Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boston Bound

I had to get up bright and early to work in Boston today and was hoping Post Office Square would have a stray migrant or two hanging around and making a fuel stop. I'd be disappointed when all I would see were a couple of common House Sparrows and that would be it. No European Starlings, no Rock Pigeons, heck, not even a lousy Ring-billed Gull!
Who were all over at South Station as that's the place to be in the morning because breakfast time means bagel time and muffin time and quite often that means crumbs or even massive droppage by morning commuters and the gulls are there to serve as the clean up crew. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!
The only highlight would be lunch which is always a highlight of any trip I take to Boston. Let's face it, downtown Worcester has a total of 12 takeout joints near by and all serve the same thing, so 99% of the time I brown bag it. Brown bagging it in Boston would almost seem criminal as it has a takeout joint every two buildings with food choices as diverse as the people who work there. Today would be Indian and I had a really yummy meal with Naan Bread of course because what would Indian take out be without this nifty stuff. If you've never had it before you have to try it. Even if you think Indian food is too spicy for you, this stuff is great and I could have easily eaten three pieces of it so was glad we decided to eat it in the office vs the restaurant itself because I would have done some massive damage!

Take care all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pereginre Falcon Update-Kind of

There are certain things one can always be certain of in downtown Worcester, when it gets above 50 degrees with sunshine, lunch hour is filled with office folks escaping from the office lined up at Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee, the police are out in front of city hall from 1:30 to 3:30 to make sure all of the youngins don't get into fist fights while waiting for their bus, and when it rains out, the male Peregrine Falcon will be on the ledge of the BankNorth building in an attempt to escape the dreary weather as he just doesn't like to get wet.
And today would be no exception so of course I had to take a picture and look at him for a while with my binoculars to make sure he looked okay which he always does, but I still do it anyway as an excuse to gawk at him which I never tire of.

The Misses spends a lot of time over at her nest box and just chills and watches the downtown hustle and bustle now that her parental responsibilities are over with for the season. I do keep my eye out for the juveniles and either they are laying low or their biological clock told them it was time to venture south for more agreeable weather and off they went. I should note that I did see one 10 days ago on the steeple of city hall. I could see a falcon landing on the top and could tell it was one of they young falcons due to how large it was in comparison to the adults so it's obvious if has learned how to hunt well during the summer which made me feel better. Funny though in that while it was flying to the ledge it looked kind of clumsy in flight as its wing beats just didn't seem as fluid compared to the adults so I guess it's still learning that part of raptor life.

Take care all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New blog in addition to this one.

I've been a blogger now for close to two years and have loved every minute of it as it's a perfect way for me to chronicle and follow certain aspects of my life that I deem recordable and things I want to remember and the blog has allowed me to do that. With that said, I've spent those two years blogging about something very important to me which has been birding and that will be something I will continue to blog about as my love for birds will never fade due to the birds and nature being a central part of who I am and will never lose site of that. With that said, trail running has also become a central part of who I am and really wanted to create a journal of some sort to record my workouts, the trails that I have run and other musings related to my trail running adventures and other physical pursuits and hence the blog. I would have felt weird putting these types of posts on my bird blog as I want to keep that only bird related and will continue to update whenever I get out there to do some birding and something memorable happens, but right now in my life, my trail running is taking priority which is just as well with winter looming near. I have some short term goals including my first official trail run which will take place in October in Groton, I am also going to start doing some snow shoe running up North and around the area in hopes I can do one of Bob Dion's 5k races if we are lucky enough for snow as well as continue to increase my pace for my longer term goals which are trail half marathons, Pack Monadnock's race in June, the Wapack Race in October and if all goes well my first trail marathon before the end of next year.

Link to new blog:

For those of you who follow the Curious Birder, fear not as I will still blog like I said, but I needed to start a new blog which will allow me to track some of the day to day stuff I am doing in regards to my new found sport that I love so much. The birds will always continue to enchant me on the trails, in my car and when I am out birding, I just won't be blogging as much as my camera is too bulky to run with. I do make sure I take frequent stops whenever I am running a trail if I see a pocket of birds to see if I can id them, but without a camera for pictures, I feel weird blogging about it, so some of that will lesson for the time being.

