Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birding Leesville Pond-Tuesday

I did a little early morning birding this past Tuesday in hopes of getting the reported American Wigeon's as well as the lone female Northern Pintail. I've been having some major insomnia lately and find that I'm waking up every hour or so and briefly listening for the Eastern Screech-Owl (no luck), and then tossing and turning trying to get back to sleep. I'd wake up again at 4:00AM and toss and turn until 4:45 when I got up and decided to hit Leesville Pond in Worcester since I was was wide awake anyways.

I'd get there at about 6:10 or so and realize it was still very dark and I'd question my sanity somewhat because who in their right minds go to cemeteries in the dark of night, but knew dawn would break soon so I just waited and listened.

I couldn't see much at that time, but could hear the Mallards in their roosting spot hollering away as well as some Wood Ducks who were coming from a different area. Since picture taking was useless, I decided to get some video. Yes, I'm all over the place but I was trying to see if my camera could pick up any of the birds but it was still too dark out.
Anyway, it would soon be light enough to see what I was doing, but not light enough for decent pictures but decided to take them anyways. It wouldn't take me long to find the American Wigeon's who preferred to be by themselves and away from the other ducks, but at one point they seemed to tolerate a couple of Green-winged Teal who were nearby.
It would take me a while to find the Northern Pintail but once I did I was able to get a really good look at her as she hung out with the Mallards. Yes, the picture is lousy, but I was glad I could take one considering how challenging it's been lately. She is to the right and behind the drake Mallard. Despite the poor picture quality, you can still see her dark gray bill, distinctive long, slender neck (especially compared to the Mallards), and the shape of her tail and how it almost curves upwards and the lighter edges at the tip of it which appear to have gotten magnified somewhat by my full zoom camera settings.

Both the Wigeon's, Pintail and Green-winged Teal were all in the same general area and I was able to find a great spot with a full view with a fence to provide a bird blind of sorts so I spent a while here before going to check for sparrows. It would be really funny to watch her hanging out with the Mallards and seeing them accept her as one of the gang. I do wonder why she's by herself though and not with her own kind.

After that I checked on the Sparrows and there would be a ton of them, including quite a few Song Sparrows and quite a few Savannah Sparrows. The Savannah Sparrows all appeared to be juveniles as they couldn't get the song right, which was fun to watch. I'd also get my FOS White-throated Sparrow who would allow me a quick glance before it flew deeper into the brush pile.

The perfect cure for a bad case of insomnia, but won't be able to do much pre work birding considering how late the suns starting to rise now.
I went to Broad Meadow Brook this past Sunday to get some fresh air and see what was around. I'd see a few birds including a very cooperative Common Yellowthroat, some Blackpolls and all of the other regulars and a really good look at an Eastern Phoebe, who was cooperative enough for a half decent picture.

I'd see some commotion coming from some brush and decide to pish out whoever it was. The bird was easily pishable and flew so close to me I could hear it's wing beats.
And this is who would be staring at me. This very curious juvenile Song Sparrow.
The handsome little guy would even be kind enough to pose for me which was a welcome change. I'd realize he was a juve as soon as he started to break out into song as he couldn't get neither his song A nor song B correct as you will see in the video below. Funny at the end to hear him rambling on like he did.

Take care all

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Birding Sutton, Westborough & Grafton

I did some local birding Saturday morning and decided to hit Purgatory Chasm first as I still have yet to get the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I'd be driving through Millbury and make a quick stop to take a look at the Turkey Vultures on top of a house. I don't know why they prefer this house to the others, but I've seen them here on occasion since I started birding. The house was vacant the past two years and now occupied so I was curious if they would perch here considering they may have to interact with people and it appears as if they have no problem with it. I am curious to know what the new occupants think of their guests though.

After that it was off to Purgatory. The place was would be quiet and of course, no nuthatch so decided to make the best of it and just explore. I had forgotten how technical some of the trails can be at Purgatory until I came across this one. It actually felt good to just hike them instead of run them which is saying a lot considering the trail above were the trails I loved to run the most. The hiking allowed me to take my time and just enjoy everything. I came across a few pockets of birds, including one I believed was a vireo doing a scolding call. I stopped and thought it sounded like a Blue-headed, but gave up after some failed pishing because it was coming from a location where I'd see a large wasps nest hanging from a tree and I didn't want any part of that.

