Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Frenzy From Turkeys To Waterthrush

 This time of the year gets crazy for birders. You feel like you want to be out every chance you can get looking for birds because they are suddenly everywhere you look. From Tom turkeys displaying their fans...
 to Snowy Egrets showing off their yellow feet. There is so much to see it is overwhelming.
We wanted to move on from the fairgrounds to search the forest for new arriving warblers but we can't ignore a female bluebird that seem to be posing for us.
Then a male bluebird shows up and you just can't resist stopping to admire his brilliant blue and orange plumage.
 We finally made it out to the forest where a Louisiana Waterthrush sang his song from a branch above us.

The fun and frenzy of Spring migration has just begun!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Checking In On The Heron Rookery

 We are very fortunate to have a large heronry or heron rookery as it's more commonly called. There are dozens of Great Blue Heron nests and often in excess of 100 herons at its peak. The location used to be a secret only known by a few but now all the local birders and photographers know about it. Fortunately, the nests are well protected by a body of water surrounding by a strip of land. It is a good distance away from the viewing area and chock full of nests.
The herons are all over the areas gathering food and nesting material. Even my point and shoot can catch an occasional flight shot. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Avoid Wind Most Of The Time...But

 I'm still waiting for that warm spring morning for that ultimate birding experience. I've been contending with the wind the last couple of weekends. I'm not a big fan of wind while birding so I've tried to stay in protected areas like ravines or dense forest.
 Fortunately, there are plenty of birds like this Song Sparrow that like to stay out of the wind too.
 Cedar Waxwings sometimes get so intoxicated on berries that the wind blows them into the woods. 
A male bluebird deep in the woods can brighten up even the cloudiest day!

As a rule I don't like wind but there are some exceptions:

  • I like wind if I'm going to fly a kite. I haven't flown a kite since I was about 12 but if I were going to fly one then I would probably welcome a little wind.
  • I like watching the wind blow leaves around on a mild fall day.
  • Naturally, I like a breeze on a very hot summer day.
  • I enjoy the look and feel of the wind that kicks up during a thunderstorm.
  • I know that strong winds can sometimes drive new birds towards the ocean shoreline.
I think that just about covers it but if you an think of more examples feel free to share,

Saturday, March 31, 2018

5 Reasons I Now Use Pocket Binoculars

One of the first things I did when I started to become interested in birding was to research what would be the best choice of binoculars for birding. After talking to experienced birders and trying out various models I came to the conclusion that a high quality 8x42 roof prism binocular would work best for me.

 I later purchased a more compact 8x32 pair as a back-up option but hardly used them.I still preferred the optics of the 8x42 even though the 8x32's were a little bit lighter.

At the time, no one recommended using pocket binoculars because they were not considered to be good enough for birding but pocket binoculars hae improved over the years. I recently traded in my 8x32's for Swarovski CL 8x25 pocket binoculars (seen above resting on a standard sized smart phone). I truly can stuff them in my coat pocket when I'm walking around and that has some advantages. 

Here are 5 reasons why I have been getting a lot of use of these new pocket binoculars: 
1) The newer models of high end pocket binoculars are really bright and sharp!: I don't feel like I'm missing much using the smaller Swarovski 8x25 pocket binoculars. They seem just as sharp and clear as my larger binoculars with the only sacrifice being field of view. There is a smaller exit pupil which means they shouldn't be as good as larger models in lower light but I haven't noticed that much of a difference.
2) They are great to bring with you while hiking: I was into hiking before I became more interested in hiking. It's much easier to carry pocket binoculars around a just in case  your run into some interesting birds while hiking deep out in the woods.
3) It's easier on your neck and shoulders: You don't have to walk around with heavy binoculars hanging around your neck and it's less stress on your arms and shoulders when staring up into trees. 
4) Less equipment to carry when carrying a camera and/or scope: Sometimes you might be primarily focused on using your camera or scope. Being able to carry your binoculars in your coat pocket in these situations is convenient.
5) They are perfect for the glove compartment: It's nice to always have binoculars available when your driving around. You never know when you come across a bird you want to check out. These binoculars easily fit in your glove compartment even with their protective case. 

I'm not giving up on using my full-sized binoculars but the benefits of the smaller ones are such that I plan to give them equal time this year. 

