Sunday, December 30, 2012

Uxbridge CBC

Alan and I did his portion of the Uxbridge CBC block yesterday and we'd head out a little before dawn in a half assed attempt to get some owling in. Our mediocre attempt never paid off with the only owl of the day being the one above who I believe is a Great Horned!

One of our first places was the lobster factory I hadn't seen in a couple years but it still has fond memories considering it's where I got my life bird Bald Eagle the 1st year I started birding.  No eagle but plenty of Common Mergs and the European Starlings who have taken a liking to the lobster boat above!

Our customary walk along the train tracks in the same area.  It wouldn't yield many birds, but it was picture perfect!

And of course what's a CBC without feeder birds like the Downy Woodpecker above.  I'd have some serious feeder envy going on, especially the yellow suet feeder shown above as I'd never seen anything like it but it's adorable!

One of the dozen or so American Crows we'd see who appeared to have something in its bill.  Alan would play the chickadee scolding tape in hopes of getting it and other birds closer but it scared the crow off instead.

The crow must have been starting a bird trend as we'd see a Black-capped Chickadee sporting the same look.

And what's a chickadee without it's side kick the Tufted Titmouse.  We'd have higher numbers of both these birds compared to Worcester which wasn't surprising considering the block had a lot more feeders and the feeders were the place to be if you were a bird or a birder as the passerines all stocked up on fuel before the storm and feeders are usually one of the easiest places to get it in winter.

Another feeder Cadillac!

While live bird activity would be slow at times we would find other pockets of them here and there like the one above.

And a Canada Goose hanging out among the sheep!

Wooden bird sp.  Perhaps a crow?

We'd finally get to the area to do the Rock Pigeon and Starling count and wouldn't be disappointed as there'd be both around with the many cows all having their breakfast.

Farmer John feeding the crew!

The many pigeons on the roof.

The field across the street from the farm where we'd get our only Canada Geese for the day except for woody!

One of the challenges of Alan's Purgatory CBC block is the lack of open water or water in general for that matter.  We did have a couple of river stops though including the one above where there'd be no birds.  A common occurrence we'd find whenever we came upon water.

After a much needed coffee break we'd hit the other side of the farm for the Northern Mockingbird who would quietly make an appearance out of no where as soon as it heard it's call.  Probably wondering what respectable mocker would be singing this time of the year!

One of my pals the dairy cow above.  Its friend would be nearby where it had some kind of food all over its side so we'd watch it trying to eat from it which was amusing to say the least.

We'd get to my favorite areas of the count and get out of the car at one spot where I'd do my usual stop..look and listen and my ears told me there was at least two American Robins nearby doing their call.  Soon enough we'd see over 50 of them making this one of the most productive stops of the day.

Alan would pull over at another area saying something about this being perfect habitat for a Winter Wren but I didn't catch it all as I was starting to feel worse from the cold I woke up with in the morning.  I did hear a bird though I thought sounded an awful lot like a robin but something didn't sit right with me so I kept guessing myself.

Alan would play the call of the wren and shortly there after we'd hear a bird sounding very wren-esque in that it sounded like the first couple of introductory notes of the Winter Wren but it would never complete its song.  Soon enough the mystery bird would show its face as Alan spotted it nearby and we'd be thrilled to get our bird of the day the wren!

The temps started to dip at this point as we made our way to Purgatory Chasm in hopes for Red-breasted Nuthatches.  We did make a stop along a frozen body of water where we'd see the animal tracks above.  Have no idea what it was.

We'd finally get to purgatory and make three stops in separate areas where we pulled out 10 RBN's.  Not the numbers I was hoping for when these birds had their massive influx earlier but I'd be happy with the number as it's better than nothing!

The snow would start to pick up at this point so birds would be harder to find so figured I'd share a picture with you of the hat my youngest got me for Christmas.  Not only do I stay warm but look mighty stylish if I do say so myself.  ;-)
Is it not the "bees knees" or what.  As you can see the snow would really be falling by now.

