Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ever Had A Song Stuck In Your Head?

Have you ever heard a song on the television or radio that keeps replaying in your mind throughout the day? The urban dictionary refers to this problem as having an earworm. Can you guess what 1969 song was stuck in my head on the day I took the photos below?
A Yellow Warbler Sings........I'll try to do my best -until the fledgelings leave the nest and fly away..

In the meadow.....

A Spotted Sandpiper cries.....As the big scary man -with the camera in his hand comes walking down that dusty road....In the meadow

A whitetail lies...In the tall cool grass on a hot summer day -where the killdeer play....
In the meadow....

sound familiar?
The top photo was taken at Haley Farm State Park in Groton Connecticut. It was a beautiful place to visit and I was able to walk all the way over to Bluff Point by following along side an Amtrak rail. My favorite sightings there were a White-eyed Vireo and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The photos of the Yellow Warbler and Spotted Sandpiper were taken at Wangunk Meadows in Portland last weekend. I shot a video of a family of 5 Spotted Sandpipers there as they were scurrying along and bobbing their tails. Unfortunately, blogger video hasn't been working for me this week. My Canon S2IS has also been malfunctioning so I just ordered a Panasonic FZ35. Hopefully, using a new camera will help me stay interested in birding throughout the dog days of summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

10 Places I've Seen Along Route 17

There is a five mile stretch of road along route 17 between Portland and South Glastonbury that has a lot to offer including some interesting places in which to look for birds. Her is a quick overview of some places of interest that I am familiar with:

The Connecticut Audubon Center at Glastonbury-I visited this place on a few occasions. They do rehabilitation work with wild injured birds here. They have a nature center that includes a few hawks that were unable to be released back into the wild because of the nature of their injuries. They have a Parrot that can be very talkative named Lovey. In the back of the nature center is a trail that follows Holland brook through the 48 acre Earle Park. This is where I saw my first Eastern Bluebirds.

Right next door to the Audubon Center is the Old Church Cemetery. There are a lot of tall pine trees bordering the cemetery. I enjoyed watching the antics of Eastern Phoebes and Chipping Sparrows as they perched up on some of the old headstones. The oldest one I found dated back to about 1810. I have a habit of reading inscriptions whenever I go to an old cemetery. What I found interesting at this particular cemetery was some of the last names which are very familiar in the area. Knowing that some of the people that were buried here so long ago still have relatives living in town makes it all the more interesting to me by creating a sort of historical bridge from the past to the present.

2) The Old Cider Mill-A little farther south on the same side of the road is the old cider mill. This is a great place to stop in the for cider, donuts and pumpkins in the Fall. They have a few farm animals for kids to see as well.

3) So. G Coffee Roaster-I recently discovered this coffee shop located in South Glastonbury Center. Fresh coffee beans are purchased from select farmers around the world and the beans are roasted right in the store. I've already tried several different varieties of their coffee including some that was organic or shade grown. The coffee is more expensive than what you get out of a can from the grocery store but I think it's worth it.
4) Cotton Hollow Preserve- This is a nature preserve in the center of South Glastonbury with a trail that follows Roaring Brook. As I walked along the trail, I found this model of a tee pee which someone had built out of sticks. I usually find the standard variety of woodland birds here but it is a pleasant place to take a walk.

5) Rocky Hill -Glastonbury Ferry- If you turn down route 160 just before the bridge from it will lead you to a ferry which has been in operation since 1655. It was just a raft back then. The current fare is $3.00 per vehicle to cross the Connecticut River or $1.00 for a walk on passenger. I found the birding near the ferry lunch to be productive during the winter months. I had good luck here during the Christmas Count.

6) The Farm Stands-There are several farm stand directly on route 17. Berutti's, Draghi's, and Gotta's Farm are three of the most notable ones. This is where I buy local fruits and vegetables as well as the plants for my garden. I've done some limited birding on the land owned by some of these farms but I make sure to check with the owners first.

