Sunday, March 27, 2016

Past The Old Tobacco Fields In Search Of Birds

I took a walk on Easter morning and passed by some old agricultural fields where I earned my first paycheck picking tobacco leaves in the late 70's. All that remains of those days are the ghostly remains of old tobacco sheds and distant memories of tar-covered clothes. These days the fields are used for planting strawberries and vegetables for a local farm stand.
I chose this location because I wanted to take a break from my favorite local honey-holes. Search for birds in areas like this may be less consistent but still have some appeal. It's sort of like searching for change underneath the couch cushions instead of just going to the atm. 

There was plenty of flooded marshy area as I followed a trail down to the Connecticut River. I was hoping I might come across a woodcock but had no such luck. I did see a kestrel flying overhead and spotted a first of year Ring-necked Pheasant crossing one of the fields.
One thing I did see to brighten up an otherwise gloomy, cloud-covered morning was a male Wood Duck perched in a sycamore tree quietly singing to a nearby female. It reminded me of a line from a song-birds singing from the Sycamore trees... dream a little dream of me...

 I came across many other Wood Ducks in the marsh that let out overly dramatic squeals as they flew off. They seemed to be yelling WARNING! WARNING! HUMAN APPROACHING!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Birding At A Slow Pace Often Pays Dividends

 Moving at a slow pace does not come naturally to me. I'm usually in high gear and then add a couple cups of coffee to that. I have learned that it's easy to pass right by things unless you take your bird walks at a slow pace. If I wasn't walking slowly I surely wouldn't have noticed this reflective scene on the Connecticut River. 
 It's hard to believe that I almost walked directly underneath this Bald Eagle without noticing it because I was busy checking my cellphone!
 I've been seeing robins by the hundreds but if I wasn't walking along at a snail's pace I might have ignored them all.
I don't think I would have missed a dozen Eastern bluebirds perched on plants in an open field...
 ...but the bluebirds didn't notice this sly fox until it was too late as I witnessed it leaping up to capture one of the bluebirds and then sneaking off into the woods with bird in mouth.If I hadn't stopped to admire the bluebirds I would have missed the fox and the whole scene (mixed feelings about that).
 I usually find waxwings by hearing their zzzz sounds but I just happened to look up one more time before leaving the park to see this silent Cedar Waxwing, my first of the year.
 I asked several birders at the fairgrounds if they had seen any snipe to which they said no. It's easy to see how you could miss this one standing silent in the tall grass. I was about ready to call it a day when I just happen to glance in the right direction.
After 15 minutes of observing through a spotting scope all I saw was Ring-necked Ducks and Wood Ducks. If I had left a minute earlier, I never would have seen this Northern Shoveler emerge from a hidden area set way back in the woods.

It's not always easy to slow your pace down when your birding, especially when you're seeing the usual suspects but birding at a slow pace often pays dividends.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Do Birders Take Birding Too Seriously?

bird in above photo: Irish Pintail
Sometimes when I'm out bird watching (oops I'm supposed to say birding) I find that birders can be just as interesting as the birds themselves. I know some birders that can tell me the date of their first of year oriole in 1962. There are birders that will not let a bird pass by in flight without checking it. Some will spend hours studying every bird in a flock just to pick out a rarity. Listers will travel great distances just to add a new bird to their list. So do birders take birding too seriously?

I think some non-birders would answer yes to that question. Part of the reason might be that birders stand out in the crowd with their binoculars and other equipment pointing in every direction. For example, gourmet cooking is a popular hobby for many but you don't see people walking around a park with frying pans hanging from their neck and bullet belts filled with spices.

If you take look at life from an outside point of view I think that you could say that we take a lot of things too seriously. After all, all we really need is food, shelter, etc. to stay alive but our every day lives become so much more complex than that. We do need to keep ourselves engaged and entertained though. Some people like to  excel at things, compete, or just like being outdoors appreciating nature's beauty. On occasion, I have run into some birders that stress themselves about whether or not they are following proper birders protocol.That might be an example of how we could take birding too seriously but I think as long as we are enjoying ourselves then we're on the right track.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Stared Down By A Merlin

 I went down to the shoreline this weekend looking for shorebirds but was stopped in my tracks when I came face to face with a Merlin.
We stared each other down for at least a minute as we both sat perfectly still.
No one was going to come between her and a meal. Not even a birder with a camera.