Snowy New England.  It would be a little past here where we'd stop for a bird I saw perched on a branch so I'd be in the zone a it gave me a robin jive but the bill didn't sit right with me.  Alan would go to the truck to grab his scope and the roads were so slick the poor guy would fall.  I of course wouldn't know it until he told me but what else is new as we have an ongoing joke about my tendency to not know what's going on around me when I'm on a bird -like the time poor Dave took a huge spill at Salisbury and everyone was around him helping him up and asking if he was okay and I'd be oblivious to it as I watched a Red-throated Loon in Alan's scope far out in the ocean.  There was also the time during nigh hawking where Alan would trip and grab onto me for balance and I remember telling him to try and get himself back up as I didn't flinch keeping my bins on the nighthawks considering there was a jack pot and I was trying to get a decent count!  What can I say, birding tends to do that to me.  HA.  By the way the bird did indeed turn out to be a robin. :-p

Our last stop of the day which was lovely with the snow.  It would be here I'd realize how lousy I felt so was looking forward to getting home.

With the only birds being the ones at my feeder and the ones in my home including the nifty Sanderling above which Alan made.  I keep telling Alan he has a special craft and should sell some of his work as its so darn good!  This is now my favorite bird in my modest collection as it was made by my best birding friend so something I'll cherish forever and how could I not!  The feeder birds are out at my feeders as I type this.  The poor things are struggling to feed with all the snow and I feel so lousy I just don't have the energy to get out there and dust off the feeders so resorted to throwing out a bucket of seed which is keeping them busy until I feel human again.

And wouldn't you know I'd get sick at a time vitamin C is in abundance with citrus being in season now including the tangerines and Meyer Lemons I scored.  If you've never had a Meyer Lemon before and like lemons I strongly recommend you look for them as they are out of this world.  A cross between an orange and lemon which makes them prized possessions for canners and preservers.

Hoping the cold ceases soon so I have the energy to preserve them all.  I did muster enough of it though to preserve some last night after the CBC.  All this is are the lemons I put into a sterilized jar with a 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt per lemon.  In a few weeks I will have a delicious concoction to cook with and can't wait.  Like I said be on the lookout for them to add a little brightness, color and flavor this dreary time of the year.

Take care all

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Worcester CBC

Alan and I did his circle of the Worcester CBC yesterday with the first stop being All Faiths Cemetery in Worcester.  This has been a very reliable place for puddle ducks in years past including the rarer ducks like Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal but wouldn't you know the waters had none of them.

We'd be very happy to get our first Red-breasted Nuthathces who responded very well to the recording of their call, in fact, they sounded downright pissed and they let us know!  HA

We'd see quite a few other passerines as we did the mile loop walk around the cemetery including three Common Redpolls like the one above which is always nice.

There'd also be quite a few Hooded Mergansers who we'd find out as the day progressed would be one of the most common ducks we'd encounter which isn't at all surprising and always nice as they are such handsome birds!

Our next stop would be Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester which would be rather quite until we ran into a pocket of mainly sparrows including two American Tree Sparrows like the one above.

The next stop would be another small body of water across from train tracks where the wind was so fierce I could only last five minutes or so as my body was so chilled I was shivering (1st time this year I've done that).  I needed coffee and warm food and I needed it quickly. ;-) (but not before hitting the golf course for a Northern Mockingbird and three Flickers of course!)

So we'd make a Dunkin's run and then  head to St John's Cemetery hoping for American Robins considering we had none as of yet and it was making me neurotic.   At first all would appear quiet until Alan pulled out the scolding chickadee tape and suddenly the area became alive with pockets of curious birds trying to find out what all the fuss was about including many Dark-eyed Junco's like the one above.  Highlight of that stop would be three American Robin's and believe it or not those would be the ONLY ones we got all day.  Mind boggling I tell ya!

The next stop would be one of the ones I was looking most forward to which was downtown Worcester for my beloved Peregrine Falcon's.  We'd spend some time there and see the few Ring-billed Gulls but no falcon so resigned ourselves to the fact we'd have to come back later in the day to get it.

A quick stop at Coes Pond on our way to the Worcester Airport.  Highlights were quite a few Hoodies and a couple of Mallards.

