Wednesday, October 31, 2012

7 Reasons Why Birders Should Try Using A Bus

Taking a public bus is not the most convenient way for a birder to get to a birding destination but I believe it's worth the effort. Here is a list of 10 reasons why birders should use a bus:
 1) Taking a bus is cheap-Current bus fares in Connecticut are  about $1.50 each way. That includes free transfers. It costs me more than that to back my truck out of the driveway.
2) fewer choices = less stress:  When you take a bus your choices are limited to places along the bus route. I find this makes things easier. We already have too many choices these days ( cable tv channels, ipod, restaurants, cell phones etc.).  This photo was taken at Wadsworth Park in Middletown which is conveniently located near a bus route.
3) Birders can set a positive example to others by taking the bus: Riding a bus is an environmentally friendly way to go. Not all birders are environmentalists but I'm sure most birders care about the environment so why not set a positive example?
4) Once the bus drops you off you are committed to your chosen location: I know that many birders including myself can get impatient at times. You might be at one spot for a half an hour and then decide to drive to a different location to seek birds. If you've been dropped off by a bus then it doesn't work that way. You are committed to birding where the bus left you. I think that can be a good thing because it helps keep you focused. 
5) Using the bus let's you try places that you might not otherwise bother with: With gas prices so high I find myself only driving to birding spots that are close to a sure thing. Driving around aimlessly looking for new birding spots is a waste of gas. There are new places along bus routes that present interesting birding opportunities and you need not worry about wasting fuel.
I spotted this Pine Siskin during one of my recent bus excursions

6) It's relaxing to have someone drive you around: I get tired of driving so it's nice to have someone else drive. It also allows you to study the bus route for other potential birding opportunities along the route.

7) Using the bus for birding doesn't seem to be very popular: I haven't heard much about people using city buses for every day birding. It's sort of fun to do something that hasn't caught on yet.

It takes a little effort and planning to make use of public transportation but it can be a fun and rewarding experience!

Here is a helpful link for: Connecticut Public Bus Routes  from the Department Of Transportation.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From A Small Town To Nature On The Airline Trail

I recently went for a bike ride on the Airline Trail and was pleased to discover that it had been extended to Main Street in East Hampton, Connecticut. I talked to the owner of a local coffee house who said that hikers and bikers who use the trail have been coming to her shop since it was extended.
The trail was formely a train track built in the 1870's eventually connecting Boston to New York. It's now a recreational trail for  people to walk, ride their bikes or even ride their horses. It's a nice feeling to be able to cruise through the woods from town to town without a car in sight.
Riding this trail by bicycle is a breeze. I'm not one that desires the challenge of climbing hills on a bike so this trail is perfect for me. You can pedal for 30 feet and the coast for 50 feet. I stopped frequently for breaks. There are several places where bridges cross streams giving you great views.
I can't believe that I saw a Barred Owl two days in a row! I saw this one at Hammonasset while with a Birdingpal  who was visiting from New Zealand. Then I saw another one the next day while on the Airline Trail. Barred owls are probably the easiest owls to find in Connecticut during the daytime but I'm always excited when I find one.
I ended my bike ride at the Raymond Marsh portion of the trail in Hebron. this can be a very birdy spot, especially in the spring. it was quiet on this particular day. I did see some Easterrn Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and Mallards.
 There were also lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. These birds can be a real tease. They land right in front of you but move on so quickly that they're gone by the time you try to get a picture.

Turning old railroad lines into trails used for recreation is a good example of recycling something old into something new and useful. Connecting the trail to a local town is a common sense approach that benefits businesses and nature enthusiast. I hope this a trend that continues in the future.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vermont White-crowned Sparrows In The Rain

I spent a couple of days camping at Gifford Woods State Park in Killington Vermont. I stopped at the Vermont Country Store on the way up. They offered lots of locally made food samples. They were free but everything tasted so good that I ended up buying some to take with me. 
Right across from the campground is Kent Pond. I didn't see many birds when I did an initial survey of the pond. There were Osprey, Common Mergansers, and Mallards on the water and a few Song Sparrows near the shore. I was hoping to see something out of the ordinary because Kent Pond has a reputation of being a good birding spot.
I hiked from the campground to a trail that took me to the top of an overlook. I think it was called Deer Mountain overlook.
The best way to get a view of Vermon't foliage seems to be when you're driving on long stretches of road. Connecticut has great foliage too but the routes to view them aren't nearly as long.
 I passed miles of mountains painted with colorful foliage, lots of antique shops, country stores, and farms along the way. I saw dozens of country inns on my way up. They must hold the record in that category.
I was disappointed when I heard a forecast of rain for the entire day but it was only a light rain so I decided to hit the trails to look for birds anyway. I finally caught up with the Pileated Woodpecker that had been taunting me with its call. This one looks to be a male with an all red crest and a bit of a red moustache. We're fortunate that these great woodpeckers are doing so well.
Other birds of interest during my walk were large numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I also found a couple of Ring-necked Ducks and a Common Loon on the pond.
The trail led to a road on the opposite side of Kent Pond. The woods along the edge of this road were loaded with sparrows including White-throated, Juncos, Song, Swamp, White-crowned and I also found 1 Lincoln's Sparrow.
Surprisingly, there were about as many White-crowned Sparrows as there were White-throated Sparrows. I saw as many as 6 at a time.
I tried to take photos in between rain squalls. Everything came out grainy or blurry but I managed to keep a few in focus. Several were picking through pebbles on the side of the road. 

 It's funny how things work out sometimes. I spent two rain-free days hiking through the woods for hours hoping to see lots of birds without much luck. Then I go for a short walk in the rain with no expectations and hit the birding jackpot. You just never know.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Birds Of Prey & Bagpipes

I 'm always looking for opportunities to combine other experiences with birding and blogging. I recently attended  the " Pipes in the Valley" festival at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. Having birds of prey featured at this event was very convenient. How often can I get close up views of hawks, owls, and falcons without them flying away?  The top photo is of a Red-shouldered Hawk.
This second photo is a male American Kestrel. I was struck by how small it appeared up close. This one had only one wing. All of the birds were from Horizon Wings in Ashford Connecticut. They specialize in rehabilitation of birds of prey. They only keep the ones that are unable to be released into the wild for one reason or another.
This is a photo of a Barn Owl.There are very few nesting pairs left in Connecticut due mostly to the decrease in open farmland.
I expected that there might be traditional bagpipe music like this.  The constant drone of  bagpipes along with heavy drum beats seems to have a hypnotic effect after a while. I wonder if that's why bagpipe players were used to lead armies into battle? I did a little research and found out that the origins of the bagpipe can be traced back to ancient Egypt.
Celtica was one of the groups which performed at the event .  They Incorporated bagpipes into their music and gave a high energy performance which included creative reworkings of familiar songs.
This is a talented band from Ontario Canada called Searson. The women in the photo are not only members of the band , they're also sisters.
What else do people do for entertainment at a Celtic festival besides drink beer and listen to bagpipe music? They see who can throw a tree the farthest! They had several strongman and woman events throughout the day.
Overall I thought the Pipes in the Valley festival was a great festival. It was well organized with great food & music.  It was a fun way to combine birding. I hope they continue to have more events like these at the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza in the future.