Sunday, May 31, 2009

Birding North of Worcester-May 31st

Alan and I decided to head up north today and further away from Worcester in hopes of getting some birds that are tougher to get in Southern Worcester County. We started off at Bolton Flats where most of the water beds are dry and as a result there were not that may shore birds. There were a lot of warblers, flycatchers and even a huge brawl between Blue Jays, American Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds, but that was about it. Our next stop was Dexter Drumlin to search for grassland birds like Bobolinks and sparrows. I had never been here before and let me tell you, it was so worth the trip to get a look at the very tame Savannah Sparrows we came across.

It seemed as if every corner we turned, we saw another Savannah teed up on a branch and singing its heart out.

We decided to set up Alan's spotting scope to see what digiscoped photos would look like and we were far from disappointed as these birds like to perch for long periods of a time which allows for some fabulous shots.

Noticed the yellow around its eyes and bill. This is a very good field mark when looking at this bird.

Many people think sparrows are drab looking birds but have they ever seen the beauty in a Savannah before? If so, than I think they would quickly change their minds.

So cute and now my new favorite sparrow for the month of May.

Lousy-over exposed shot of two of them together but I thought it was so cute!

We spent about an hour there and then headed over to Sterling Peats to see if I could finally get a decent shot of a Double-crested Cormorant. The DC wasn't there but all of the other birds more than made up for it. The minute we arrived at SP, we knew we were in for some good birding as various bird songs filled the air with melody and busy birds fluttered throughout the air and into brambles. The photo above and below are of a female Red-winged Blackbird eating what I believe are a couple of wasps!

Seeing this made me more appreciative of the Luna Bar in my backpack! The raw food diet just wouldn't work for me!

Next it was onto an American Goldfinch. A regular in my backyard that I wanted to photograph in a different environment through the digiscope and the two photos are the end result. Such gorgeous, common birds!

I had never noticed how orange the male Goldfinches bill was until now.

While walking toward the water, I spotted a nest up in the upper third fork of a tree that required further inspection. We did not want to disturb whoever was in it so out came the spotting scope for a better view. Suddenly a tiny head appeared to investigate what all of the noise was.

This Female Baltimore Oriole was busy nesting and was hoping we wouldn't get any closer which of course we didn't. Such a sweet little bird on her nest.

The nest itself was a course of confusion for us though as it wasn't hanging from the uppermost tip of a branch like most Baltimore Orioles do so we were contemplating for quite some time whether or not we had an Orchard Oriole's nest here due to the fact that we saw a male Orchard Oriole around that location.

We decided to continue birding to see if I could get a shot of the male Orchard Oriole and then we would go back to the nest for a better digiscoped photo of the nest itself to allow for a better analysis. The funny thing was that we had forgotten where the nest was and spent about 1/2 an hour looking for it. After all of that hard work, we were scanning the trees and it was in plain view all of that time!! HA! It's like that joke how many birders does it take to find a nest or something like that. ;o). While the nest is a little odd for a Baltimore Oriole, the field marks on this female appear to be classic Baltimore. It did make for some interesting birding though. Talk about a learning experience!

In between all of this looking around, we came across an Eastern Kingbird who was teed up on a branch and just begging to be digiscoped which we were happy to comply with.

This bird is supposed to be a tyrant of sorts but it didn't look like a tyrant to me as it sat there peacefully and contemplating the morning.

Such deep thought in those eyes.

Alan was also able to see a Bald Eagle soaring high in the sky which resulted in my first Bald Eagle photo in flight. We were hoping it would come closer but this eagle had better things to do like find brunch.

We were not disappointed for long though as Alan heard the distinctive call of an Alder Flycatcher (LIFER!). Many of the flycatchers look very much alike so the only way you can tell them apart is from their song. Very confusing and something that is difficult for me to get being so new to birding. Next year though, watch out as I am going to embed these calls into my overwhelmed brain!

Ironically, we did see a shore bird at SP as shown in the photo above. There were a couple of Spotted Sandpipers around the shore which allowed for my fist decent photo of one.

Well that's it for May birding for me. Now I know why so many birders get so excited for the month of May. There is so much to see that there are not enough hours in the day to drink it all in. I tried to do the best I could with many early mornings (getting up at 4AM people!) but was so worth it. June will slow things down of course as many of the migrants are already far north of us and other birds are nesting, but that won't stop me from getting out there again next weekend. Just more of a challenge that's all and I do love a challenge!!!

Take care everyone and have a great week!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Forbush Bird Club-Millbury-May 30th

The Forbush Bird Club had another trip today and this time it was in Millbury and started off at the local bike trail. Alan took us to an area where there was a lot of bird activity including Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts and the always popular Willow Flycatcher where club members spent some time watching the bird perched up on branch tips in its normal fashion. Next it was onto the Blackstone River where some were able to catch glimpses of Wood Ducks who have seem hidden these past few weeks.
Next Alan took us to Sutton in search of the Eastern Meadowlark. The open grasslands makes this a favorite spot for the Meadowlarks as well as a variety of other birds including the Grasshopper Sparrow shown in the photos above and below. LIFER!!! The Grasshopper Sparrow is a special bird as its numbers have been declining due to habitat loss so this made it all the more special. You know you have a good bird when birders with years of birding behind them are left with the same feeling of awe as you have when you see it teed up on a branch for everyone to see. A highlight for many on this sunny Saturday morning.
The Eastern Meadowlark decided to grace us with his presence on our way back to our cars. We were also treated to seeing a Brown Thrasher which is fantastic this time of the year as they are hard to spot due to their lack of singing during late May. These three birds plus the Indigo Buntings made the hour stop in Sutton well worth it!!
Next is was back to Millbury in an area behind Brierly Pond. We were able to get a good look at a Chestnut-sided Warbler as well as a bird I have been trying to get a decent photo of which is the Veery. Not a lifer per say but I have not counted it until now so it's another check on my list which gets me to 138 birds for the year. By the end of the day we had a total of 56 species and some very cool birds to check off our lists.

