Sunday, August 30, 2009

Forbush Bird Club-Plum Island

The Forbush Bird Club went on their annual trip to Plum Island today and despite the cloudy and rather cold start to the day the sun did manage to come out which made for a very nice day with quite a few awesome birds.
Including this adorable and extremely hyper bird which is a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
The bird was not at all shy and was all by itself in some marsh grass having a little breakfast as over a dozen or so birders gawked at it. While it was not a coy bird it was indeed an active bird so getting a clear look at it was rather difficult at times due to its constant moving and the tall grass it appeared to like to forage in.
According to my Peterson guide this Sandpiper is a "tame, buffy bird with erect stance, small head, short bill and yellowish legs" and we did indeed get to experience all of that while we were observing it.
Deciding to pose for the camera without the grass in the way!
And my favorite shot that I was lucky enough to get. The white underwings of this bird is one of its more distinct field marks so I so happy I was able to get a record shot of it! Great bird and a life bird for me to boot.
Lookie here folks, my favorite bird of all the Peregrine Falcon! This one is a juvenile and was one of at least two that were seen there. I was wondering for one brief moment if it could have been one of the young from Worcester as I don't see them anymore but the three juvenile Peregrine Falcons from Worcester are all banded with Y-50's and this one was banded with a 77.
So nice to see a Peregrine Falcon perched on a tree instead of a building which is how I am so used to seeing them. In fact, when I first saw the bird I didn't think Peregrine Falcon at all as have never seen them outside of a city so it just didn't click that yes they do indeed venture out in the wild just as they should! ;-)
Scores of birders were able to get a good look at the Peregrine as it flew from the tree and toward the water to try and find a meal.
It would do a circle around the water only to return to the same snag.
It was never successful in getting brunch but it got an A+ for trying!
Shocking though considering there were thousands of Tree Swallows at Plum Island today so it wasn't like birds were scarce!
We were able to get really close to a family of Whimbrel's too, who were so consumed in eating that they didn't seem to mind us getting rather close to them.
In fact, I'm not even sure if they noticed us as birders set up their scopes and talked amongst themselves. I absolutely love the markings on its back and wings as well as the striped crown. Awesome bird to see again after South Beach as I didn't think I would be lucky to see another this year.
Lousy shot of a Gadwall but wanted to post it for a couple of reasons. One, because the picture was able to pick up the white speculum nicely (something Fran was telling us to look for as a distinct field mark) and two, I wanted you to see the Tree Swallows as there were many pictures I took today where they just magically appeared in the picture. There were literally thousands of these birds at Plum Island today so it was hard not to get them in pictures because they were everywhere.
My obligatory picture of a Semipalmated Plover that I always get a picture of whenever I am near shorebirds.

A couple of shots of a Great Egret. There were quite a few of them at Plum Island and they were mixed in with some Snowy Egrets as well.
One of three Greater Yellowlegs we saw near Hellcat.
Check it out all, more Tree Swallows! Seriously, I wonder what the other birds thought of all this activity as they would come in real close to the other birds and they were non-stop. Does it phase the other birds at all or do they get used to it after a couple of hours. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmm..............................
Another Greater Yellowlegs shot that I liked
Lastly, since I began this post with a picture of Tree Swallows, I thought I would end it that way too as we too saw them the moment we arrived and they were the last bird we saw when we left!!! Special thanks for John Shea for an awesome trip!!

Take care all!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wachusett Meadows-Sunday

I spent about an hour at Wachusett Meadows Sunday morning arrving early enough to be the only person there so was treated to wonderful solitude. The sun was bright and the meadows were alive with life which made it the perfect way to end my week long vacation from work.

I can get lost here, and often do because all you have to do is look around and any stress you have disappears as you watch the birds, the butterfly's and search for the Northern Goshawk who remains hidden. The Milk Weed has long since faded, replaced by Goldenrod and Queen Anne's Lace which contrasted beautifully together to make for some really nice pictures. This is my favorite Audubon sanctuary in Central Massachusetts and I try and get there at least once a month even if I know I am not going to get any new birds.

A path from the beginning of the sanctuary that stretches out to the wetlands. Butterfly's are often here as well as dragonfly's of all sorts.

A shot of the wetlands. I didn't see much today except for Common Grackles, House Wrens, Eastern Kingbirds, Song Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats and 3 Great-blue Herons who flew away as I approached them. One thing I found interesting is that I didn't see or hear any Red-winged Blackbirds while I was there.

Another shot of the wetlands. They are so vast that it can be overwhelming at times. There is an old Heron Rookery located in these wetlands, but I don't think it was used this year.

Common Yellowthroat spotted in brush behaving in its normal fashion. There were also a couple of House Wrens in some thick brush to the left of the yellowthroat but it didn't want any part of me as it scolded its outrage at my intrusion and pishing.

