Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Surprise in the Countryside on a Global Big Day

1. chukar-kab A Chukar in Brunswick, ME 5-9-15

Back in May eBird sponsored what they called a Global Big Day. It was a day where they encouraged everyone to go out and count birds across the globe wherever they could. The goal was to see how many of the 10,000 bird species world wide could be seen and counted in one day. I always like challenges like this, so I was more than willing to participate. Since it was Mother’s Day weekend, we were headed to Norridgewock to visit Gus’s Mom. But, before we left, I got up early in the morning to go eBirding as many places as I possibly could that were nearby. Imagine my surprise when I was driving down a country road in Brunswick to spot this chukar, a species normally seen in the sagebrush out west! No, I did not count this bird for the Global Big Day. I knew it was a bird that had been raised in captivity here in Maine on someone’s property. I do not know if it was a pet, or intended for food later on. Many people get these kinds of birds just to enjoy their beauty and to let them run free in the yard and eat ticks! I hope this is the case! I love chukars and their clown faces and I used to have them as Yard Birds when I lived in Utah near the Great Salt Lake!

2. gulls at Simspon Point-kabIt is not unusual to see Herring Gulls roosting in eel grass at Simpson’s Point however! It wasn’t the best day for photography with gray skies and fog, but I did have a good time and I submitted 8 checklists from around town before we headed out. Once we got to Norridgewock I counted birds at Oosoola park, which is on the banks of the Kennebec River. The spring migrants were still arriving with a few winter birds still hanging around.

3. Eastern kingbirds in Norridgewock-kab I spotted this pair of Eastern Kingbirds and I have continued to see them all summer whenever I visit! But the highlight of the day for me was spotting my First in Somerset County Common Mergansers in the backwater cove!

4. common mergansers at oosoola park-kab Male and female Common Mergansers at Oosoola Park 5-9-15

In the end i submitted 11 checklist for the Global Big Day and had a great time birding and enjoying Nature! I started at 5:20 a.m. right here at Mere Point Cottage and ended at 6:27 p.m. when I saw turkey vultures flying over the highway in Waterville, Maine on our way home!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Notes from My Nest: Ready to Move

1. mailbox We are into our final week here at Mere Point and the packing has begun. While I have removed our name from the mailbox I am still feeding and counting birds. It has been hazy, hot, and humid around here for the past week or so, which makes it hard to sit outside since there is no porch here. The mornings are damp with dew and by the time the sun burns the damp off the table it is too hot to sit outside. Still, I watch the birds from inside while I move about the house, cleaning and packing. 2. flowers by drivewayIt has been a long time since I have had to pack myself and move. I must admit that I am spoiled in this regards as my husband’s company usually sends packers and movers to do it all for us. But this is not a company move and we have to do it ourselves. Thankfully I have great kids who live nearby and are willing to help. We have rented a truck for the day and hope it will take just one load to go from here to there.

I must admit that I hate clutter, and so most of my energy so far has been focused on the basement where I do not have to look at the boxes and bins I have packed. But it can’t stay like this forever and with only one week to go, I have moved the packing to upstairs.

3. bins These are the bins we have already packed.

 

4. boxes to fillThese are the boxes waiting to be filled! Breezy Boy is not concerned at all, as you can see! All those books have to come off the shelves, go into boxes, and come back out again. My daughter and I took all the artwork down earlier this week and packed it away for 9 months. We are in a unique situation as we will be renting someone’s summer home for only 9 months, so the house comes furnished. Most of our stuff will have to be stored until we find a permanent place to live. We would like to go back to Tucson and we tired to make that happen this time around but the job did not come through, so here were are, wondering what to do with ourselves.

5. lack of artwork The walls looks so bare and cold without artwork on them.

I will not be displaying any of my art in the new house we are renting since it is only a temporary place until we figure things out. We could decide to stay in Maine as well. I just know that I want my own house again!