The most interesting thing at Purgatory were the Pine Warblers in various locations and still calling from tree tops. I'd hear the call at the entrance of Purgatory and get a visual ID to make sure I had the song right and sure enough, it was the Pine. I went about 2 miles into the woods and would hear 3 other Pine Warblers doing the same. With all of that calling, I'm wondering if these are the regular breeders vs. migrants, but would think the locals would have started migration already.
The leisurely pace I was taking allowed me to spot things I may not have including these really cool shrooms like the ones above.
Very cool and was happy to use my camera to do some micro photography. How I've missed my camera!
The next stop would be the Assabet Conservation area in Westborough. My hunch told me to work my way backwards this time and start off at the end of the main trail and work my way back. I'd be happy I trusted my gut because there would be a few birds here being lead of course by the Black-capped Chickadee. The first bird I'd see was a Yellow-throated vireo, so out came the camera for a record shot. The problem would be that other birds would start flying in and out and confusing the hell out of me as I would be curious what the new bird was so out would come the bins for confirmation so I spent a lot of time wresting with both my bins and my camera and deciding which I preferred to bird with, especially with all of this rapid activity when you only had a few seconds to get a look at the bird. The pocket continued to grow as other birds flew in and I tried to keep up with them all.

Including this Black and White in the photo above. Seriously, I don't know why I had classified the Pine and Black-and-white Warbler as low probability because it seems as if I get them everywhere I go. In fact, I'm getting a lot of warblers everywhere I go, but it's a lot more challenging to ID them this time of the year as they look different and are not singing and I bird better by ear than I do eye, hence the low probability as I've never actively looked for warblers in the fall before as it still makes me uncomfortable.

Next it would be a quick stop to St Philips to find a Black Duck and guess what?? I did!! Finally!! There were two of them and they were very well behaved which allowed for a nice binocular view. I started scanning in the same location of the Black Ducks when I could sense some movement a little closer to me.

I get my bins on it and this is what I see. Hmmmmmmmm. Can it be.........Yes, I see the green on its wings and yes its a tiny duck, but something doesn't seem right.
And this is what didn't seem right. The little duck stood still and didn't seem at all bothered I was close to it which made me second guess my ID because my experience with Green-winged Teal have always been the following.

Scenario One: Alan and I at Bolton Flats for our first of the year Green-winged Teal and hopefully others. We make our way slowly down the path and give each other a knowing look when we get to a certain location and the look means to be extra, extra quiet as one wrong move will result in panic and bad birding at Bolton Flats. Every move is cautious and I wince when I hear a leaf crunch under my feet in fear I've blown it. Finally we get to said location as we quietly get the scopes settled and hold our breath hoping we weren't too loud. Everything goes as planned as we breath a sigh of relief that our cover wasn't blown. The scanning starts when Alan tells me he has a Green-winged Teal. Where? I whisper. To the left of the 3 Mallards and 2 Canada Geese Alan responds. I finally make my way to it and then it happens..........HONK!! A Canada Goose getting all riled up about something and we tense up hoping it doesn't cause a chain reaction but it does. Suddenly dozens of geese are honking which causes dozens of Mallards to quack which causes every duck and goose to take flight in a panicked chain reaction. #*@*&#@ Canada Geese Alan says as I nod in agreement.

Scenario Two: Spring time Bolton Flats Forbush Field trip-Enthusiastic Forbush members make their way down the path with their knee boots and mittens as it's still really cold out. We all get to the certain location and give each other the look which means to be very quiet because one wrong move could create a panic which would mean bad birding at Bolton Flats. As we inch a little closer, we hear it-the sound of dozens of heavy wing beats coming together to create the sound we dreaded most-the sound of them leaving. Suddenly binoculars take to the sky in a desperate attempt to identify some of them as they flee in various directions. Suddenly John shouts "I have 12 Green-winged Teal headed to the left". Flustered members try and get a look at them before they're gone and I always manage to not be able to pick them up until the very end and all I ever see are their tail feathers which is their own way of giving me the bird.

And last but not least, and most preferable scenario which is scenario three.

Scopes set up at Bolton Flats and all waterfowl are relatively calm. Alan spots a Green-winged Teal and we take a look at it, but not a leisurely look because scenario one could happen at any time, so it's best to continue to scan in hopes for a Blue-winged Teal or something better. The poor Green-winged Teal gets forgotten once an ID has been made for something better to add to the annual bird list like a Northern Shoveler for example.
But alas, it was a Green-winged Teal and there would be three others too. I just love the picture above because it gives you a good idea of the size difference between them and the Mallards. I have found that I really love this little duck and is actually dare I say cute! That's saying a lot as I've never considered any duck cute before (except for the Ruddy and Bufflehead of course but that's just a given). I would watch the ducks for a while and enjoyed it tremendously as it was a nice break from passerine birding which has turned into a pain in the neck (literally).