One of my favorites, the common Song Sparrow.
Eastern Phoebe. It took me a few minutes to ID this bird as it was far away. One thing I've noticed lately is that I need to practice on ID'ing birds more. I realize I spent the vast part of the summer identifying birds by ear and got really good at it as I can pick up a song or call and imprint it in my mind much better than I can a field mark even if they are distinct. I still don't have any confidence in ID'ing birds by sight so chose to work more on by sound so it is making birding a little more challenging for me. I guess that's something I can work on now that birding is quieting down a little and birds are thinking about their journey south. I will be doing this with a new pair of binoculars I just bought online. For the past year I have not used bins much as I am not comfortable with them but I am starting to realize that I will need them this late summer and fall for Hawk Watching, Nighthawking, etc. so finally bit the bullet if you will.

And while on the subject of bins, many people have asked me how the heck I could have birded for the past year without them and believe it or not, it wasn't that hard! In fact, I am glad I didn't have them for my first 9 months of birding because it taught me to use my ears more and also peripheral vision because I don't have bins in front of me all the time which has helped me considerably in my birding. Now onto the next level though!

A Monarch Butterfly. If you look closely, you can see that the left wing looks a little different than the right wing and I thought perhaps something was wrong with it. I decided to brush it away a little to see if it could fly and it did manage to flutter away but not like most butterfly's I have seen. Maybe one of you more experienced butterflyers can figure this out as butterfly's are not my fortay!

Upside down Queene Anne's Lace
Tent caterpillar's nest (?)

Take care all! Forbush is supposed to go to Plum Island on Sunday which should be interesting to see what is there with this tropical storm headed our way this weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Falcons and Shorebirds and Nighthawks Oh My!

Today was a day for falcons which started off in the early afternoon with me paying my regular visit to Mr Peregrine over at the Commerce Building ledge.
I wasn't sure if he would remember me after my week long absence so tread lightly over to our favorite hang out place as he gave me the familiar eye I should be used to which is "oh no, not you again". Satisfied I was not forgotten I decided to watch him for a while and get some pictures. Check out those talons, I could look at those all day I am telling you!

And of course the eyes! There is something about the eyes of a falcon that makes me unable to turn away. Such thought and calculation in those eyes. Love the shot above as it really shows the detail of all of that gorgeous plumage he has.

I went to St Philips today after work after getting an email from Alan this afternoon giving me a summary of his bird finds of the day. You know sometimes it’s hard to have a birding buddy who is retired and can bird during the week while you are stuck in your office watching the clock tick to day end. I got one of those emails today and paused for a moment before opening wondering what fortune he had while I was droning over spreadsheets.

I finally get up enough will to open the email and there it is in front of my own jealous eyes, a Merlin!!!! And pictures no less as he has taken an interest in digiscoping. SOB, I wail while stuck in my office realizing the only interesting thing I have seen today (besides MrPeregrine) was a Rock Pigeon defecatng on a ledge over at White Hen Pantry! I was hoping the Merln would still be there after work and sure enough it was as you can see in the pictures below!

Alan went there as well with his scope which allowed me to get better pictures!

Love the detail on its tail and never really noticed it before.

The Merlin took turns perching on a dead snag that is a frequent spot for the Pileated Woodpeckers and then flying over to the snag that houses the herons nest. Surprisingly enough, there were not as many birds seen at St Philips today as there usually is. ;o)

This was a definite highlight of my week as I had not seen one of these fantastic birds since Tom's Quabbin Forbush Trip this past May so it was a real treat and am happy Alan decided to make a stop there this afternoon!
Next it was onto Brierly Pond to go check out the Spotted, Solitary and Least Sandpipers Alan saw there this morning.
One of the first things I saw was this Canada Goose x Graylag Goose that I blogged about earlier this summer.
As you can see, it is starting to show more characteristics of the Graylag now that it's gotten older. Particularly in its bill and legs.

There were a lot more species of shorebirds than what I saw the night before including some Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers.

It was funny watching this Solitary Sandpiper trying to maneuver its way through the mud as its feet kept getting stuck in the sludge.

The last part of the day was heading back to the mall in Millbury for Nighthawk watching.

At one point there were four of us which were Alan, Fran, a friend of Alan's and myself and our count for the night was a pathetic 17! The most interesting thing we saw was a gull flying around and hawking for insects with a nighthawk. Besides the low number we still had a really good time.
Since I had so much free time waiting for nighthawks, decided to take some pictures of wildflowers I saw while there including this Bird's Foot Trefoil.
Don't know what this is, but I thought it would make an interesting photo.

And lastly, Clover. Take care everyone!


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