Monday, December 28, 2009

Every Species Counts In January!

I participated in the Salmon River Bird Count on Sunday. It rained until about 1oam and I had to cover an area independently where as I had help last year. I enjoy finding birds but don't much care for keeping track of the numbers. The Ruby-crowned kinglet in the top photo was the only one I encountered but the Golden-crowned kinglets were plentiful.
The crows seemed to go out of their way to make sure that I didn't forget to count them. Wasn't there a band named Counting Crows? Much of Salmon River Cove was frozen but there was a gathering of 15 Hooded Mergansers in the open water. It took me a while to get the numbers right because each time I would count one merganser another would dive under water.
Other birds of interest included: Pileated Woodpecker, Belted kingfisher, 18 Eastern Bluebirds, and 5 Field Sparrows. My total number of species were down from last year due partially to weather and time constraints.
Starting at 12 midnight on new Year's Eve start keeping a list of every species of bird you find in your state until the end of January. At the end of the month we can compare notes on how many and which species we were able to find. Many birders like to make a competition out of it. I like to try to beat my previous years total but don't compile numbers big enough numbers to challenge other listers in my home state.The fun is in just getting out there and seeing a lot of great birds like this Red-breasted Merganser I saw last January....
or this Ruddy Duck that help push my totals into the 90's.
I hope you will join me this year to participate in this annual tradition. You can make things more interesting by setting your own personal goal, competing with others in your area, or by keeping a list and then sharing it with us at the end of the month.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The Christmas count that I was to participate in this past weekend was postponed due to a snowstorm. I took a break from usual birding routine and watched the birds at my feeder for a change. I enjoyed watching birds that I don't always pay attention to like this Mourning Dove which appeared to be taking a bow.
The most common birds under my feeders this weekend were White-throated Sparrows. Watching them interact with each other and scratch the snow for food helped liven up a cloudy, grey day.
The male Northern Cardinal ate seed while hiding in the middle of my brushpile but the female visited the feeder several times.
I kept busy catching up on yard chores before the holidays and before I knew it the sun was already setting.
I was recently listening to Bob Dylan's Desire CD and was surprised to learn that Emmy Lou Harris sang background vocals on it. Harmonizing with Bob Dylan and still sounding great couldn't have been an easy task. I found a Christmas CD by Emmylou at our local library titled "Light Of The Stable". If you click on the link you can listen to samples. She has subtle but unique tone to her voice. It should be the perfect CD to play on Christmas Eve while sipping a glass of eggnog by the fire.

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Just a reminder-I will be counting all the species of birds that I see in Connecticut during the month of January. I invite you to do the same in your home state or area.
This will be my last post until next week so I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Scene Painted By Snow Transcends Time

Taking a walk through woods that have been freshly coated with snow can be a magical experience. When I see certain paintings of snow scenes, I can imagine what it would be like to really be there. As I walked through Meshomasic State Forest on Sunday it almost felt as though I was part of a painting.
As the sun began to climb higher in the morning sky, the water and ice-coated branches sparkled with dazzling light. My mind was suddenly filled with memories going all the way back to my childhood. I can vividly remember where I was and who I was with during some of the snowfalls from past years. Many of those people have long since passed on but I wish they could be here to enjoy this morning with me. Soon the snow melted away from the trees and the memories faded away.
I walked further into the woods, passing several people along the way. One couple, with British accents, approached me and asked if I was a birder. I told them I was,-sort of- and they proceeded to tell me about a bird that had been hiding in a brushy area near the reservoir. It had been making a two-note call that started low and then quickly ascended to a second higher note. I guessed it might be an Eastern Towhee and showed them its picture in the field guide. They thanked me and headed on their way. I came across a pack of screaming Blue Jays that sounded like they were having a family squabble. I spotted several cardinals and goldfinches. A Common Raven rolled in the wind and croaked as it passed over the reservoir. A Red-tailed Hawk emerged from the treeline and gave several assertive flaps, trying to gain elevation before sailing out of sight. The birds which captured my attention the most were the sparrows. Seeing them pose on bare tree branches allows for a much better view than trying to find them in overgrown fields. The American Tree Sparrow -(above photo) -was sporting a handsome rusty cap and distinct bi-colored bill.
Sparrows seem to love brush piles and I found a big brush pile at Brownstone Riverfront Park in Portland. They cleared some trees near in preparation for the new boat launch and park that's being built there. Song Sparrows rarely fail to respond to pishing and the one in the photo was no exception.
When I checked through my notes I noticed that I had only seen a handful of species but sometimes there is more to birding than just watching birds.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Watching Birds Helps Me To Stay Focused