Of course our side of the airport would be pretty quiet with no American Robins or Pine Grosbeaks with the only highlight (aka new bird for the day) would be a Cedar Waxwing.  We'd head on over to Nick's side (not to poach of course), but rather admire the assortment of birds on his block like the Pine Grosbeak above.  Swoon.  Don't think I could ever tire of this bird.

We'd head on out to Leciester next and keep our eyes out on yards for bird feeders or course and while there were a few here and there the most interesting thing we'd encounter is Fluffy here on the roof to his house.  He'd be up there all regal looking as he soaked in the sun and took in the day so guessing this is a daily ritual for him and something he looks forward to.  HA

We'd hit the reservoir in Leciester and be happy to pick up three new birds at this stop including quite a few Eastern Bluebirds a Golden-crowned Kinglet and this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker above.  The other highlight would be more Red-breasted Nutcatches who once again responded very well to plays of their call.  One target bird we didn't get was Red-bellied Woodpecker which was driving both Alan and I crazy as they are common CBC birds but not for us it appeared.  Side Note:  According to John's count data we had record count data for many woodpeckers yesterday including Downy, Hairy, Pileated, Flicker and the Sapsuckers which I thought was pretty cool!

But soon enough it was time to head back to Worcester for the Peregrines.  At first we didn't see any trace of them which didn't sit well with either of us as we would have been mortified to get back to CBC headquarters and not deliver the expected count but soon enough the male would grace us with his presence as Alan would spot him on the corner for the Bank of America Building.  Swoon!!

He wouldn't stay there long and would take to the sky chasing pigeons and a few minutes later he'd score himself some dinner and eat it at one of his favorite spots on the Bancroft Building.

Digiscoped picture Alan got of him (Swoon).  He'd be acting his goofy self and hopping around but we never were able to tell what he was eating but guessing it was pigeon!

We'd do our last stops at the same places we started the CBC with the final one being Notre Dame for the crow roost.  As we were driving we'd see hundreds of crows headed in that direction but have to admit I was taken aback by the sheer volume of them as we drove through the cemetery.

The crows would be pouring in as some flew above head and others cawed loudly in trees.  Alan was headed toward the area the Northern Pintail like to hang out and I barely remember getting out of his truck telling him I'd meet up with him later as I wanted to drink it all in and get some photos.  I'd put my video on in attempt to capture it all as I walked around the commotion in a trance like state captivated by the sound and sight.  I'd see two crows chasing one another as one did a corkscrew like dive to avoid capture, others had food in their bills and they'd fly to the waters to dip it in for better eating which would be a couple of highlights.

A sample of what I heard.  Should note we also got a Fish Crow in the mix that both Alan and I heard despite being in different areas.  My camera would finally die so I'd snap back to reality and realize I got out of the truck somewhere smack dab in the middle of the cemetery instead of close to the water like I thought I was at.  I'd make my way back to the truck and still see the crows still filtering in and would realize this would be the highlight of the day.  Roosts of any kind have always interested me but crow roosts even more so as not only as it a feast for the eyes but ears too!

We'd head over to Broad Meadow Brook for the compilation and pizza and also do some socializing which was a perfect end to a wonderful day and you really couldn't beat the weather!

Take care all.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Birding North Worcester County

I'd head north with Alan this morning in my continued search for winter finches with the first stop being a cracker factory in Westminster Alan had heard about through Tom which threw me for a loop considering the line of banking I'm in does a lot of business with manufacturers and know just about every Worcester County factory there is so it had me stumped.  I'd be happy we made the stop despite there not being any Pine Grosbeaks as it was very picturesque as you can see in the photo above and wish more factories was as quaint as this one ;-).  Our next stop would be near Heywood Hospital in Gardner hoping for better luck than we had at the cracker factory.

And the first thing we'd see were the two wind turbines above.  Sigh....I understand the need for alternative energy but would by lying if I said I don't care much for them as not only are they ugly, but have claimed the lives of many birds with raptors in particular.

I'd soon forget about the turbines as we made our way to the strand of trees Tom had spotted the grosbeaks  earlier in the month and we'd be happy to see one on the very last tree!

