Sunday, June 13, 2021

Not Every Black Bird Is A Blackbird

I was out in the Durham Meadows the other day and came across this female blackbird that had a mouthful of food. She is a blackbird but not a black bird.
This male bobolink is also a blackbird and it is also a black bird but as you can see the back of his head is not black at all. Baltimore Orioles are also backbirds but they are very colorful with the males showing a lot of bright orange.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Snapping Turtles Can Live To Be 100!

I was looking for birds, not snapping turtles but this one blocked my path.

 I've heard a couple of stories about snapping turtles, both from my father. He told me as a kid he found a snapping turtle. When he tried to pick it up, the turtle bit his finger and wouldn't let go. I'm not going to go into the rest of the details of the story but it didn't end well. When he was older he was fishing in a pond and stepped on what he thought was a big rock, and then the rock started moving. It was a very large snapping turtle.They say snapping turtles can live to be 100 years old and can grow to be very large. One from the wild weighed in at 75 pounds!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Not Exactly The Perfect eBirder!

This female Bobolink was entered onto eBird and was my first of the year.

I use eBird all the time to find out what species I haven't seen for the year, to see what others have been seeing in my area, and to keep track of my county list (and where I rank).

I wonder what she was doing here as she pulled her head back to her neck that way?

The thing about eBird is you have all sorts of people entering data. Some just randomly enter a sighting because they feel like it and include very little accompanying information. Others try to get an exact count of every single bird they see and include all sorts of details about each species they see. I imagine these are the same sort of people that take a notebook to the gym to keep a record of each exercise they perform and the number of sets and repetitions. That's something I never found the ambition for.

Eastern Kingbird
I am somewhere in between. I don't have the concentration level to keep track of every single bird  I see so I estimate. I do a tally in my head- something like-I'm pretty sure I saw about 4 cardinals? I am careful not to enter any sightings that I'm not confident about, especially if it is a rare or unusual sighting. 

I enter for most places I go but if I don't see anything new at a popular location that I was recently at, I might skip the list altogether. I do like to enter a sightings list for new places that no one seems to visit. To me, that is the most interesting data and I also like to read others entries of new places.

So I'm not exactly the perfect eBirder but there is interesting and helpful information that you can obtain using eBird so I will continue to enter data as often as I feel comfortable with.  Maybe when I'm retired I'll try to be a little more thorough.

Monday, May 17, 2021

What's The Big Deal About Spring Migration?

If you ask a birder what their favorite time of year is probably spring would be the most popular because of spring migration. So what's the big deal about the spring migration?   
Every spring neotropical migrants travel thousands of miles to reach their spring destination. Some are just passing though and some are here for the nesting season. You won't see most of these birds at your feeders too often. They are high in the trees and sometimes low in the brush in areas that have the proper habitat.

Many of them are very colorful with intricate patterns like the Prairie Warbler seen above.
You might attract a Scarlet Tanager with  halved oranges, raisins or mealworms on a platform feeder if you're lucky. They'll also visit a birdbath. Orioles seem more abundant so you might have better luck attracting them with grape jelly or oranges.
Besides the colorful, bird there is another thing that appeals to birders in the spring. Some of these warblers present a challenge to find. The Cerulean Warbler seen here is an endangered species in Connecticut and not easy to find. it seems to me that their numbers have increased a little recently.

So if you have a pair of binoculars you might want to break them out and start checking out the treetops early in the morning. You might be surprised at what you find! 


Friday, May 7, 2021

Birds Don't Care If Ponds Look Pretty

Whenever I stop at the gas station or store I look at the old factor pond across the road. The water is not pretty there. It looks brown and dirty. I wouldn't swim in it and I certainly wouldn't drink it. 
Birds, on the other hand, don't care about all that. I've seen many cool birds near the dingy little pond.
Birds don't judge their habitat by how pretty it looks so neither should we. We can let the birds themselves provide the beauty!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Don't Forget The Local Birds!

