Sunday, September 19, 2021

Looking For Hawks From The Hilltops

There's a two week period every September when hawk migration is at it's peak. I could do things the right way and go to an established hawk watch site an hour away but I hold out hope that I'll be able to find a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks from out local hilltops. I went to the nearby town of Middlefield for my search.
It's amazing how the scenery can change so much just by driving 10 minutes into another town. I parked above Lyman's Orchards and set up a chair. There were some migrating warblers and sparrows traveling from tree to tree. The wind was from the north and a few clouds in the sky which makes for perfect hawk-watching conditions.
Well after 3 hours I counted  up a total of about 20 birds of prey including 10 Broad-wings, not what I hoped for. I found myself looking at kites and picking pears from the orchard. Hawk-watches are like meteor showers. Unless everything is just right-time, conditions, locations etc. then you might be disappointed. I'll just have to borrow one of my photos from an old hawk-watch. this is the type of scene I hope to see.

 I wasn't disappointed though because it was such a beautiful morning with temperatures in the low 70's, a light breeze and low humidity. I'll continue to watch the skies because you never know when they'll be passing overhead.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Not Sure Where To Look Next?

Fall migration has begun in the northern hemisphere and the weather is becoming more pleasant. The next thing to decide is where do I look for birds. I guess the answer would be anywhere and everywhere. I found a Green Heron in a flooded field (above). 
There was also several shorebirds like this yellowlegs hiding in the tall grass.
Of course, we always need to be looking up. In this case I found a nuthatch which are with us year round but the Broad-winged Hawks are starting to pass through  as we speak. I am looking forward to the formation of kettles and plan to make a visit to an established hawk-watching site. To me, though, finding a large kettle of hawks passing over your yard is the biggest thrill!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Summer, My 4th Favorite Season

(Prairie Warbler)
It's hard for me to believe that summer is almost over. I won't miss it much. I prefer the cool spring weather when the leaves are few and the migrants are many. Spring might be my favorite season but I would give a slight edge to fall.I like those clear sunny days of winter where eagles dare to perch where the branches are bare. Winter would be my 3rd favorite season unless you ask me after a week of subzero weather and snowstorms. For a brief time, summer may seem to be a better option.As the summer arrives the leaves start to get in the way along with the humidity and mosquitoes. There are still plenty of cool birds to see, just under less pleasant conditions.Great-crested Flycatcher

All seasons are worth celebrating but I'll soon be leaving my least favorite season and entering my favorite one!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Box Of Chocolates Birding

July and August has been a partial break from birding for me. I've approached birding this time in the same way some people approach a box of mixed chocolates (not me). I check out a spot, take a bite and then move on to another spot if it doesn't immediately appeal to me. The top picture was at the power lines.
It was awfully quiet there but I took a moment to appreciate a bird that I admittedly overlook when there are other birds around to see. This Mourning Dove was didn't fly off in a noisy panic as they often do. It seemed the epitome of Peace.
It was the horses the healthy looking horses that first caught my attention but if you look towards the left edge of the pond you might see something perched along the shoreline.
A Great Blue Heron silently keeps guard and looks for opportunities.

My birding has been few a far between these days. Once the air cools down, the foliage starts to turn, and fall migration picks up I will once again be bitten by the birding bug.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

An All You Can See Buffet!

As the month of July came to an end I had the urge to get back out in the woods to experience the wonders of nature again. So I followed the tracks out into the wildest section of the city of Middletown.
The tracks lead you to a nice marsh out in what they called the Maromas section of Middletown.
It's not unusual to see a Great Egret or 2 inland when visiting a marsh but I counted 12 of them which is something I would only expect to find along the shoreline!
Everywhere I looked I could see and hear wildlife.There was butterflies in the bushes.
Handfuls of Green Herons perching in the trees.
Young hawks watching carefully for an opportunity to strike.
There were even deer hidden within the thick, lush greenery near the shoreline.

I didn't manage to get out much in the month of July but I hit it lucky in the end with a cool, sunny morning. I counted up 40 species without even trying. Everything from flycatchers to kingfishers, shorebirds and egrets. It was an all you can see buffet of bird and wildlife! A nice way to end one summer month and begin another.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Lazy Summer Birds And Birding

So far in July it has been mostly 95 degree days and torrential rainstorms. That's not my cup of tea.
I managed to get out to a local park and caught a Belted kingfisher in between raindrops sitting on a wire. She must have been as lazy as I was because she didn't fly off like they usually do when they see me. I haven't actually been birding in an active sense all month but have been enjoying the backyard and garden. I'm hoping for that birding spark once again. Probably when the temperatures drop down a little.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

I Just Can't Avoid Birds

I've been taking a summer break from birding so I can attend to other things but they're hard to ignore!
I pulled in for just a little peek while down at the shoreline.
Wouldn't you know a Willet jumped right up in my face! Who am I kidding? I can never completely take a break from birding no matter how hard I might try!

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!