This would be a life bird for me and a special one at that as I've waited for it since 2008 and the bird would be so tame I could have touched it if I wanted to.

The birds were so beautiful and close I'd find myself catching my breath from time to time and tried to resist the urge to talk baby talk which basically means I've gone past the point of no return when it comes to swooning hard for a bird!

Swoon!!!!  I was dizzy at this point!

Sigh, what a fantastic bird to get and it has now trumped the White-winged Crossbill as my favorite bird thus far for the year.  What can I say, I LOVE my winter finches and hope I get an Evening Grosbeak before the end of the year, but it doesn't look good considering the lack of numerous reports!

We'd head to Royalston next hoping for the E Grosbeaks there and it wouldn't take me long to remember my fondness of the town which is even nicer this time of the year with the tasteful Christmas decorations adorned on every house.  I'd also stop for a photo of the barn I was drawn to last time I was there and was glad to see nothing had changed.

And the street lights I love so much considering the only time I see them besides here are the black and white movies from the 30's and 40's which is another hobby of mine.

We'd strike out on the Evening Grosbeaks at the center of town so went to another area these birds can be somewhat reliable at.

With a couple of stops in between of course including a stop to get a picture of the sheep above who was actually running to meet up with his flock.  It would be running and baahing at the same time which made for not only good pictures but laughs as well!

And a stop to look at Mount Monadnock as the view was phenomenal.  Until next year my friend!

We'd finally make it to our destination and I'd be very happy to find yet another friend- this very cute and cooperative cow!  We'd get out of the truck and walk the street some and be disappointed to not see any Evening Grosbeaks, but we did see some Common Redpolls as well as the regular winter feeder birds.

It would also be here that I'd realize the place I want to live when I retire.  Don't give me Florida or the beach or anything fancy like that, just put me on the land above with a modest house with the view of Mount Monadnock from my kitchen window (should mention there's a pond in view too).  I'd be in my element all year round with the beauty and wild life and have the winter finches anytime I wanted in the winter and probably coming right to my feeders no less!

It would also be here that I realized why I love Royalston so much as it reminds me of the place my father grew up in Rose, New York near the Canadian border.  After my father died, we didn't get out there as much as my mother was raising us on her own and she was a city girl and brought us up the same way but as soon as I saw the rolling cornfields and cows along the interstate I knew we were close to grandmas house and her chocolate chip cookies, vegetable garden, tree house and dill pickles she had canned that she told me were my fathers favorite.  I'd cry everytime we had to leave and head back to over crowded Worcester so like to think my tendency to garden, can and be out in the woods is a gift my father gave me before he passed away.   We'd leave Royalston but not before making one last stop.

Which would be Wachusett Reservoir where I'd be thrilled to not only get the Common Goldeneye, but the Barrow's as well, which made for a productive day with three FOY birds including a wonderful lifer!

Lastly,  some of you may have noticed I've cut back on my blogging some and plan to continue the rest of the year as I'm in "the zone" with getting things done around the house and doing more of my canning including my dijon mustard that came out FABULOUS and averaged about $1.25 a jar vs. the $4.00 or more you'd pay at the grocery store!

I wouldn't stop at that though and decided to can some marinated mushrooms to go with the prime rib Christmas Day.  One jar is already eaten (for sampling) and have to say they are even better than the Pastene ones I normally buy for $7.00 a jar vs my price of $$2.25 per jar!  Woot.

And just to prove how frugal I am let me introduce you to an "old school" way of being green.  The bottle to the right are lavender scraps from my garden harvest this year as well as some fresh rosemary I have in my house along side the lemon peel I used to dress up my pal the chicken to the left.  All you do is add any of your chosen scraps to white wine vinegar and put it in a dark place for 2 to 3 weeks and then voilla!  instant cleaning solution in a spray bottle for your counter tops.  Now that the green movement is trendy people fork over big bucks for fru-fru things such as this when all they have to do is re-use which is what the green movement should be in the first place (not consuming more).  I do have a feeling my Grandma Allen would approve. ;-)

Take care all.


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