Thursday, December 29, 2022

An 18,000 Square foot Mansion For Only 90,000!

This is the 18,000 sq. ft. Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, Connecticut. It was named after the original owner, Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth. I could just imagine what it was like pulling up to grandpa's house for Thanksgiving 100 years ago! 
There's been a trend for many years now to put little informative signs along walking trails. What caught my attention on this sign was the original cost of the mansion being $90,000! That kind of gives another perspective to our recent inflation woes.
I go to the Wadsworth mansion grounds when I want a little fresh air and birding but I'm not feeling physically ambitious. It has nice, wide, nice flat manicured trails and plenty of country scenery.
I would imagine that Colonel Wadsworth probably rode around his 500 acre estate on a horse. The property has been sold off over the years and only 100 acres remain. This sign show colonel Wadsworth was a man with a plan.
There are a couple of nice little bridges to cross over. As far as birds I saw a few sparrows, a Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, and 1 Red-shouldered Hawk.
There is enough habitat to keep a few birds around in the winter. Here you can see a tiny trickling stream and some brushy area.
There were several berry bearing bushes that attracted birds like this robin. I also spotted a Northern Mockingbird taking advantage of some ornamental crabapple trees.

Winter is a good time to slow down the birding pace and a nice walk through a country setting is a good way to kick the winter blues!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Basic Winter Woodland Birding

Some of my favorite local birding spots are located along the Connecticut River. I walked a trail located in an area call Maromas which has the most natural habitat in the city of Middletown. Maromas was an old farming village many years ago. Only a woodland cemetery and abandoned foundations mark the history of the area.

 I like walking along the rail trail which passes by a nice marsh on one side and has access to the Connecticut shoreline on the other side.The marsh and river shoreline provide good opportunities to see a variety of birds like ducks, waders, Bald Eagles, and other birds of prey. I did see one eagle flying off with a duck as well as Hooded and Common Mergansers in the river. Meanwhile, there was a winter-hardy Great Blue Heron in the marsh.I spent most of the time viewing woodland birds like American Robins, Hermit Thrush, and Eastern Bluebirds as seen above. All 3 of those species are in the thrush family. Not bad, 3 of a kind. In the springtime I can add Veery and Wood Thrush to the list and then I'll have a "Royal Thrush"!I like winter birding on a sunny day when their is very little wind. The lack of foliage allows birds like this White-breasted Nuthatch stand out on bare branches.

Winter Birding plans: 

1) woodland birding walks on sunny days with little wind.

2) An occasional visit to the shorelines when the conditions are right.

3) Cruising around in my car with the heat on rolling down the window to take pictures of birds when I see a good photo opportunity.

Winter is a time to stop and appreciate the basic woodland birds that birders tend to overlook in the spring because they are too busy seeking out the newly arriving migrant species. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

No Agenda Birding Then Along Comes An Owl

It's almost the end of the year and I've run out of any birding-related goals. I've got a Christmas bird count coming up this weekend and it was pretty chilly this morning. I decided to take a walk in a small nature preserve and really wasn't worried about what I would or wouldn't see. It was all about just taking a slow walk and observing whatever bird I might happen to come across.
I was perfectly content watching typical winter sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, and Northern Cardinals like the one in the above photo. We kind of take the brilliant colored cardinals for granted but they really seem to stand out in the winter months.
I was on my way out and ready to head home when Baam! I came face to face with a Barred Owl! It's always a good day when you get to see an owl!
Especially when they're staring straight into your eyes! Who-cooks-for-you? is the call of the Barred Owl. Of course, no one cooks for them. They prefer organic woodland sushi!

Friday, December 2, 2022

2 Vultures Are Black But Only One Black Vulture

A lot of times people around my area tell me about seeing a vulture flying overhead but when I ask them if it was a Black Vultures or a Turkey Vulture they often draw a blank. They say it was black but both vultures are somewhat black. Most of the time you can see the silver wingtips on the Black Vulture, especially if you use binoculars. They are also have a little more compact look and keep their wings straighter more like a hawk.

Turkey Vulture may be a little lighter at the wingtips but don't have those distinct silver markings. They are a little bit lankier and often keep their wings in a dihedral and oscillate from side to side when in flight.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022

It's Dinner Time For The Merlin

I went for a walk down a country road over the weekend without much expectation of what birds I might see. I figured that I would see mostly sparrows this time of the year.
What I did not expect to see was a falcon standing on top of what looks like the remains of a sparrow! I believe there are 40 species of falcons in the world. Here in Connecticut we are fortunate to have 3: The peregrine Falcon which is the biggest one, the American Kestrel which is the smallest, and the Merlin which is similar in size to a kestrel but a little chunkier. 

The Merlin is a swift hunter that swoops down from their perch and grabs smaller birds in a hurry. They are probably the least colorful and have a weaker malar mark than a kestrel and smaller than the crow-sized Peregrine.

I feel sorry for the sparrow but it's a bird eat bird world we live in and if the Merlin had no food then it wouldn't survive!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Benefits Of Birding In Your Own Neighborhood

One of the most underrated birding resources can be your very own neighborhood. Often, humans have a tendency to look at their surroundings in terms of borders. Birders may disregard trees or other habitat because it is in someone's yard or other private property. They may choose to do their birding only within the confines of a park or other designated area.

 Birds do not have to follow those rules. They can fly to wherever they choose. They have no concept of private versus public property and a trash filled stream might be just as appealing to them as a pristine nature preserve.