I went to the reservoir waiting for that great warbler fallout. It was a beautiful morning but a Yellow-rumped Warbler was the only new  find for me. The larger warbler crowd has not yet arrived.
So I looked around and found a Red-winged Blackbird proudly bellowing his croaky song from the top of a branch. I kind of took these birds for granted this year and never managed to capture this classic pose that reminds us that Spring is in full swing.
I traveled down the road a bit to check the tangled woods across from the Helen Carlson Bog. One more species for the year here-Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. They were too tiny and too high to capture a photo.
Down on the ground was the year-round resident that is a common visitor to many back yards, the White-breasted Nuthatch. I don't usually put much effort into taking a picture of one of these guys but this one seemed to beg for attention so here he is! 

We're lucky to still have birds to see as we wait for the warblers patiently!  


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Magic Of The Setting Of The Sighting


The level of enjoyment when it comes to birdwatching can be affected by many factors. Rarity of the bird, lighting, and weather conditions in which you are doing you're viewing are a few examples. 

Another factor is the setting in which you encounter a particular bird. I see Great Egrets frequently when I visit the shoreline in warmer months.I don't, however, see them often at our local fairgrounds which is a long way inland from the shore!Also commonly seen at the shore are Osprey nesting on one of the numerous man-made platforms. It's nice to see but so commonplace these days that I can't say it makes me slam on the brakes to get a look.

When I saw this Osprey perched on a branch overlooking the Connecticut River, I immediately pulled off the road to get a closer look. 

Here is the same species of bird in a different setting. It was all by itself on a well-lit branch with no man-made platform around and far from the shoreline. I found this particular sighting to be stunning!
Another example is the conditions under which I viewed these deer. I always enjoy seeing a deer but hiking through the woods in foggy conditions and encountering deer during a nature walk adds to the ambience.

The setting of the sighting can make all the difference with your viewing experience!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

2 Egrets For The Price Of 1!

I took a ride down to Clinton this morning hoping to see my first egret of the year. There are 2 types of egrets that are seen regularly along the shoreline once spring arrives, the Snowy Egret and the Great Egret.
I was lucky enough to find both of them together on my first attempt! The larger of the two on the left with the orange bill is the Great Egret and the smaller one with the thinner black bill is the Snowy Egret. A great way to celebrate Easter morning! 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Spring Migration Starting At The Bog

I was out at the Helen Carlson Bog yesterday. This is a special place to visit. It is easily accessible from the road but a nice piece of bird habitat that makes me feel like I'm up in a remote part of northern New England somewhere. 

It didn't take long into my walk to see spring migration is well underway. There was at least 30 Tree Swallows, 2 Eastern Phoebes, and 2 Palm Warblers, none of which I took pictures of.
I did, however, manage to catch a Pine Warbler perched on a branch.Northern Flickers remain here throughout the winter but are nevertheless always a pleasure to see.

I'm hoping that next weekend will bring warmer weather and more neotropical migrants will start to descend from the sky and cover the trees like drops of rain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Herons On The Nests And Superzoom cameras.

It's become kind of a local tradition for those who know where to find the heron rookery (aka heronry) to check on the status of the number of herons on the nests. It's about a half a mile walk down the hill to the flood zone of the Wangunk Meadows. If you look carefully you might be able to make out the little dark spots in the tops of those trees.
Those little dark spots are actually nests with Great Blue Herons on them. Sometimes it's amazing what a $300 dollar camera can do. The picture quality can't compete with an slr but the zoom capability is really amazing! I've had my Canon sx50 for a few years. It allows up to 50x but there is one that I saw that goes up to 125x!
 If you compare the nests in the top picture to this one it gives you an idea of how much magnification we're talking about.  The high magnification comes at a cost though. The more you zoom in the more the image degrades. On a nice sunny day it can do okay though and it sure helps people like me who hate fiddling around with camera settings.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