I took a walk along the Airline Rail Trail through East Hampton this week. This portion of the trail takes you across the Lyman Viaduct. The structure, which is 1,000 feet long and 137 feet high, once allowed trains to cross over Dickenson Creek. Now the tracks have been replaced by wide walking paths that allow you to get a terrific view of the natural surroundings. It's amazing to see the rock ledge that was blasted through and the structures that were built in order to build railroad lines in the 1800's. A walk along this trail is a reminder of the creativity of the human mind. That same creative mind however is not always used to its best advantage and can become an enemy of itself. There are going to be times during the course of a day, a week, or a year when things don't go exactly the way we want them to. It's easy to say that we should do our best to deal whatever challenge, frustration, or disappointment we are faced with and then move on. Sometimes though, our creative minds can turn minors issue into a full scale dramas or ongoing miniseries.
Our time on earth is temporary and we must do our best to survive. The day to day problems we encounter aren't going to matter much in the end. When I'm watching a White-breasted Nuthatch climbing head first down a tree searching for food...
..... or a Brown Creeper creeping up a tree I am reminded that humans may seem complex, but the core of life is simple.
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During the past two weeks I have encountered a singing Winter Wren at Wangunk Meadows, Ring-necked Ducks at Pine Brook Swamp, several Brown Creepers, a Northern Harrier in Lebanon, Fox Sparrows near Salmon River, and many dozens of Golden-crowned Kinglets. The kinglets seem to ignore my pishing so I try to attract Black-capped Chickadees hoping they might bring the kinglets in for a close-up. It didn't work but the chickadees get so riled up by the pishing that I can't help but smile at their reaction .
note: I had to activate the word code for comments because I've been getting too much spam-(not the canned meat variety). I'll try turning it off again after a while.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Balancing Time, Money & A Love Of Nature

I spent the morning at the Cromwell Meadows WMA today. It was one of those mornings when the birds seemed to be so bright and colorful.
I like the way the wings are positioned on this Red-tailed Hawk as it patrols the skies above the meadows.
I took this photo at Hammonasset a few weeks ago. Who do you think the carving is supposed to represent? Father time? Poseidon? I'm not sure but whoever did it has some talent. I wonder how long it took?
Time is something that I haven't had lately. In spirit I'm living the simple life in some cabin out in the wilderness but in reality I'm living in Connecticut, which is an expensive state to live in. We've managed to survive the bad economy by tightening the family budget. There are things that need be replaced, bills that need to be paid and a few extras that I'd like to purchase. I started working a second job at nights this week. There is seems a connection between time and money. Usually, if you want more of one you have to give up some of the other. I'm trying to find that balance now between time, money, and my love of nature. I'll have less time for nature but hopefully I will make the most of what I do have. I plan to continue blogging but there may be times when I need to take a break (waxwings photo from last winter).
I had an exciting moment while birding at a place called Northwest Park in Windsor on Saturday. I heard a bird making a chattering sound in the woods. It reminded me of the sounded like a wrens but I could tell it was from a larger bird. It turned out to be a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker which was a great find for me. They are an endangered species in Connecticut and a fairly rare bird. It was exciting to come across a bird like that on my own for a change. The photos and video I took didn't come out well so I didn't bother posting them. The bird stayed right in the sun the whole time.
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Here is a video that I took of a Northern Flicker making its wicka wicka sounds while searching for a snack.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Meopta 8x32 Binoculars Are Top-Notch

I recently received Meostar B1 8x32 binoculars from Meopta. They are looking for feedback from birders about their new 32mm series. I used them for birding during the past two weekends which gave me a unique opportunity to put them to the test under various conditions.

