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.

Friday, June 16, 2023

3 Reasons I Like Prairie Warblers

Power lines are places I go to often to look for birds. In the summer there are a couple of species that I often see.
One is the Indigo bunting which I have a hard time getting pictures of for some reason. They don't actually show much color until the sun shines on them.
The other bird I often see at power lines this time of the year is a species that reminds me of a show I used to watch in the 70's. The name seems to have slipped my mind. Little House on the something? 

Anyway, the Prairie Warbler is one of my favorite warblers for 3 reasons. 1) because they are kind enough to hang around at a height where you don't have to bend your neck up to the sky to find them. 2)They have a distinct ascending call that reminds me of the sound of water being poured into a tall glass. 3) The third reason is that they are nicely marked and colorful!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Young Bluebird Near The Falls

I like to visit spots like these falls at Wadsworth park in the summer. Not because it's the best birding place but because the mist in the air on a muggy, Canadian, smoke-filled summer morning is refreshing! 
I did have a little look around though and besides a couple of phoebes I did find this young bluebird siting silently on a branch nearby. probably waiting for some food to come its way.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

What Might You Find In The Cedar Grove?

I went to a little preserve with lots of cedars and I was lucky enough to run into the bird I was hoping to see there, the Cedar Waxwing. This is one of my favorite birds to come across because their markings are very unique and beautiful!
While I was looking up into the treetops something was scolding me from down below like a little Chihuahua nipping at my feet. It was the ever curious Carolina Wren checking me out and probably trying to tell me to back off away from a nest.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

3 Random Birds I Came Across

I saw may birds over the last couple of months during this migration period. Many are brilliantly colored warblers but others are not exactly eye catching. This is a Rough-winged Swallow. They nest in little drain pipes located in a reservoir dam. Some people confuse them with female tree swallows because there are tree swallows in the same area. They have a kind of dingy brownish charcoal markings around the side of their body and head.
The male Yellow Warblers stand out more and are very plentiful in some places during spring and summer. If the sun hits them right they are mostly yellow with a nice reddish-brown streaking on their chest and their beady little black eyes also stand out.
This is a Red-shouldered Hawk that likes to sit itself on the top of an 80 foot tree near my backyard and screech KEYEAR! KEYEAR! KEYEAR! They are noisy but are also interesting to observe as they move from tree to tree and sometimes take to the air circling higher and higher. I like to think they help keep the local rodent population under control too!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Pea Soup Pond

One of our local parks that has become popular with birders in recent years is a place that used to be a golf course called Pistol Creek Park. There have been a number of interesting bird sightings here over the last couple of years, many of them found in this pond which is divided by a boardwalk. 
I don't know the name of the pond so I just call it pea soup pond .I wouldn't drink the water or swim here (although there is an urban legend that Linda Blair used to swim here). I came here to find my first of year Green heron, which I did. 
I also had a nice view of this female Red-winged Blackbird which is I think is kind of underappreciated. It looks nothing at all like the male and many mistake it for a large sparrow  when they first see one. They aren't very colorful but they are nicely marked!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

What Is This Little Building On A Stream?

Sometimes when I'm out birding I don't get any bird photos at all but there is always something to look at anyway. I saw this tiny building along the stream and wondered what it was? A pump house? Something to do with a waterwheel? An abandoned Hobbit complex? I'll have to ask around because curiosity gets the best of me.
I suppose I could look this fungus up in a book. I don't really need to know but it's nice to familiarize yourself with things in the woods. I'll just call it a rare roast beef tree mushroom for now.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Good, the Bad, And The Compulsive Birding

May is a busy month for birders. Migration is in full swing with warblers, flycatchers, and other assorted goodies decorating every tree with their unique colors and style.

For me, the best part is sitting next to a trickling brook watching everything unfold at its own pace but spring migration is like having a ticket to an all you can eat buffet at the world's greatest restaurant. You're tempted to stuff your plate with the as much of a variety of food as you can!
Birding can become a compulsion. You start to know what birds to expect in what places and it becomes a race to see as much as you can or you might miss something. 

Above is the elegant Eastern Kingbird with a nice contrast of charcoal and white.

This is the Blue-winged Warbler. I see them every year at powerline cuts or other open areas with similar habitat. The make a call that sounds like bee-buzzz. They have what looks like a small black eyeliner that marks their yellow head.

It's not uncommon to see as many as 50 or 60 species a day this time of the year! Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining but after I see as much as I can manage I will look forward to slowing down and watching just one bird at a time! 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Bike Path Birds That Won't Be Ignored!

 Riding a bike can be a nice way to change up your birding pace. You can cover a lot of ground quickly and as soon as you see bird activity you can just stop and get off the bike for a while. I think birds are less spooked by a bicyclist than they are by a pedestrian too. You kind of sneak up on them silently and quickly.

 I'm old school when it comes to biking. You're not going to convince me that riding in traffic is safer than riding on a sidewalk. Bicycle versus car-the bike loses every time. I don't mind slowing down to a walking pace where there are potential obstacles. If I see a pedestrian I am more than happy to hop off the bike and walk it until the pedestrian passes. Still, a path specifically designed for biking is better than a sidewalk.This time of year you can come across migrant birds even on a well-manicured city path. The House Wren has a bubbly song that it repeats constantly. Another noisy bird that is here throughout the year is the Northern Mockingbird. They're always busy singing multiple songs or staring you down as they go about conspicuously gathering food.

They are two examples of birds that refuse to be ignored!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Warblers Trickling In

I've been spending most of my birding time around local rivers, streams, and ponds like this one. It seems that Canada Geese like to nest on top of beaver huts. Seeing just one family of Canada Geese in a small pond seems more appealing than a city pond that is overrun by dozens of messy geese.
I'm starting to notice that some of the winter species of ducks have departed and there is more activity in the surrounding woods. The early warblers, like this Palm Warbler are slowly starting to trickle in. Soon the trees will be dripping with them. 

The Palm Warblers often hop around trees and bushes that are near ground level making it easier to follow them around than some of the other warbler species.

Some of the warblers insist on staying near the tops of trees which can lead to a bad case of what they call warbler-neck. If you spend a few hours looking up into the tops of trees with binoculars  you will know exactly what that means!

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Many Birds Love Flooded Fields

Every March when all the ice has melted the Portland Fairgrounds attracts a nice variety of birds.
There are many different types of ducks but the Northern Shoveler with its long shovel-like bill is one of the most sought after ones.
A variety of shorebirds are likely such as the Wilson's Snipe and birds like Killdeer and yellowlegs seen here (except for the one yellowlegs taking a bath in the background).

This is generally the last big local birding excitement that takes place until the warblers start arriving some time in April. Then it becomes  an all you can bird buffet frenzy!