Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pied-billed Grebe and other birds

I had the day off today so did some birding with Alan with our 1st stop being Brierly where I got lost last week as it appears as if I need a guardian of sorts whenever I go out there alone as I have a tendency to get myself lost in those woods, and plus, Alan knows those woods like the back of his hand, including where the Ruffed Grouse usually reside, so off we went to see if we could get it. As we made our way to the beginning of the path, we would see a small group of Cedar Waxwings on a nearby crab apple tree like the one above.

Alan showed me a section I had never seen before and it was nice and peaceful which is just what I craved, but we never did manage to find a grouse. I swear, I have no luck with that bird it seems so now I really want it of course. Will get it this year I know, but want it now as its personal. ;-)
After that we decided to head to Barre Falls to meet up with Donna, Bart and Dave and do some hawk watching. While we didn't see many migrating raptors we did see many Tree Swallows like the ones above. Donna had told us there were Eastern Bluebirds in these boxes earlier in the day, but not anymore as in the breeding world, it's the survival of the fittest or most brazen and the Tree Swallow will usually trump the bluebird hands down as you can see above.
They would flutter about and mess me up some at first as I had forgotten how falcon like these birds can be high up in the sky at first glance. I didn't complain too much though because it allowed me to practice some of my aerial photography which is one of my favorite ways to capture birds because to me, there is nothing more free symbolically, than a bird in flight.
In between flights, one would land on the box again, just to remind others that it is no longer vacant like the one above who appears to be preening.
And giving me the "hairy eyeball" as I take a couple of steps closer to it for a better photo.
After that it was onto Coachlace to see if we could finally get the Pied-billed Grebe again that Bart had spotted yesterday. While it was still very windy the sun would be in our favor and we were able to spot the bird in less than one minute of getting there! There were also quite a few Greater Scaup in the water as well as a couple of Mallards. Very happy to get the grebe so early in the year.

After that it was onto Wachusett, Gate 37 to see if there were any early arrivals such as Pine Warblers or Eastern Meadlowlarks. We set up shop in a path laden with pine trees and listened for any sign of bird sound when suddenly I glanced up to the sky and saw an accipiter that at first glance, resembled a very large Cooper's Hawk to me. I put my bins on it and although the tail was long, overall the bird appeared very buteo like but could tell right away it wasn't a Red-tailed so naturally a Northern Goshawk next comes to mind. Alan gets on the bird as well and we were able to confirm it as in fact, a Northern Goshawk. I tried to get photos but didn't get anything remotely clear, due to the fact that we were literally in the middle of a path of pine trees so getting pictures was tough because my camera wanted to focus on the pine branches instead of the sky. Plus, I was so transfixed with what I was seeing, I actually forgot about my camera which doesn't happen that often!

Awesome to see though and even more so because I was really able to pick up on the key characteristics (wing shape, width and size of tail, head, etc) of the gos myself from what I had learned from last year. It just goes to show the more you bird, the more you learn and I am starting to get what they say about the "experienced birder" because all of that birding does add up and what seemed impossible to me last fall, is now starting to click and I like it!
After the gos flew by we turned our attention back to the pine trees but I just couldn't help looking back to the sky a few more times because I really wanted a picture of the gos still when suddenly we get more raptors in our very narrow path of view! Out come the bins again and low and behold we have three Bald Eagles flying overhead including with the most prominent being the very handsome adult (most likely the male of the nesting pair due to the fact that the nest is somewhat nearby this gate and we saw the female in the nest incubating her eggs). Check out those long plank like wings and that unmistakable white head and tail.
The other two were juveniles including the one above. Funny in that these eagles were up higher than the adult but they were all headed in the same direction. Very interesting to see. Perhaps the juveniles from last year or the juveniles were migrating and the adult Bald Eagle was keeping his eye on them making sure they were not going to set up shop on his turf? What ever it was, it was awesome to see and really nice to get 4 really good raptors in the period of 7 or so minutes!!
When I got home, I decided to head to St Philips in Grafton real quick because I wanted to see if the Tree Swallows had returned yet so I could record it in eBird so I have in on record for next year. The place was very "birdy" as I drove in and could hear the Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos and Common Grackles. The grackles proceeded to land fairly close to me and they were engrossed in consuming something that resembled a small acorn to me (check out the one in the photo above!). So funny to watch them trying to eat them.
The American Robins were nearby too, but eating something a little different or at least searching for something a little different.
And just a few feet away from this was a Northern Flicker busy at getting in its last meal for the day.
Before it flew off to get away from the others, including me probably. Lousy picture but wanted to include it because I really like the color you can see under its wings and I hadn't really noticed it before.
Finally a Blue Jay would join in on the buffet and proceed to check me out as he munched away.
Over at the wetlands, I would see about 15 Tree Swallows or so and they were busy scanning the waters edge as they chattered amongst themselves flying in their usual hyper manner. The Great-blue Heron would be there too and on their old nest that looks even more pathetic now, than ever. :-(. I sat there and watched the heron on the nest and was very surprised to see it open its bill and regurgitate inside directly into the nest. I have no idea if it was intentional or not, but something I had never seen before so figured I would throw it out there to see if this is common practice or maybe it had some bad shell fish or something. ;-) After a while it decided to take off and fly by which allowed me to get a pretty decent shot of it.
And then finally, no other than my nemesis Belted Kingfisher, Wouldn't you know the little bugger wasn't making a sound!! I only noticed him because I was checking out some Wood Ducks near by and happened to find him by luck!

Another great day for birding. I had forgotten how much fun it could be with the winter doldrums that had set in, so it makes it even more special now. Bring on spring!

Take care all.


forestal said...

Great day birding and some nice bird pics


Chris Petrak said...

I'm getting caught up with blog reading - loved your woodie in the tree & your bird wanderings - still looks early spring in your area, as of course is my neighborhood


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