Oh, and the highlight of my Saturday would be Saturday night as I was in front of my computer. I had the windows open because it was warm, when suddenly my ears picked up on something and that something would be an Eastern Screech-owl. It would take a second for my brain to register what I was hearing but once it did I rose from my chair like a bullet grabbing the batteries for my camera for some video. Sure enough the owl stopped calling and I couldn't get it back, despite the Droid. I'll be on the lookout for it because it was seriously one of the coolest sounds I think I've ever heard. Funny that I would get a life bird in front of my computer considering all the time I've tried to chase this bird in particular.
Take care all

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Things are not always what they seem

Things are not always what they seem, and was reminded of that this morning while checking my Facebook messages and get one asking if I’d considered the sparrow I saw yesterday as a Savannah, vs. the Song which I wished were the Lincoln’s. I’d check my blog to study the pictures and decide to study it even further on the train into Boston as I was running late to begin with and needed to get to St Philips for a quick scan of what landed during the night as it’s on the way to the station anyway and really want that Black Duck or better yet a Great Egret, but who’s counting!

I’d get on the train grateful it was bare as I pulled out my Droid, my Sibley’s and the Sparrow’s of the United States and Canada field guides to get to work! I’d start with the Sibley’s and compare the field guide to the pics and then go to my sparrow field guide and have my “aha” moment I was waiting for (page 190-comparing it to the Song Sparrow) “Savannah Sparrow’s often has a central breast spot, but has THINNER, SHARPER STRIPING and a slimmer, PALER bill. It USUALLY has yellow in the supercilium and OBVIOUS PINK LEGS.” Duh, the pink legs, why I didn’t think of that!!

I’ll tell you why …It’s because I’ve become so focused on the field marks I’m comfortable with and if it doesn’t fit the bill (pun intended), I immediately discount it and move onto the next one. For me it’s always been the yellow supercilium, followed by the notched tail and since I didn’t see those, I disregarded it despite briefly considering the Savannah last evening when I saw the photos for the first time on my larger computer screen.

So let’s look at the photo one more time shall we?

-Central Breast Spot-check. I had seen it w/ my bins.

-Thinner, sharper striping-DING, DING, DING, we have a winner! This was the first thing I noticed about the sparrow when I first saw it, and what made me whip out my camera, as I’d never seen a Song Sparrow before with such pretty streaking.

-Slimmer, paler bill compared to the Song Sparrow- semi check-I’m not experienced enough to get a good feel on bill size between the two, but I did think it looked rather pale last night when I first saw it.

-Yellow supercilium-Not! This would be the most eye opening for me hence the all caps for USUALLY which means not always. It made me scratch my head some and rethink the way I’ve been studying birds.

-Obvious Pink Legs-Check!! What would be funny is that I’d notice this when I first looked at my photos last night, but figured it was due to how the sun was hitting the bird so didn’t consider it a valid field mark until this morning when I looked at it again.

So there you have it folks. The bird that I saw that I hoped was a Lincoln’s Sparrow, but then turned into a Song Sparrow now turns out to be Savannah Sparrow and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as I need that bird for the list I’m keeping even though I’m not keeping a list or chasing birds at the moment. Ironic considering I spent over two hours bushwhacking in Grafton for the Savannah, only to get it without even realizing it until I got that FB email which caused me to look at the bird in a whole different way and focus on other things besides what I’m comfortable with as that can sometimes be mislieading. Thanks as always Kevin!

I should note, If this had happened a year or so ago, I'd have been mortified with my oversight as I’m a blogger and a birder, so mistakes are out of the question as perfection must be the rule. This pressure was starting to take some of the fun out of birding for me because instead of just enjoying birds for simply being birds, I felt as if I needed to immediately ID the bird in question and if I got it wrong, I was a failure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at lousy pictures of a bird in question and decide to put it in the recycle bin vs. putting it out on my blog and asking for advise on what it could be because to do so, would make me a lousy birder and the small reputation I have built as a birder would be ruined forever. I sometimes think we birders can be our own worst enemies when it comes to birding and gets worse the further we get into our hobby as we expect more from ourselves. Whatever happened to birding solely for the love of birding instead of getting out there and racking up a large list with 100% positive bird identification and hopefully a lifer or two? Isn't birding more about learning than it is perfecting?

I had that when I first started birding because I was so “green”, nothing was expected of me as the “Kitchen Window Birder” and was satisfied as the birds in my yard made for good company and easily accessible for viewing and study. There was no pressure, no formal lists, or inner voice always causing endless doubt. I’d try that approach again this spring and summer and while it worked for a while, I now realize that woman has changed. How can she not after being exposed to spring warblers, summer shorebirds and autumn migrating hawks and waterfowl. But then the Curious Birder has changed too and has decided to give herself a break which means getting out there and just birding and yes, even chasing, but realizing that it's okay to make mistakes and with every mistake, comes the opportunity to learn from it which in the end makes you a better birder which is all one can really strive for in the end.

