Sunday, December 24, 2023

Ponds Minus Ice=Ducks

So far, the temperatures have been moderate during the day with temperatures reaching the 40's. I've been taking advantage of this weather to search the local ponds for ducks. This is a secret little bog hidden in the woods.
This is a little pond right next to a busy road right in the middle of town. There was a scare a couple of years ago when a Snakefish Snakefish was found here. That is an invasive species and not one you want in your local pond!
Even a mucky little pond like this can have mergansers during the winter when there is open water. I especially like the markings on the Male Hooded Merganser. The female is seen trailing behind.
The Common Merganser is actually common during the winter here also. I believe they call them Goosanders in Europe.

I am hopeful that the ice will stay away beyond past the new year. That is when the new list of species starts all over again. It will be nice to find some of the winter birds locally which means less driving around to find what you're looking for.

Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

When The Birds Get Quiet And Disappear

It's strange how you can go to a place that is loaded with songbirds one morning and then it's completely silent the next day. I looked everywhere, even turning over trees looking for signs of life.
Then after much searching, I finally found one. Now I know why all the other birds went into hiding. Once you get a sharpie or a Cooper's Hawk around all the other little birdies tend to get mighty quiet!

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The kind Of Snow You Don't Have to Shovel!

I was sitting near the dock of the bay after the clouds had already rolled away and to my surprise, some Snow Buntings came my way!
I've seen Snow Buntings many times during the winter but usually at Hammonasset State Park. These were at Saybrook Point which is in the county I live in.
Another thing I was pleased with was that the buntings were kind enough to sit up on a rail. Usually I see them on the ground mixed in with grass and gravel where it's harder to appreciate the subtle colors and patterns of their feathers.
It was nice while it lasted but then they were flying off to an abandoned parking lot. 

I appreciate the beauty of a snow storm or 2 during the winter but Snow Bunting have their own kind of beauty and the great thing is you don't need a shovel. Binoculars and a camera will do just fine!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Birding Before Apple-Picking At Lyman's

Lyman's Orchard is known for their fruit orchards, golf course, restaurant/market, corn maze, and other activities but one of their unadvertised specials is bird-watching. They have a lot of land and sometimes interesting birds show up there. For example, I found some American Pipits sneaking around in one of their tilled up pumpkin fields the other day. I wasn't able to get any decent pictures of the pipits because they blended in so well with the clumpy dirt. 
Instead I decided to point my camera at this female Red-winged Blackbird. They may not have the colorful wing patches that the males do but overall, they have an interesting textured look to their feather pattern. I think they are somewhat underappreciated.
I still haven't been able to find some sparrows that I have been searching for this year such as the Fox Sparrow or White-crowned Sparrow but Savannah Sparrows like this one have been around it good numbers.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Stare-down Between The 2 Noisiest Hawks


Red-shouldered Hawks are the noisiest hawks I have ever heard. Their calls might shatter glass if they were on a loudspeaker! 
Kee-yer! Kee-yer! Kee-yer! over and over again along with other screechy calls. Despite their shrill voices I like that we have plenty of them around to help keep the rodent population under control. They're also a very distinct looking with their football-shaped figure and rusty red chest. I caught this pair in a stare-down the other day. Maybe an argument over whose responsibility it is to make the nest? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Farewell To Foliage

It wasn't the greatest fall for viewing foliage in Connecticut this year but I stopped my car as I was driving through the hills of Lyman's Orchard to have one last look.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Mockingbird, Starling & Merlin App

I'm always looking for new places around town to check out. You just never know if a spot is going to be any good for birding unless you try it. There was quite a bit of sparrow habitat in the land near these solar panels, so I gave it a try. if you look closely, there is a bird set on top of the solar panel. 
A lot of birders dislike European Starling because they're not native. I actually think they are visually appealing when the sun is shining on them. They can imitate certain birds and make a whole slew of sounds that are interesting and hard to figure out. Some have been known to imitate the human voice as well.
The Northern Mockingbird has to be when it comes to imitating other birds though. When they are on a roll, they can imitate multitudes of birds in rapid-fire fashion! Although starlings and mockingbirds are in different families of bird species, they both imitate birds. 

A lot of people have been using the Merlin identification app. It picks up sounds of birds and shows you what birds are around. It works pretty well, if you stand still quietly but sometimes it displays a rare bird that you have to wonder about. I believe it can make mistakes, so it shouldn't be used as the sole source of bird identification. It can be a nice tool, however, in helping to let you know what potential species might be in the area. 

When I was out on this particular day, the Merlin App showed that there was a Gray-cheeked Thrush nearby which would be a rare bird sighting in this area. Unlikely, but it's always worth looking. Anyway, I didn't find one. 

