Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bowdoinham Birds

1. sunset on the Cathance-kab Sunset on the Cathance River 10-9-14

October 9, 2014: Back in October I started using Gus’ Nikon D90. I took it along with me to volunteer at the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay office. When I was done I walked to the edge of the Cathance River at Mailly Waterfront Park in Bowdoinham, Maine. A cold wind was blowing in off the water and with the sinking sun, there were few birds. But the autumn scenery was beautiful and I did follow the rattle call of a Belted Kingfisher until I found the bird.

2. cormorant on branch-kab If you look closely you can see a dark shape on a branch overhanging the river. That shape is a double-crested cormorant!

 

3. bridge-kab Bridge on Route 24 over the Cathance River.

I drove over this bridge on my way there and my way back home again.

The Cathance River is one of the five rivers that flow into Merrymeeting Bay.

4. kingfisher-kab Search these bushes like I did to see if you can find the Belted Kingfisher!

 

5. flying-kab Belted Kingfisher flying over the Cathance River!

I like places like this where I can stop briefly and do a bird count, but I have not been back up this way since the day I was here, and no one else has counted birds here yet. Perhaps I will get a chance to visit here again next year.

6. boat and bird-kab Kingfisher and boats on the Cathance River.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Notes from My Nest: This Old Bird

12-20-14 Balance by Donna Simonetti Balanced Rock in the Chiricahua National Monument, AZ

I don’t like to admit that I am getting older. In fact, I pretty much like to deny that fact, and try to carry on as if I were still in my thirties. But, lately my body has been sending me major messages that it needs attention. I had an illness that slowed me down over the summertime, then, in October I got really sick with some unknown virus for over two weeks. Once I was over that then my knee gave out and I was on crutches for a week. This was not good, since I was hoping to accomplish so many things in the two weeks before December 22nd.

Yes, I said December 22nd, because, unlike almost everyone else, that is my deadline. On the morning of December 22nd I will be going in for a major female abdominal surgery. It will lay me up for 6 to 8 weeks. At first, I was really afraid of the surgery, but now I am afraid of the aftermath, because I will be restricted in my activities, especially lifting. That might seem like a small thing, but stop and think about how much lifting you do in your daily activities, and the lifting thing will apply for the rest of my life. Every day I lift laundry baskets and bird seed. I move furniture out of my way. I lift the corner of the mattress to make the bed. I lift bags and bags of groceries and carry them into the house. I lift my cats and snuggle them. I hope to pick up and cuddle my new granddaughter when I finally get to see her next year. When I go to visit my mom, I rake and shovel, and carry bags of bird seed for her. I help her garden and grab bags of soil. I lift plants for her. Earlier this year I carried her microwave up and down a full flight of stairs when it broke and we had to get a new one. While I will eventually be able to do some of these things again, I will not be able to do them all, and that frustrates and frightens me. I do not like to depend on others or have to ask for help.

DSC_0141 Gus and I with our kids Christmas 2012 in Arizona

There is also the sadness I feel over losing one of my internal organs. I am having a hysterectomy as part of this procedure, so they will remove my womb. I know that is an old-fashioned term, but I am an old-fashioned girl, and I like being a woman. I am the mom of four wonderful kids and having them has been the greatest joy in my life. I know that that part of me is all shriveled up and falling out, but it is still the place, the “nest,” if you will, where my little babies grew. I believe it deserves honor for providing that function. This may seen sentimental, but I wish I could say good-bye to it.

You may wonder why I would write about something so personal. Well, because writing is how I deal with things, and because being open and honest is who I am. I don’t know how to write in code or try to be evasive. When I write about birding and being restricted to the house, or why I cannot go out and fill my bird feeders over the next few weeks, I won’t have to dodge the issue. I know this blog is about birding, but it is also about me and my relationship to the birds and to nature. I want to be “in” nature and surrounded by it. I will not let this stop me, but it will slow me down for awhile. Eventually I will be able to walk and hike and go birding again, but the lifting restriction will last due to the need of a mesh sling to hold everything in place. I am told that I will always run the risk of pulling that out, and I do not want to have to have another surgery. Heck, I don’t even want this one! But, when I stop and think about it, I have to admit that I am so glad I live in a day and time when such things are possible. I cannot imagine just having to live like this for the rest of my life, which would have been the case if I lived a hundred years ago.