Take care all

ETA: I was looking at my "You may like" feed and came across this post and LOL'd really loud. This is the Kitchen Window Birder in full action who took a photo of deer dung to ask for ID and had no issue with it what so ever. Who says I haven't come a long way as now I know what deer shit looks like. Ah, to be that new again, sigh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Week Day Birding-All About Balance

I did a little local birding before and after work this week despite it being another vow I made earlier this year not to do as that would be considered “chasing”, but figured I’d already broken that vow so what’s another? Plus, I’ll admit, I still haven’t gotten the Black Duck nor Brown Creeper which has been gnawing at me since Sunday. Why this bothers me I don’t know with neither being migrants but it just goes with my obsessive/compulsive personality when it comes to certain things including birds I guess. Because of this, I spent Monday (before and after work) looking for the duck, Tuesday (before and after work), looking for the creeper and this morning looking for the creeper while trying to relocate the Red-shouldered Hawk (will get to that later).

Monday would be the Millbury bike path for the duck and of course, no ducks, not even a lousy Mallard. I'd get a Double-crested Cormorant though (FOY!! Woo Hoo). Besides that, not much else except for one of the three Great-blue Herons. One was so close, that I decided to get out my camera, despite lousy weather conditions as you can see in the picture. I had to LOL when I saw it as it looks like an angel or something. Kicking myself for not getting better focus on the bird as that would have been a cool shot!

After work would be Brierly Pond for the Great Egret Mike had posted on Rick’s site. That would be a strike out so decided to hit St Philips for a Black Duck and once again a “no go”. I did manage this crappy shot of a Wood Duck though.

Tuesday morning would be a quick look at the bike path for the duck and the cemetery for the creeper (‘no go”) and then I’d head out after work for the Brown Creeper at Martha Deering. It would be disappointingly quiet when I arrived, but soon found a small pocket of birds and would get my bins on one I thought had the potential to be a Blue-headed Vireo only to have it disappear. I'd also have about 10 mosquitoes on me and I’d regret not bringing bug spray because there was no way I was going to be able to bird without it. Panic swept through as I looked at the time realizing this would cut into time to bird (and find that creeper) so instead of going home, I hit CVS which is closer. I think I took the corner into CVS on two wheels as time was of the essence. I ran in there and shouted out “where’s the bug spray”. The clerk looks at me a tad startled and tells me the end cap of aisle 7 so off I go. I pay for it and while I’m walking/running to my car, I’m spraying myself to save a few precious moments of prime birding time once I get back to Deering. It’s all about balance, you know?

Anyhow, I wasn’t able to relocate the pocket of birds so went to a place I usually get a Brown Creeper, but it was devoid of any sign of life so decided to venture further into the brushy area to see what else I could find. I’d go to an area where I could hear a Black-capped Chickadee, when suddenly a half dozen or so Blue Jays would make their mobbing call. Now Blue Jays are always noisy, but I’ve been birding long enough to realize when the call sounds different and I pay attention to it due to my love of raptors so Blue Jays and American Crows are my friends as they can be some of the best birding partners one can have. A few seconds later I would hear the piercing sound of a Red-shouldered Hawk. I’d stop and try and decipher the sound as Blue Jays can do pretty good imitation of the RS, but it sounded too loud for any Blue Jay. It wouldn’t take long to see the Red-shouldered get flushed from the area and land on another branch which gave me time to get my bins on it for confirmation. I’d put down the bins and fumble with my camera hoping for a picture only to have it fly to another branch where it would land only for a second before leaving the scene all together. Grrrrrrr, I’d think. Seconds later the Blue Jays would be at it again and another hawk would come from the same tree the RS was on originally, but this one would fly in the opposite direction.. While I didn’t get the Brown Creeper, seeing the Red-shouldered Hawk clearly made up for it. I’d stick around for a while longer and would hear a Blue-winged Warbler doing a half assed version of it’s song and two Eastern Towhee’s like the lousy shot above which is of the female.

