Thursday, April 24, 2014

Notes from My Nest: Life on Mere Point

1. Mere Point Point-kab Mere Point Bay as seen from Mere Point 4-4-14

I am still settling in and getting to know my way around Mere Point. In my mind it is broken up into different birding segments. I count birds at my home, which is Mere Point Cottage. I count birds at Mere Point Boat launch, which is a Public Access site to the bay. I count birds along Mere Point Road, which is 5 miles from my driveway to where the road ends in Brunswick, and I count birds at Mere Point Point which is Private Access Only. You must live there or have permission from someone who does live there to access the site. Anyway you look at it, I am surrounded by water and birds. In just the week since I posted my latest Mere Point Cottage Yard List I have already added 6 more species of birds! I am now at 48 Yard Birds in a little over 2 months time and migration is just beginning! I have yet to add a warbler to my yard list. Sparrows are well represented with Savannah and Chipping Sparrows being the most recent additions! I heard a Carolina Wren on April 11th calling several times, but I have not heard it since.  I had a Northern Flicker show up on the 13th and a Golden-crowned Kinglet on the 14th! While I had heard Fish Crows in town already I was surprised to hear one outside in my yard on April 15th. At this point I have no idea what species is going to show up next! I had not seen the Fox Sparrows for a few days, but then they showed up again on the 14th. White-throated Sparrows have now become the most numerous sparrow species in the yard, displacing the Song Sparrows who held that title for a couple of weeks.

2. bird feeder-kab I continue to do battle with the squirrels and hoped that this cheap baffle I bought at Wal-Mart would do the trick. It only cost me $8 bucks and I  would have done better spending that money on additional seed. It didn’t take them long to figure it out and find a way around it. The black plastic bowl balances on the hook but it is easily tipped by the wind and the squirrels which scramble down the chain, tip the black bowl and twist and grab the feeder to climb up and eat at their leisure! Back to the drawing board for me. It looks like I will have to break down and buy a $40 baffle from the bird store instead!

3. old squaws-kab Long-tailed ducks in Maquoit Bay 4-7-14

One local resident gave me permission to walk down to the water’s edge near his house. I stood in awe on the shore and looked across Maquoit Bay. There were so many ducks in it, but only a few of them were close enough for me to identify with my binoculars. There was a large flock of Long-tailed Ducks raising a ruckus out in the water. They made so much noise! I don’t quite know how to describe the sound, but they would all get in a bunch or in a line and then dive simultaneously. I do not know if this was a hunting and feeding technique or if they were just diving whenever they realized I was looking at them through my binoculars!

4. gull on rocks-kab Great Black-backed Gull on the seaweed covered shore of Maquoit Bay.

I found it so amazing to be standing on the shore with tall trees and woodland birds behind me and sea birds in front. When the tide goes out the seaweed covered rocks are exposed and yes, they are this golden! While I see gulls on the rocks all the time, I have yet to see any peeps along these shores though, I do keep on looking for them. April 7th was such a nice day that I did not want to go inside, so I decided to cross the street and go count birds at the Boat Launch.

5. chickadee-kab On the short road in I found this little Black-capped Chickadee in the leaf litter alongside the road. In the trees along the sides of the parking area I saw and heard several species of blackbirds as well as Mourning Doves, Blue Jays and more Song Sparrows. While I am not surprised that the blackbirds are over here, I am surprised that the Blue Jays like to hang out in this area more than my yard, which is a stone’s throw away. I cannot always count on seeing jays in my yard but they are a sure bet over here!

6. herons-kab The effects of spring migration are being seen with the return of the Great Blue Herons. These are just two of the four that flew over my head while counting birds at the boat launch. But then I was surprised by another string of migrants…

7. cormorants-kab Double-crested Cormorants! My FoTY* in Maine!

I would love to tell you that life is settling down here at My new Nest in Mere Point Cottage, and while it is starting to feel like Home, there is still so much to do. We are registering our cars in Maine and finding doctors, dentists and hairdressers. I still have boxes to unpack but I need some shelves built and I keep getting distracted by the birds! I wake up every morning and grab my bins before I even get dressed and start watching and counting them. I keep telling myself that I should take a shower and get dressed first, but I cannot resist looking, and once I take one look I have to start counting them! Everyday is something different and I find it all so new and exciting, even though I have seen most of these birds before. This is my first time living in Maine as an eBirder and eBirding has taught me how to pay attention to the timing of birds and their behavior. Birds are part of the rhythm of life wherever one lives and learning and feeling this rhythm is what makes me feel part of Life!