DSC_0161 So, while Christmas and then New Year’s roll around, I will be home watching birds through the windows while my sweet husband fills bird feeders for me and cooks me dinner. The hardest thing will be keeping my two cats off my lap or even off my body, because they walk all over me when I am in bed. They seem to think I am their personal heating element!

DSC_0158 There will be lots of “window birding.”

In preparation for the winter and the surgery, we have moved some of my bird seed up from the basement and put it by the back door. This way it is easier to get at and I can carry it out in small portions if needed. One good thing is I hope to maybe, finally get caught up on offloading my photogrbird seed by the back door 12-20-14aphs and writing blog posts about birding adventures I went on but never had time to write about! I still have never written about meeting and birding with Sandpiper Lin, or Gaelyn the park ranger. I still have photos of Life Birds I have seen and not offloaded or posted, including a California Condor! Moving around the country with my husband does allow me to see so many new places and new birds but every time we move things get put on hold and I have to start over again. Life happens and it is happening to me every day. I am still counting birds out my windows on Mere Point, as well as the parking lots of all the places I go to in town. You would not believe how many birds hang around parking lots, and I eBird them all! Nature has been my solace throughout my life, and Nature and the birds will get me through this once again.

December 20th update: Since writing this post I found out that my mother is going to have to have another round of chemo after her recent breast cancer surgery. It is only going to be four treatments and they will be spaced three weeks apart, but she will lose her hair again. She starts in January and I will not be able to go down and help her and she will not be able to come take care of me, and we are both frustrated by this fact.

My friend, Donna, took the photo at the top of this post. It is of a place I have never been to, but I found this and another photo she took of the Chiricahua National Monument so inspiring that it seemed to grab me and give me something to hold onto. I hope to go back to Arizona for a visit next year and if I do, I want to hike to this place and see this rock and this view. Until then, it will be a mental journey and a goal.

You can read the poem The Journey on Kathie’s Poet Tree.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Swamp Sparrows at Wharton Point

1. Swamp sparrow-kab Swamp Sparrow at Wharton’s Point 10-5-14

October 5, 2014: I must have hit the Swamp Sparrow migration just right at Wharton’s Point, for on the evening of October 5th I drove over to see what I could see at Maquoit Bay and there, mixed in with the Song and Savannah sparrows, were a couple of Swamp Sparrows. Swamp sparrows are known for their rusty cap, brown cheek, rusty primaries and tail feathers, gray face, and when seen in breeding plumage and good light, you can also see their yellow lores. Lores are tiny little feathers in front of their eyes between their eyes and beaks and many other birds are identified by the color of their lores. I love Swamp Sparrows, though they are seldom seen by most people. I use to find them at the Stirling Street Bog when I lived in Andover, MA. Finding them in Arizona was a bit harder, but it could be done and I found a few with my Birding Buddy, Chris Rohrer.  Since moving here I have seen them more often, including in my yard, but this evening was the most I had ever seen at one time!

2. golden-kab Of course, there was golden light on the bay as the sun went down.

3. song sparrow-kab A few Song Sparrows hung out in the scrub bushes.

4. swamp sparrow-kab The Swamp Sparrows liked to stay in the shadows.

5. swamp sparrow-kab But I still managed to get a few photos of them!

6. gulls-kab Gulls in Maquoit Bay.

7. gulls-kab Bonaparte’s Gulls

8. bald eagle-kab It’s not unusual to see Bald Eagles flying over the bay.

Wharton Point is one of my favorite places to bird, and since it is close by, I stop here frequently. Sometimes I am frustrated because the birds are so far out that I cannot identify them, but often they are close in and I can see and photograph them from land. This was a good day for birding Wharton Point.

