Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Warbler That Refuses To be Ignored

The Yellow Warbler is one of the most commonly seen warblers in Connecticut this time of year. The males are bright yellow with black beady eyes, and red streaking on the breast. They move around a lot from bushes to tree branches and back again.

Yellow Warblers are a frequent target of Brown-Headed Cowbirds who lay their eggs in the warbler's nest so that their young can be raised by the warblers. The Yellow Warblers fight this forced adoption system by covering the cowbird eggs with another layer of nest and then lay a fresh batch of their own eggs.

These birds are not shy. If they are around you will most likely hear them and see them which is a treat much like their song.....sweet, sweet, sweet, sweeter than sweet!  

Thursday, May 12, 2022

If Elves Exist They Might Live Here

I visit the Sexton Hill Preserve several times a year. It's not because it's big or has the most birds. I like it here because it has just the right combination of forest, falls, moss, and rock that give the place a mystical quality.
I do find Acadian Flycatchers here which are one of the trickier flycatchers to find. The birds here are more often heard than seen but that's okay.

 If I believed in elves, fairies, and leprechauns this is the first place I would search for them. I could imagine that Robert Plant might have been in a place like this when he wrote the words to Stairway To Heaven

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Veery Cooperative Butterfly

This turned out to be the week when I couldn't avoid seeing first of the year species if I wanted to, and why would I want to? My list jumped from 100 species seen in my county for the year to 135 within a span of about a week.

 Above is my first veery of the year seen at Miller's Pond. I was the only one at the park. It was my 134th species seen this year in my county. I try to stay local so I won't burn much gas. This bird was Very cooperative. I followed it as it jumped to the ground for bits of food and then back into the base of Mountain Laurel. I followed it for a good 10 minutes for a distance of about 30 feet talking to it along the way- (Yes, I know birds can't understand me but it seemed we had an understanding).

I don't spend too much time chasing butterflies but if they pose then I'll snap a shot. This is one of those tiny blue butterflies. I know that the name of this species has been pointed out to me before but I can't remember it. I'll have to see if I have a butterfly book hanging around.

So the birding action has been superb for me this week! I hope everyone else has been seeing their share of birds as well!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Searching Everywhere For New Arrivals

It seems to me that the big spring migration wave has been more like a trickle so far. I got my share of exercise searching through Guida's Nature preserve this morning. It's a nice mix of open fields, edge habitat, and woodland trails-lots of trails. I was wandering around all over the place wondering if I covered every field and trail. In the end I found just 2 new species for the year, Magnolia Warbler and Ovenbird.

I wish that I could get a picture of all the new birds to see but some are high up in the trees bouncing around and others like this one are just plain camera shy and that can be a bitter pill to swallow!Fortunately, there are others like this female Eastern Towhee that are too busy building nests to worry about who's watching!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ways To Keep Birding Fresh Without Traveling

One of the realities of being a birder is that after a few years of active birding in your state you will have seen most of the species you are going to see. If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel then there are many new species of birds around the world. Unfortunately, this may not be an option for everyone due to a variety of reasons. 

However, there are many ways to keep your birding experiences feeling fresh without traveling. Here are a couple of examples:

Get off the beaten track: If you take the time to seek out places that require a little hiking then you can do your birding in a place that is isolated and quiet. This type of setting enhance your birding experience because you may be seeing familiar birds but in a different setting. You will be able to hear the birds better and seeing them in different backdrop can alter your visual perception in a positive way.

Sit still and get closer: Sometimes I will try to find a natural blind in an area that looks appealing to birds. I sat still on a tree stump that had a pile of brush in front of it for about 20 minutes before this young Bald Eagle came in for a landing right in front of me! Watching an awesome bird like this can be much more exciting when you can observe their every move and see details that you don't normally get to see in the wild!
Choose an overlooked local park to see some first of year birds: Instead of going to one of the warbler hotspots to seek out some first of the year warblers I chose a tiny little park  just down the road (Ravine Park in Middletown) .The entire trail here is only a 2 minute walk from end to end but I was surprised to find my first of the year Palm and Black and White Warblers here! It was much more rewarding than if I drove to a proven hotspot where i would have expected to see something good or be disappointed.

