Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheap Baths & Overgrown Gardens = Birds

A few years ago I started a small perennial flower garden hoping to attract more birds and butterflies. I've neglected to weed the garden properly this year but the birds don't seem to mind. Wrens, finches, sparrows, catbirds, chickadees and even a few warblers have been having a field day looking through the tangled mass of plants for things to eat.
Another popular attraction has been this birdbath which I made from a terracotta dish and wire plant stand. It was meant to be a temporary replacement for my cement birdbath which broke last year but it seems to get as much use as the old one. Goldfinches seem to be one of the more common visitors.....
but the House Finches and House Sparrows probably take to prize for hogging the bath.
I was happy to see the more timid Tufted Titmouse stop by for a quick drink.
This past week my yard has been filled with chickadees. I've counted as many as six at a time. Smaller birds like chickadees seem to prefer a shallow birdbath.
You can never have too many chickadees. A couple of years ago during a field trip we saw several hundred chickadees land on an island as they made their way down the Connecticut River. What a sight that was!

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Here's a video clip of one of the birds in action. They seem to be just as excited as I am about the start of the football season.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hatchway Warbler And Nestbox Downy

I came home from work the Tuesday night and saw this warbler poking though my lawn. I came back with the camera and took this picture of it standing on the hatchway before it flew off. I didn't see the front of the bird but it looks like a palm Warbler. It has some yellow under the tail and a whitish supercillium which are field marks that were listed in my field guide for fall Palm Warblers.

There have been other birds passing though my yard recently including a tiny Blue-gray gnatcatcher that was flitting about in my crabapple tree flashing his white trimmed tail feathers. The most surprising bird I saw was a robust looking Northern Waterthrush which had a nice yellowish wash on its underside. It was in a tree bobbing its tail for a while but flew off after a short visit.
This Downy Woodpecker was making a lot of noise trying to enlarge the opening to this nestbox but I had a metal guard around the hole which prevented House Sparrows from getting in. I removed the metal guard so the downy could chip away at the entrance. I was curious as to what it wanted with the nestbox since I assumed the nesting season for downies would be over by now. Maybe it's just practicing for next year.
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I went on a Hartford Audubon trip last Saturday and we saw 8 Broad-winged Hawks fly over along with a mix of a few other hawks. We saw one adult Bald Eagle but I don't know if it was migrating or just haning out. I'm looking forward to sitting in on a hawk watch at a sight in Massachusetts at Blueberry Hill this weekend. Hopefully conditions will be good so we can see a lot of broadwings. Maybe Fats Domino will show up!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mystic Is A Great Place To Sit And Watch

My wife and I recently spent a couple of days in Mystic at the Steamboat Inn which is pictured above between the boat and the taller brick building. The rooms at the inn have been nicely updated with modern conveniences but still maintain the character of the original design. We stayed in the Mystic Room on the top floor which has the best overall view of the river but some of the other rooms have their own unique advantages. The inn also offers some nice touches like a full complimentary breakfast as well as sherry and homemade cookies in the evening.

Mystic is best known known for tourist attractions such as Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. Since our stay was short, we decided to stay close to the Inn and not do any driving. In the past, there have been times that I would try to schedule as many activities as possible during a vacation. This strategy can be a mistake be a mistake because you end up feeling like you need a vacation at the end of your vacation. We spent a lot of time just sitting on the dock in front of the Inn taking in the scenery along the Mystic River.
The Bascule Bridge was built back in 1920 but 90 years later tourists still stop and take pictures when the bridge is raised. We watched the bridge and we watched the tourists watch the bridge.
We watched as the 100 year old Steamboat Sabino came our way with smiling passengers enjoying an old-fashioned boat ride.
The passengers on this ship are headed out for a sailing adventure on the Argia, a replica of a 19th century schooner.
We watched as gulls took turns flying up on the roof to determine the authenticity of a mechanical owl.
We checked in with the local fishermen who were trying their luck at catching porgies. From what I saw, they pulled up a few nice ones.
I only saw a handful of bird species during our stay. Double-crested Cormorants, Snowy Egrets, and terns would fly by. We were entertained by the antics of Mute Swans and Mallards as they maneuvered there way around the water looking for food while avoiding the boats. I witnessed an unfortunate accident as a warbler flew into a brick building and landed in the river. It was a tannish bird with a striped head that I believe was probably an Ovenbird. I was told by other birders that ovenbirds are common victims of this sort of accident during migration.
When we needed a change of pace we took a walk along Main Street visiting the mom and pop specialty stores and of course, we had to stop at the ice cream shop which was just across the street on the other side of the bridge.
Simple pleasures like sitting on a bench watching boats, taking a walk to see the shops along main street and talking to passersby may not seem all that exciting to some compared to the technologically advanced forms of entertainment that are available these days. From where I sat, I'd say those simple pleasures are underrated.