9. swamp sparrow-kab Swamp Sparrow at Wharton’s Point 10-5-14

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Notes From My Nest: Yards Birds

1. 12-11-14 bird feeder1Thursday, December 11, 2014 Mere Point Cottage: The heavy rain is over, though we are still getting a few on and off showers. In the gray outside world the birds are coming to empty feeders,while I watch helplessly from inside. Gus would gladly fill them for me, but he leaves before dark and returns after dark, and often he has to stop at the store to pick things up since I cannot yet drive myself to the store. After days of being stuck inside by snow, sleet, ice, rain and a bum knee, I am getting restless and frustrated and I am feeling trapped.

I look out the window at the mostly bare yard. While not complete2. 11-12-14 crutches-aly healed up, I am getting around better than I was at the beginning of the week. I start to think that maybe I can put on my  leg brace and go outside. Maybe I can fill the feeders. So, I walk to the back door and set my crutches down. I put my warm and fuzzy fur lined rubber shoes on and wrap my knee in the leg stabilizer that I have not worn since the day they sent me home with it last week.  I put my coat on, tuck my cell phone into one pocket and some suet into the other, and head out the door! Getting down the stairs in the tricky part, but I am using only one crutch, so I can grab the stair railing with one hand while I work my way cautiously down the steps. I have already placed the container of bird seed on the steps, so once I am down I can use the crutch under my right arm and carry the seed with my left hand. It works!

3. 12-11-14 bracing I test the ground, but it is soft and not slippery and I have no trouble making my way to the first and closest feeder, which doesn’t need to be filled, but instead needs the wet seed swept away from the openings. Next, I toss a little seed on the ground beneath the spruce tree so the ground feeding birds as well as the squirrels can get a little food. I have numerous gray squirrels here, and one feisty red squirrel who constantly chatters at me and everyone else and fiercely defends its territory! It’s a short walk to the apple tree next to the driveway which has become my best tree for hanging feeders from. These feeders are also full, but once again need the wet seed wiped away. I take down the busted meal worm feeder to bring in inside. Hopefully I can repair it and refill it. I have discovered that chickadees love meal worms. I used to be squeamish about filling the meal worm feeder, but when I saw how much the chickadees love them, I got over it. I am a bit surprised that they are the ones to eat the meal worms. I thought it would attract some of the other birds, but they are the species I see on it most often. One thing baffles me though. During the summer I had no trouble finding meal worms at the stores to fill my feeders with, but the birds did not eat them very often then, probably because there was an abundance of fresh bugs and grubs out there for them, but now that winter has come and the birds are gobbling them up, I cannot find the meal worms in the stores! Someone out there does not understand bird feeding habits!

4. 12-11-14 bird feeder close-upThe air feels cool and fresh on my face as I make my way to the back yard. This will be the longest distance I have to walk, and the most treacherous as it is down hill and still has a bit of ice and snow, since it is the northwest side of the house. Still, I am able to pick my way slowly until I am at the edge of the thicket and beneath the ash tree whose gracious branches hold my feeders. I can hear the chickadees scolding me from the thicket as I take the first feeder down and refill it. This one is easily filled and replaced. I move to the next feeder, which is a bit more tricky.

5. 12-111-14 bird feeder2 This is the feeder that baffled Gus on Sunday. While I love it because the birds love it and use it all the time, it is a bit difficult to refill. I have to pull it down with one hand while holding onto the container of seed with the other, and then scoop the seed up with a paper cup and slip it between the top baffle and bottom tray. I don’t take the feeder off the hook because it is actually more work to get it back up there. Sometimes the branch bounces back too high for me to reach it and, well, I really can’t climb a ladder or step stool at the moment!

6. 12-11-14 backyard view I’ve managed to use up all the seed in the container. I feel the breath of the the wind caress my face.  A light rain is falling and I am cold and damp, but it feels so good to be outside that I don’t care! The neighborhood crows are calling in the distance. Behind me the little juncos and house finches move restlessly in the thicket, waiting for me to leave. I look back at the distance I have to walk to get to the back door. I know that I can make it if I just go slow. I am not tired. I start to wonder if I could walk over to the boat launch. I have not counted birds there in over a week, but I decide that just might be pushing it too far. So, I hobble back to the steps, set the bird seed container down, and make my way up the steps one at a time. Once inside I grab the container and the broken feeder off the step and close the back door. Why am I going to all this trouble? Because I want to, need to see these birds!