Take care

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hawkwatching Barre Falls-Saturday, October 18th 2010

Donna's scope in the spot light again! HA

I decided to spend another day at Barre Falls on Saturday to take advantage of the height of Broad-winged Hawk migration and would arrive there fairly early with a feeling of anticipation based on the weather forecasts I had heard the night before that promised for sunny skies and warmer temps which would mean good thermals for the BW's. When I would get there, the usual Barre Falls gang would be there and we would all search the skies for raptors as well as any signs of the sun, but would soon come to the realization that the clouds were not going to go anywhere and I kicked myself for wearing shorts!
Anyhow, that's not to say we didn't get any raptors, it just took a while to get them that's all. Pictures would be close to impossible due to the lack of sunlight and the clouds which hid the birds from the camera. The picture above is of a Common Nighthawk we saw which was a welcome site indeed. Funny how at a hawkwatch site they look like falcons to me as that's what I want them to be!
We would not have as many people today stopping by to try their hand at hawk watching but we did have a family come including a young boy who seemed to really enjoy hawk watching as well as look for other critters including this very docile Garter Snake above.
Here it is curled up in the boys hand and didn't look at all alarmed by being held captive. The air would be so chilly, the snake probably liked the warmth of the hand. These would be the best pics I would take all day! HA
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Anyhow, back to raptors. With the skies being the way there were, we were expecting to get nothing but a couple of Broad-wings here and there, but we be rewarded more than once with pretty impressive kettles starting to form within binocular and scope view. There would be one in particular that was interesting in that there were two of them (one above and one below) and they would try and gain altitude in the spot and would do an ok job so most likely there were some thermals here and there and the Broad-winged Hawks would find them, but they would last for long so off they would go.
We would also get some Osprey as well as a record number of Northern Harriers which is always nice to see. The picture above is of another Sharpie. I do have to admit that today was the most challenging days of all for me to hawkwatch. Most of the raptors were nothing but silhouettes to me and the cloud cover would make them blink in and out so it would be hard for me to see flight style, wing shape, etc. Even TV's and Raven's would throw me off, but the Broad-wings are starting to get a little easier now that I was able to take time off this week to really see it first hand so I was very happy none the less.

Now it's back to work, but will be getting back up to Barre Falls through October here and there for more hawkwatching and sparrows of course.

With that said, blogging will be sporadic for the next 6 weeks or so as I am training for my first official trail run in Groton late October as well as a potential 1/2 marathon trail run around the same time that a friend recommend I try with him. Not sure if I am going to do that or not but am slowing increasing my millage (up to 10 mile runs on rugged trails now) and can easily get to 13.1 miles by then, but not sure if I want to put in all of those miles consistently due to work and other obligations.

Anyhow, I will be doing some birding here and there and will be spending the weekend in York in a couple of weeks too so will have some pictures. I will also be doing some birding during my trail runs as I run in sparrow habitat but I no longer bring my camera sometimes due to the weight and I am working on speed and the less weight the better of course. ;-)

Take care all

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hawk Watching Barre Falls-Thu. Sept 16th, 2010

Day number two of hawkwatching today and did it at Barre Falls again. While we wouldn't get nearly the amount of Broad-winged Hawks as we did yesterday, the weather was gorgeous and we had great company so while it was a little slow first thing in the morning, it was just fabulous to be out enjoying the warm weather, conversation and anticipation of what was yet to come.
And the first thing that would come would be the accipiters and the smallest of the clan the Sharp-shinned Hawks. We would have one that would be fairly close as it descended from the sky with talons down getting ready to make an attempt at breakfast in a nearby tree. Passerines all started to dash out of various trees in a panic and the sharpie would fly away frustrated as the birds were too quick for it including the very vocal Northern Flicker much to my relief as the bird is always flying around and makes good binocular practice when it gets a little slow so I didn't want him to become a snack. Very cool to see as I have never seen a sharpie raise its talons like that before attempting a kill so it would be something new I would see today.
After a while we would see one lone Cooper's Hawk nearby and to the left of that would be two Sharp-shinned Hawks (above), who were soaring together but would take turns dive bombing one another which was very entertaining to observe. Not sure if they are siblings and just having a little fun or arch enemies, but both left un scathed by the ordeal. Funny how the smallest birds in the raptor family are usually the most daring as it reminded me of the Merlin's yesterday.

