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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birding the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path

1. walking-kab My husband walking on the Androscoggin River Trail 3-29-2014

Ever since we moved to Brunswick I have seen the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path alongside Route 1 between Bath and Brunswick. I would see people running and families walking and people with dogs and ducks in the river. Though I could see the trail from the highway, I did not know how to get onto it. I looked it up on eBird and discovered it was an eBird Hotspot but I had to consult the maps and the Town of Brunswick web page to find out where to park and access the site. On Saturday, March 29th it was such a nice day that Gus and I got into his Camaro convertible and drove into town. We found the parking lot at the end of Water Street in Brunswick and parked the car. It was nearly 50 degrees and even as we started out we saw people in T-shirts and some in shorts. Everyone was tired of the snow and cold, it seems, but some of these people were braver than we were! Gus wanted to get a good walk in, so he took off ahead of me, giving me the leisure to watch birds at my own pace. I only made it about half of the 2 1/2 mile distance while Gus walked the whole thing from end to end. We both had a good time, though I did not see as many birds as I had hoped. I believe this was due to the time we started (which was at 11:00 a.m.) and the large number of people and dogs along the trail! Still, I had a great time and it felt so good to be outside! Below are just a few of the scenes and the birds I saw on this walk.

2. Androscoggin River-kab The Frozen Androscoggin River 3-29-14


3. song sparrow-kab Song Sparrows along the Androscoggin Riverwalk 3-29-2014


4. through the trees-kab View through the trees of the frozen but melting Androscoggin River.


5. mallard-kab Mallard Drake in the Androscoggin River


6. flyaway-kab Mallard takes flight


7. Bald eagle-kab I saw a few Bald Eagles


8. hooded mergansers-kab Hooded Mergansers


9. herring gull on ice-kab Herring Gull Reflection

Gus met me on his way back and I turned and we walked back together until I got distracted yet again by some birds I hadn’t seen yet on this walk. First I found the Hooded Mergansers in a melted part of the river, then, towards the end of the walk I found some Cedar waxwings in a tree by the restroom near the dog park. These were my First of the Year Cedar Waxwings here in Maine so I was thrilled to finally have them on my list!

10. cedar waxwings-kab Cedar Waxwings

The River Walk is nice and I would like to try coming back here earlier in the day when there aren't quite so many people. I loved the views of the river but it was hard to ignore the constant roar of traffic which you can’t escape since the River Walk roughly parallels Route 1. I was here for just a little over 2 hours and traveled about 1 1/4 mile but only counted 11 species of birds. However, after checking on the info for this story I was surprised to learn that only 5 checklists have been submitted for this Hotspot and my list is the biggest, which isn’t saying much! I guess I need to bird here again just to improve the data! Click on the links below for more info.

With all the melting snow there was mud and puddles everywhere and I had to dodge them as I emerged from the trail to join Gus at the car. As I walked towards the parking lot I burst out laughing for my eager and optimistic husband had put the top down on the convertible and was listening to music while he waited for me. I should have known better! I got into my seat and put my little lap blanket on my lap and we drove off to do a few errands before going home. since we were only driving around town at speeds little over 35 mph, it wasn’t so bad after all and we had a good laugh together while getting lots of amazed looks and a few thumbs up as we drove along the streets.

11. nap time-kab Naptime for Mallards 3-29-2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birding Wharton Point

1. Ring-billed Gulls-kab Ring-billed Gulls at Wharton Point 3-23-14

There are so many eBird Hotspots around here and I am trying to explore them all. Wharton Point is just about 5 miles from my house but I have only counted birds here twice. It is a popular place for people to stop and I don’t think I have ever been here alone. There is always someone parked here looking out at Maquoit Bay. I stopped here on March 23rd to count birds on a day shortly after the beginning of spring but it is quite clear that winter still had a firm grip on the bay and the land.

2. wharton Point sign-kab This historical plague is at the edge of the parking lot.


