Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birding Jackets From A Second Hand Store?

I bought this second hand Eddie Bauer jacket at a Goodwill store for just $6.00 after my search for a new birding jacket at several local sporting goods stores came up short. It might not be the latest style but that shouldn't be an issue for someone whose wardrobe consists mainly of Dickee's work pants and Fruit of The loom T-shirts.
What I like about the jacket is the neutral color, it has 2 horizontal pockets deep enough to carry a field guide, it's light enough to use most of the year, and it has a zipper that doesn't get stuck (if you've ever had a coat with a zipper that constantly gets caught on the material then you know what I'm talking about). In addition, I paid someone a few dollars to add a pocket to the inside of the jacket which can hold the 5x7 Rite in the Rain notebook that I recently purchased.

Sometimes it pays to check the second hand stores. Not only did it save me money but I rack up a few points for "Going Green"!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Underwater Piano Lessons In Salem CT?

I visited Walden Preserve in Salem, Connecticut this morning. I was welcomed by an Eastern Bluebird set atop the entrance sign as I pulled into the parking area. It was a cool morning with a few raindrops mixed in between an occasional glimpse of sun.
I followed the trails across the meadow and through the woods. I found this car while walking along the green trail. I wonder what year and model it is ? It looks like an old timer.
As I approached this beaver pond, I heard oo-eek oo-eek as two Wood Ducks took flight. I could hear a Louisiana Waterthrush singing near the Eight Mile River. The trails in the preserve are well maintained but you have to keep track of the colored markers so that you don't wander onto private property. One of the no trespassing signs specifically warned that the land was used privately for hunting and trapping.The Tree Swallows were taking turns with the bluebirds to sit on top of the nestboxes. Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were singing all throughout the morning from strategic locations.
I recently read a book titled Legendary Connecticut: Traditional Tales from the Nutmeg-State by David E. Phillips which included one particular story that took place just down the road from where I was birding.
From what I understand, the following story is true. Imagine trying to explain something like this to your homeowner's insurance agent!
There was a man who owned a house on Gardner Lake in Salem. He tried to move his house from one side of the frozen lake to the other in the winter of 1899-1900. The house ended up breaking through the ice and floating around the lake for a couple of years before finally sinking to the bottom. The house had a piano in one of the rooms and over the years fishermen claim to have heard the sound of piano playing coming from beneath the surface of the lake.
I love reading stories that that involve the past history of places I am familiar with. You can read the story in its entirety : here . I'm curious as to whether some of the events I've witnessed or people that I know of will end up in a book of folklore some time in the future?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Camping At Beartown State Forest

I headed up to Beartown State Forest in Monterey, Massachusetts to do a little camping this weekend. The weather was a bit chilly but I managed to avoid the rain during my stay. There are only 12 campsites which are available on a first come basis in the month of April. I chose a camp site that was located near the shore of Benedict Pond. The shoreline of the pond is mostly undeveloped. There is a boat launch, small swimming area, and a few the campsites, but no private residences.

On the day of my arrival I walked a scenic trail that circles around the pond. I spotted a Pied-billed Grebe swimming around the pond and occasionally diving for food. There were Great Blue Herons feeding along the shoreline in one of the coves and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker making its presence known by tapping on a nearby tree with its own distinctive style. I was able to see both the male and female during my stay. The female has a mostly white throat but the the throat on the male is a vibrant red color. It's always a treat for me to see them because I don't see them all that often near my home.
Early the next morning as I was walking towards the campground exit I saw a Hermit Thrush perched. It was perched on a branch just a few feet above one of the portalets as it quietly serenaded the campers.
My cousin came to visit me the following morning. He was intrigued by the two lodges on the far right end of this beaver pond. We decided to return at sunset to see if we could get a glimpse of the beavers themselves. We spent 6 hours hiking several of the trails in the area before returning to the beaver pond. There were four beavers gathering sticks and performing other beaverly duties. I used to think that beavers ate fish but they are strictly herbivores. One of the forest rangers told me that beavers have at least two rooms in their lodge. One is used for drying off and the other is the living quarters where the television and surround sound stereo are located.
We noticed a Canada Goose sitting on a patch of grass next to a big rock near one of the beaver lodges. It looks as though it might be nesting. Trumpeter Swans and Canada Geese have both been known to use beaver lodges for their nesting sites.
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Here is a short clip of the singing Hermit Thrush.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Dinner For Muskrats And Egrets

I took a ride down to check on the flooded portion of route 17 in Portland this morning. I didn't see any ducks swimming around the highway but there were a couple of Great Blue Herons and plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds. My most interesting find was a Muskrat that didn't seem to be disturbed by my presence. It was busy feeding on some vegetation just a few feet away from me. There is some information about muskrats and their status in Connecticut on the DEP Wildlife Fact Sheet. They can stay under water for as long as 20 minutes.
Here is a view of the flooded route 17 next to the fairgrounds. You can see the yellow lines just below the water. I saw some people in canoes exploring the flooded fields. Some drivers think they can drive through this but this is a mistake because it is much deeper than it looks. A couple of years ago someone had to be rescued when their car didn't make it through.

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Here's a video of the muskrat passing up the traditional Easter ham dinner in favor of a vegetarian meal.
Yesterday I made a short visit to Hammonasset in the morning. I saw my first Pine Warbler of the Spring, an Eastern Meadowlark, and a White-eyed Vireo. There were a few birds near the shore area as well including Red-breasted mergansers, and Dunlin. There were several Osprey that have already claimed the nesting platforms.
I also enjoyed watching this Great Egret trying to swallow down a small fish. I'm not sure what kind of fish it is-maybe a Sea Robin?
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Here is the video footage of the egret trying to eat the fish. I hope everyone has a Happy Easter!