I’d have a bad case of insomnia Tuesday night so laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, planning my next move for the lousy duck and creeper. Thoughts soon went back to the Red-shouldered while half asleep and suddenly I’d remember what they say about mutual habitats between hawks and owls. Hmmmm, “what is it again-Great Horned Owl and Red-tailed Hawk and Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks”? I’d open my eyes remembering the Barred Owl I’d gotten at Martha Deering twice and then it would click. "Hmmmm, wonder if that hawk was just passing through or maybe setting up house there". “Was that Red-shouldered an adult” I’d wonder……..”I wish I could have gotten another look at the other hawk as what else can it be besides another Red-shouldered”….I’d get out my Hawk bird guide and do some googling to kill a ½ hour before exhaustion would set in and I could finally get the sleep I was fighting earlier. Plus I needed to be up before dawn to search for the creeper and the Red-shouldered which will now be my new mission in between balancing everything else of course!

So I was back at Martha Deering this morning, this time well covered in bug spray in hopes for the hawk, the creeper or better yet both. It was nice and quiet and the soft earth smelled damp against my feet and I had forgotten how much I love being in the woods before the world wakes up. Considering I only had 45 minutes or so, I couldn’t do as much as I wanted and was tempted to go into work really late as I wasn’t having any success, but had a meeting so gave up after my 45 minutes and went to work reeking of bug spray. Funny because while at work I was preparing my morning cup of tea and my co-worker mentioned I smelled like bug spray and then asked why I was late coming in. I just smiled and rushed into my office explaining I had a meeting to dial in for which was true. ;-).

I just finished a huge project at work which meant work would be pretty slow today as I stared at my inbox hoping for some kind of request to come it to make the day end faster. That would never happen so I decided to do something very rare for me lately and that is take a real lunch, which means getting out of my office. Hmmmm…I wonder if those two Black Ducks are still at Notre Dame…….Well there’s only one way to find out and that is to head on over there I’d think. I’d get there and the crew would be out mowing the lawn and already using the leaf blower so the peace I was craving was obviously not going to happen and the birds seemed pretty disturbed by it too as I wouldn’t see any when I first walked in. The first thing I’d do is look for the Black Ducks, but all that would be there were the Mallards of course. I gave up on that and decided to look for passerines and except for a Blackpoll, Catbird, Blue Jays and the regulars, there was nothing else there.

I’d strike out so went to the area sparrows are known to like. I’d do some pishing when suddenly a bird would fly to a tree and allow me to get a quick look at it and my heart would stop as the first thing I’d notice is the pretty streaking it had. Hmmmmmmmm…..Could it be a Lincoln’s Sparrow, I’d wonder? Better get my camera out for this one as I’d never seen one before and need a picture to study. I’d turn on my camera and beg the little sparrow to stick around for a record shot and it would. It’s funny when I’m taking pictures under this kind of pressure because I’m never really focusing on the bird per say, but rather keeping the bird looking object in focus long enough for me to get a half decent shot, so I generally don’t notice its field marks until I’m reviewing the photos.

Love how it's staring at me and the expression. Almost like “are you done yet”. Anyhow, I’d look at it when I got back to the office and now looks like a Song Sparrow much to my disappointment, but the opportunity did give me a nice review on what the Song Sparrow looks like compared to a Lincoln’s Sparrow as well as remind me of how pretty the very common Song Sparrow can be in good light.

UPDATE: Got an FB message from someone asking if I had ruled this out as a Savannah yet and it's funny because I'd be looking at my Sibley's last night and wondering the same thing, but ruled it out because I didn't see any yellow in the lure's. With that said, I'll be looking at this pic on my Droid and comparing it with my Sibley's and sparrow bird guide on the train into Boston this morning to see if I can see it as I really need that bird. I so suck at sparrows but this bird didn't give me the Song Sparrow impression at first glance and maybe there's a reason

Speaking of good light, check out this photo of the two Chipping Sparrows and notice how different the one on the right looks compared to the one on the left. It’s almost like you are looking at two different birds if you just look at the colors and not the size on composition of them. Amazing what sun and shade can do to your perception of a bird.

Take are all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Birding, Beer and Bushwacking

With the sole intent in testing out my camera again, I decided to head out bright and early and hit a couple local spots to see what would await me. Of course it had nothing to do with my "target list" I developed Friday during lunch via an Excel spreadsheet. You see, I vowed there would be no target list this year as this was the year I wouldn't "chase" birds and stick closer to the nest and be a good mamma hen, but the youngins have been suggesting I get out more as I'm driving them crazy so perhaps they are right. I would update my eBird submissions and then go to "My eBird" and there it would be, my measly number for the year and I'd blush......"But I did it for good reason", I'd think to myself. "Heck, I'm only 42 and I will have years to chase birds, so what's 1 year?", I'd think again. But being the geek that I am, I exported my bird data for the past three years and checked off the ones I had gotten so far in 2011, deleted the ones I have no chance in hell of getting, and then kept the rest and ranked by probability of high, medium, low. I then created a separate column which was best location and added that only to my highs and mediums and printed it out, just for review of course.

