Friday, June 27, 2008

Is That An Acadian Flycatcher I Hear?

I've enjoyed several early morning walks this month despite the increasingly humid conditions. I've resorted to wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, and gloves to protect against mosquitoes. Summer is my least favorite season but I enjoy early morning walks through the forest. It teds to be a little quieter than it is in spring. It provides an opportunity to observe young birds that have recently left the nest. While it's true that I may see fewer species, I am able to slow down to appreciate the birds that make themselves visible to me.

As you can see from the top photo I had a fairly close flyover view of a Bald Eagle who also vaocalized a bit.
Here is a video from my recent trip to New Hampshire. It shows a moose having a drink or maybe looking for some marsh salad. The voice you hear in the background is the guy that was driving the truck.

I took this photo during a recent walk in the Maromas section of Middletown. Do you know what type of fungi this is?

I also saw several Yellow-throated Vireos. They have a burry tone to their songs. The song you are hearing in the video is much shorter than the version I was hearing them sing in the spring. While out in this stretch of woods, I observed a family of Worm-eating Warblers dining together. In the same area, young Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were being very vocal as they begged for food from their parents.
The Mountain Laurel was blooming throughout the entire area during my visit to Meshomasic Forest. It felt like I was taking a walk through an arboretum. As I looked under one of the laurel bushes, I saw a male and female Eastern Towhee scratching through a pile of leaves looking for food. I really hadn't anticipated seeing towhees here. It was one of those serendipitous moments for me. Veeries, Wood Thrush, and Scarlett Tanagers seemed to be abundant. As I walked further along the trail, I could hear two Barred Owls calling in the distance. If only they would come a little bit closer. There are plenty of trails running through Meshomasic Forest. Not all of them are marked and it takes some time to become familiar with them but I think that it is worthwhile. I crossed over a dirt road called Woodchopper's Road. Two Louisiana Waterthrushes perched low on a branch just over a stream. A little further up the trail, I encountered a young Black and White Warbler. It was trying to sing but couldn't seem to get the song right. It actually sounded to me like it was starting of with it's typical weesie weesie weesie sound but the ending sounded like it was doing a bad imitation of a waterthrush. It was interesting to listen to.

As I was exploring one of the side trails beyond the reservoir, I came across a flycatcher. It had such a short call that I barely noticed it at first. I caught a few glimpses of the bird but was not completely certain as to which species it was. I've always been told that flycatchers are best identified by the sound they make. I only captured one short call of the bird on this video, but it gave me an opportunity to listen to its call more carefully at home. After comparing the songs of flycatchers, I was able to determine that it was an Acadian Flycatcher! This is one of the less common flycatchers in Connecticut. It was also a lifer for me. Many field guides and birders describe the call of this species as sounding like "Pizza!". It sure didn't sound like that to me at the time but I think that I'll be able to recognize the famous "pizza!" call in the future. It was very exciting to come across a bird like this in my own neck of the woods.
I took a ride to Hartman Park in Lyme last weekend. I found some of the trees in this park to have interesting formations. The large tree trunks in this photo seemed to be growing directly out of a pile of rocks.

I was even more interested in the buzzy calls that I heard coming from the tops of the trees. It took me about half an hour to finally get a look at the birds that were singing. As I had hoped, they were Cerulean Warblers which is also a lifer for me. If I had not heard them singing, I probably never would have noticed them. They stayed well hidden in the foliage. It was nice to find them on their natural breeding grounds and that I was able to find them without having another birder point them out to me. The quality of this video is very poor but it serves as a confirmation of my sighting.
What was your most recent lifer?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From Cornell University

I'm passing this along from Cornell University:

An Anytime, Anywhere Celebration of Nature in the CitySimple citizen-science project reaches urbanites of all ages Ithaca, N.Y.­Nature has the power to soothe and enthuse. More people are finding that out as they join the free, year-round “Celebrate Urban Birds!” citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. From schools, hospitals, and senior centers, to wellness programs, scout packs, and military bases, participants are reaping the benefits of a closer connection to the natural world and a new appreciation for city birds. A girl in 4-H changed her mind about city birds after taking part in the project: “At first I didn't like urban birds,” she said. “I thought of them as pests. Then I realized that they are just like me and other kids. We are ignored or people just see as us pests or don’t see us at all…yet if you look a little deeper you can see that on the inside we are pretty unique and cool!”People of all ages and backgrounds participate in Celebrate Urban Birds through gardening, cultural activities and citizen-science. For the citizen-science part of the project, participants watch city birds for 10 minutes, check off 15 target species of birds, and send the information through the mail or the Internet to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Once enough data are gathered, scientists hope to learn more about how birds survive in cities and how they use urban green spaces such as parks, rooftop gardens, and even potted plants on balconies for food, resting sites, and shelter.Individuals can participate on their own or through public events organized by local groups. Celebrate Urban Birds has partnered with more than 2,000 organizations to hold special “birdy” events featuring the arts, science, gardening, or other ways to draw people into bird study and observation. While supplies last, everyone who signs up will receive a Celebrate Urban Birds kit in English and Spanish with two colorful urban birds posters, educational materials about birds and urban greening, a data form, and a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in pots and gardens. More than 60,000 free kits have been distributed.After receiving his kit, one elementary school youngster with Down syndrome declared, “I will take these posters home and put them up on my wall forever­because I'm going to be a scientist when I grow up!” Teachers find that the 10-minute bird observation can be done within a class period, and it reinforces math, reading, scientific, artistic, and team-building skills. One teacher noted, “Our group of middle school boys was impressed with being able to help with a project sponsored by a university.”Some groups go beyond a single event by greening their neighborhood­creating habitat for birds on balconies, rooftops, front stoops, or community spaces. Others are tapping into the arts, creating dances, drawings, murals, sculptures, puppet shows, and short films based on city birds. The Celebrate Urban Birds web site has lots of resources and suggestions about how to craft an event or project for libraries, nature centers, schools and youth groups, community gardens, home-school groups, or individuals.Winners have been chosen for the project’s first “Beautiful Birds in Urban Places” video and photo contest. Marian Mendez of Hialeah, Florida, captured first prize with her images of birds found in her back yard. She said, “I like to single out one bird and watch it for a while, trying to see the personality and mind behind it. And I'm out in the fresh air, getting sunshine and a new perspective on life.” You can see Marian’s photos and other great entries on the web site. Stay tuned for the next photo contest! Learn more about Celebrate Urban Birds and sign up at!
#The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Lab’s web site at .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Take-A-Ticket" To Pittsburg New Hampshire