I Had Some Rare Sightings Along River

My favorite inland spot over the years has been the Wangunk Meadows which has a variety of habitat including open fields, marsh, woodlands and is bordered on one side by the Connecticut River.
I've seen many unusual birds over the years but seeing a seal in this far up the river so far from salt water was one of the strangest sightings I've had. I hope that it is healthy.
On the same day I heard a strange bird call coming from the opposite end of the field. They were large and not Great Blue Herons. I started scanning though my mind the possibilities as I took a picture of them taking off. I compared the sounds I hear to the Sandhill Crane and sure enough that's what they were! My first sighting of them right in Portland! They are still considered a rare sighting but have been showing up in Connecticut on occasion over the last few years. I'm glad I took the picture for verification even though it doesn't show too much detail.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A Touch Of Spring And Ducks

We had a touch of Spring this week with temperatures reaching the upper 50's! I visited some small ponds like this one buried out in the middle of the woods somewhere in East Haddam. There wasn't much in the way of ducks there but I did find a Red-headed Woodpecker which had been previously reported.Ring-necked Ducks have been at many of the local ponds this week some times in numbers over 100. It's really hard to notice the ring. It's that dark area where the neck meets the body.

The Hooded Mergansers are pairing up. Most of us are used to seeing them around Connecticut in the winter but they become very secretive and hidden in the woods while nesting in warmer weather. They, like the Wood Ducks nest in cavities of trees.

I remember the first time I saw a male Wood Duck I was shocked! I'd only seem the green-headed mallard previously and the wood duck by comparison was exotic looking to me! 

It was only a few days that we got our first taste of Spring then it was back to to the 30 degree range again this morning, but soon Spring will be here for good!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Killdeer Are Here!

Killdeer are considered a shorebird but we often see them inland in grassy fields. they are very conspicuous making lots of noise. They also make believe like they have a broken wing to lead potential predators away from their nests.
Wilson's Snipe have also started to arrive. They prefer to hide in the tall grass near the muddy edge of ponds. Snipe are also a shorebird. The word sniper originated from hunters in Britain who had to be a good shot to pick these birds out in the field because they blend in so well with their surroundings. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Is A Coot A Duck?

The American Coot seen here may look like just another duck to some. If you look at their feet they have long, lobed-shaped toes. Their bill is very small compared to an average duck and they have reddish eyes.
They do swim around like a duck and even spend time in the company of other ducks but they are not a duck. They are actually related to rails

Monday, February 22, 2021

Is A Merganser A Duck?

A merganser, like this Common Merganser is a type of duck that dives and catches fish. It has a long narrow bill which are equipped with look like little teeth (not actually teeth) to help grab onto their prey.

So yes, a merganser is a duck.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Not An Eagle And Not A Hawk

Many times people see vultures like this Black Vulture soaring in the skies in the company of hawks or eagles and assume that they too are a type of hawk or eagle. It's easy to understand because they are similar in size. Although a Black Vulture is not an eagle or hawk, it is considered a raptor or bird of prey.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

I'm No Better Than The Groundhog

Like the groundhog, I reluctantly climbed out of my hole. After breakfast at the local diner, I was off to find a nice spot to look for some birds. Then I looked at a snowy ridge overlooking a frozen pond and decided to call it a day.
I'll just have a cup of coffee and watch birds out my window. Next week may be a different story but for now I'm no better than the groundhog.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Need To Accomplish And Organize

I think birders fall get into keeping lists and counting bird species because of an instinctual need to have a sense of purpose and to organize things. I recently tried out a music app that lets you organize your music and make folders for as many kind of music categories that you can think up. I was thinking Spotify could be a dangerous service for a bird lister who also enjoys music.
I had one sighting this weekend which was particularly exciting for me, a Canvasback.
I rarely get to see this particular species of duck unless I want to travel down to the western shoreline during winter. Seeing one right in my own area was unexpected and it served a purpose. Species number 56 for this year in Middlesex county!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Why Do They Call It A Red-bellied Woodpecker?

People that aren't specifically into birding sometimes refer to a Red-bellied Woodpecker as a Red-headed Woodpecker which is a  different species. It is understandable because the Red-bellied Woodpecker does have a lot of red on the top of it's head but where is the red on the belly?
Unfortunately, back in the Audubon days they had to shoot the bird if they wanted a close-up look at them. Otherwise, they probably would have came up with a different name. See that little splash of blush color on the underside? Apparently, that is supposed to be the red belly!