When I first received the Meostars, I gave them a quick try by out in my backyard. I was amazed at how wide the field of view was. My Swift binoculars have a 341' field of view but the Meopta's offer an impressive 420 feet at 1000 yards. Not only do they have a wide field of view but the image is very flat and sharp from edge to edge.

I took them out for a field trial at Wangunk Meadows the next morning. It was a grey, overcast day and their was a light mist in the air. These are not ideal viewing conditions but the binoculars performed very well under these conditions. I watched as Song Sparrows popped up on top of some tall weeds and was impressed by the detail I could see around the edge of one Song Sparrow's eye. I was able to get very close since the close focus for the 32's is only 5.7 feet .

These binoculars have a very solid, compact design. They are only 20 ounces but the feel very balanced and they fit very comfortably in my hands. They have some raised texture and thumb indentations which improve the grip.

I found that these binoculars provided the best viewing experience when I was zeroed in on a bird that was out in the open. The wide field of view in this compact binocular made it so easy to follow a bird that was moving around in a tree or flying overhead. I also noticed nice color and contrast while viewing Mallards in the Connecticut River.
I have heard that 32mm binoculars don't work as well in low light conditions as 42mm binoculars do but I didn't have any problems seeing when I used them at dusk.
-I've read about chromatic aberrations and color fringing in binoculars but didn't notice anything like that. I figure why bother looking for it if it isn't a problem. I'd rather watch birds.
The only shortcoming of these binoculars was their depth of field. When I watched birds that were set back in the woods it was noticeable. I could focus on individual birds but you didn't get that nice 3d effect that you are able to get when looking through 42mm binoculars. A few other details to add: the diopter is located near the center focus. It was easy to adjust and did not move out of focus. The eyecups are adjustable twist and click type that work well. The neck strap had extra cushion and was very comfortable. I didn't like the felt carry bag but I understand that they have already changed it to a new style.
My final test came when I compared the Meopta 8x32 binoculars to other top brand 8x32 binoculars including Swarovski. I found the image from the Meoptas to be be just as good as the other top brands but at $800 they are about half the price.

There are a lot of excellent binoculars available these days in the $300-$1,000 dollar range. I have tried several of them and have found some that would be an upgrade from my $300 Swift Ultralite but the Meoptas are the only ones I tried in this price range that seemed to be right up there with the best of them. I am looking forward to trying the 8x42 models soon.

*Never buy binoculars based solely on someone else's opinion. Always try them yourself and form your own opinions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shade Grown Coffee From Golden Valley Farms

I was recently contacted by Golden Valley Farms of West Chester Pennsylvania. They are a family owned coffee roasting company that specializes in organic shade grown coffee . They have been working with Robert Rice at the Smithsonian Institution since July 3, 2008 to market and help bring awareness to the many benefits of the Bird-Friendly® Coffees. They are now the official coffee roaster for all coffee served to visitors at the National Zoo.

I received a coffee sampler which contained individual packets of shade grown coffee from Mexico, Columbia, Peru, and El Salvador. Each sample had its own unique flavor. The beans are carefully selected and hand roasted in small batches to ensure that the quality stays consistent. I'm not a coffee critic so I won't bother telling you how one coffee has a nutty flavor while another seems to have a hint of chocolate. The Colombian had a bold flavor, the Peruvian was smooth and mellow. All of the coffee was fresh and flavorful. The only one I didn't try yet was the decaf seen in the photo ( I don't bother with decaf). Most importantly, beans used to produce this coffee from plants that were grown using shade grown and organic methods. This means more preserved forests for migratory birds and less pesticides.
Let's continue to get the word about shade grown coffee. Maybe give it as gifts during the holidays instead of one of those fruitcakes or brew a pot at work to share with your co-workers. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hudsonian Godwit Video At Hammonasset