How do you know when you've reached "God's Country"? Just wait until you see the sign! I don't know exactly why I've always been so drawn to the north country. Year after year I find myself traveling beyond the 45th parallel into the northern regions of New England. It's almost as if I have an internal magnet that is pulling me towards the north pole-(maybe that's why my watches never work). I love the cool fresh air, clear flowing streams, scenic mountains, and the smell of the pine forests. There is also something appealing about the low population density and the acres of unspoiled land. Other people can have their beach resorts but I'll take the good old north woods every time. The top picture shows the entrance to the Indian Stream Valley which has a rather interesting history. The cabin we rented sat on the banks of a river surrounded by woods. It was surrounded by the sound of birds, especially Black-throated Green Warblers and Winter Wrens. The Belted Kingfishers and Common Mergansers could be seen as they traveled up and down the river. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers seem to be regular nesters in this yard . They squeaked and squawked their way up the trees near our porch. We couldn't help but be impressed by the dedication of the Eastern Phoebes as they hunted for food to bring to their nestlings all day long.
One day, I looked high up into a tree on the edge of the driveway and saw this hummingbird sitting on the edge of a branch. What are you looking at little hummingbird?
Red Squirrels may look cute but boy can the make a lot of noise! They would come on to the porch and rummage though all of our stuff. They might have had their eyes on the phoebe nest so I tried to keep them at a distance.
This was officially a fishing trip. I did enjoy plenty of trout fishing. I especially enjoyed following the tracks left behind by moose through tiny streams that twisted and turned through the dense woods. I remember staring into the eyes of an American Redstart that was perched on a branch just a few feet from my face. I can only imagine what that bird was thinking. As we traveled further up Route 3 to access different parts of the forest, we would often encounter moose in the boggy areas. They actually call a certain portion of Route 3 "Moose Alley". People drive up there every night at dusk to see how many moose they can find. You always have to be cautious when driving on the northern part of Route 3. Hitting a moose with your car would be a losing proposition for both the moose and the car, as well as the people inside.
While were were out in the East Inlet area, I spotted a Canada Goose with her young. I couldn't resist taking a picture. If they just travel 10 miles up the road, they'll actually be in Canada.
What can you say about scenes like this? I sat on the edge of the wooden bridge for a few minutes and finished my cup of coffee. As much as I enjoy birding, I realize that not everyone shares my passion. If you try to push this hobby onto someone else, you may come off the same way that an unwanted pushy salesman does. My cousin said he wanted to join me for a hike through East Inlet. I made it clear that I was going for the sole purpose of looking for birds. He decided to borrow a pair of my binoculars and came along. His best views were of a Common Yellowthroat, Gray Jay, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and an American Redstart. Not a bad start for a beginner. I thought it was a good sign when he wandered off by himself desperately trying to find a bird which was repeatedly singing its song. I knew it was a Red-eyed Vireo, but he wanted to find it for himself. Something tells me that my cousin Bob might be adding some more birds to his life list over the next few years. On another day, I arranged to be dropped off in the woods at 6am and be picked up at noon. I wish that I had said pick me up at dusk. Six hours of birding out here was just a tease. The sound of the Bay-breasted Warblers were a little reminiscent of a Black and White Warbler. Swainson's Thrush is a common species in this area and its song is often heard echoing from within the woods. The only warbler photos I was able to get were from underneath looking up. I did have great views of nesting Blackburnian and Black-throated Blue Warblers but the photos didn't match my views. The Kaufman Field Guide came in real handy in helping me to determine that the call I was hearing in the woods was that of a Broad-winged Hawk. I was later able to get a closer view of it. This Gray Jay had no problems posing for a photo. They'll literally eat out of your hand. Too bad I had finished eating all of my bread by the time this one showed up.
Noon time came too quick. Before we left, someone asked me what kind of bird was making that sound out in the woods. It had a very deliberate song that seemed so familiar" "took-a-ticket took-a-ticket took-a-ticket" it seemed to sing. It's song was bold and deliberate like a Carolina Wren or Common Yellowthroat but with a rhythm and song all its own. As we headed back to the cabin I thumbed through a field guide. Then the light bulb went off- Connecticut Warbler! Kaufman's Guide noted that they are found in northern bogs which would fit. I know that is what I heard but, unfortunately, I didn't follow up on it. Not good enough to make a life list. If only I had taken the time to at least record its song I would have felt better. Sometimes we miss out on opportunities that are right under our noses. Oh well, there's always next year.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

