Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Acre Saved Is An Acre Earned

After all that intense birding I was left with about as much energy as Superman after eating a box full of chocolate covered Kryptonite. The month of January was all about seeing as many species of birds that I could find. From now until the end of April I will focus on quality not quantity. I will be selective about where I go and spend more time observing birds in one place rather than jumping from one place to another.

One of the ways that I search for new birding places is to do a google search of an individual town. I will enter keywords like hiking trails or nature preserves along with the name of the town. It was in this way that I came across the Middletown Trail Guide. Most of the trails listed in this guide were familiar to me but I had never heard of Ravine Park. It was listed as only 8.8 acres with a trail only 1/10 of a mile long. This sounded like an easy way for me to start the month of February. If I can't walk a tenth of a mile then I might as well not leave the house. When I came upon the location of the park, I realized that it was nothing more than an insignificant little mud hole of a pond that I had passed by so many times over the years. I almost turned around and left the minute I saw it.
Almost, but not quite. Upon checking the trail, I was slightly encouraged to find that it led through a steep ravine. It wasn't long before I started to hearing and seeing lots of birds. There were Northern Cardinals singing semi-automatic drip-drip-drip-drip-drip notes. Dark-eyed Juncos were feeding underneath the tangles, while others bathed and drank water from the shallow stream. Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers hammered away at trees while a Northern Flicker perched high on a branch and cried out a series of squeals. If this place was insignificant, someone forgot to tell the birds. Just a few minutes before I looked at this so-called park as nothing more than a patch of urban trash . Now I was seeing and hearing dozens of birds making full use of the food, shelter, and water that was provided here.

This stream is so shallow that I could probably walk through it barefoot and not get my feet wet but it was the perfect depth for songbirds. In the short time I was there I saw Juncos, American Robins, sparrows, and American Goldfinches drinking and bathing in this pipsqueak of a brook.
click to play
Check out this video of a bathing goldfinch and notice all the bird chatter in the background.
On Sunday, I visited one of the Taylor/Palmer preserve-(entrance is across from St. Clements on route 66 in Portland)-, which was acquired by the Middlesex Land Trust in recent years. Lately, I've been noticing more and more parcels of land that have been marked as preserved by the Middlesex Land Trust. The members of that land trust should be commended for the great job they are doing! The preserved areas of land vary from quite large to just a couple of acres in size but you know what they say-"An acre saved is an acre earned". I'm glad that more and more landowners are considering donating land for preservation as an option.
I followed the well laid out trails marked in red through the Taylor/Palmer preserve. The skies were blue when I started so I was surprised when it started to rain. I took shelter in this old railroad culvert until the showers passed. It sort of looks like an entrance to the church of nature, doesn't it?
The highlight of this was was observing a dozen or so Eastern Bluebirds foraging through some leaves on the ground that had recently thawed. As I was jotting this down in my journal, one landed just inches from my foot. It's amazing what you can see when you slow down long enough to look.


Anonymous said...

Another good idea after checking google is to use Virtual Earth to get a birds eye view of the area.

This is not your google satellite view. The VE view is like a snap shot from an airplane at low level with remarkable resolution.

I use this free program before I check out a new birding spot so I know the terrain, if it is a wet area, etc.

Larry said...

Maine-I recently started using google earth but am not yet comfortable with reading the results of what it is shoing me yet.

Kim said...

Thanks for the tips both of you. I have been having a real hard time finding hot birding spots. I went to Quabbin this weekend and the sheer size overwhelmed me and I didn't know where to start. I think I am going to incorporate some of your ideas this weekend Larry to see if I have better success.

I loved the video of the goldfinch bathing. I miss watching birds bathe in water. They have yet to do it in my heated bird bath.

Larry said...

Kallen305-I wouldn't say I find "hot" birding spots this way-sometimes yes and sometimes no.I just like to do it because I find it interesting to try new places.-If you want to find hot birding spots then just find out from a Massachusetts birding club what those places are. You have to be at the right places at the right time-I've heard Mount Auburn Cemetery is good in the spring for example-People from CT go there every year.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congratulations at seeing & hearing all of the birds at the "mud hole." Ironically there was a similar place when I lived in Canada called "Mud Lake." Unfortunately I only discovered it months before I moved away.

Allison said...

I have just found you and added you to my list of blogs to frequent, admire, drool over and covet. Your photography is beautiful. A New England native, I just returned from five years in Las Vegas and am SO GLAD to be back. I am enjoing my own yard birds here at my new home in Hebron, which backs up to 190 acres of Audubon land that I am excited to begin exploring.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Good for you not giving up on that "insignificant little mud hole"!

Larry said...

Lana-Think of all the time you missed at mud lake-what a shame.

Allison-I didn't know that there was audubon protected land over there.I'll have to keep that n mind.-Thanks for the kind comments. I will add you to my Connecticut list.I hope that you can stick with the blogging.Some times it gets harder to stick with over time-that's why I pace myself with just one or two posts a week now.

Zen-Winston Churchill didn't give up-why should I?!

RuthieJ said...

Great post Larry. I always enjoy going along on your birding adventures. Your bluebird photo was the highlight for me too.

Mary C said...

It's amazing what one can find in the way of birds/birding in such "insignificant" spots. I enjoyed your goldfinch bathing video, along with your other photos.

Colleen said...

Love the bathing Goldfinch... how cold was that water... brrrr... I love finding new spots too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry,
A good reminder that conservation in any size is a good thing. I wonder what would happen if birders and other folks interested in preserving the natural world banded together in communities across the country with the aim of saving just a few acres of land? I think that sometimes we don't do because we fear we can't do enough but as you note one acre is better than no acre.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, Amen to all of this. The birds need these little oases if they are to survive. How wonderful that you found it! I am so glad you didn't turn away. I would love to have seen that bluebird! I love that desciption of the door to nature's chapel!

Mary said...

What is it about Bluebirds that makes you stop in your tracks? They're magical. I'm glad you were among the Bluebirds, Larry!