I took a ride to Hammonasset State Park today hoping to see the Hudsonian Godwit that has been reported there for the last week. It was located in the fields near the West Beach parking lot. There were several people there photographing the bird from their car windows.
This was a new species for me so I took the time to read a little about it. According to All About Birds, the Hudsonian Godwit breeds in the Arctic and winters in South America. They migrate through the Great Plains in the Spring and along the Atlantic Coast in the Fall. It is a large shorebird that has a long, bi-colored bill that is slightly upturned.
I had an added bonus as a Western Kingbird was also reported at Hammonasset yesterday by Ron Pelletier. I had fun crawling through the sand trying to sneak up on it for a photo but wasn't able to get very close. It was doing its flycatching thing and moving around to different areas near the Meig's Point area of the park. It was noted that this particular bird doesn't seem to have much of a tail.
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The godwit was very tolerant of the presence of people. Here is some video footage I was able to take with my camera.

Monday, October 19, 2009

6 Ways I Made The Most Of My Fall Birding

Every Fall new species of sparrows arrive in Connecticut just as warblers are heading south. I had no specific plan over the last two weeks but I knew that I wanted to take the opportunity to observe sparrows and warblers in more detail than I usually do. Here is a list of 5 things I've been doing to get the most out of my Fall birding.

1) I found a new birding spot that's good for sparrows

I did some birding at Bear Hill Wildlife Management Area in Bozrah. I found it in a book titled "Finding Birds In Connecticut" written by Dave Rosgen and Gene Billings in 1996. The area consists of large open fields divided by hedgerows with a few trees scattered about. The land is managed by the DEP and is used extensively by hunters. It would be best to visit on a Sundays during hunting season. During my first visit the entire place was loaded with hundreds of birds in the trees and fields. I thought that I had found a birder's paradise. I soon discovered that most of the birds I was seeing were Yellow-rumped Warblers . It still turned out to be a good spot. I saw a variety of sparrows including Savannah, (8) Field Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrows, (6) Eastern Towhees, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. There was also a flock of 30 Eastern Bluebirds that seemed to take a liking to an old barn on the premises.

There were a lot of Eastern Phoebes there as well. The one in the above photo flew directly at me three times as I tried to take it's picture. I don't know if it was provoked by a reflection from my camera lens, the beeping sound of my shutter going off, or it was just bothered by my presence. I managed to get a photo after it decided I wasn't worth the trouble.
2) Don't touch that camera just yet!

In the past, I've relied on taking photos of birds so that I could use them to help me with identifying them afterwards. This method has worked well for me on many occasions but there are some drawbacks to doing it this way. One problem is that if you don't get a usable photo of the bird in question then you'll miss the opportunity to identify it if it flies away. I've decided that from now on I will only try to take a photo of a bird only after I've identified it or at least studied it long enough to remember what it looked like. I used this principle to help me identify my first Nashvile Warbler.
I was standing next to an old apple tree when I noticed a small bird moving about in the branches. I noticed it was very small and fairly plain on the side. It did have a notable eye ring and at first I thought it might be a Ruby-crowned kinglet. Then I noticed that it was quite yellow on most of its underside including underneath its tail. I was tempted to try to take a photo but I'm glad that I didn't. The bird flew off after only a few seconds. If I had fumbled with my camera, I never would have gathered enough details to make an identification. I took a photo of a Palm Warbler instead and let the picture of my first Nashville Warbler remain in my mind.

-3)Remembering to consider behavior and habitat when attempting to identify a mystery bird:
I was recently out with a small group of birders when we found a small bird hiding in a tiny patch of tall grass in what was otherwise an open field with relatively short grass. We managed to get brief looks at the bird and were able to determine it was a wren of some sort. The only wrens we had previously seen in this inland birding area were House Wrens and Carolina Wrens. A wren that is secretive and hiding in a little patch of marsh-hmm-what could it be? Some of us finally got a better look at it and confirmed what our suspicions. What was it? You guessed it-a Marsh Wren.