So that is just a few ways I try to keep my birding experiences fresh but I know that there are numerous variations on how you can approach birding to keep things interesting.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

5 Things I Would Tell Myself As A New Birder

I've always enjoyed seeing birds but like many people, I was only familiar with the usual birds that show up in your yard and categorized everything else as ducks, geese and "Seagulls". At some point after I bought binoculars, the light bulb went off. Wow! there are lots of birds out there that I have never noticed before! After that, I went kind of crazy running around trying to see as many new birds as I could see! 

 Here are 5 pieces of advice I would have told myself if I could go back to my start:

1) Pay close attention to the markings and behaviors of birds that you are already familiar with: I knew what a robin (above) was but I dismissed them at the time looking for new birds.  Note the white markings around the eye and the color and shape of the bill. Notice that they may be pulling worms from a green lawn in spring but may be picking berries from trees and bushes in the winter or hanging out in swampy areas of the woods. Studying easily accessible birds like the American Robin can be helpful in improving birding skills.  2) Don't be in a hurry!: When you get bit by the birding bug you can become so excited that you are in a rush to get to the next great bird or the next hot spot. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and appreciate whatever birds are in your immediate area. If you are patient, you may even find something unexpected. Sometimes birds come to you if you stop moving around trying to find them. So move along slowly and take a break when you run into some active birds.3) There are going to be birds that are confusing: I can remember being excited about seeing a yellowlegs for the first time. I looked in the book and could see the yellow legs, overall shape, long bill,  and interesting markings. But is it a greater or lesser yellowlegs? I didn't know back then and even now I have to think  hard about it before I decide. In this photo I see a bill that is about 1.5 times the length of the head and more markings on the flanks than I would expect on a lesser. So I would go with the greater yellowlegs in this case.4) Don't dismiss a bird just because it strikes you as dull looking: I probably would have looked at this swallow and said yeah I think it's one of those swallow things and then moved on to something more interesting. It took me a while before I had the patience to narrow down the swallow species and figure out it was a Rough-winged Swallow.

5) Don't be in a hurry to add birds to your list unless they're rare!: I was in a big hurry to add birds to see new bird species but the reality is that you only get to see a new species for the first time once. There are only so many species of birds in your state that are seen on a regular basis so eventually you will be seeing the same species repeatedly. Why rush that first time experience? Slow down! Enjoy it! However, when a rare species comes to your state it might be the only opportunity you have to see it. I've only seen one Fork-tailed Flycatcher so I'm glad I made the effort to see it while I could!

So that's a little bit of advice that I would have given my self. I'm sure I could make a few of these lists covering the same subject. But why hurry?


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Nice Appetizers Before The Warbler Parade

A month from now there will be warblers all over the place which is great but I kind of like the early spring period leading up to that.

 Now is the time when you get to see a new arrival here and there. I just saw my first Osprey the other day and maybe some Ruddy Ducks. That was it for the weekend for first of the year arrivals for me.

That means you get to savor your new finds and don't get overwhelmed. When spring is in full swing you can barely turn your head without seeing something new. It's a little overwhelming like going to an all you can eat restaurant and then realizing you can only eat so much in one sitting!

So for now, I will enjoy the appetizers that arrive at the table one or two at a time. It is a very relaxing and enjoyable time for birding! 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Do Hermit Thrushes Migrate?

I was walking along the trolley-line path from the trolley that never was. Back in the early 1900s there was a plan to have a trolley run from Middlefield to Durham but the company doing the work ran into financial troubles and they never even put the tracks down. 

A few years back the Lions Club helped turn it into a walking trail through a marshy zone which makes for a nice little birding spot.

I saw Pileated Woodpeckers and Wood Ducks during a recent morning visit but my favorite bird of the morning was a Hermit Thrush. 

It seems as though I've occasionally seen Hermit Thrushes  during every season so I wondered how much do they really migrate? 

From what I've read they migrate just a little bit south and a little bit north in the early fall and spring. Some areas they can be found year round and Connecticut is sort of right in the middle of this migration line so it would make sense that I might see a few throughout the year.

