Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bye Bye Bufflehead

Bufflehead are small diving sea ducks that I usually see a couple of times during the midst of the winter. The name Bufflehead comes from the combination of the words buffalo and head. _ __ ____________________________________________________________There were several male and female Bufflehead on the Connecticut River near Deep River landing on Sunday. Usually when I see them from a distance the Male's head looks black and white. This one particular male came close enough that I was able to see that the dark portion of their head is surprisingly iridescent. I was interested to learn (from Cornell) that they nest almost exclusively in tree holes that were excavated by Northern Flickers. These ducks are a lot of fun to watch because they are very active. They do a lot of diving, grooming and displaying. Many spring migrants will soon be arriving but these might have been the last Buffleheads I'll see before next winter. Bye Bye Buffleheads - until we meet again! Until then, there should be plenty of other ducks to see like these Wood Ducks that were swimming in a flooded stream near the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Return Of Snipe To Portland Fairgrounds

For the last several years I've been able to find Wilson's Snipe near a skating pond at our local fairgrounds. The first time I saw them I wasn't quite sure what they were. They reminded me of a woodcock but there were differences. I usually find woodcock in a more wooded setting and the snipe's eyes don't protrude from their head the way a woodcock's do. They prefer open fields that are muddy and have tall grass for them to hide in. The snipe start show up near the skating pond around mid-March which is just about the time the ground thaws out. By late March or early April they reach peak numbers of about 24-50 birds.
- - I found this one early Saturday morning. At first it looked like a clump of dirt surrounded by grass as it stood perfectly still. It started to blink its eyes and take deeper breaths as the temperature warmed up. Shortly after this video, it flew to the other side of the pond and started probing for food. The return of Wilson's Snipe to the fairgrounds is another sign that spring has finally arrived.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm In No Hurry To See Warblers

-------------------------( Common Grackle)-----------------------------------------------------
Spring is one of my favorite seasons of the year, the other being fall. If I had one complaint about spring it would be that it goes by too quickly. There are only so many perfect spring days when the sun is shining and the temperature is in the 60- 70 degree range before spring turns into summer. This year, I'm not making the mistake of looking for those perfect spring days. It's spring right now and I plan on making the most of it.

One thing I've done in recent years is to look forward to the arrival of warblers. This year, I want to enjoy spring as it unfolds naturally without putting any specific emphasis on seeing warblers . There are plenty of other birds to see before the warblers get here. On Saturday, I spent several hours at a local swamp that was alive with the sound of birds actively searching for food and displaying.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds took position in high perches as they belted out their best conk-ra-lee calls while showing off their fancy red wing patches.
I watched as this grackle contemplated whether or not to take the plunge.
It couldn't resist taking a dip into the freshly melted water. This grackle returned to the same log and repeated this process three times.
There are still a lot of people I talk to that think robins don't arrive in Connecticut until spring. I see them all winter but it isn't until the ground is melted that they show up on people's lawns ready for a worm-picking picnic.
I led a local field trip on Saturday afternoon to areas along the Connecticut River in Portland. Here is the list for the day: Killdeer-(photo), Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackle, Song Sparrow, Ring-billed Gull, Belted kingfisher, Ring-necked Pheasant, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, nesting Bald Eagles, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Wilson's Snipe, American Crow, American Robin, Wood Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Mallard, Canada Goose, European Starling, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco, Ring-necked Duck, White-throated Sparrow, Great Cormorant, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Phoebe.
It was still a little chilly this weekend and the warblers have not arrived yet but spring is here. I'm not looking for perfect weather or the first warbler. I'm just looking forward to the next opportunity to be outdoors and to see what treasure nature has to show me next.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Red-bellied Woodpecker & Iron Eyes Cody

I found this Red-bellied Woodpecker during a brief visit to the Johnson/kalinowski preserve on Saturday. There were several Eastern Bluebirds there as well.
The entrance to the 18 acre preserve is located on Grove Street in Portland. The land is situated at the edge of Pecausett Pond which is a fresh water cove connected to the Connecticut River by way of a small inlet. During past visits here I have seen Osprey and Bald Eagles perched in some of the trees. The short entrance trail is the only place you can walk without sinking up to your knees in muck so my my time spent I generally make a brief stop here to see what's around.
Sometimes when I find trash on the ground I'm reminded of a commercial from the 70's. It concluded with a scene showing a Native American standing at the edge of a highway with a tear in his eye after trash is thrown at his feet. It may have been a little melodramatic but it must have made an impression on me since I'm still remembering it 40 years after it originally aired. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, click here to see the Youtube clip of the original commercial. The Native American in the commercial was portrayed by an Italian-American actor named Iron Eyes Cody. I try to remember to pick up litter I find in small preserves like this. I don't want to be haunted by that memory of an American Indian standing in trash with a tear running down his cheek.