Susan joined us today and she would be the one to spot the first kettle of about 10 or so Broad-winged Hawks. They would be seen roughly the same time as yesterday (a little after 10 or so I think), so we were hoping to have a repeat of yesterday but we wouldn't be that fortunate so I am hoping some of the other local hawk watch sites like Mount Watatic and Pack Monadnock got them all instead.
One of the birds all of us have wanted to see were some Osprey due to the fact they have been close to null lately. We have Bill from Mount Wachusett hawk watching with us this week because Mount Wachusett is closed obviously and his super sharp eyes would spot a bird which he wanted to make an Osprey to break our dry spell and sure enough it was! I would run for my camera and hope for at least a couple of decent pictures today and sure enough I would get some as the Osprey soared around before hitting the river and when it came back up it would have lunch (fillet of fish it seems) in its talons which you can see in the photo above.
The Osprey would finally make its way directly above us which allowed for some killer looks as well as a couple of half way decent pictures vs. all of the specs and dots I usually get while hawkwatching.
I am going to inundate you with pictures here but I couldn't make up my mind which ones I wanted to post so I posted them all. :-p
Love this photo as it shows the crooked wings on the Osprey which I always enjoy seeing.
And then this photo that is somewhat redundant but check out whats on the right of it. It actually looks like a bird to me, but not sure. Anyone brave enough to identify exactly what it is?? ;-)
A photo of contrails which was picture worthy to me because we didn't see any lately. Hawk watching brings out a lot of other secondary interests in folks because there are times when bird activity is slow so you look for things like pretty clouds, planes, blimps, Venus (which I saw for the first time yesterday in broad daylight) and contrails to give you something to practice your eyes on while you are waiting for the next wave or raptors to grace you with the presence.

It would be a little while after this that we would get a Northern Harrier which would tease us a glimpse of it just enough to identify but then it would be below the tree line for an afternoon snack. About 40 minutes or so later it would re appear from below and allow us some really good looks but not good enough for a photo.
We wouldn't get the nice closeups of the American Kestrels today but did have one or two that came close enough for a photo.
And then a last picture of a Sharpie which were very frequent today it seems.

Won't be hawk watching tomorrow as it appears the bad weather isn't going to clear until later in the day tomorrow so hoping for better luck on Saturday.

Take care all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hawk Watching Barre Falls-Wed. Sept 15th 2010

Today would be my first day of fall hawkwatching at Barre Falls. I would get there at about 8:30 or so and Bart and Donna would already be there and hoping today would be a good one just as I was, but this being my 2nd year of hawk watching a good day for me is more than 100 while a good day for them would be thousands of course!
Anyhow, I am doing things in no particular order here as I first wanted to show all of you the pictures of the kettles I was able to get and against blue skies no less which was something I didn't even think I would be able to get w/ my lousy camera so was thrilled when I did!
It wouldn't take us long (and there were many of us in the morning) to spot some Broad-winged Hawks and what would be interesting is we would see the BW's come in one by one at first and sometimes two but things would change in the mid morning as we finally could see some kettles of up to 30-to over 100 The kettle would usually be spotted when someone would spot a group of 4 of so of the BW's gaining altitude and making the circles they usually do, which would very often lead us to the kettle much to our delight.
What was great about this whole experience is that many of the kettles could be seen with just the naked eye and that is why I was able to get some photos of the experience. Yes I realize they look like tiny specs in the sky, but that is how you usually see hawks in migration which is why a lot of birders don't care to hawk watch as you have to work hard for your reward and once you get it, you have to use other clues for identification besides field marks such as wing position, flight behavior, overall shape, etc. This is what makes it so fun for the hawk watchers as it takes intense concentration and skill that is learned over the years and one I am still very new at. With that said, it's amazing how one year behind your belt can do for you as I was able to identify non raptors immediately out of the mix such as gulls, TVs (yes they are raptors, but most this time of the year are not migrating quite yet) and the local ravens that nest at Barre Falls. I was also able to distinguish accipiters vs. buteos rather easily even fairly high up in the air which was another thing I struggled with last year.
Of all of the kettle shots, I like this one best. Here they are in a kettle that is just starting to break and starting to peel. I like the picture because it's almost forming an s of some sort. Seeing these kettles is always such a fantastic experience. Now I am always amazed by nature and birds in particular but there are some things that just leave you with no words and you stare in wonder at probably one of the coolest things about fall migration which is seeing first hand hundreds of BW's take to the sky in their journey south to escape the brutal cold that will soon be headed our way just as generation to generation before them did. In a society where many are dictated by man made things like technology, cars and time schedules we sometimes forget that the most efficient and advanced creations are not made my man, but nature and no man could ever come close to replicating . Total Broad-winged Hawk count for the day would be 1,270 which isn't too shabby at all!
Finally other highlights of the day, including a few Broad-winged Hawks we had earlier in the morning that would be fairly low.
We would also have a couple of pairs of them here and there.
One of quite a few American Kestrels we would see who would not do us the honors of landing on the nest box for a decent look at it. Another bonus earlier in the day would be seeing a group of 4 Merlins taking turns dive bombing a Red-tailed Hawk. Seriously, the poor Red-tailed's never seem to get a break as it was just flying along minding its own business until the feisty Merlins decided to have a little fun in the midst of migration. I had heard and read about Merlin's doing this but had never seen it first hand and it would be another highlight of the day for me because it was not only interesting to see, but a FOY Merlin for me which is always nice.
Fran decided to come by and make a visit and as we were chit chatting, we would see this handsome adult Bald Eagle come by and be close enough for a photo.
A picture of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. We would also get one lone Cooper's Hawk today (could be more but I only saw one). Another interesting note would be no Osprey's at all today while I was there which is odd because Bart says whenever you get the BW's you usually get the Ospreys but not today it seems.
Another highlight would be seeing two female Purple Finches in a tree and one would stick around long enough for me to get this cool shot above just as it was getting ready for take off!