6. empty mantle All the paintings and other stuff is off the mantle as well. It was fun to decorate this mantle at Christmastime. It was just a pity that the fireplace could not be used. But there is hope ahead. Our new landlord sent me a photo of a robin’s nest beneath the deck he is rebuilding. He texted me wanting to know what to do about it. I know he needs to get the deck rebuilt as he is leaving in two weeks and cannot wait, so I told him he could try to move it safely to a new location. He sent me a photo of the lovely eggs in the nest, then the next thing I know he texts me to say the chicks have hatched! I asked him if he moved the nest and he tells me, no. He is building around it instead!

7. signs of hope Robin’s Eggs in Nest at our new rental house!

A sign of Hope!

I was in a bit of a funk about all of this a couple of weeks ago, and couldn’t seem to pull myself out of the doldrums, so I did what I often do, I wrote a poem. You can read it on Kathie’s Poet Tree. It is called The Fog of Summer. Just know that I am feeling better now.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Excitement at Wharton Point

1. 7-26-15 flowers near the bay

View from the parking lot last night at Wharton Point 7-27-15

Often when I go to town, I find a way to turn it into a birding expedition. Yesterday afternoon was no exception. After being confined to the house for most of the day by rain showers, I headed to town to buy some eggs and bird seed in mid-afternoon. Gray skies still blanketed the land with water droplets dripping off trees and puddles speckling the road. I accomplished the necessary tasks and headed towards home, but took a brief detour to one of my favorite birding spots in Brunswick, Maine: Wharton Point Landing on Maquoit Bay.

7-4-15 marsh grass at high tide

Wharton Point Landing is an eBird Hotspot and a favorite spot for non-birders to watch the sunsets or just watch the tide roll in or out. Situated at the top of Maquoit Bay, one has an expansive view to the south, as well as east and west. Birds seem to love this bay with its shallow mudflats at low tide and deeper water farther out for diving birds and ducks. A pair of Bald Eagles nest along the bay and in the summer one can see osprey and terns as well. Shorebirds line the tide line at times and in the winter the gulls gather on the ice shelves and stand along the open water where the creek runs into the bay.

6-14-15 mudflats at maquoit bay

When I arrived tonight there were three cars there ahead of me. Two were in the parking lot and one was down on the dirt boat ramp area that leads to the cement boat ramp. I decided to pull down onto the dirt road and park a respectful distance from the first car so as not to infringe on their space. I could see the tide coming in but it was still half way out with mud exposed close to the shore. As I rolled down my windows a quick glace through my bins revealed a black-bellied plover and other shore birds picking through the mud right at the tide line. I undid my seatbelt but stayed in the car to observe the birds. With both front windows down a gentle breeze drifted through the car, along with a few flies and mosquitoes. I ignored them and watched the birds. Snowy egrets picked their way through mud and shallow water to the east. Farther out I spotted the plovers as well as a few short-billed dowitchers. Herring and great black-backed gulls stood around various pools, and the flowing creek that cut its way through the exposed mud. Above the deeper water the common terns called and hunted, diving into the deep whenever prey was spotted. In the surrounding brush I was serenaded by song sparrows. All was tranquil and blissfully calm as I sat in my car watching birds.

4. 5-17-15 boat ramp at Wharton Point The ramp at Wharton Point

Eventually the car parked in front of me decided to leave and I pulled forward into their spot. Now I could see the cement boat ramp, and was surprised to see an adult common tern standing on it, along with a juvenile begging for food. At the end of the ramp a large gull was picking at something. At first I thought it was a herring gull, but then something seemed different. Its bill was dark and seemed to have a different shape. As my mind raced I focused in and tried to figure out what I was seeing when suddenly a small white compact car came zipping down the dirt road behind me. It blasted past me and pulled in front of me, slamming on its brakes and sending gravel flying. It now obstructed my view of the boat ramp and the gull. Then, to my shock, it drove onto the boat ramp, scaring the gull and the terns off. I expected to see some obnoxious teenage boys emerge from the car, so you can imagine my even greater surprise when a short gray-haired grandma and her approximately 10 year old grandson stepped out. The boy promptly ran around the car hooting and hollering. Grandma seemed overjoyed at his antics.