4)Avoiding the game-show birding mentality:

Part of what makes birding with a group fun is to be able to contribute by finding interesting birds. Sometimes I have a tendency to be in too much of a hurry to identify birds in these situations which can lead to mistakes. When birding with a group I plan to take more time looking at a bird before announcing what I've seen. In other words I'm working on accuracy instead of quantity. I think it's also a good idea to confirm identifications made by other birders in the group. Sometimes rare birds are overlooked because others in the group have a tendency to go along with the initial identification without taking a careful look at it.
5) Studying sparrows a little more closely:

I'm comfortable identifying most of the sparrows we see in Connecticut but still can become confused with certain juvenile birds especially when they only give you a split second to look at them. There are also some of the rarer sparrows that I haven't seen at all yet. Sparrow markings vary quite a bit not only in different species but also in individual birds. I want to pay closer attention to more subtle details like tail length, overall shape etc.

6) Using reports from other birders to help find birds in your local area :

The COA has a listserve which allows you to read reports from birders throughout the day so that you can read about what everyone hasbeen seeing. I don't see many Lincoln's Sparrows in Portland but when I have they've been at Wangunk Meadows. A report came through that Lincoln's Sparrows had been seen in the town of Glastonbury which is just a few miles north of Portland. I went down to nearby Wangunk meadows, and sure enough I found Lincoln Sparrows there (see above photo). I also noted that other birders had seen Nashville Warblers in Connecticut on the same day that I saw my first one. That made me even more certain that the warbler I had seen was a Nashville. Paying attention to what birds other birders are seeing can be a useful tool not just to find rare birds but also to stay informed about what might be moving through your area.

None of the ideas I listed are new to me. They are things that I've read, heard, or done before but knowing and doing are two different things.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Economical State Forest Cabins Rentals

For the few times that I go camping during the year I've found that a simple tent works fine for me. The campsites at State Parks in New England are generally less than $15 night and in some cases free during the off season. I recently discovered that some State Forests also offer cabin rentals. I was intrigued by the idea and decided to try renting a cabin at Savoy Mountain State Forest which is located in the Berkshires Of Massachusetts. As you can see, the cabins are quite rustic. I believe they were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's. Each of the four cabins are equipped with 2 bunks beds, a wooden table, 2 wooden chairs, woodstove, smoke detector, and co2 detector. You have to bring your own mattress cover for the plastic-coated mattresses, firewood (sold in the area), grill and cookware. There are hot showers (not available in off-season) and flush toilets on the campground. A portolet is located near the cabins. They might not be for everyone but if you don't mind roughing it a little they're a bargain at $30 a night. Cabin 4 even has electricity for no extra cost. I chose cabin 1 because it was more secluded and was located next to a pond.
I noticed that the Blue Jays were very bold when I first arrived as they were landing just a few feet from me. A closer look revealed that the jays were after peanuts which had been left behind by the previous campers.
The weather was not particularly cooperative during my stay. The daytime temperature was in the 50's but cloudy skies along with very windy conditions made if feel much colder. It also made birding a little difficult but that didn't prevent me from trying. There are several well marked trails in the area that lead to various bogs, ponds, waterfalls, and mountain views. The birds were fairly quiet during my stay but this Black-capped Chickadee helped lead me to a few fall migrants including a Black-throated Green Warbler, 1st winter Canada Warbler and 1st winter Magnolia Warbler. I was able to look at these two long enough in the low lighting conditions to gather sufficient field marks to make the id's on the warblers but gave up on a few others that I saw. Other birds of interest included 2 Brown Creepers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Common Ravens. I'm betting this will be an excellent birding area in the Spring.
One of the trails I took was called the Busby trail which led me to the top of Spruce Hill which was advertised as a hawkwatch lookout. I only stayed long enough to see a few local Red-tailed Hawks and to take in the mountain views. I had an interesting experience when 100 Blue Jays wizzed by my head on there way to who knows where. The larger hill on the right side of the photo is the locally famous Mount Greylock.You can get views like this just from driving along the main road in the Berkshires. It is a beautiful area but I did noticed that they've been hit hard by the struggling economy. Many of the small stores in the area have gone out of business. Fortunately, a poor economy doesn't affect the beauty of nature.
Most of the migrating Broad-winged Hawks have already moved on. I captured this photo of a Cooper's Hawk at Lighthouse point Park in New Haven as I tried to pick up some more tips from the veteran hawk counters. This bird is showing very little "wrist bend" at the leading edge of the wings and seems to show more of a head protrusion than a Sharp-shinned Hawk would. There are lots of little identification tips to differentiate sharpies from Cooper's Hawks but these tips seem subjective until you have adequate experience with watching hawks in flight (which I don't).
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This video was taken at a place called Tannery Falls. It was a last minute decision to visit this spot before heading back home. There was a safety trail which led you to several waterfalls including this one. It turned out to be a good decison and a nice way to end my camping trip.
For more information about renting cabins at Savoy Mountain State Forest click here.
For information about renting cabins at the Mohawk State Forest click here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Searching For Hawks Closer To Home