I'll be doing more hawk watching tomorrow so cross your fingers that tomorrow will be a big day for all of us!

Take care all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What else but birding Sterling Peat & Trail Running of course

What else but Sterling Peat yet again of course. I feel as if my entire blog bird wise has been nothing but SP lately, but I'm not complaining much as its super convenient and always guarantees a life bird for me lately and today would be no exception as I went to go see the Little Blue Heron that Mike P discovered and Alan was kind enough to send out an email to let everyone know.
I would get there and Mike P would already be on the bird with his fancy camera and I am sure he got some great shots as the Little Blue would be fairly close but decide to fly to the other side with the Great Egrets so off we went to follow. Love the shot above as it looks as if the Egret is telling the heron to stand back or something like that.
And now its time for the immature Little Blue to spread its wings. Such a treat to see it compared to the Great Egrets for a size comparison.
The birds version of monkey in the middle!
And now for a little Where's Waldo!
Eventually Tom P and Richard J would show up and Tom's super sharp eyes would spot a White-rumped Sandpiper in the midst of shorebirds so I was very happy to not only get the Little Blue this morning, but a FOY White-rumped Sandpiper too.
Another photo as I just couldn't help myself. Great bird to get and I remember this being one of the birds I had on my "I just have to see" list when I first started birding, so once again Sterling Peat is a great way to start my week.
Yesterday would be my day for a long trail run. My goal was 10-11 miles, but my ITB band protested loudly after 9 miles which was frustrating as I have been nursing injuries all week and thought they had finally subsided. Anyhow, I decided to try a trail that would be easy with no hills, summits or rocks and figured the Wachusett Rail Trail would be perfect. I would get there early and there would only be a couple of runners and hikers so I got into my groove rather easily and it felt fantastic after not really being able to run much this past week. I had never seen the Quinapoxet River before and was very impressed with the clarity of the water (obviously it has to be that way as it's a drinking source for many), but still wasn't prepared for it as I am used to the Blackstone River around here and as many of you know that is just filthy.
Anyhow, the once serene rail trail would become over crowded with TONS of people and the solitude I craved somehow disappeared as I had to try and run around walkers, moms with baby strollers and people out waking their dogs who of course have to stop smack in the middle of the trail so their dog can smell the other dogs while the people talk about their dogs and it was pure hell. I finally decided to just run toward a single narrow trail I found and was happy I did as this tiny trail goes all around the river and no one was on it so I was happy for a short period of time.
There would be pockets of birds all around and I could hear one in particular that made me stop dead in my tracks for some serious pishing while I had my camera out. I had no bins but my camera was in focus and suddenly I could see this little cutie peeking out at me and my heart did its usual "pitter patter, pitter patter" whenever I am lucky enough to see a Northern Parula looking at me. I don't know what it is about this particular warbler, but they have I think one of the most thoughtful gazes of any of the warblers I see. My heart turns to jello whenever I see one and today would be no exception. Thee would also be a bunch of Black-capped Chickadees, a couple Tufted Titmice, a lone Red-eyed Vireo and what I believe to be a Nashville Warbler but couldn't confirm it as I didn't have my bins and it was too quick for a photo.

Will be doing some hawkwatching later this week as I have Wednesday to next Sunday off an can't wait.