Note:There was recently an interesting article in Birdwatcher's Digest comparing the different models of pocket binoculars.I purchased mine from the Audubon Shop in Madison.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Early At The Shore With Oystercatchers

 I made a stop down at the shoreline early in the morning. I was trying to catch low tide hoping to find shorebirds.
 The only shorebirds I came across were American Oystercatchers.
 They had no problem finding plenty to eat.
 The oystercatchers were boisterous making lots of noise communicating with each other. I also saw my first 3 Great Egrets of the year.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Scenery Trumps Weather At Chatfield Hollow

 We were back to winter weather this weekend as it was in the 20's with a moderate breeze this morning. We had a snowstorm this week so I was looking for a place I could walk around without having to wear snow shoes which brought me to Chatfield Hollow in Killingworth.
It turned out to be a good choice because the access roads were plowed and the small amount of snow on the boardwalk was packed down for easy walking.
While walking around the state parks and forests in Connecticut you often come across work projects completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. This little camp which is now being used as a nature center is an example of that. Most of the bridges,stairs in the forest, and bridges seem to be holding up well. It seems they did some quality work back then.
I didn't come across any rare or unusual birds but was happy to see a few familiar feathered friends like this White-throated Sparrow out catching a bit of sunshine. It was one of those mornings when the benefits of nature's scenery outweighed the discomfort of winter weather.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Feathered Friends Of The Fairground Fields

 It was a windy, overcast weekend and the fairgrounds along with the other fields in Wangunk Meadows were flooded from the recent nor'easter. Once March hits these flooded fields start to attract all sorts of birds.Hidden behind that distant clump of trees on the left were Green-winged Teal. Wilson's Snipe have also started to move in.
 Wood Ducks that didn't want to get their feet wet took breaks in the trees (sorry my point and shoot doesn't like cloudy days).
 I also counted 24 Great Blue Herons flying in ready to claim their own nest at the local rookery.

It's just the beginning of March which is a little early for so much activity. If the weather is decent then  Wangunk Meadows (eBird) will live up to its reputation as a local hotspot.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

By Land Or By Sea?

 It's only about a half hour drive for me to reach the shoreline which has a greater variety of birds than I can find further inland this time of year but I love being out in the local woods too. I ended up splitting my time between the two.

 I was searching around some farmy areas in Middletown the other day hoping to find a few birds I've yet to see this year like kinglets,robins, and Hermit Thrushes. I enjoyed checking out some new areas even though I didn't find what I was looking for.
 I love finding remnants of old structures hidden in the landscape.  I'm not sure what this silo type building was used for but it looks like a piece of farm history. Maybe someone who knows can clue me in?
 I struck out looking for shore birds down at the shoreline too. Getting the right tide at the right time is essential at the shoreline and I must have misread the tide chart.
Still, there was plenty of winter ducks around like this pair of Bufflehead. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Birders Shouldn't Overlook Tiny Parks

 It was a pleasant Sunday morning with a light coating of freshly fallen snow decorating the landscape. I decided to visit a handful of the tiniest parks in town. 

My first stop was Ravine Park. It consists of a short trail that follows along side a tiny brook. It is well protected by a steep hill making it a very comfortable place to visit on a windy day. I could visualize sitting here on a warm summer day sipping iced tea as chickadees came down from the trees to pick sunflower seeds from my wide-brimmed straw hat. Birds seem to take a liking to shallow brooks like this one as I can imagine that most birds prefer to avoid drowning.I saw a handful of finches,sparrows, wrens and woodpeckers here.

I don't particularly enjoy count huge numbers of birds. There are some places I just decide that there are too many to count but it only took me 15 minutes or so to make a list of all the birds here. There are huge parks with that you can spend hours hiking around taking in the scenery to the point of exhaustion. But it only took me 20 minutes to slowly walk around and take in all that natural beauty of this tiny park.
 I found this Goldfinch at the miniature Middletown nature gardens. one of the advantages of coming here is that there is always food for birds to eat. They seem to be more tolerant of human presence here because people are always walking there dogs here.Birds seem to be easier to observe right after it snows too. their behavior seems to change as they seem to be to be too preoccupied eating to pay much attention to people.
 I also stopped at Butternut Hollow which has a little pond located next to an apartment complex.My first thought was there was probably just the usual Mallards and Canada Geese here.
 Upon closer look I was pleasantly surprised to see their were a couple of hooded Mergansers mixed in.
I took one more careful look and was shocked to find 3 Northern Pintail swimming around in this little urban pond! It's always better to check than to assume you know what's in that little pond you're passing by!
 My last stop was at a puny little city park called the Frank S. Merszalek park. It had a small open ball field thinly bordered by deciduous trees and brush. I almost kept driving because I thought, surely there is nothing special to see here. Then I took a closer look and saw some old industrial buildings with a waterfall behind it. That type of scenery appeals to my nostalgic side. I decided to walk the property which would take me no longer that 10 minutes anyway.
I walked to the back corner where there was an old broken foundation bordered by a chain link fence. I did a little pish pish sound and up pops a Gray Catbird! I see plenty of these during the year but in the summer, not in the middle of winter! 