5. 6-14-15 the mud of maquoit bay In the way of all boys, he was soon chucking rocks out into the mud and watching them land with a splash and a plop! This kid seemed to be everywhere at once and he was in and out of the car several times, at one point opening the driver’s door and tooting the horn several times. I was just about to pack it in and leave when for some reason both he and grandma got back in the car, backed it up in a flash, and zipped away with as much noise as they arrived with! A-a-hh, calm was restored again, but not for long.

7-9-15 boat ramp at Wharton Point By now I had been here at least twenty minutes and as the tide rolled in the birds were being forced ever closer to shore and I was getting even better looks. I did not bring my camera with me, due to the gray and overcast skies and wanting to just relax and watch the birds, but soon another car pulled up next to me. Only this one was quiet and the occupants parked a respectful distance away. Then another car pulled in and parked much closer. Soon a dad with two young daughters emerged. The father talked to the girls in whispers so as not to disturb others or the wildlife. When I saw one little girl with binoculars around her neck I smiled and thought to myself, “Good job, daddy!” But then more cars came down the ramp with more kids, so I started my car and put it into reverse, intending to leave. However, just as I got to the top of the dirt road and was backing around, something caught my eye over the water. An adult bald eagle! I put my car into drive and pulled into the upper parking lot. Turning my car sideways, I was able to position myself so that I could roll down my window and watch the eagle over the water, and I was surprised at what I saw!

Earlier I had spotted a couple of female eiders paddling about in the bay, along with ten eider ducklings. The birds floated placidly and seemed to be enjoying themselves as the tide carried them gently ever closer to shore. But now a winged fury was attacking from above! With talons extended the eagle swooped. I thought the ducks stood little to no chance and braced myself to witness a ducking carried off in yellow feet. But nature is amazing and I marveled as the hens growled a warning to the ducklings. Suddenly, they all disappeared below the surface as if someone had them on strings and pulled them simultaneously down from below! The eagle regained height and swooped again. The ducklings dove again. I saw one mother ducks come partly out of the water with a fierce growl, her bill snapping at the eagle as it drew near! I could not believe what I was seeing!

7-9-15 High tide at maquoit bay Time after time the eagle swooped and tried to grab, but came up empty. As I was watching this drama, more and more cars filled the parking area near the boat ramp and kids continued to emerge from cars and gather on the shore. Whether it was the eagle’s lack of success or the gathering crowd, it soon gave up and I watched it fly towards the eastern tree line and disappear into the canopy. With the duck drama over, and the parking lots filling with cars, it was now really time for me to leave. And as I drove home I smiled and marveled at how unexpected and exciting birding can be. With yet another move in my future this brief encounter with nature is what keeps me smiling. It’s what keeps me going and gives me hope.

Note: The first image was photographed last night with my cell phone while I was there observing all the action. All subsequent photos are from previous visits to Wharton Point.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Few Surprises at Brunswick Landing

DSC_0066 Great Horned Owl 4-7-15 Brunswick Landing

In April of this year I drove through Brunswick Landing several times during the peak of Spring Migration. Winter was just ending but the birds were were retuning and some of them were already nesting. Brunswick Landing is a funny place because in some ways it is abandoned and wild, but moves are underway by Midcoast Regional Development Authority to bring new life to this place. I, however, like the wildlife more than the business aspect of things, and while I do believe that some of the land will be left wild, much is being developed and places I had access to last year have now been blocked off. Still, it is a good place to bird if you know where to look and this year I found a few surprises! The Great Horned Owl Pictured above is one of them. While I missed out on seeing the Snowy owls that were reported to be hunting the airfield at the Brunswick Executive Airport which is part of Brunswick Landing, I was surprised to find this Great Horned Owl nesting in an abandoned osprey nest near the same airfield! This was my first and only Great Horned Owl in Maine!

DSC_0068 While I was watching the owl this raven flew by pursued by a couple of crows!

Notice the wedge-shaped tail!

DSC_0069 Notice the fan-shaped tail of this crow.

 

DSC_0077 In the north pond I was pleased to find Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks!

 

DSC_0079 This American kestrel was perched atop this light pole at the far end of the abandoned ball fields off Line Road. Osprey like to nest on the platforms in the middle of the field.

