Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Meditative Birding, Ornitherapy & Finer Details

There are many birding podcasts out there. I happen to use Spotify but I'm sure if you searched birding podcasts you could find them through many other services. Recently, I came across one that got my attention. It was Bird Banter Podcast #148 with Doctor Ed Pullen,  featuring guest Holly Merker.

Just to give a brief summary, they talk about how being out in nature observing birds is good for you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Slow birding, mindfulness/hyperawareness, and observing everything in detail can greatly enhance your experience. These are things I've done on my own but it was interesting to know that there are other birders out there that take this approach to birding.

   There is a book available that covers these topics in more detail titled: "Ornitherapy For Your Mind, Body, and Soul"

 Too often, I fall into the habit of the search, identify and move on birding routine. I found the book to be a helpful reminder to take the slow approach to birding while observing birds and my surrounding in more detail.After listening to the podcast I was inspired to pull up a chair and sit quietly at the edge of my favorite local bog. After waiting patiently, a male and female Wood Duck swam over from the opposite side  until they were within 20 feet of me. Wood Ducks spook easily so I was pleased that they stayed and visited for a while.As I was sitting quietly I had a thought. Suppose we all lived within 4 walls that were all just plain white with no other objects around us. How valuable would access to a natural outdoor scenic place be worth? Maybe more than gold or any material item we might purchase for ourselves! Luckily for us, we do have access to places like this, and in most cases it doesn't cost us a thing! Every time you view birds it can be worth giving them a second look from a different angle. Lighting, the position of the birds, and the angle that view them from can show you something that you did not see the first time. 

Spring is only a week away! I am sure looking forward to some warmer weather!

Friday, March 3, 2023

One Ravine Trail Solved Two Birding Problems

Sometimes weather conditions can make birding a less pleasant experience, or I don't have enough time to make the trip seem worthwhile. 

On this particular day, I had both problems. It was too windy and I only had an hour to spare. I decided to go to a nearby ravine trail that follows a small trickle of a stream. This turned out to be the right move because the high tree-lined banks on both sides of the trail offered good protection from the wind making things much more comfortable. The trail is only probably only about 150 yards long, so an hour was plenty of time to cover the entire trail. 

 I moved as slowly as possible so I could pick out birds that I might normally miss. I felt like a kid trying to dig coins from under the couch cushions. At first, you only see a few but if you dig deep enough you might end up with $3.00 worth of change! So I only saw a few birds at first, but by the time I had finished my list grew to 14. Not bad for a small wooded area in the middle of winter!There was nice acoustics with the sound of the trickling stream, and time just seemed to slow down. I had a nice look at this White-throated Sparrow but I was hoping to find that one special bird. Nothing rare, just that little prize like you find in the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. I finally did find my prize bird. It was a little Winter Wren sneaking around underneath the stream bank. My first of the year. Sometimes the best birding experiences are the most simple ones.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Common Merganser Farewell Tour

It's been one of the mildest winters I can remember so far. One of the benefits (or disappointments for some) of this has been that the lakes and ponds have remained ice free. This is a mucky little city pond right next to the main road. It's not the prettiest pond you'll ever see but it does hold fish and is popular with some waterfowl.
Common Mergansers, also called goosanders elsewhere in the world, have been guests at the pond much of the winter. We see plenty of these fish-eating diving ducks this year but most of them will probably be moving on soon so I thought that I would give them another look while I still can.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A Fascination With Maps And Streams

Ever since I was a kid I've had a sense of curiosity. I'd explore the woods for hidden trout streams, search the night sky with a telescope, look for hidden creatures in pond water using a microscope, look for antiques at a tag sale, or use a metal detector to search for hidden treasure. 

  These days, my biggest hobby has been birding, but I'm still searching for that secret spot where the prize bird might be hiding. It's a lot of fun for me to look for birds where no one else is looking. I will look through map books for ponds and streams tucked away in a wooded area hoping to discover that magic spot.

At the same time, I check these little streams to see if they hold any wild brook trout that usually grow to no more than 8" long. I don't want to catch them all. It's enough for me to know that they're there.
These secret spots can't compete with whatever my imagination has already conjured up, and that prize bird may turn out to be no more than a Carolina Wren. Sometimes we lose that sense of wonder we have as a child. A good map and and a little trip to search for a hidden stream helps whet my appetite for birding and keeps my imagination alive.

Friday, February 3, 2023

February Is A Time To Chill, literally!

With January behind us it is time to change strategy. I am not likely to add many new bird species to my year list in February so I will take a more laid back approach until we reach the heart of Spring. I started out February by enjoying the scenery from this little beach along the river in Middletown. I did find one new first of year bird in the woods behind me. It was the sneaky little Brown Creeper.

It was such a nice sunny day and in the 40's. As I am posting this, the temperature is plummeting and will reach below zero with the wind-chill factor by tomorrow!
Beyond that, there were maybe a dozen species of birds including female Hooded Mergansers.
There were also some house finches around which were captured and shipped to New York City in 1940 to b enjoyed as colorful pets. They escaped and/or were released from pet stores and populated in northeastern United States. Now they are very common here in Connecticut.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Searching High And Low To finish January

I finished the month of January searching high up in the Connecticut River valley for river ducks and birds of prey.
The Chester area of the Connecticut River was one of my stops along the way. This is Sherlock Holmes old castle home, or I should say  actor William Gillete's castle. He portrayed Sherlock Holmes on stage in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Sure enough, there were Bald Eagles around as well as some winter ducks. I finished off January with 65 species seen in Middlesex County. Not bad, but things will slow down considerably until spring migration.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Pileated Woodpeckers In My Backyard!

I live in a suburban neighborhood but I do have a nice patch of trees in the backyard. We've had a few nice surprise birds like bluebirds, owls, and now Pileated Woodpeckers. It would be nice if they nested here. This male was digging out a good-sized hole, so maybe. You can tell a male because they have a red moustache and the red feathers extend to the entire top of the head. The female has a grayish-black forecrown with no moustache.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Ring-necks and Otter At Preserve

Middlesex Land Trust has preserved about 50 different pieces of land in my area. One of them is the Highland Pond preserve in Middletown which has turned out to be a nice little honeyhole of a pond. It is a small pond that is surrounded by a small residential neighborhood but has yielded a lot of nice finds for me over the years. it is good for a nice variety of ducks in particular.
The last time I visited there it was a gloomy, raw day but it was still worth a visit. I saw Green-winged Teal and a few Ring-necked Ducks. There is a ring on the necks of these ducks but it is subtle and you don't always see the ring. If you look closely at the neck you can see how it has a slight change of color near the base of the neck. Something else caught my attention. At first, I couldn't make heads or tails of what I was seeing. I saw the head and thought that doesn't look like a beaver?Then I saw the tail and knew that definitely isn't a beaver tail! There were actually 2 river otters in the pond! They were rolling around flipping up their tails and having a grand old time. One even caught a fish but with the poor lighting I had a tough time getting clear pictures with my point and shoot. River Otters aren't that rare in Connecticut but you don't get to see them often. They travel up and down streams and rivers moving from one pond to another. They are tough, agile predators that eat all sorts of things including ducks,  beavers and raccoons!