So many times I would “Bird My Way Home” from a trip, yet my home keeps on changing. Perhaps I have finally Birded My Way Home for good. Perhaps after all these years of wandering around the country and longing for Idaho (my first love), perhaps I have finally found my real home at last.

*First of The Year

My Mere Point Birds by the Numbers:

  • Mere Point Patch—59 species (all my locations on Mere Point)
  • Mere Point Yard List—48 species
  • Mere Point Boat Launch—37 species
  • Rossmore and Mere Point Roads—21 species
  • Mere Point Point—15 species

Explore Rossmore and Mere Point Roads, an eBird Hotspot

8. geese string-kab Canada Geese Flying over Mere Point Boat Launch 4-7-14

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Afternoon at Reid State Park

1. Reid state Park-kab Inlet at Reid State Park 4-11-14

I drove the tree-lined road slowly, looking and listening all the while. I start to see glimpses of open ocean through the trees. Then, I emerge near an inlet and immediately pull off the road. The sound of roaring surf fills my ears. A stiff wind is blowing in off the ocean. I pull my coat together around me and put on my hood and my gloves. There is so much to see and I want to see it all!

2. inlet-kab A mixed flock of Buffleheads, Red-breasted mergansers and American Black Ducks floats  and dives in the inlet. This is looking roughly west so the sun is in front of me and I can not get around to another location to see those two shorebirds across the way.

3. peeps-kab 

Wind and salt sting my eyes, but I stare and stare trying to identify these birds. At first I think it is a Yellowlegs and a Spotted Sandpiper, except something wasn’t right. The “spottie isn’t bobbing its tail and the other bird’s beak looks too short and the legs not long enough! What could it be? A closer look at the bird on the right showed me a hint of the developing black belly of a Dunlin, but what of the bird on the left? I shot from the hip and guessed Pectoral Sandpiper, but when get home I did more research I discovered that a Pectoral Sandpiper was the same size or smaller than the Dunlin, so THAT was out. Then, I saw the photo below. That face looks like a plover, but what plover would be that size and color and in this location? Nothing appeared on the eBird checklist or bar chart. I clicked through the “Explore Hotspots” Data and no one else had listed a species that even remotely resembled this bird.  I started to think, Black-bellied Plover, but there was no data for them being in this location at this time. So, I posted these photos on Facebook in a couple of locations and soon had confirmation. It IS a Black-bellied Plover, still in its winter plumage!

4. plover and dunlin-kab 

5. side by side-kab 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here you can see them side by side for a size and shape comparison. Both species are new Maine birds for me! I am ecstatic! But the roar of the sea was calling me and I soon turned to go. Across the street from the inlet I can see the open Atlantic! Up until now most of my shore birding has been in the bays and coves near where I live. this is a whole new world for me!

6. open ocean-kabThere is a sign on that rocky island warning people to keep off because it is a tern roosting site! No terns are there yet, but I am excited to know there soon will be! I am so busy looking through my new bins and taking photos that at first I don’t see the little creatures scampering around on the rocks at my feet, but I soon hear them! I look down just in time to see a pair of Red Squirrels!

7. red squirrel-kab This is one of a pair of Red Squirrels scrambling around in the rocks!

 

8. rocky shore-kab I wander farther along Maine’s rocky coast.

 

9. crashing woaves-kab I love the pounding surf!

And then…

there is…

10. the beach-kab The Beach!

I am soon down in the sand and walking along the surf.

Believe it or not, I almost didn’t do this. While I was still standing up on the rocks looking down I scanned the shore for peeps but could not see any. I scanned the ocean for birds, but did not see much, and what I did see was too far away, so I thought, maybe I shouldn’t go. But then I could not resist walking on the beach, so I clambered down the rocks and started walking. All the while I scanned the shore and sky for birds. A flash of motion up over the dunes revealed an American Kestrel kiting over the marshland. I watch it hover and flap, then bank and dive and hover again. As it banks I catch a glimpse of its rufous tail as sunlight illuminates the rich color of a male kestrel. Out in the waves I discover I can see more birds down here at beach level than I could from up on the rocks. I see Common Eiders, Common Loons, and Surf Scoters. And then, as I near the rocks at the distant end of One Mile Beach, I see them! Peeps! I’m not sure what they are yet since the sun is behind them and in front of me. I walk slowly, snapping photos and pausing to look through my new binoculars. They behave like Sanderlings, but are they? From this vantage point they look bigger and darker to me.

11. shore birds-kab Sanderlings?