I'd look at is Saturday while getting ready for some birding and decide to bring it with me and hit a couple of locations to see what I could get. I'd get 4 FOY's and was happy, but decided to try it again this Sunday and the Millbury bike path usually has one that's on the list. Does anyone want to guess what it is???? Go on, I dare ya..........All right, all right, I'll fess up..........

A lousy Black Duck. That's right everyone, the curious birder doesn't even have a black duck for the year, but one must remember I don't even have a lone wild turkey this year yet, not that I'm counting of course.
Anyhow, I'd arrive before the car loads of dogs and kids and be greeted by a lone female Northern Cardinal who was kind enough to pose nicely for a photo and then make my way toward the Blackstone River, where the Black Ducks are known to be. I'd spot something headed my way and would have my camera ready this time for the Osprey above. This would be my second sighting of one this weekend and made me happy as I had this ranked as medium probability on the list, so to get two was an added bonus. But alas, there would be no Black Ducks in that spot or any of the others so off I went to find others.
I'd then head to Purgatory Chasm for two birds ranked high on the list which were Red-breasted Nuthatch and **blush** a Brown Creeper. I'd get there early and there would be no one there, which made it really nice. I listened for the Red-breasted Nuthatch as it's usually fairly close by, but it would be quiet except for a couple of Blue Jays and a Tufted Titmouse.

Off I went to find it in its general location on the Old Purgatory Trail above. Let me tell you, I had an incredible urge to try and run it, just for fun, but quickly changed my mind as my PT would kill me due to how slow my hamstring was to heal from running on it as much as I did, despite having problems...Not to mention my ankle but that's another story for another day.
Okay, does anyone find anything wrong with this picture???? Yes I know it's common to find beer in the woods as it goes with the territory, but check out the type of beer.......I can almost guarantee you this is the work of a few rowdy adults because if it were kids it would be Natural Ice or Narragansett which is what we drank as teens way back when. I would have peeked inside to see if there was an extra, but prefer the lighter ale's so quickly went on my way to find my target birds.
I'd finally come to a place where I could hear a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, a Tufted Titmouse and a Downy Woodpecker so decided to go over there to check it out. I wouldn't even have to do any pishing, as there would be birds ever where. The first one I'd see was what I thought was a Pine Warbler so I focused a lot of my attention on that as that's ranked as low, but Pine Warblers love Purgatory, so it became an instant medium while I tried to relocate it for a better look at hopefully the tail for the notch on the tip as I was looking at it from above. Like yesterday, it would be hard due to birds darting from tree to tree and would get my binoculars on this FOY Black-and-white Warbler. SCORE! I had him ranked as low so I was happy to not only get it, but get a picture of it too. I'd finally relocate some warblers and confirm the one I thought was a pine so I'd try and get my camera on it, only to have it move but then stopped as I could hear a large bird coming in and was curious on what it was.
Why it would be this lousy picture of a sharpie of course!! I guess it's true what they say about sharpies following warblers during migration because this would be the 3rd day in a row that I'd get a good look at one. The Sharp-shinned Hawk would be just as startled to see me as I him and he would only perch for a quick second before he flew away empty handed. The bird activity came to an abrupt halt but I could still hear small warning calls coming from above with the chickadee being the most vocal. I was reminded on why all small birds gather around the chickadee as they are wise little birds. It became obvious at that point I would get neither the nuthatch nor the creeper so decided to venture else where.
I would head to Brierly, with no target birds in mind and decided to stop at Brierly Pond quickly to see if I could get a Black Duck there. Let me tell you I was afraid to get out of the car after getting stung by all of those yellow jackets last time I was there, but the lure of a possible Black Duck sighting was at stake so off I went to find it. Of course no Black Ducks, but plenty of Mallards including the one above. Yes It's a lousy shot, but so funny because it looks as if it's walking on water. What is it with the goofy birds at Brierly Pond anyway?
Speaking of goofy birds, the Greylag Goose (aka Cottontail), would still be around and looking as mean as ever! I'd head to Brierly woods, but wouldn't get anything so made a quick stop to the Cross Street Powerlines for the Common Raven as I still hadn't gotten it for the year yet despite being there three times this weekend. I'd get out of my car and hear two of them which was good enough for me as this was getting ridiculous. Seriously, everytime I've gone to Cross Street I'd either heard or seen them, so I was getting a little concerned and was happy to see they are doing well.
Next would be Grafton off of Route 140 for the Savannah Sparrow which was ranked as high as it's usually a guarantee here. Now I love this place and this was one of my favorite places to bird when I first started out, so imagine my dismay when I go there and see all of that lovely scrubby land, replaced by a soccer field and playground. I saw it there last time I went, and haven't had the heart to go back because it depresses me so much, but needed that bird so tried to ignore it to find my way to the path to take me to the power lines. The problem would be the path is almost hidden due to large, neglected overgrowth as well as downed trees and limbs but I was determined just the same. I would come to some brambles but see the path nearby that I had somehow lost and try and maneuver my way out of it. There was one point I would be pissed as I was caught up in some pickers and my cellphone would ring and it would be my oldest asking me what I was doing. I'm very busy right now was all I could say as I didn't want to tell him I was stuck in some pickers and on my way to see a bird as that just wouldn't sound right, but coming from me, maybe it would...............