This led me to a question. Did the mockingbird or starling imitate the Gray-cheeked Thrush and set off the merlin Alert? I guess I'll never know but it is an interesting possibility.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Putting The Chore List Before The Birding List

There are a lot of house chores I put off in the spring so I could enjoy chasing warblers but when fall arrives you start to realize you are running out of time. I needed to paint these wood rails that border a flat roof but it requires the right conditions. It seems like it was raining every other day and I couldn't make up my mind if I should use a ladder or take a chance that the roof would hold my weight. I finally deduced that if it can hold snow then it can hold me. I finally finished that project along with a couple of others on my list so I can get back to some birding again.
Besides the rain, morning fog has been another challenge in the mornings. It was so foggy that it was blurring the lenses on my camera and binoculars.
There won't be many catbirds around for much longer so it was nice to get an eye to eye look at this one.
There have been a good number of Palm Warblers bouncing around the bushes and on the ground.

Sometimes you have to put your chore list before you work on your birding list. If you're like me, you can enjoy your time in nature more if you don't have visions of unfinished work haunting you!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Searching For Foliage, Ducks, And Sparrows

I went for a morning walk at Highland Pond in Middletown. The foliage season has been lagging this year, probably due to the excessive amount of rain we've had this season. I was able to enjoy a glimpse of fall color as I walked around the pond.
Sparrow migration seems to be running behind schedule too this year for whatever reason. There's been a few new ducks showing up in the area although that usually doesn't get going until November. Wood Ducks can be found in Connecticut most of the year if you know where to look. They may be common but they're not common looking!
There was a dozen or so making their way around the pond. The pictures were zoomed in from quite a distance.

So, not many sparrows seen other than a few White-throated but a little foliage and some handsome Wood Ducks. As Meatloaf used to say- "2 out of 3 ain't bad"!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

At the Shore And In The Yard

There's been a mix of things going on this time of year. I stopped by the shoreline the other day and the weather felt like perfect fall weather. A cool, dry morning in the 60's.
I was able to find a few new county birds including Ruddy Turnstone down in Westbrook. After Labor Day it's easier to get to more shoreline birding spots as rules seem to be a little less strict once the beachgoer season is over.
I haven't had a chance to look this one up in a book yet but if anyone knows their dragonflies and damselflies feel free to jump in with the answer!
When I was growing up I never saw bluebirds. Now they nest in my yard. One of life's small pleasures!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Roseate Spoonbill Was Worth Chasing!

I avoid chasing rare birds unless they show up near where I live. I even shut off the rare birds alert outside of my county so I wouldn't be tempted to drive all over the state burning gas. I am not one of the top birders that is in competition with others to build the biggest list so that is not a motivating factor. 

There are some exceptions to this rule. If: 1) The bird has been hanging around for a couple of days 2) It's a species I've never seen before and 3) It's rare for this area 4) It's a bird that interests me. (I wouldn't burn up gas to see a sparrow that looks just like another sparrow except it has a tail feather that's a centimeter longer than his cousin). 

It just so happened that someone told me that there was a Roseate Spoonbill hanging out in Milford Connecticut for several days. This a species that has only been reported in Connecticut a handful of times. I decided that this would be a bird worth chasing because it passed all 4 of my qualifiers. The Roseate Spoonbill has a pinkish color due to its diet and as you can see, has a spoon-shaped bill. What you don't see in the picture is that it makes a sweeping motion side to side when it has its bill underwater searching for food. This was one interesting bird that was worth the chase!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

4 Bird Sightings to Close Out August

I didn't do a whole of of birding in August. I read so much about killer worms, mosquitoes, ticks and amoebas that I was torn between just staying home or giving up reading. I decided on one last outing before the end of August. 

I chose to take a walk along some tracks towards a big marsh. The sign says that trains are active again on these old tracks but the overhead speed bumps would probably slow them down a little.

There have been many inland shorebirds this month including the Solitary Sandpiper which has a distinct eye ring and sort of greenish-yellow legs.
Some poor kid must have got his egret kite caught in the bushes.
There was a healthy population of Green Herons in the area. This is one of four that I saw but most of them blended in too well with the surrounding for me to get a picture.
This looks like a young oriole to me. I don't have time to look it up so I'll just go with that unless someone corrects me.
There are some things that I enjoy about August but being out in the woods watching birds is not at the top of my list. I'm looking forward to September with lower temperatures and a welcome invasion of migrating hawks!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Tree Egrets And Sandpiper At Fairgrounds

By August I am a little burned out on birding and just looking forward to fall weather. I struggle to come up with places I would like to check out factoring in heat, bugs, and an overabundance of foliage. I settled on visiting one of my old go-to spots at the Portland fairgrounds. This is a place that rarely disappoints me and you never know for sure what you might run into. This time is was great Egrets in a tree.
That was the little spark I needed to make me feel as though it was worth getting out instead of sticking around at the house doing yardwork. 