 

12. sanderlings-kab Yes! Sanderlings!

 

13. sand patterns-kab And sand patterns!

 

14. waves and birds-kab As I am nearing the birds, all the while creeping slowly along and keeping my distance so as not to scare them off, suddenly I hear a sound and look to see two young teen boys running along the water’s edge in nothing but swim trunks! It is barely 58 degrees with a stiff wind coming in off the ocean, but these two kids run right between the birds and me and clamber up the seaweed covered rocks that frame the south end of the beach. I thought sure the birds would take flight, but I guess they perceived the boys were no threat and they just kept feeding along the surf line! Finally I was getting closer and as I passed the birds the sun was now falling on them and was behind my back. Then I saw this…

15. who is this-kab Who is this?

16. piping plover-kab Here’s another one!

 

17. piping plover 2-kab Piping Plovers!

I am thrilled! I take so many photos of these adorable little birds. I thought they were Piping Plovers but I know that species is threatened and rare and since I had not seen them in awhile and since one of them had a darker ring around its neck I second guessed myself and submitted them at Semipalmated Plovers, thinking that I would correct the I.D. after I had a chance to offload my photos and study them. I thought I was erring on the side of caution but before I even got home I received an email from the eBird reviewer who informed me that it was too early for Semipalmated Plovers but Piping Plovers were spotted at Reid Park just the day before! I have so much to learn about shore birds! But in this case and the Black-bellied plover seen earlier, my first instinct was right! I guess I just need to trust myself more!

18. sanderlings-kabMore Sanderlings, because they’re so cute!

 

19. beach bones-kab Beach Bones

When I reach the edge of the beach I thought I would have to turn back. I did not want to climb up over the rocks as the boys did to get to Half Mile Beach, which is the other beach I can hear on the other side. I think that in spite of how chilly it is, I would like to take my shoes and socks off and run through the sand, but as I search for a dry spot to sit down on I discover a sandy path that leads through to the other parking lot and the other beach! I follow it through. There is no one here! I have the whole place to myself! I walk along the grassy edge of the marsh where I am serenaded by Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows and frogs! I kept looking for Savannah Sparrows but never saw any.

20. tidal marsh-kab Tidal Marsh

The marsh is so calm and quiet!

21. not a snowy-kab I wanted this to be a Snowy Owl…but it was just a stump.

 

22. sandy path-kab The path through the dunes.

 

23. footprints-kab Mine are the only footprints on this path.

I discover a wooded ravine near the edge of the parking lot that is full of woodland birds! Here I found a Downy Woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, a Golden-crowned Kinglet and…

24. brown creeper-kaba Brown Creeper!

 

25. song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow

Finally I realize the sun is setting and I know I have to get back. The park closes at 7:10 PM and I am still over a mile away from the parking lot where I am parked! Clouds have rolled in, the light is fading and I still have a mile long beach to cross! While the temperature has dropped some, as I step back onto the beach sand I am seized by the same crazy thought I had over an hour ago.

25a. 4-11-2014a Should she Should I…..?

25b.4-11-2014a yes Reid state park Yes!

I balance in place and pull off first one shoe and then the other! The ground is cool and damp beneath my feet, but not cold. I stuff my socks into my shoes, pick my shoes up in one hand and run down the beach like a child! I didn’t get far before I had to slow down and walk, but OH! what fun! I feel so alive! I feel so free! With the surf pounding in my ears I lift my arms to the heavens and shout to the waves and world,

“I want to live here forever!”

and in my heart I felt such gratitude for moving to Maine.

26. piping plover-kab Piping Plover

On my walk down the beach and back towards the car I find it is easier to walk in the hard packed sand near the water’s edge than up in the dry, but shifting stuff farther up the tide line. Always alert, I see a pair of Bald Eagles fly overhead. As I near the rocks where I first entered the beach I see the little Piping Plovers again. They have moved to this end of the beach. I climb the wooden steps to the boardwalk and sit on a built-in bench to dust the sand from my feet and put my shoes and socks back on. It is now 6:50 PM. The park closes in 20 minutes. A few more people have come to see the ocean before night falls. A car just pulled up and six people got out and walk towards the beach as I walk towards the parking lot. Beyond them in a tidal pool, in the last silvery light of the day a Common Loon floats serenely, a benediction on a perfect afternoon.

