 Black-capped Chickadees seen within one area. This was an awesome sight, that none of us had ever experienced before!

On the way out, Beth N. spotted a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a distant tree. Adrian was able to get it in the scope, where the long white stripe on the folded wings could clearly be seen. Beth seems to have a knack for spotting birds that others overlook.

We also made brief stops at some local power lines, a cranberry bog, The Brownstone Quarries, and the Portland Transfer Station (dump). We picked up a few more birds at these locations, but it served more as a small tour of the town.

The total number of species seen or heard was 48. Other species of note included: Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron,Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay,Tree Swallows,Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wren, , Eastern Bluebirds, , Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Purple Finch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Goldfinches, and Bobolinks.

We stopped at Dunkin Donuts to compile our list-this seems to be something that cops and birders have in common. Although the turnout was small, I think we were all pleased with the trip. A small group allowed us to move along at a nice pace, and we all worked well together as a team.

This was the second year that I've done this trip. Although the area is definitely not known as a hot spot, the birding was pretty good on this particular day. I don't really like playing the role of the leader. I did enjoy sharing a new area with others though. I think that I was able to move the trip along at a better pace than I did last year. I was a little bit nervous during the trip, but was relieved that it went fairly well. Hopefully by next year I can improve on a few things such as my identification skills and ability to describe to others where a particular bird is located. We saw birds of prey today, but definitely no birders of prey!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Arrival Of Kinglets,White-throats, and Juncos

On Sunday, I was scouting the local area for an upcoming Field trip that I'll be leading (scary thought). I led my first field trip last year as a fill-in for a local bird club. I discovered that it takes a lot more time to bird an area with a group, than if you were to cover the same area yourself.I plan on trying to move things along more briskly this year. I'm not too good at identifying Fall Sparrows, but there are others that will help me out.
I came across a few new fall birds along the CT. River. I counted 8 Golden-crowned Kinglets. Couldn't catch those pesky little guys in a photo though. The White-throated Sparrows arrived in big numbers. They're already across the whole state. I also spotted a few Dark-eyed Juncos.There were large numbers of Palm Warblers as well.
I took a break along the way at a Japanese Garden.I really wasn't sure what that is, but I was curious enough to stop in. It was a small but peaceful area with lots of evergreens, a man-made stream, special huts, and rocks. I talked to the owner who told me that the huts were tied together with special Japanese knots that supposedly never come apart.Unfortunately, someone put Bass in his water which will eventually eat all his Koi Fish. Next time, I'll bring some tea or shade-grown coffee.

Well, I'm going to finish the post up in a hurry tonight. It will be the first post that I actually finished within 10 minutes. I read that bloggers should be able to put out a post this fast, but it always takes me much longer than that. I'll be doing a Songbird game some time next week I think.(correction-20 minutes).