Finally, after some of the worst bush whacking I have done in two years, I would find my way to the abandoned truck trailer that Beth, Paul and I found an Eastern Phoebe in which is close to the Savannah location and my heart would sink. It too would be overgrown with brush so I turned away trying to find the path again, despite how difficult it was.
You can faintly see the trail to the left of the photo. Seriously, this used to be a very well defined trail so it amazes me how much can change in only a year or so. I would finally find the spot where I normally get the Savannah, but all would be quiet. I'd see a sparrow of some sort go into hiding so I tried pishing it to see if I could ID it. The bird wanted no part of my pishing and mosquito's would start landing on me so I was losing patience so resorted to the Droid and YouTube to play its call. Of course the call would make me even more depressed because I absolutely love it and hadn't heard it this year. I remember the call as "take, take, take, take it eeeeeasy, and it works everytime. I wouldn't get a chance to either see the bird or hear its call so I'm guessing it was a Song Sparrow, even though they are usually easy to pish.
Strike four I'd think to myself as I tried to find my way to the original path. Funny I'd think, because I was striking out on all of the birds I had as high probable and picked up a couple of lows so I guess all is not lost as the highs are ranked as high because they're easy to find. This is what I'd tell myself while stuck in another set of brambles and now swearing like a sailor.
I'd finally make my way to some clear land but no location of the original trail. While finding a way out I'd get a whiff of something that would bring me back to my days as a kid in elementary school and that would be the smell of wild grapes. One of my best friends was this little Italian kid by the name of Tony and we would ride bikes, find snakes and eat which was Tony's favorite thing to do as well as mine, so we made good company. Yes Tony had some weird things about him, including licking and kissing his fingers after eating, but heck, we had some good times at Slattery's Spa drinking those old fashioned chocolate milk shakes and penny candy so who was I to say anything! Anyway, Tony's parents came to the US from Italy and were very Italian, in fact, I don't think the mother even knew English at that point.

Anyway, they had a huge patch of red grapes in the back of their yard they used for wine and he and I would sneak in there and eat them despite the stern warnings Tony would get from his parents. I remember him being a pro at popping the grape in his mouth and leaving the skin behind and then spit out the seed, and despite all of the lessons, I couldn't get it right no matter how hard I tried. The grapes were delicious though and it was one of our favorite things to do. The whole point was to do so and not get caught because if we did there would be hell to pay. We would be deep into our grape gorging frenzy when suddenly we would hear "DOENEEEE", which was the mothers way of yelling Tony. We'd stop dead in our tracks and Tony would yell out RUN which we would do as the mother ran after us with a broom and shouting in Italian. We'd run for at least two blocks before Tony would stop which is funny now because the mother never made it out of the driveway with the broom but we ran just the same. Anyhow, back to the current topic, and that would be TONS of wild grapes at the powerlines. The temptation of my youth came to light as I picked one and popped it in my mouth. Hmmmmmmmm.........Not quite what I remembered so maybe I'll try another. Blah, I'd think and stop eating them all together. I guess the fruit was better way back then as it was forbidden which made it more appealing. In the end, I decided to give up finding the trail all together and found my way onto 140 to walk back to my car.

Anyhow, despite only getting three FOY birds today, I was happy. I will never go back to the 14o place though, unless I get the urge to make grape jelly and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Take care all.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A little local birding this morning WITH my Camera!

Yup, that's right everyone, WITH my camera. Seriously, my neighbor has been offering to tinker with it again to try and figure out the issue, but since it didn't work the last time, I just didn't have the heart to get my hopes up again only to be dissapointed as I have a deep fondness for it, depsite the problems I've had with it in the past. When I first started birding, I wasn't using binnoculars and relied solely on this little camera of mine as my way to see the birds and we have seen lots of birds together which I've always loved posting on my blog in return. But since I now have a laptop I can use all the time, I figured I'd try one more time and based on today, it appears as if the issue is fixed. All it needed it seems is some tweaking and a part in the battery section of the camera as well as a set of new digital batteries and a new charger and it's working almost as well as it did in the past and I hope it stays that way.

