Monday, January 30, 2017

Back To Scoping Birds Thanks To Good Service

It was during one of the Christmas counts that my  65mm Vortex Viper spotting scope came loose from the tripod and hit the ground hard enough to break the eyepiece. In the back of my mind I thought it had some sort of warranty on it but you never know if a warranty is any good until you have to use it. I brought the broken sand-covered scope back to the Audubon Shop in Madison where I bought it. Within two weeks my scope was fixed, cleaned, and ready for pick-up at no charge. That's what I call good old-fashioned service!
After picking up my scope I stopped at a few spots along the shore to see what I've been missing like this Common Loon down near Saybrook Point...
Common Goldeneyes just down the road at Cornfield point...
...and this Bufflehead which was standing on a log which is something I don't see often because they always seem to be in the water when I find them.

If you ever happen to be in the Madison area be sure to stop by The Audubon Shop where they carry Vortex and other quality optics. The store is loaded with all things birds and birding. They have a try before you buy policy so you can test out any scopes or binoculars they sell with no pressure to make a purchase. (I'm not getting anything for mentioning this. I  just appreciate good products and services which aren't always easy to come by). 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Winter Woodland Oasis At Highlawn Forest

 I love taking a hike through the woods on a sunny winter day but it can be tough to find birds in the forest this time of the year. I walked for about a mile on one trail and saw nothing but a crow flying over and heard only the lonely whistle of a distant titmouse.

On my way home I made one more stop at Highlawn Forest which is located in Middletown next to the Connecticut Forest And Park Association Headquarters. I sat on the bench and leaned up against that table to try to hide myself  a little. 
I visited this place once before during spring migration but thought-meh-not much out of the ordinary to see here. I was a bit spoiled at the time from seeing so many migrants at other prime locations so I didn't give it much of a chance. 

As it turns out, the vernal pools and damp leaves make this a winter oasis for woodland birds. In a time span of about 20 minutes I saw 30 robins, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, 5 titmice, 3 White-breasted Nuthatches, and 3 Golden-crowned kinglets, including the one in the photo. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

No Car No Phone No Problem

 I found myself without a car this weekend due to some unexpected repairs. I could have rented a car or have my wife cart me around but I decided to get back to basics instead. I walked, used a somewhat limited bus system, and rode my bike to get around. I even shut my cell phone off. While waiting at the bus stop I heard interesting stories about life on the streets. One of the passengers told me about how he left everything behind to work on a pipeline in North Dakota for 6 months. Everything he needed was provided by the company including food, housing and a great paycheck. He saw all kinds of wildlife and said that it was a spiritual experience for him. 
When riding around on a bike you see things that you don't notice when you're in a car. I found this $5 bill on the ground when I was riding my bike through a ball field. 

It seems that we've become so dependent on cars, phones, and the Internet that many people feel lost without them. My father's generation talked about having to walk uphill in the snow both ways to get to school. I grew up without cable or participation trophies and our entertainment was playing outside. I wonder if the current generation wil be able to adapt to unexpected adversity? 
 Birding by bike is not something I do often but it has some advantages. I felt as though I had more birding time because every minute counted. When you're driving from one spot to another you miss a lot.  Being limited to a bike route is a good thing. You tend to stay more focused on your surroundings which helps to heighten your senses. Dark-eyed junco was the most abundant bird species of the day. I saw at least 100 of them.
 I followed the Connecticut River along an industrial road which led me across the railroad tracks and past brownstone quarries, ball fields and boat yards. I saw many Song Sparrows, 4 Bald Eagles and about 30 other species during my ride. 
 It was a nice quiet ride on a sunny day with almost no traffic or people to be found. The few neighbors I did pass by were friendly enough although this one seemed green with envy! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sunny Skies Minus Wind = Perfect Winter Day

The only day I've been out birding this year was on 
New Year's day. Winter isn't my favorite season but on days when the sun is shining and the wind is silent it makes for a perfect winter day. I could feel heat rising up from the sun-drenched soil as I was walking along the river trail. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make all the difference.
One of the bonuses of birding on the first day of the year is that every bird you see is the your first bird of the year but I'm still waiting for my first bird photo of the year (old photo). Golden-crowned-Kinglet (above))is on my wish list for next weekend.