27. Loon-kab Common Loon

Explore Reid State Park, an eBird Hotspot

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New Bins and New Birds in Bath, ME

1. Song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow in Bath, ME 4-11-2014

It was time. My old binoculars were too worn out. Everything I looked at was blurry. I had already sent them to be repaired once, but now they weren’t working again. I could not seem to get a sharp focus no matter what I tried. To be honest, I kind of abused them. I certainly used them. Every day in heat, wind, rain, mist, sand, dust, night, snow, any condition you can think of, me and my bins have been in it. I have had my Eagle Rangers for quite a few years, but now it was time to try something new. After some research Gus and I decided on Nikon 8x42 Monarchs 7.

2. new bins-kab My new best friends!

Of course, when they arrived on Thursday, I had to take them out for a spin on Friday! I attached my binocular harness in the morning and headed out the door! I decided to go to Bath, Maine again first to see what I could see. The first place I went to was the South Boat Launch on the Kennebec River. Gus and I had stopped here before and I wondered what I would see now that the snow had melted and the river had thawed.

3. osprey-kab One of the first birds I saw was an Osprey! 

It was the first one I had seen in Maine this year! Later I saw a few others farther up the river in Bath, including a pair on a nesting platform!

4. rb gull-kab Ring-billed Gull at the boat launch 4-11-14

Song Sparrows sang all around me. I heard a few Blue jays and Robins and saw Cormorants in the river. The south boat launch is not an eBird Hotspot yet, but I think it should be, so I nominated it for one. We’ll see what happens. After leaving the boat launch I drove north into town along the riverfront, and then up to the North Boat Launch and Public landing, which is an eBird Hotspot.

5. gulls on the river-kab There were over 100 gulls floating down the river.

This is a mixed flock of Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls.

And then this Double-crested Cormorant came drifting by!

6. dcco on the Kennebec-kab Double-crested Cormorant taking a ride down the Kennebec River in Bath, ME

But I wanted, needed to see more birds! Where should I go next? I looked on my map app and saw Reid State Park. That’s not too far away, I thought to myself, so I got in my car and drove there. I had no idea what I would find, but I was stunned when I got there! Come back tomorrow to see what I saw! Yep, I gave those new bins a good workout!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Birding Simpson Point

1. Simpson Point-kab Simpson Point, Brunswick, Maine 4-2-2014

I had seen it on the map. I had driven by the road. Now it was time to see it for myself! So, on April 2nd, as snow continued to melt around me and farm fields flooded along the roads I took the drive to Simpson Point which in just about 5 miles from where I live. The road narrows down to a dirt cul-de-sac where you can barely turn around to park back up alongside the narrow road and beyond the No Parking signs at the end. It is a public access point to Middle Bay but the access is limited by the available parking. Still, on this day I had nothing to worry about as I was the only car down there! Before I even parked my car I started seeing ducks in the bay. I heard the funny croaking quacks of Buffleheads and I could see them swimming and diving as I got out of my car. I scanned the water through the trees, then walked back to the point of land that juts out into the bay.

2. cove-kab I stood there looking at the rocky coast and marveling at the water that was as smooth as glass. I am still trying to comprehend that I actually live here, this close to the ocean. This close to the shore. I am falling in love with the ocean and the Maine Coast and I do not think I ever want to leave it.

3. bay-kab Out in the bay there are plenty of small islands.

 

4. goose-kab Near the shore I found a Canada Goose.

 

5. buffleheads-kab In the cove a few Buffleheads floated.

 

6. Red-breasted mergansers-kabI watched while a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers paddled by.

 

7. buffleheads-kab Then a pair of Buffleheads took flight, skimming along the surface before landing once again. I listened to the gentle lapping of water and looked skywards as a V of geese came winging overhead.

 

8. Canada Goose V-kab The classic V of Canada Geese in Flight over Simpson Point.

I liked this place so much that I just had to take Gus back here the next day. While is was a bit gray on April 2nd, it was bright and sunny on the evening of April 3rd.  The low light turned everything a shade of gold and the world seemed like such a magical place to be.

9. sunny bay-kab The cove at Simpson Point 4-3-2014

 

10. GBBG-kab Great Black-backed Gull in flight.

11. GBBG-kab Great Black-backed Gull 4-3-14

 

12. GBHE-kab Three of the four Great Blue Herons that flew overhead on April 3, 2014.

So far I have only counted birds at Simpson’s Point twice but I certainly plan on going back again. Currently my count stands at 21 species of birds but according to eBird 119 species have been counted there so far and 174 checklists have been submitted as of this writing. You can learn more by clicking on the link below.

Explore Simpson Point Landing, an eBird Hotspot

13. island-kab Middle Bay off Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, ME