Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Bird Count & Big Semi-green January

I recently participated in the annual Salmon River Christmas bird count. The territory we cover is right in my home town which is very convenient. The top photo is a view overlooking Kelsey's Pond in Portland. It was a chilly day but there was plenty of sunshine.
There was an abundance of White-breasted Nuthatches. The females like the one above have a gray cap versus the males which have a dark black cap. 

  There were some species we expected to see that we didn't find this year including kinglets and creepers. We were surprised that we couldn't find a single Northern Mockingbird. Shh!- don't tell anyone!
This Pileated Woodpecker was partly to blame. It stayed at the same tree chiseling away while the three of us stared in awe! They really stand out from all the other woodpeckers in Connecticut. It was a female which lacks red in the moustache and has a blackish  forehead. Usually they fly off once they notice you but this one wouldn't budge. We couldn't peel ourselves away to get on with the count.

Some of our favorite sightings for the day included: Hermit Thrush, Eastern Bluebirds, Hooded Mergansers, 2 adult Bald Eagles, Common Goldeneye, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Nothing earth shattering but we had lots of fun.
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 For  those of you who may be wondering, I have decided to do a Big January again this year. Big January is when you count all the species you see in your home state (or whatever) between January 1st and January 31st. I welcome you to join me in this annual tradition.

  This year I'm going to try to reduce the amount of miles I drive by walking, biking, busing, and carpooling when possible.  If you like this idea then I encourage you to give it a try.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Biking From Main Street To Birdland

 I spend a great deal of time during the week driving an automobile. I'm thankful for the conveninece a car provides but they do come with a cost. They are expensive to operate and maintain. Exhaust fumes pollute the air and the noise they make pollutes the ear. Driving requires a lot of concentration which adds stress to our lives. These are some of the obvious negative aspects of driving but there is a more subtle point to be considered. When you're in a car your are surrounded by a protective shell of steel and glass that isolates you from outside world. It is impossible to be fully aware of your surroundings while driving.
 I  recently rode my bike to Middletown and was able to enjoy a tour of Main Street that wouldn't be the same if I had driven my truck. I could the smell food cooking in restaurants I passed, see storefront window displays in full detail, and even hear the sound of horses trotting down the street. I was able to drop off mail, get my bike tuned up, and stop for  coffee without having to worry about finding a parking space.
   I was able to get a closer look at historical buildings that I passed by and found it easy to manuevere my way around town to explore anything that I was curious about.
 After leaving the Main Street area I headed down to river road to find some habitat that is more suitable for birds and wildlife.
 I found a Red Fox poking around for food in the woods. It was set back on an embankment near some railroad tracks. The fox seemed as curious about me as I was about him. it stared at me and even walked closer toward me at one point.
 There is a fair portion of land along the Connecticut River which is still undeveloped in the south end of Middletown. I've had good luck birding in this area over the past few years.
I didn't come across anything out of the ordinary during this particular trip but I had some nice views of some birds like this American Robin which tried unsuccesfully to camouflage itself.
 Carolina Wrens are frequently surrounded by vines and branches but they often give themselves away by singing, chipping, or making scolding calls.
   It seems that I'm able to get closer to birds while on a bike but taking photos while trying to stay balanced can be a bit awkward. I had a great view of this Eastern Bluebird but it wasn't at the best angle for a photo.

 I've learned that using a bike for transportation can provide a smooth transition from the modern world to the natural world. It allows you to enjoy the journey, not just the arrival at your destination.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Me And The Sanderlings On An Empty Beach

 I made a stop at Meig's Point in Hammonasset Park on Saturday morning and was surprised to find that I was the only one there. I found a good sized flock of Sanderlings on the beach.
   There were also a few Ruddy Turnstones mixed in with the flock. Since no one was around I decided to get down in the sand with the Sanderlings. The birds were busy trying to get their bellies full so they didn't pay much attention to me.
  I watched one turnstone charge after a couple of the Sanderlings but for the most part they seemed to coexist peacefully.
Later that morning I walked out on the point to look for the less common Purple Sandpipers . The rocks can get very slippery so I proceeded with caution.
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Can Nature Compete With The Digital Age?

  One of things I enjoy most is a walk through the woods early in the morning . There's nothing like that tranquil feeling when your in some secluded forest surrounded by nature.
Your senses are attuned to the tiniest of details because you are truly in the moment. You savor the sound of a trickling stream or the sight of a deer that comes upon you unexpectedly. Everything seems to have a mystical quality whether it be bird or berry.
 I wish I could say that all of my experiences with nature were like this but it takes more than just being there. It also requires a mind that is relatively free from mental clutter. That's not always possible in this busy world we live in.

 Every day there are new and improved televisions, cell phones, computers along with countless other electronic gadgetry that bedazzles the mind. You don't have to rely on your senses to stimulate your mind when you have a state-of-the-art digital device to do it for you. How can a simple walk in the woods compete with that? I wonder if our current addiction to technology makes it more difficult to find that special connection with nature?
 You can't upgrade a Black-capped Chickadee to a 7.0 version or use a remote control to change a Song Sparrow into a Le Conte's Sparrow.
 It's not possible to send a text message to a Cooper's Hawk instructing it to move into a better position for a photo-op.
  There are so many products to keep us entertained these days, is it even necessary to stay in touch with nature any more? Everything you see in the natural world is only as your senses perceive it to be, but that is what separates it from the modern world. It is real, not digitally enhanced. I believe  keeping our connection with nature alive is more important now than ever before.