One of my best surprises of birding Brunswick Landing this winter was the discovery of Bohemian Waxwings on Brunswick Landing. I found them in the crabapple trees near the Brunswick Rec center on Neptune Drive in February. But when I stopped to examine this flock of birds in the trees at the edge of the parking lot off Admiral Finch Road on April 9th, I was shocked to find a flock of more than 30 Bohemian Waxwings! Last time I had only seen 3 of them!

DSC_0103 Bohemian Waxwings in fruit tree 4-9-2015 Brunswick Landing

 

DSC_0104 The birds flew between the fruit tree and this non-fruiting tree.

 

DSC_0105 Some would be in this tree and some would be in the other tree.

I stayed in my car to photograph them. I did not want to scare them away.

DSC_0107 Close-up of Bohemian Waxwings 4-9-2015

Notice the cinnamon wash to their faces and their Cinnamon colored undertail coverts! Bohemian Waxwings are much bigger than Cedar Waxwings and are highly nomadic. You never know when or where they will turn up, but we only see them here in winter. This was a very late date to see them here, but we still had so much snow on the ground!

DSC_0110 Bohemian Waxwings in tree on Brunswick Landing 4-9-15

 

DSC_0112 American Kestrel on pole 4-9-15

In April everyone was awaiting the return of the ospreys. I finally saw a pair on their nest in the ball field off of Line Drive (photo below). They are still there now with young in the nest!

DSC_0167 Osprey Pair on April 17, 2015

 

DSC_0169 Eastern Phoebe on fence 4-17-15

 

Brunswick Landing is a great place to bird and is an eBird Hotspot!

(Be sure to click on any of the labels below to see all posts related to that subject)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Saying Good-bye to Moosehead Lake

1. 5-2-15 Rockwood waterfront Mount Kineo as seen from the Rockwood Waterfront 5-2-15

We only spent about 24 hours in Piscataquis County around Moosehead Lake, but I feel we saw and did so much. We crammed every minute full and left the next afternoon satisfied, yet I am still longing to return again to see what else there is to see!

2. 5-2-15 Greenville Inn porch We stayed at the Greenville Inn

3. 5-3-15a The Greenville Inn It sits on a hill overlooking the town.

4. 5-2-15 Greenville Inn Window We passed this stained glass window on our way to our room.

 

5. 5-3-15 Lace curtains We had lace curtains on our bedroom windows framing the view outside.

 

6. 5-3-15 bird tile I even found birds on the wall tiles in the bathroom!

 

7. 5-2-15 car and kineo Gus’s car and Mount Kineo had the same shape.

 

8. 5-2-15 Mt. Kineo view Beautiful Mount Kineo!

I need to come back in the summer and take the ferry ride over to the State Park!

9. the depot-kab We stopped by this old train depot on our way back to Greenville.

 

10. save the depot-kab Sadly, it does not look like much has been donated to save it.

 

11. EAPH-kab I did find an Eastern Phoebe by the depot though!

After we visited Lily Bay State Park we were hungry, so we went to the local grocery store to buy pizza!

12. sign in store Greenville ME 5-2-15 We saw this sign over the door after we were inside!

 

13. eating pizza at Jamiesons 5-2-15 Gus sitting and waiting for the pizza. We ate it here in this little store.

 

14. Moonlit night 5-2-15 The almost full moon was glowing over the streets of Greenville, Maine when we were done.

15. the Inn at night 5-2-15 The lights of the Greenville Inn were glowing when we returned!

 

16. view of Greenville from porch-kabI was up at dawn the next morning counting birds around the property at the Greenville Inn! Between the two days, I counted 18 species at this location.

 

17. dining room atGreenville Inn 5-3a Gus and I dined in the dining room for breakfast!

 

18. Greenville Inn We took one last look before we said good-bye!

After our morning trip up to Lily Bay State Park, we stopped on the main street for coffee, then walked to the waterfront to see the old Katahdin Boat.

19. The Katahdin in Greenville 5-3-15 The Historic Katahdin “Kate”

20. gull on ice-kab Herring Gull on ice in Greenville, ME 5-3-15

 

21. immature bald eagle-kab Immature Bald Eagle flies over my head in Greenville, ME 5-3-15

This was the last bird I saw before we left town!

 

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