Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hidden Birds In A Hidden Frontier

 In the southeastern corner of Middletown Connecticut lies an area of land called Maromas. A long time ago it was a fishing/farming village. Today with the exception of Pratt and Whitney, it is sparsely inhabited. It is sometimes referred to as Middletown's last frontier. There are plenty of streams, forest, marsh , and reservoirs in the area making it a good birding destination. 

I heard my first of year  Louisiana Waterthrush singing at this stream but never got a look at him.
 It was a cloudy day and although there were dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers only 1 landed near me when I had the camera handy.
Within the hidden village of Maromas there are also hidden birds. If you look closely you can see a little tail sticking out of what looks like a clump of tree bark but is actually a nest.
The tail belongs to this bird, the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
 As you walk up an old stretch of railroad tracks you are surrounded by marshland on both sides. I scared up many Wood Ducks along the away and saw some Great Blue Herons but not much else was visible.

Even the Mute Swans were hiding which doesn't happen too often.

I love areas that are overlooked and underbirded. Maromas is one of those special places and I plan to return there several times this year.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

5 Things I Learned From The Annual Flood

 The Connecticut River headwaters start in New Hampshire near the Canadian border. The melting snow and runoff from overflowing streams drain into the river. Every year there is a stretch of route 17a in Portland CT near the river that floods. This has probably been going on since the Wangunk tribe inhabited the area. 
 When I was around 19 I pulled up to the edge of the water in a pick-up truck. As I looked across in awe at the flooded road a curious thought came to mind. I wonder if I could make it to the other side? After all, it doesn't look that deep, I thought.

 I put the 3 speed chevy into low gear and slowly started my journey. About half way across I noticed the water was pouring up over the hood and I said "uh oh" (clean version). Water seeped through the bottom of the doors and onto the floor. It's a good thing the floor wasn't carpeted. The truck actually floated at one point until the tires finally touched down on the tar again. You could even hear the bubbling sound coming out of the exhaust pipe which was submerged under water ( Maybe it's time that I share this story with my father since it was his truck and 30 years has passed?)

I finally made it to the other side. I  learned several lessons that day: 
1) Flooded areas can be much deeper than they appear!
2)Trucks can float a little.
3)Truck engines can continue to run even when the tailpipe is submerged.
4) You know you're in a small town when one of the biggest entertainment events of the year is a flood.
5) Maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was.
 Despite the flood and continuing rain, there was plenty of dry ground in town. No need to drive my Corolla through the flood to find them.  I found a White-throated Sparrow scratching the ground for food. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Fighting My Way Through The Fog

 I had the bright idea this morning to drive down to the shoreline expecting to see my first Great Egret and Glossy Ibis of the year. What I hadn't anticipated was that the entire shoreline would be blanketed with fog. I can appreciate a little fog at a rock concert or if I'm watching a scary movie but not when I'm birding.

The top photo really doesn't reflect the true color. I just became so bored with seeing fog that I decided to put a color filter on it.
 Slooowly the fog started to recede from the land until it was mostly over the water.
 I took a test photo of a pair of Bufflehead but it seems they couldn't even find each other.
 Finally I found a relatively fog free zone. I was so enthusiastic that I took a photo of a Canada Goose who unfortunately seemed to have his head up....never mind. 
This male American Goldfinch made a good effort to change his winter coast but has a little bit of work to go yet.
Waxwings usually seem to hang around for pictures, probably because they're drunk on berries half the time.
 I finally got to see my first egret. it turned out to be a Snowy Egret (black bill-yellow feet) instead of the Great Egret. So the fog may have slowed things down a little bit but in the end it was all worth it. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Waiting With Birds At Abandoned Greenhouse

  I showed up early at a parking lot to meet a fellow birder so that we could carpool. As I was sitting in my car I noticed an abandoned greenhouse that was bordered by trees at the edge of a quarry cliff.
 As soon as I walked over to the area I was greeted by 2 Eastern Phoebes. One was perched on a tree branch.
 The other phoebe was on top of some old netting material.
 There was a curious robin that seemed to lean in to see what I was doing from an overhanging tree branch.
While this titmouse looked up at the robin above him.

There are birds almost everywhere all the time. One of things that I've come to realize is that it is very easy to overlook birds if you're not paying attention. They can be anywhere from a mountain of trash to an abandoned greenhouse. Another thing is that there is no better time to take the camera out when you are waiting to meet another birder as you will soon be busy with binoculars.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Red in The Morning Sailors Take Warning!

 When I was a kid I used to go fishing with my father in a small aluminum boat. As we made our way out of the mouth of the Connecticut River and entered the Long Island Sound, my father would look out at the sky and say "Red at night, sailors delight-red in the morning, sailors take warning!" I don't know how accurate that saying is but it's a saying that sticks with me till this day. The photo above is the sky as it looked at 6am this morning (probably closer to fuchsia than red).

 It's currently sleeting as I'm writing this post at 5pm so maybe the morning sky was a predictor of the afternoon weather?
The morning started out okay. It was a little cold and damp for this time of the year with temperatures in the 40's. Not cold enough to discourage a Song Sparrow to pop up and say hello but cool enough for me to make my birding trip a short one.
 I visited a tiny, local nature park. I thought my glasses were dirty when I first uploaded this picture then realized I must have clicked on some sort of photo filter. I decided to just leave it instead of going back to fix it.
I believe the Carolina Wren is the culprit behind many of the inquiries I get about the source of a mysteriously loud bird song.  They are only about 5" long and weigh less than an ounce but you would swear there was a bird blowing a bugle in the backyard when you hear it sing. Here is a link from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to an excellent site called All About Birds: and here is a direct link on their site which includes a sound sample of a singing male Carolina Wren.