The top photo of the trees was taken during a recent walk around my block. They turned out to be a treasure trove of birds that included kinglets and sapsuckers along with several other species! I never would have known that if I hadn't decided to take an eight o'clock walk around the block.

You might have forgotten about that nice brook tucked away in a patch of woods just off the main road.
You may find that birds you tend to ignore because they are too common seem to take on a different light, giving you a new appreciation of them as you stroll along at a snails pace.
You can learn more about the habitat in your area and what type of birds are attracted to it. I found that there was a lot of ornamental fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that were particularly attractive to Northern Mockingbirds. I encountered 6 of them during my walk, which was a surprising number to me. 
It's also a nice way to monitor migrating birds that are coming and going in your area. Often when we talk of migrating birds, we think of species like warblers that head north in the spring. Juncos come from northern New England/Canada and make their way down to Connecticut in the fall.

Some other benefits include:-Saving money on gas, relaxing form of exercise, saving time of having to drive somewhere, takes away the stress of having to decide where to go, learning more about your community surroundings and history, more eco-friendly, and public areas can offer good bird-photo opportunities.  

I do not like the current crazy inflation and fuel prices that has led me to making some changes. Some of those changes  are undesirable and simply a matter of necessity. In other cases, it can lead to opening a new doors with unexpected prizes waiting to be discovered!

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Never A Dull Duck On A Dinky Pond

This is a small pond with a trail that runs around it call Highland pond preserve. It is not very big or a pond that you would want to swim in but fortunately, it was protected from development. This pond, although small, has turned up some less common ducks over the last few years. It's a nice spot that's only 10 minutes from my house.

I spent some time looking up into the trees trying to identify tiny fast-moving birds. The challenge was that newly falling leaves kept throwing me off the track!

The main feature of this preserve is the pond itself. On this particular morning I saw about a dozen Wood Ducks, Mallards, my first American Coot of the year, and this somewhat dull looking duck. I almost overlooked it but I realized it was a little different from the others. I wasn't confident with identifying this as a male Gadwall until I checked my photos. That's not a prize find by any means but still not a duck you see every day or in every pond. it just shows you how important it is to protect natural habitat wherever you can.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The In-Town Birding Trifecta Factor

Birders(including me)sometimes fall into the trap of only visiting hotspots that have a large area with a variety of habitat because it provides the most potential for seeing a larger variety of species. Often, this requires more travel time and the burning up gasoline which has been very expensive this year.

What about one of those nice little parks in town? A lot of time we just pass right by them thinking there may not be enough birds there  to make it worth while. Sounds harsh, but I'm just being honest.

But what if we made a stop at 2 or more of these small parks that are in close proximity of each other? You may only see 10-20 species at each park but maybe you might exceed 30 species if you combine all 3!  

That is just what I did the other day with my first stop being at a roadside pond. I spent 15 minutes viewing from one spot. this was the only place out of the 3 that I saw a great Blue Heron, Mallards, and...this Carolina Wren!
My next stop was at a little nature garden. I spent 30 minutes taking a stroll along the paths and it turned out that this was the only place I ended up seeing American Goldfinches and a Northern Mockingbird!
My final stop was at a land trust which yielded my only Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the day!

When you think about it birds don't stay within the borders of any one park or nature center so why should we?
(Note: blogger was behaving very badly so I had to place the pictures and text in an order that was not of my choosing).

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Always Looking For New Places

Whenever I am driving I keep my eyes open for nature areas that I haven't visited before. During peak migrations I am hesitant to try these types of places because migrating birds come so fast and furious that I like to go to for the sure bets aka "birding hotspots".

Now that I've seen most of what I can see for this year I can take more time to explore and try new places. I've passed by a road may times in Higganum that had a stream running along side it that always had my curiosity. I finally took a drive down the road and lo and behold there was  a tiny little park with a trail at the bottom! 
It had a beautiful little waterfall that looked so nice in the fall setting.
I followed the trail past the marsh down to an old railroad trestle along the Connecticut River. It was foggy when I first got there.... 
..but the fog soon lifted and gave me a nice view of the Connecticut River. I saw a Great Egret on the opposite shore which was too far away to take a picture of.
When you're at a scenic new place even an ordinary Downy Woodpecker is a bird worth stopping to admire!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

As Leaves Turn Color Birds Are Everywhere!

Fall might be my favorite season with the clean fresh air, smell of burning wood, and of course the brilliant colored leaves! 

It is also a great time of the year to be out birding. This week birds seemed to be everywhere!                                        There were doves on wires.There are lots of sparrows around like this Savannah Sparrow perched on a fence.                      Great Blue Herons are blocking the roads!                   .................and Falcons were on branch patrol!

I wish fall could stay just like this for a few months but it always feels too short! 

Monday, September 26, 2022

From Atop Of The Old Dump

I remember as a kid going to the old Middletown Dump. It wasn't called a transfer station, a landfill, or a recycling center then. It was just a plain old smelly dump. I do remember seeing all the gulls there. In fact, going to the dump was a form of entertainment for a kid back then before there was cable tv and video games! 

They did bury things in the ground that weren't good for the environment back then (like just about everything). Today, it is kind of secretly open to the public again. There is a gravel path to the top of the hill and I must say, there is a great view of the surrounding hills in every direction!
There is the top of the biggest business building in Middletown. I believe it's called the Middlesex Corporate Center. You can also see the hills well beyond it.
I love seeing Canada Geese in flight making that "V" formation.
In just about an hour I had views of four different species of hawks in flight, Black and Turkey Vultures as well as 2 Bald Eagles!
I also saw the biggest hawks of all known by many as "gas-hawks"!