7)-The Fruit Orchards-if you take Foote Road off of 17 you can follow the signs to Belltown Hill Orchards, Roses Berry Farm, and Dondero Orchards for some native grown fresh fruit. This area has some really scenic views of the the expansive orchards which are situated up in the hills. It can also be a good place to find raptors in the Fall.
8)- Great Pond Preserve- This is a nice little spot to do some birding. The entrance is located on Great Pond Road which is off of route 17. There are trails that lead to a glacial pond where I've seen Green-winged teal, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers and various shorebirds during different times of the year. Some of the birds I've seen along the trail over the past couple of years include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blackburnian Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler. This past weekend I saw a Barred Owl flying through the woods (owl photo is from Granville MA in 08). I was reading about how owls form a flock which is referred to as a parliament of owls. I'd love to see a parliament of owls. The most adult owls I've seen at one time is 2. the same This is a good spot to visit early in the morning if you want to get in an hour or two of birding.
Besides the barred Owl, I also found a Red Squirrel . They are fairly common but you don't see them nearly as often as you see Gray Squirrels in Connecticut. They are known to tap maple trees so they can come back to eat the sap that runs out onto the bark and branches.
They're also known to be nervous, wary and pretty darned fast too!
9) Abe Temkin Preserve-The hidden entrance to this preserve is on Cedar Terrace. I came across this spot about a year ago and it's become one of my favorite local birding spots. I've had a close encounter with a Pileated Woodpecker, a singing Winter Wren, and add to the list this past weekend an Acadian Flycatcher. What I like most about this preserve is the way the trail descends down a ravine so deep that you forget that it makes you forget that your anywhere near a house. It has a wild feel to the place. It was cloudy most of the weekend so I tried to get closer to the birds by using this wooden bridge as a partial blind. I had several close encounters while I was on the bridge. A Great Blue Heron came in for a landing 2 feet away from me but then flew off in a panic when it saw me. A Belted kingfisher landed right above my head before flying downstream. Several birds came down to take a drink from the brook, Veerys and redstarts were constantly flying past me. Every picture I took came out blurry or too dark. I'll have to give this a try again on a sunny day.
As you are heading south on 17 into Portland, there is a DEP access for Wangunk Meadows on the right. Some enjoyable sightings I had at Wangunk Meadows this Spring include Purple Martins, a Blackpoll Warbler, Indigo Buntings, and Yellow-throated Vireos. There is another reason that makes this a worthwhile place for birders to visit in the Spring and early Summer but I won't go into details about why. just follow the trail down to the field and take a careful look around.
So there you have it. You'd never know there was so much to see along this portion of route 17 if you were just passing through.
Do you know of a special road like this near where you live?

click to play
What is the vireo putting in its mouth?

Monday, June 7, 2010

From The Berkshires To The Backyard

I spent a few days up in Berkshires with my father and cousin as part of a Spring fishing trip. This has been an annual tradition for over 30 years. When we first started this tradition my father had to keep an eye on me as I was just a young teen. Now that he is approaching 80 it's me that looks out for him.
The view is of South Pond as seen from our cabin porch. We caught some nice Rainbow Trout in nearby North Pond after the friendly locals gave us a few fishing tips.
I didn't spend a lot of time birding during the trip but did bring my camera and binoculars while fishing or hiking. I enjoyed watching this American Robin as it tended to a nest behid our cabin. One of the birds that I heard most often in the area was the Black-throated blue Warbler. They stayed high in the trees so I rarely caught a glimpse of them. I spotted Blue-headed Vireos, a Barred Owl, and Purple Finches, right within the campground. I hadn't seen a Purple Finch for so long that it took me a minute before I realized that I was seeing Purple Finches and not House Finches.
When I returned home I visited a few of my favorite local birding spots. There has been a lot Baltimore Orioles around but I haven't been able to catch one at eye level.

click to play
I got a nice look at this Scarlet Tanager as it made what I call its Chick-burr call. I wish the robin in the background would have toned it down for a few seconds but that's just a robin being a robin.
This is a picture taken at a small nature preserve in East Hampton. I find the area so visually appealing but I was hoping that it would have a greater variety of bird species. The bottom line is that the birds probably don't share my appreciation of natural beauty. they're more interested in what's in it for them in terms of food and habitat.

click to play
I have found that it's a good place to find Black-throated Green Warbler and Acadian Flycatchers like the one seen in this video. It was nice to actually see the Acadian Flycatcher this time. Usually, I only hear them or catch a brief glimpse of one as it flies from one tree to another.
As my vacation time came towards the end I spent some time just sitting and relaxing in my backyard watching the sunset. As evening approaches, I enjoy watching the Chimney Swifts as they dart and twitter across the sky.
I was happy to see that a House Wren decided to make use of our nestbox again. They migrate to southern United States or Mexico for the winter.
As I was watching the wren busy at work an amusing thought occurred to me. While we were up in the Berkshires gathering firewood and and staying in a small log cabin, this little bird was busy gathering sticks in my backyard to put in this wooden nestbox for his family.