7. red-bellied woodpecker-kab Red-bellied woodpecker 11-13-14

Ever since early November I have had a female Red-bellied woodpecker hanging around. I have tried and tried to get a picture of her, but she is very shy. I sat quietly on the back step in November and just barely snapped this out of focus shot before she flew away again. However, she does come to the feeders almost every day and sometimes several times a day. She especially likes peanuts, but so do the greedy Blue Jays, who swoop in and gobble them up! You can tell she is a female because the red on top of her head does not go all the way to her beak. A male would have a full red strip from his beak to the nap of his neck.

8. blue jay-kab Here is just one of the several Blue Jays that hang around my yard.

9. hairy woodpecker-kab I happen to love woodpeckers and am always pleased to see the Hairy Woodpeckers when they show up. During the snow storm earlier this week I actually had three in the yard at once! Often I will see them and the little Downy Woodpeckers foraging together! Besides the much larger size of the bird and it’s bill, I look for the absence of black hash marks along the stiff outer white tail feathers when trying to distinguish the Hairy from the downy. there can be a size overlap, but the Downy woodpecker always has little black hash marks on its white outer tail feathers. This is a handy thing to know!

10. goldfiches-kab The American Goldfinches have all molted into their winter plumage by now but they are also here on a daily basis. Sometimes there are just a handful, but at other times I have had two dozen or more in the yard! I took down the feeder pictured above because some animal came by in the night and busted it up. It was probably one of the resident raccoons, but you never know.

11. hawk and eagle-kab One of the things I like about living on Mere Point is the overlap of habitat. Living so near the ocean, I often see ducks and other marine birds, like ibises or osprey. I also get to see quite a few hawks and eagles. I knew right away that the larger bird pictured above was a juvenile Bald Eagle. It actually drifted quite low over the house, and fortunately I had my camera with me, but what of the smaller hawk? I was unsure what species it was until I enlarged the photos. Here you can clearly see the two coma-shaped white spots at the edge of the wing tips that only Red-shouldered Hawks have. The light is just catching its reddish barred breast and you can just make out the black barred wings and tail. All of these yard bird photos were photographed on November 13th this year.

So, now that my feeders are full again and I am safely and snuggly back INSIDE my house, I think it’s time to make some homemade hot cocoa and sit back and watch the birds while my Christmas music plays in the background! Sounds cozy, doesn’t it!

DSC_0575 hairy woodpecker Hairy Woodpecker 11-13-14

Good news! My Blog and photography are being featured this month online and in the print version of Watching Backyard Birds! Just click on the link and register with your email address for full access to the site. There are no personal questions and no fees to access the website.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gus

1. gus 10-20-2014

December 7, 2014: Today is Gus’ birthday. I’ve been married to this man for 37 years and I have never appreciated him more. He doesn’t like birthday cards and I can’t bake him a 1a. me in ER 12-5-14cake or buy him a present this year, because Thursday night as I was walking across the yard I heard my knee pop and my leg gave out. I managed to walk into the house just fine but as the night wore on my knee got worse and by morning I could not walk. Gus took me to the emergency room at 5:30 AM where they x-rayed my knee and told me I have arthritis. The doctor thinks I may have torn a ligament and I am currently hobbling around on crutches while we wait for my next doctor’s appointment.  This means I cannot fill my bird feeders. But, my husband has graciously taken up the task, even though I know it is more work than he wants to do. I have about 8 feeders in my yard, not counting suet feeders. One of them holds meal worms, which the chickadees just love. Of course, the woodpeckers love the suet and I am getting Downys, Hairys, and a single female Red-headed Woodpecker now.

2. bird feeder-kab I am sure that after today he thinks I am nuts, but he knows that if he doesn’t do it, I will be out in the snow with my crutches trying to do it myself! Still, one of my feeders really had him stumped, but he finally figured it out!