Anyhow, I decided to head out early to do some local birding but had to stop at the dump first. I would make my way there and the first thing I'd see was this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk in the picture above. Now I'm always excited to see a Red-tailed, but even more so with my camera and as luck would have it, the ligthing would be perfect and the bird nearby so out came the camera in the midst of cars coming and going doing what most people do at the dump which is take out trash, but who says you can't bird as well if something interesting shows up.

Sigh, have you ever seen a face as sweet as that? Such deep thought in those eyes I'd say. Funny because at this point everyone at the dump was now looking at the Red-tailed Hawk because they were all wondering what I found so interesting. I could hear a guy behind me explain to another guy that it was a Red-tailed Hawk so I turned around and smiled and nodded as a gesture of respect because I usually hear non-birders refer to these hawks as eagles so I was rather impressed. He continued to impress me even more when he told me I may be interested in the Turkey Vultures around the bike path....Hmmmm....Perhpas a birder in disguise?

Okay, last one I promise, but had to share as I took it at another angle which is the compost section of the dump so I just couldn't resist.

Okay, so I lied. Here it is gazing into my eyes, swoon......I am sure the hawk was wondering who the hell I was as it;s usually able to perch and hunt from this location, never being noticed until I came along and screwed things up.

After stalking the hawk, I decided to head to Martha Deering which is only a quarter of a mile or so from the transfer station. I would get a few birds going in, including a Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker all within the same general location as well as numerous Blue Jays squacking up a storm. I would come to an area where I could hear a lot of bird activity so decided to do some pishing to see what I could find. The activity would be so heavy that I'd be in a state of confusion as my brain not only tried to focus on the calls, but all of the flying around as well because birds were coming and going from every location. I could hear the faint call of a Northern Parula near a Black-capped Chickadee so decided to focus my time around that area because that's where the other warblers would be. There would once again be birds everywhere including a quick glimpse of a Black-throated Blue as well as a good look at another but as you can see by the picture above, it was gone by the time my camera got into focus on the darn bird. Grrrr....So frustrating but goes with the territory of birding for warblers I suppose.

I should note that at one point, I could hear the calls of the Northern Parula, some Black-capped Chickadees, an Eastern Towhee, pissed off Blue Jays, a White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, American Robin, a red squirrel as well as a few chipmunks all at the same time, which was causing some major confusion, but what had me stumped the most was this almost mechanical sound that was coming from above- but wouldn't realize what it was until I got out of the bushy area I was in and that would be this hot air balloon above. I think the guy was just attempting to mess with my head seriously!

While heading back to the car, I could see a buteo in a tree and the first thing that comes to mind is a Broad-winged Hawk until I get my bins on it and realize it's a Red-tailed. Hmmmmmm......Perhaps that one I saw earlier I think as it's relatively close. The hawk does'nt look too pleased to see me I think as I'm turning on my camera again and smiling at it.......Perhpaps the hawk is stalking me now I think.

Here it is showing me its ass or maybe mooning me.........

Bon voyage my handsome friend, until we meet again!

After that it would be a quick stop to the Cross Street Powerlines to see what I could find. There would be a few Eastern Bluebirds mixed in with some Mourning Doves which was funny to see because of their size comparison.

These two do not look too pleased with one another. Perhaps a lovers quarrel?

I'd make my way to my favorite part and would hear the call of what sounded like a bird in disress. It would take me a bit to think Osprey, but I'd doubt myself as I've never had one here before. Soon enough I'd see if fly from the post it was on before I could get my camera ready. It seemed as if I'd ticked off another raptor today and it's not even 10:00 I'd think.

But there would be one raptor that didn't mind my presence and that would be the sharpie above. Now this is the type of picture I could stare at forever, because it has all of the classic characteristics of a sharpie in flight. Note the squared, long tail obviously, but also the rounded wings at the tip and the s shaped curve along the leading edge of the wing and the small head compared to a Cooper's Hawk too.

Another one I thought was interesting. From what I can tell, this hawk appears to be a juvenile? It also behaved like one too while trying to score some breakfast as it wasn't very successful. A lot of flapping, a little gliding and every passerine in sight hidden from view which frustrated the sharpie. After a while though, it did land high up in a pine tree so not sure if it was successful or not, but I appreciated the air show just the same.

I'd do a little more birding and see a Field Sparrow in the same location I have seen it for the past two years which I found funny. No Common Ravens though, which is a first for me but there's always next time.

Take care all


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