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.

click to play
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.
click to play
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.