I've made a few visits to hawk watching sites over the past two years. I'm thankful for the valuable information that veteran hawk watchers have been able to provide me with. I thought it might be fun to use what I've learned so far to try to find migrant hawks from a location that is closer to where I live. I believe that searching for and identifying migrant hawks without help from others helps me to pay closer attention to details.

Most of the official hawk watch sites are about an hour away from me but I wanted to experience the Fall hawk migration closer to home. Fortunately, I'm within 15 miles of several trails that provide access to the
Metacomet Ridge . The traprock crest of the ridge was created by lava welling up from hundreds of feet deep through faults that were created by continental drifts millions of years ago. The maximum elevation of the Metacomet Ridge in Connecticut is only about 1,000 feet but the view from the top area is fantastic, especially on a clear Fall day. I had a clear view of Long Island Sound in New Haven almost 30 miles away. As I was making my way through the wooded trail that leads to the top of the ridge I saw a doe, a deer, a female deer. I stood very still and talked to the deer in gentle tones. The deer seemed very curious as it took a couple of steps forward and stared right at me. I was concerned that it might run onto the busy highway which was only 10 feet away. After a few seconds of staring me down, it slowly wandered off into the woods. Further up the trail I saw a Fisher scurrying up the hill. There has been an increasing number of sightings in Connecticut of this sleek, dark member of the Martin family over the last few years. They may look harmless but they have been known to eat birds, domestic animals and even deer!
Do you know what kind of plant is in the above photo? I didn't find the big kettle of Broad-winged Hawks that I hoped to. My total count of broadwings was only 8 for the morning but I enjoyed closeup views of Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and Black Vultures. Searching for migrant hawks reminds me a little bit of trout fishing. Don't worry, I don't intend to start casting lures off the top of a mountain in hopes of catching a passing Osprey. What I mean is, your success depends on the perfect weather conditions and being at the right place in the right time. Veteran hawk watchers wll tell you about some of there greatest days when they saw hawks by the thousands but they will also tell you that some days can be very slow. You can find count totals and hawkwatch locations on the hawkcount website .
One of my more exciting moments came when 5 Black Vultures flew past me in close formation. They reminded me of military aircraft flying out on a mission. The grey wingtips are one good fieldmark to differentiate them from Turkey Vultures. Other highlights included watching a Sharp-shinned Hawk chase after a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk badgering a Black Vulture.
Does it look to you like this Osprey has wing damage? I wonder what happened to it and can it survive?

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I combined a couple of short clips The first clip is a Raven which seemed to be enjoying the winds which were in excess of 30mph at times. That is immediately followed by a sharpie showing off its rapid wing beats.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hawkwatching & Sandpiper Bully Video

Over the last couple of weekends I have been a lazy birder. I made stops at several different locations but haven't been birding for more than an hour or two at a time.