When I think about it, I enjoy fish out of water type of movies. That is probably the reason seeing Great Egrets in a tree at the fairgrounds instead of the shore makes this particular sighting  more appealing to me.

Then I turned my gaze from high up in the trees to down at ground level. A Solitary Sandpiper was practically stepping on my shoes. I think it was getting ready to untie my shoelaces!

There's always something good to see at the fairgrounds when there is water left over from the rainstorms.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Hibiscus Therapy And the End Of Pumpkinzini

Unfortunately, I learned first hand about the Woolly Adelgid this year. It is a tiny aphid-like insect that clings to the underside of pine needles and suck out all of the sap. It killed 5 of my Eastern Hemlock trees which were probably 60 years old. So I cut them all down and started to create a new outdoor space. I ground the stumps, planted some new shrubs and put down some mulch.

It needed a little color so I tried a perennial hibiscus. I decided to try to do this blog post from a backyard gazebo and was pleased to find out that I'm able to pick up my internet signal from here. Bluebirds are singing and I'm able to get a little hibiscus therapy while I'm typing away. It has come to my attention that you can also make tea from the dried flowers so that's an added bonus!

An update on my pumpkin? Zucchini? patch. These have to be just plain old pumpkins. They must have just mislabeled the plant. I've never grown pumpkins before. Hopefully, they will turn orange at some point.   I noticed some are dark green now while others are light green like this one. I'll be curious as to how they turn out in the end!

I can already feel fall just around the corner. I'll soon be chasing sparrows and searching the skies for migrating hawks.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Quick Shore Trip During Heatwave

We had quite a heatwave going towards the end of July. temperatures in the 90's and oppressive humidity for many days on end. I know some parts of the country were in excess of 100 degrees during the same period. They (who are they?) said it was the worst ever but I found a period in the 1930's that was more severe. Nevertheless it was hot enough for me! 

Anyway, I managed to pry myself away from air conditioning one morning to make my way down to the shore which at least had a breeze to cool things off. There's always things to see at the shore. I quickly came upon a coupe of young Osprey hanging out at the nest.

I also watched a couple of Snowy Egrets wading around the edge of a saltwater river down in Clinton. I'll never forget one of my first lessons from an older birder telling me that Snowy Egrets have black bills and yellow feet. 

Anyway, summer is a time when I am selective about when and where I go birding. Two other things I have on my summer list is early morning birding by a cool brook and maybe joining in on a group sponsored bird trip which I haven't done in a long time.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Ghost Of Pumpkinzini

When I was planting my garden this spring I had an extra zucchini plant that there wasn't enough room. I decided to just stick it in my mulch/dirt pile to see what would happen. The plant grew like crazy without me even watering it. 
It had lots of flowers but not much production until it finally grew this one. I showed a picture to someone at a garden center because this did not look like a zucchini to me. It looked more like a pumpkin but they said it was indeed a zucchini. 

Then the light bulb went off. I had dumped my old rotting pumpkins in the much pile last year. I read online that pumpkins and zucchini can hybridize. I believe what we have here might be the ghost of last year's pumpkin finding its way back through the zucchini patch?!

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Embracing Yardwork With One Eye On the Birds

I haven't done much birding this month because of high heat and humidity. Instead, I've been focusing on getting out in the early mornings to take care of yardwork and tend to the garden. I got tired of planting vegetables in the ground only to have them eaten up by woodchucks and other varmints. This year, I planted most of my vegetables in Jack Daniels whiskey barrels, raised them off of the ground, and surrounded the tops with chicken wire. It's working out pretty good so far.

 There was a time when the only thing I liked about yardwork was finishing it but now I use it as an opportunity to appreciate my outdoor surroundings and observing birds and wildlife that are right in front of me. So many times in life we miss what's in front of us by looking ahead to the end result. Sometimes the process of getting there can be just as enjoyable if we choose to view it that way.

I've enjoyed watching hummingbirds at flowers, deer passing through, a ridiculous explosion of the rabbit population, fox and hawks taking advantage of the bunny surplus, and bird nesting behavior. I noticed this robin looking awfully nervous staring at my every move and making noise.
It turns out that this nestling seems to have come out of the nest a little too early.
A few days later I saw this guy hiding between two leaf-filled bags. I wonder if it was the same one? 

This heat spell has given me an excuse to keep my bird observations primarily to my own back yard for a couple of weeks. That's just another way that a birder suffering from a minor case of burnout can change things up a bit.