It was a pleasant morning of birding for me requiring very little time and effort. It made me think that we shouldn't judge a park just by it's size or popularity. I know that birds certainly don't!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Blackbirds Galore Video And Birding By Car

I spent the morning checking the fairground area along the Connecticut and then cruising the back roads for more birds.
My most interesting find at the fairgrounds was a large number blackbirds moving through the area.There was a flock of probably over a thousand Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles which was quite a sight!

I usually don't see this many until March. From what I understand, the birds have been in close communication with local groundhogs who share valuable information about the arrival of spring based on whether or not they see their shadows.The video shows just a small portion of the total flock departing from one of the trees.
While I was cruising around in the car I came across a Pileated Woodpecker working over a tree. Birding by car can be a bit dangerous because you tend to be distracted while searching for birds. For that reason, I try to stay on quiet back roads, make use of emergency flashers while I'm driving, and pull off the road whenever I see a car coming. Birding by car is advantageous because it allows you to get closer to birds without scaring them off.

The reason this video has a color effect was so I could hide the fact that the woodpecker was out of focus. Now when you watch it you'll think I am creative genius and won't know I'm a lousy videographer! 
Another note: I thought that I was just labeling the video files for my own reference. I did not realize titles like "cartoon pileated" and "red wing fury" would end up in the post!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Birding With The Emphasis On Comfort

 I've been continuing my strategy of putting minimal effort into my birding during the winter months. The Wadsworth mansion grounds provide a nice landscaped area to walk around that includes a large number of mature pines and cedars bordered by a deciduous forest.
It by no means qualifies as a hot spot but it is a comfortable and pleasant area to walk around.I have neglected to list many woodpeckers this year so I was pleased to find all of Connecticut's woodpeckers on these grounds with the exception of the Red-headed Woodpecker (rare).I don't have any photos to back them up though.
Finding this Wood Duck along with 11 others at our local brownstone quarry was a nice mid-winter surprise. I had to take the photo with the sun in my face so it didn't come out so hot. All in all my local lazy weekend birding wasn't too bad. Our state woodcuck calls for an early spring so we have that to look forward to as well.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Common Birds Are Great For A Scavenger Hunt

 My birding jaunts this month have been short and almost painful (coooold!). That all changed this weekend as we had sunshine and 40 degree temps on Saturday.I visited Machimoodus Park in East Haddam which has a healthy population of Eastern Bluebirds.
 The habitat has a nice mix so the birding is always good there. I've avoided looking for the more common birds so far knowing that they would be there for me to enjoy and appreciate on a warm sunny day like it was this weekend.
The nice weather made me appreciate birds like the Dark-eyed Junco. It was fun to search for birds like chickadees and titmice that I hadn't added to my year list yet. It felt like a good old-fashioned bird scavenger hunt!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Birds Hanging Out In A Tree Warmed By Sun

 During the winter I look for areas where birds concentrate that I can pull close to in my car.This old tree was near a brushy field in a lighted area. Among the birds that landed in the tree was 18 Red-winged Blackbirds,16 Eastern Bluebirds,......
8 Dark-eyed Juncos...........
and 22 Cedar Waxing!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Ice Jams Along The Connecticut River

With the deep freeze we had followed by warmer days we've had a lot of ice building up along the Connecticut River. They've been sending ice breakers through to open up the water and then the broken hunks of ice pile up at certain areas along the river. This photo was taken from Haddam meadows.
I've had my eyes open looking around for any areas of open water. 
I found a couple of Ring-necked Ducks in a little patch of open water along a stream at roadside.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Too Cold To Press The Shutter Button

 The beginning of January started out with a couple of weeks of really cold weather. It was so cold that the couple of times I did try to get out I didn't even attempt taking any photos. I posted a couple of photos from past Januaries when the weather was probably more agreeable..
I don't mind winter weather but there is a limit and single digit temperatures is definitely my limit, especially when there is wind.  Wind is like my kryponite in the winter. My hands got so cold last Sunday that my fingers hurt when I tried to heat them up in front of my car heater.  

If there is a sunny 30 degree day with no wind I could probably walk around in a long-sleeved shirt with no jacket. As I'm writing this we are finally having a warm-up so I'm looking forward to getting out again.