Take care all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sterling Peat-the Gift that Keeps on Giving!-& Other Ramblings

I would get an email alert from Alan late yesterday afternoon letting people know that Sterling Peat had yet again another flock of really good shorebirds fly in on Saturday night and many birders were lucky enough to see a flock of 5 Stilt Sandpipers on Sunday that were not the least bit shy.
I of course was gone all day and was at my first trail running race which was the Wapack Trail race.

This race is"an out-and-back that follows the Wapack Trail between New Ipswich, NH and Ashburnham, MA. There are four major mountains in between: Barrett, New Ipswich, Pratt, and Watatic, from north to south. Total climb is said to be about 3,700 feet" and is approx 18 miles.

Now don't worry all, I didn't run the race YET, but this is my goal race for next year as well as Pack Monadnock so I decided to head to this one just to get a feel for the race and what the course was like on the other half of the Wapack I had yet to run.

There were quite a few runners, brave enough to run the race and let me tell you, the Wapack is very tough to run. When I had done Watatic to Pratt and back, I couldn't believe how beat up I felt after I was done. In fact, I had a hard time getting out of my car when I got home from my adventure and I would find out yesterday that the climb from Binney Pond to the Pratt summit was the steepest part of the race and even worse if you run it (which I tried a couple of weeks ago). I remember beating myself up over the tight legs as surely it wasn't that hard, but hearing this did make me feel a little better. It was great seeing them all come back and finishing the course. Many are in such good shape they didn't look at all tired after such a grueling endeavor, and quite a few would come back with battle wounds (like the picture above) as its rather common to take a couple of spills here and there and scrapes and bruises are treated like trophies to show just how tough you are. Seeing all of this with my own two eyes makes me look forward to it even more next year as there was no way I could run 18 miles of mountains right now and am happy with my meesly 8-9 I am getting in and that's with some hiking here and there.
Anyhow, I would be disappointed that I got home too late (and was far too tired) to head out to Sterling Peat to try for the Stilt Sandpipers but woke up fairly early this morning with my sole attempt to get out to SP before errands. I would be sipping my morning coffee when suddenly I could hear sirens far away and there would be quite a few of them. Moments later they would all be stopped in front of my house so of course I look out my window and there is smoke everywhere. There would be a fire at one of the factories across from me and streets would be blocked off as fire fighters went to battle the blaze. This of course would knock me off course for a while until the fire was out so despite the delay, I was confident the sandpipers would still be around!
Least Sandpipers from early this morning but not Stilt Sandpipers of course!

I would get there and see Bruce and ask him if he'd seen them and he would tell me that they were there earlier but a Merlin had come in and spooked them away. Doh! We would hang around for a while in hopes of a return, but that would never come so off I went to do my dreaded grocery shopping and then the gym. Get to the gym just as everyone is leaving mass exodus and realize it closed at noon so I would be s*it out of luck again. Hmmmmmm....Not my day I see, I think to myself. Oh well, I needed a rest day anyhow I think and head home contemplating a nap but decide to check email and once again Alan sends out another email to folks saying that the Stilt Sandpipers AND the Merlin were re spotted at 11:00AM. Grrrrrrrrr.... Of course I get back in my car and head to Sterling while praying they decided to stick around, but with the way my day was going, I wasn't holding out much hope.
But sure enough there would be quite a few birders (including Gary, Anne and Bruce) on a small flock of birds and there before our eyes were the 5 Stilt Sandpipers who were not at all shy by our presence.

The Great Egrets would be there as well and astonishingly enough there are 8 of them. I am guessing a new record for Sterling Peat which is pretty cool as I have only seen those kind of numbers at Plum Island, but heck, who needs Plum Island now where there is good ole Sterling Peat (a Snowy Egret would be an added bonus of course)
Anyhow, back to the stars of the day which would be the Stilt Sandpipers.
The were very interesting to observe as they generally stuck to themselves and when one would flee, all would follow which was interesting. The other highlight would be two Buff-breasted Sandpipers today which was nice as one can never tire of looking at those. No Merlin though which would have been nice as I still don't have one this year, but hoping I can pick one up hawkwatching next week.
Great birds to get today and another lifer. Sterling Peat has been very kind to me this year as far as lifers are concerned and is definitely the gift that keeps on giving as every week there are more goodies. I can see 2010 being the year we birders all reminisce about when we are out birding and things are slow so we swap bird stories to keep our sanity while scanning the grounds. We will remember the water levels, the Great Egrets and of course some very special shorebirds who decided to give us a break this year.

Take care all.


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