Now that I've The top photo of the Great Blue Heron was taken at the Portland Fairgrounds. I stood in the middle of the tall grass with its mouth open for 10 minutes. What do you think he's trying to say?
Every year at the Portland waste transfer station I seem to find a Black Vultures like the one on the left end hanging out with 2 Turkey Vultures. I only see them in August though. I'm wondering if they start to migrate in August.
On one particular day at Wangunk Meadows I found a frog that stayed still long enough for me to take its picture. I'm used to them diving into the puddles before I even see them.
I kind of like the way this butterfly cast a shadow in the dirt. I've seen these kind of butterflies before but don't feel like looking it up. What kind of butterfly is it?
I did put some effort into hawk watching today from about 10 am until 2:30pm. There was a Hartford Audubon sponsored gathering at Booth Hill in West Hartland CT. I was able to contribute by spotting quite a few hawks but let others handle most of the identifications. It's going to take me a while before I'm any good at identifying hawks in flight. Most of them were Broad-winged Hawks. We saw several kettles of between 20 and 30 hawks. The most we saw at one time was about 60. Many of them were flying high in single file. Total Broadwing count for the day was just over 1,000 birds. Other Bops we saw included Sharp-shinned Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Harrier Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Merlin, and 1 reported Goshawk which I didn't get a chance to see. We also saw Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks but they migrate later. There was one Broad-winged Hawk which we believe may have been a dark phase broadwing which is rare to see in CT. I plan to do some more hawk watching over the next couple of weeks. Trying to see how many hawks you can spot is kind of addictive. Especially when you have a whole group trying to do the same.
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Here's a video that was taken in the rain at Rocky Hill Meadows a couple of weeks ago. I believe this a Pectoral Sandpiper chasing off a Least Sandpiper. I, along with several other birders saw 12 American Golden Plover and 1 Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the same morning.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Watercolor Bird Paintings From CT Artists

Painting # 1- Songbirds by David Stumpo-

Back in March, I stopped by a place called Celebrations Gallery and Shoppes in Pomfret. Here are some watercolor paintings from two Connecticut artists whose artwork is currently being displayed at the gallery. (Click on the paintings for larger view). (Paintings #1 and #2 are by David Stumpo).

Painting # 2 -Migratory Daydreams by David Stumpo

“As an artist, my one true passion is watercolor. I truly enjoy the fluid movement of watercolor paint on paper. My second passion is nature and wildlife, particularly birds. Seeing a Great Blue Heron standing in a marsh, with the setting sun dancing on it’s feathers, head up and alert, is for me, an almost religious experience. I feel closest to God when I am out in nature and observing the little intricacies and wonders of life.

The striking slash of carmine red against the pure white of new fallen snow as a Cardinal cautiously works his way to the birdfeeder. The jerky and comical antics of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker as its head peeks and peers, nervously surveying the area. These little things are the gifts I receive from my time spent observing, watching, quietly letting nature form the thoughts and ideas that will become my next painting. In thanks, I try to paint my birds as accurately as I am able. My goal is to give them life.”

Painting # 3 - Goldfinches by Sharon Rowley Morgio

(Paintings #3 and #4 are by Sharon Rowley Morgio).

The following is an artist statement from Sharon:

“My art background is in drawing and painting. When I was introduced to the field of calligraphy about thirty years ago, it became a new source of inspiration for pieces combining shape, line, texture and color. While my beginnings in lettering covered many years of rendering words and quotations, both commercially and as original works of art, I became interested in the shapes and forms that are inherent in letterforms, using them as inspiration for more abstract pieces. I have also enjoyed combining images from nature and the human figure with calligraphy.

For the past three years I have become immersed in painting watercolors. I enjoy the fluidity and layering possibilities of the medium. I paint both natural and man made subject matter from unusual points of view, focusing on shape, line and texture in a variety of compositions that often include only a portion of the subject, positioned in a way to draw the viewer into the page. In the future, I hope to expand my work in new directions, including works which combine lettering and watercolor.

For me, a painting is an adventure. I enjoy the opportunity for discoveries and personal growth that come with each new work. It is my hope that others might see things in different ways after viewing my paintings, and that they feel an emotional connection to each piece. "

Painting # 4 - Fat Robin by Sharon Rowley Morgio

I hope that you enjoyed viewing the paintings. Thanks to the artists and to Celebrations Gallery for allowing me to share them with you. Here is a link to Celebrations Gallery and Shoppes.
As for me, I've been taking it easy during this Connecticut heatwave. I've been seeing lots of butterflies recently including this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that landed on some flowers in a nearby field.