With it being May and all, Alan and I decided to seize what's left of this fabulous birding month so we went over to Grafton in search of the Savannah Sparrow I had seen there a couple of months back. One of the first birds we saw was this Yellow Warbler shown above.

There were also quite a few Eastern Kingbirds as shown in the photos above and below. The photo above was digiscoped and I like how it come out because his feathers were blowing in the wind.

Check out one of the classic field marks for the Eastern Kingbird which is the white around the end of its tail.

It was late in the afternoon so bird activity had quieted down some so I was able to get my very first fish photo. These fish are called Bluegills.

And last but not least is another exciting photo of a Hawk Stalk. Some of you may remember my strong liking to these types of photos in the dead of winter when bird activity was scarce and I would spend countless hours of my days watching crows stalking hawks. This time there is more color in the mix as you will see if you click on the photo and look at the bird who is above the Red-tailed Hawk. I don't know what it is, but am thinking it may be a Baltimore Oriole. Very cool but not so much so for the poor hawk.

Will be headed up North bright and early tomorrow toward Bolton Flats in search for shore birds and the Orchard Oriole I missed during the last Bolton trip. Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Birds of Prey Friday

After the long week I had, I was looking forward to getting out a little this evening to do a little birding. Nothing too intense as I only had an hour or so, but my mind was made up on getting some shots of a Red-Tailed Hawk. Luckily we were fortunate to find one near Cross Street in Millbury who was perched on a power line and surveying the scene, looking for dinner I'm sure.
Alan got out his spotting scope to allow for digiscope photos like the ones above.

The Red-tailed Hawk sat there patiently scanning the grounds below as Common Grackles harassed him. This didn't seem to bother the hawk any as I am sure it is used to it, but it was very interesting to observe.

Look at the seriousness in that face and the intensity in its eyes.

Many of the birds I saw today seemed to take and intense liking to preening. The rain had stopped and it was time to dry off some I guess!

Of course what would Friday be without some Peregrine Falcon photos. The male falcon wanted to do some preening himself and I was lucky enough that he decided to do it during my lunch hour. Now I am very attached to both of the falcons, but the male is my favorite hands down. The female is the more dominant of the two and it's obvious who wears the pants in that relationship. ;o). The male on the other hand is more of the "yes dear" type who just does what is asked of him and spends the rest of him time goofing off and doing some seriously funny things like the face above. I swear if I didn't know any better I would think he was smiling at me!

Aside from his goofy antics it wasn't just fun for this guy as his responsibility was to scan the sky for potential threats against his young. Despite his laid back attitude, he takes this job very seriously. ;o)

When he is not scratching himself and looking at his feet that is!

It's a tough job, but someones gotta do it!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, if you look to the side nest box you will see one of the baby Peregrine Falcons peeking out and looking at its new world.

Mamma was the hunter today and I watched her pluck a pigeon from the air and take it to the ledge for plucking! Closeup photos were not possible as I only have a 15 zoom but I did the best I could! You can see the feathers in the air though.

Busy at work preparing the meal for her family. A woman's work is never done! ;o)

The kids are calling at this point as their mouths water of the thought of freshly killed pigeon.

Off she goes to deliver the goods.

To her hungry children begging for food.

While Pappa preens and fluffs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Backyard Birds and Chimney Swifts

All of this non-birding is really starting to get to me. Between work and personal stuff there is no time to bird and even if there were, the weather is far too raw for me to want to venture outside for long. The one good thing about it is that it allows me to enjoy some of the backyard birds some. One interesting note is that the Ruby-throated Hummingbird has discovered my feeder and makes a few stops each day for a sugar fix. Of course I still have my regulars including the Tufted Titmouse pictured above.
This is him this morning. I took about 30 shots of this bird trying to get a better look at its eye. I am not sure if its sick or if it looks that way because of the rain we had but boy does this bird look like it had a rough night (notice a trend here???).

Here is a front view. The left eye doesn't look as bad in this shot. Will be keeping my eyes open. My feeders were just cleaned last week but it makes me a little uneasy.

Whatever was bothering it, it sure did have an appetite though. You will notice the branches I have around my feeder. I put them there for places for the birds to perch and it also makes for more natural looking photos then those taken on a feeder.

I had to go pick up my car at the shop after work today and decided to go through the factory in an effort to prove if my theory was correct regarding the local Chimney Swifts in town and where they go to roost each night. I have never bothered to count how many we have because it would be too overwhelming of a task, but lets just say, we have at least 60 based on my rough estimates. Each early evening they appear out of nowhere chattering about and catching insects on there wings. I had noticed in the past that they always seemed to appear near a local factory so I was guessing they were roosting nearby.
Here is the best shot I could get of a Chimney Swift. Lets just say they are active little birds and hardly ever stay still except for nesting and roosting!!

They are very acrobatic as evidenced in the photo above.

I observed the swifts for about 15 minutes. I wanted to see if any of them would enter the chimney. None of them did, but many spent most of their time around the vicinity which leads me to believe that perhaps my theory is correct. My next move will be to get to that location 15 minutes earlier than I did today to see if I can see them all flying out the of the chimney.
For all of you serious bird nerds, here is a video I took. It is approx 1 minute and twenty seconds and shows the swifts fluttering around the chimney. Fascinating stuff I tell ya and beats stamp collecting as a hobby for sure!


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