3. Gus filling feeders 12-6-2014

4. cedar waxwings oklahoma-gusto

We are quite the pair, the two of us. And we have had lots of adventures together. Because of Gus, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the United States. This has allowed me to see so many birds in so many different places. Gus is not into birds like I am, but he does love nature and he does love adventure and he does love me. Gus use to love photography as well, and so, while I was photographing birds, he use to photograph whatever interested him. But a few years ago his vision started to deteriorate and he can no longer see the fine details enough to make photography fun for him. So, today’s post is a tribute to my husband and his patience with me and my birds. It is my way of thinking him. It is my online birthday card for him. Almost all the following photographs were taken by him when he could see better. It is his view of the world and of me. And yes, there are birds!

Phoenix January 2010

In January of 2010 Gus and I drove into Phoenix to see a performance of Riverdance, which was a Christmas Gift from my son and his wife. After the matinee we drove to the Rio Saludo Project just a few miles south where Gus and I took a walk and counted and photographed birds. I just realized I never posted these photos as my computer crashed at that time. These are Gus’ pictures from that day.

5. Phoenix Jan 2010-gustoMe on the trail at the Rio Saludo Project along the Salt River

6. coot toes Jan 2010-gustoCoot Toes

6a. rio saludo-gustoTrail along the river

 

6b. rio saludo-gustoTree trunks and grasses

 

6c. verdin-gustoVerdin 

6d. blackandwhite warbler-gustoBlack and White Warbler

This is the one that got away from me. Gus kept telling me he saw a different warbler, but I ignored him, thinking it was yet another yellow-rumped warbler. It wasn’t until we offloaded his photos that I saw the bird he was talking about. By then it was too late and I missed my opportunity to see and record a Back and White Warbler in Maricopa County!

6e. cormorants-gustoDouble-crested Cormorants

 

6f. the salt river-gustoThe Salt River 

  6g. rio saludo pond-gusto

Oklahoma, March 2010 

7. Harris sparrow March 2010-gustoHarris Sparrow

Bosque del Apache, NM March 2010 

8. bosque del apache-gusto 

9. gbhe bosque del apache-gusto Great Blue Heron

10. western bluebird Bosque-gustoWestern Bluebird

 

11. roadrunner Bosque del apache-gustoGreater Roadrunner

 

12. GBHE Bosque-gusto Great Blue Heron

Roosevelt Lake, AZ June 2010

13. bridge Roosevelt Lake June 2010-gusto Looking through the bridge

14. Roosevelt Lake June 2010-gustoBridge over Roosevelt Lake

Cochise County, Arizona, August 2010 

15. Texas canyon-gusto Texas Canyon

16. Lake Cochise-gustoLake Cochise sunset

 

17. lake cochise-gusto Lake Cochise

Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, January 2011

18. January 2011 Salisbury beach-gusto 

19. Salisbury beach-gusto 

20. salisbury beach-gusto

 

The Salton Sea, November 2012

21. Salton sea November 2012-gusto In November of 2012 Gus surprised me by planning a trip to the Salton Sea for Thanksgiving. We had just moved back to Tucson and I was looking forward to spending the holiday with our oldest son, but who could pass up a trip to the Salton Sea? Neither one of us knew what to expect, except we envisioned something a little more sophisticated. The Salton Sea is actually very remote and rural in a very depressed part of California. But oh, the BIRDS! There were so many and we had one of the best adventures of our lives! While I have posted my pictures and photos of this trip before, I just recently offloaded Gus’ pictures. All of these are his.

22. me at the salton sea-gustoMe trying out my new spotting scope at the Salton Sea

 

23. birds at the salton sea-gusto 

24. gull salton sea-gusto 

25. salton sea beach-gusto Too many birds to count!

Happy Birthday Gus!

26. grampa gus 2012-kab He’s a wonderful grandpa!

 

27. gus 2014-kab …and an old Maine-iac!

 

28. blossom-kab He loves his old dog, Blossom.

 

29. roads to travel-kabAnd, we still have so many roads to travel…

…before we sail off into the sunset!

30. pelicans-gusto  Pelicans at the Salton Sea, November 23, 2012