Saturday, March 31, 2012

Birding By Pillow ?

 I haven't bothered keeping up with all of the latest digital technology. I use a prepaid cell phone and have never texted, tweeted or used facebook. I do enjoy using an Mp3 primarily for listening to audiobooks and podcasts. There are several birding-related podcasts available on the Internet. Two sources for birding podcasts that I've been listening to are Birdcalls Radio and This Birding Life from Birdwatcher's Digest.

I especially enjoy listening to podcasts before going to sleep but I find that it's uncomfortable laying down while wearing headphones or using earbuds. I've recently solved that problem with a gift I received from my wife. It's a pillow that has built-in speakers and plugs into your Mp3 player. I was skeptical that it would be loud enough for me to hear the podcasts through a pillow but it works as advertised. I thought for sure that I would end up breaking the cord off while moving around as I slept. I've been using it for 3 months now and it's still working well. The product is available on Amazon along with customer reviews.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

22 Birders +100 Herons = One Ducky Day

I've been leading a few local birdwatching trips for Mattabeseck and Hartford Audubon over the last couple of years. I like having trips during the winter and summer when groups tend to be smaller. I was in for a shock when 22 birders showed up for my first field trip of the year! I'm sure the 65 degree weather had a lot to do with that. I was out of my comfort zone with a larger group but everyone pitched in to help things run more smoothly.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to a Great blue Heron Rookery. Many of the people on the trip who were seeing the heronry for first time were amazed at the size of it. We counted about 85 herons on the nests but I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 100 in the area. (Above photo shows less than half of the nests).
They were often seen flying in and out of the nests.
I like watching them circle around and come in for a landing. This is when you can see the most details. 
One of the benefits of having a lot of observers is that someone might find something that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.  Look at the nest to the right of this heron. Do you see a little head poking out? Who- Who-Who could it be?
 Wilson's Snipe were already hunkered down in the grass at the skating pond near the fairgrounds but they were very difficult to pick out. This is a photo from the same area taken last year.
During the trip we saw a variety of ducks including: Ring-necked(above), Green-winged Teal, Black, Mallard, and Hooded Merganser.
There were also man Wood Ducks around but many times they would fly off before we could get a good look at them. I went back to the same areas the day after the trip to take most of these photos.  Here are a male and female Wood Duck seen together. The eye mark on the female really stands out in this picture.....
but the male Wood Duck still insists on being the star of the show.

A few other notable birds seen on the trip included: Pileated Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon, Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebe, Bald Eagle (on nest), Osprey, and Eastern Bluebirds.
It turned out to be a great day of birding, especially for March!  
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Some of the nests blew down during last year's storms but there are still dozens of them. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doesn't Anyone Care If Hawks Return In Spring?

    The Fall hawk migration has been well publicized in Connecticut. There are many opportunities to visit local hawkwatch sites each year. I was curious as to why you don't hear much about spring hawk watches?

  I asked a local hawk watch organizer (Paul Carrier) if he knew of a good spot to look for migrating hawks in the Spring. He suggested Penwood  Park in Bloomfield CT. Mid-April should be the most productive time to visit but I wanted to familiarize myself with the area so I made a vist there this weekend. I took the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail to the pinnacle. The view from the top was beautiful!
As I looked to my left, there was a view of the Heublein Tower on Talcott Ridge. Over the years, this tower has been visited by some famous people including Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

It was originally built as a Summer retreat for Gilbert Heublein. He was in the hotel, restaurant, and food industry but may have been most known as a liquor manufacturer. The tower is open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the rumour about the tower being filled to the top with booze during the winter months is simply not true.
I had a nice view of what appears to be a young Bald Eagle.
There were a few birds taking advantage of the updrafts including a couple of red-tails, some Turkey Vultures, and a Common Raven. A carpie passed through (not sure if it was a cooper's or a sharpie) and I could hear a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in the woods calling-keeyer- keeyer- keeyer (or something like that).
The trail was surprisingly quiet on the way up. The parking lot was full but I only encountered a couple of hikers on the trail.
I don't know why people make rock piles in the woods but they are sort of interesting to look at.
This pretty little pond was also along the trail. It's so secluded that even the ducks seem to have a hard time finding it.
I took a park road on the way down instead of the trail. I found a flock of about 30 Cedar Waxwings. I come across them fairly often but never get tired of watching them, especially when they're eating berries.
They were in a frenzy trying to devour the berries on this bush!- (does anyone know what kind of berry bush it is?). The waxwings stayed in the same area for at while. People who passed by me were curious as to what I was pointing my camera at and were impressed by the waxwings when I pointed them out. 

 This is a good park to visit during spring migration. I've never hiked up to the overlook before but a few years ago I saw a Kentucky Warbler here. They can be difficult to find in Connecticut.
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 I intend to visit Penwood Park at least a couple of times in April. I'll look for incoming broad-wings and whatever else the wind might carry in. Past records indicate there is the potential to see several hundred hawks pass by here but even if I only see a few it should be a nice way to enjoy as Spring Day.

Have you ever tried hawkwatching in Spring?

*Note: If you live in Connecticut there is a 1990  book by Gene Billings titled:
"Birds of Prey in Connecticut Guide to Finding and Understanding Hawks, Eagles, Vultures and Owls" It is available through the library system or there are used copies on Amazon. It's probably a little outdated but I found some of it interesting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lonely Turkey & Tired Of Pink-footed Geese

  This Wild Turkey hen has been visiting our us for several months. It roosts in a large yew tree in our back yard at night. We see it every morning  eating seed beneath the birdfeeders. I've also seen it eat plants from last year's garden and berries from the holly bushes. We are amused when we see it run quickly across the open yard as if it were being chased.

 The strange thing about this bird is that I've never seen it with any other turkeys. I say strange because I'm used to seeing turkeys in groups numbering from about 10 to as many as 50 . This one has been solo  since November. I believe the mating season starts some time around March or April so I'm curious to see if she will be moving on soon.
I haven't been doing much birding recently but I did get one thing out of the way. There has been Pink-footed Goose reports by the dozen for months now. I finally got around to seeing one at a field in South Windsor. Several other birders were there and were kind enough to point it out to me. Can you see it out there in the field with the Canada Geese? It has a little scratch on its left foot. A picture was out of the question but I was glad to finally see one. Now I don't have to keep reading about Pink-footed Geese on the daily bird report trying to decide if I should go look for it.