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. (I'm on a blogging break so I won't be able to respond.)
1) I'm just a wandering on the face of this earth-Meeting so many people-Who are trying to be free

2)A long time forgotten the dreams that just fell by he way...

3)Well we all shine on, Like the moon and the stars and the sun

4)The preacher talked to me and he smiled, Said, "Come and walk with me, come and walk one more mile. Now for once in your life you're alone, but you ain't got a dime, there's no time for the phone."

5)Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise..

6)They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum-And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them

7)I wonder how your feeling -There's ringing in my ears- And no one to relate to 'cept the sea

8)Now Andy, did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch? Andy, are you goofing on Elvis?

9)But now the days grow short-I'm in the autumn of the year-And now I think of my life as vintage wine-from fine old kegs-from the brim to the dregs-And it poured sweet and clear.....

10)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 -To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen

11)Well, I feel so broke up, I wanna go home.

12)She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati-On a snow white Christmas Eve

13)Lonely feelin' deep inside -Find a corner where I can hide -Silent footsteps crowdin' me Sudden darkness, but I can see ..

14)I follow the Moskva Down to Gorky Park ..

15)Goodbye Joe- me gotta go -me oh my oh

16)Well, I've got to run to keep from hiding, And I'm bound to keep on riding. And I've got one more silver dollar

17)Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty-Sound of their breath fades with the light-I think about the loveless fascination

18)You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life -See that girl, watch that scene....

19)Goodbye to all my friends at home-Goodbye to people I've trusted-I've got to go out and make my way-I might get rich you know I might bet busted

20)Guess who just got back today? Those wild-eyed boys that had been away -Haven't changed, haven't much to say-But man, I still think those cats are great

Lines from famous Poems:

1) Burning with star-fires, but never consuming, Flash its broad ribbons of lily and rose.

2) A plow, they say, to plow the snow. They cannot mean to plant it, no--Unless in bitterness to mock -At having cultivated rock.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Back To Chatfield Hollow

I must have been to Chatfield Hollow at some point in my life but I really can't remember when. It came to my attention that a boardwalk had been built there and I was looking forward to checking it out. The boardwalk takes you right across a swamp and allows for great views in all directions. Unfortunately, I forgot my vest which contains a lot of items that I like to use when I'm birding. I also lost my favorite pen when I was walking one of the trails. You're probably thinking big deal-you lost your pen. The thing is , I've noticed most of the pens manufactured these days don't last very long. I bought a batch of retractable pens two years ago that have never let me down. I kept them in my truck year round and they never dried up. I was disappointed to lose my last one.

It's also important for me to write things down while I'm on one of my hikes. I can remember the birds I've seen and the places I've visited. What I can't remember is exactly what I was thinking and how I was feeling at a particular moment. When I try to recreate these things from memory it just doesn't seem to have the same impact. The rails of the boardwalk seemed to serve as a partial blind allowing me to watch some Eastern Phoebes catching insects on the wing. This one didn't even seem to notice me at first....
but then seemed to turn camera shy-"Please, I don't like to have my photo taken!" this bird seemed to be saying to me.
It was very gray when I took this photo but I thought it was worth posting this one. The scene between these two Cedar Waxwings speaks for itself. Shortly after I took this photo, a group of joggers came rumbling across the boardwalk. Remind me to make jogging off limits if I ever build my own nature observation boardwalk. Perhaps I could have a built-in catapult system to propel violators into the swamp. That wasn't very nice of me was it? I take it back. I'll just confiscate their running shoes and make them walk back to the car barefoot.
I may have went to Chatfield Hollow with birds on the mind but I guess you could say that I left with rocks in my head. I have to say that I was really in awe of the beautiful rock formations at this park. I wasn't at all surprised to hear that Native Americans had used this area to hold council many years ago.
Here is one of the many caves in the area. You can learn more about geological history of this park here . There were several marked trails but I only had time to explore the green trail. Groups of people started showing up shortly after the gates opened at 8am. It also started to get quite muggy. I don't like heat, humidity, or mosquitoes so I plan on doing most of my birding between the hours of 5am and 8am. for the remainder of the summer.
Okay, time for a quick flower quiz. I saw a lot of these flowers near damp areas in the park.
What kind of flower is it?
I wasn't at the park very long so I'll hold off until my next visit here before making a list of species seen.