Monday, March 21, 2022

I've Been In A Fog

The temperatures have remained moderate but the river valley has been foggy in the early mornings. Believe it or not there are snipe hiding somewhere in that field!
As I walked in my high boots through a flooded area and came upon a muskrat. Hard to believe Captain and Tennille actually wrote a song with the word muskrat in it! It has to be one of the sappiest songs ever but nostalgic nonetheless! Finally, a little sun slowly started to work its magic and slowly started to lift a way the fog.I started to get a good look at the Connecticut River.Later that morning, a mockingbird gave me the all clear signal!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Everything looks good When It's Sunny And 60!

We were blessed with a sunny 60 degree day yesterday! I added a few species to my county list which is up to about 65 species for the year.

 There is a nice mix of ducks up in that cove including: Common Goldeneye, Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Mallard, and Black Ducks. If you can see them then you are one of the fortunate ones who don't need binoculars!

It's strange how your senses come alive when the weather is nice. Everything seemed pristine to me whether it be a view of an icy cove....
.....a hungry hawk holding onto a power line.....
...or a sparrow peaking his head up out of the bushes. It really didn't matter. Everything is lollipops and roses when the weather treats you right!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Seeing The Waxwings Through The Cedars

Saturday was a 50 degree soul-warming day of sunshine. I checked the local Harris preserve to see what was around. I would have enjoyed seeing any birds on such a nice day but as I peered into a mess of tangled cedars I caught a glimpse of one of my favorite birds.
 I love Cedar Waxwings! I never get tired of seeing them because they show up randomly and have striking detailed markings that make them stand out from other species. They are usually fairly cooperative with the camera but on this morning they were hiding in the shady shadows.I was able to get very close to them at times even though the lighting was very limited. If you look closely, you can can see the little red marks on the wings that gives them their name-waxwings.What do waxwings like to eat? I've seen them catching insects in mid-air during the summer but most of the time they are after fruit and berries when I find them.I had a great morning sneaking through the trees for a for a closer look. Hmm, maybe too close?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Winter Ducks Down By The Shoreline


There are plenty of birds to see in the winter, especially down at the shoreline.
I like to see some of the winter diving ducks. It was nice to see this male and female Bufflehead paired up.

Another common site sight this time of the year are the mergansers like this Hooded and also Red-breasted, and Common Mergansers. There's been some years when I've been able to see 100 species in Connecticut just in the month of January.

Unfortunately, I don't have the kind of time this year to see so may but I would be happy if we could just start seeing temperatures in the double digits so we could enjoy the ones I do see in a little more comfort!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Is Seeing Robins A Sign Of Spring?

I see American Robins all winter so I would not say seeing one is a sign of spring. I see them eating things like crabapples an berries during the winter. When the ground warms up  I see robins on the ground eating earthworms so I would say that is a sign of spring.
Red-tailed Hawks are seen all throughout the winter in Connecticut.
The Red-tailed Hawk's smaller, noisier cousin, the Red-shouldered Hawk, is also seen in Connecticut throughout the winter. That seems to be a changing trend as I remember they used to e a rare find during the Christmas counts.

Monday, January 3, 2022

January Bird Search Is Like A Word Search

It was nothing but grey, drizzly weather this weekend. Generally I prefer a little sunshine for better viewing and photo conditions but this weekend was different because it was the start of a new year. For many birders this means the start of a brand new list of bird species. I was excited to see a flock of blackbirds in the yard.
There was over 100 in total. I all I really needed was one. Number 16 on the species list for January 2022 is the Common Grackle.
Later in the morning I scanned across a rainy pond and found Northern Pintails. They are a little more challenging to find. It was number 19 on my list.

You don't need to make lists of bird species to enjoy birdwatching. it is just another form of entertainment. It is sort of like doing a word search because you feel compelled to find the next word in the puzzle just as you feel compelled to find the next bird species. It's just another form of entertainment but I like it better because it gets you outdoors to enjoy nature. 

 One good way to start is to just make a list of bird species that you see in the month of January. I've seen as many as 100 different species in Connecticut in January but it doesn't really matter. It's just something to do that makes the long winter months pass by a little more quickly. You can also keep a list of birds seen during the whole year but that takes a little more commitment. If you've never done it then give it a try!