3. gulls and ducks-kab Far out in the bay beyond the ice shelf the gulls flew and the ducks swam. They were too far out for me to identify them all, which was very frustrating, because there were so many of them! Most of the gulls were Herring, and Ring-bills with a few Great Black-backed gulls thrown in. Some of them flew close enough to I.D. Especially when someone in the parking lot threw them some scraps, which is how I got the top photo.

4. black ducks-kab I was able to easily identify these two American Black Ducks in the marsh.


5. ice shelf-kab It’s amazing to think that each one of those tiny dark specks is a bird.

Since I was last here all the snow is melted. I drove here today before going into town for some errands. We had gray skies with high, gusty winds which made it even colder as the wind came in off the bay. I am learning the weather patterns of the coast and one thing I have learned already is that if we have an “onshore wind” it will be colder at the coast. If we have an “offshore wind,” it will be warmer at the coast. Today was definitely an onshore wind and I found myself changing from the light raincoat I was wearing to my fleece vest and warmer coat and gloves which I had brought along just in case. While the ice shelf and snow had all melted, there was fog on the bay making visibility poor, but I could still see well enough to notice that there were not nearly the same amount of gulls and ducks in the bay as there had been. But I did see a Great Blue Heron, which flew into the marsh and a Snowy Egret at the edge of the bay. The Snowy was my First of the Year here in Maine, so I was happy with that.

6. frozen marsh-kab Frozen Marsh at Wharton Point, Brunswick, Maine 3-23-14

These are the birds I have seen so far at Wharton Point:

  1. American Black Duck—March 23, 2014
  2. Mallard
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Red-tailed hawk
  5. Killdeer
  6. Ring-billed Gull
  7. Herring Gull
  8. Mourning Dove
  9. American Crow
  10. European starling
  11. Dark-eyed Junco
  12. Common Grackle
  13. Canada Goose—April 15, 2014 (These birds were added today.)
  14. Common Eider
  15. Double Crested Cormorant
  16. Great Blue Heron
  17. Snowy Egret
  18. Song Sparrow

Click here to Explore Wharton Point, an eBird Hotspot

7. marsh and field-kab

Thursday, April 10, 2014

42 Yard Birds at Mere Point Cottage

1. Song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow 3-19-14

I saw my first Song Sparrow in the yard on march 19th. It was hiding in a bush at the corner of the house. I was returning form walking the dog when i saw it and quickly went inside to grab my camera. I could only hope the bird would still be there and it was, but the bush was so twiggy that it made it difficult to get the full body of the bird. No matter which way I maneuvered the sparrow managed to keep its face obscured by branches. I think it was so cold and hungry that it was too tired to fly away. I guess it was trying to do the old child’s game of, “if I can’t see you, then you can’t see me!” After taking a few photos I left it alone hoping it would soon find my feeders.

2. gray sky-kab Often the bird watching around here is like this, a dark silhouette against a gray sky at the very top of a tall tree. Can you guess what bird species this is?

3. chickadee at window-kab Of course, the easy birds to see are the ones that come to my window feeder!

Black-capped Chickadees are the most bold and most often to be seen on these feeders. I had to move them from the dining room windows where I first had them set up because the darned squirrels soon learned they could climb a bush at the corner, then cling to the window edge until they reached the feeders where they would scramble up and gobble up all the seed!

4. squirrel-kab It took about 2 weeks for these guys to find my feeders and we have been doing battle ever since. We are playing our own little game of, “Are You Smarter than a Gray Squirrel?” I tell you what, they are the epitome of persistence and problem solving!

5. chickadee-kab Meanwhile, the Black-capped Chickadees just make me smile!


6. fading snow-kab On March 21st the yard looked like this.

Now all the snow has melted and the yard is full of song sparrows!

7. downy-kab It took awhile for the woodpeckers to find the suet but once they did they have returned on a regular basis. I have seen both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers here so far. I am still waiting to see if Red-bellied or Pileated show up. I have not seen or heard a Red-bellied woodpecker in Maine yet this year, but I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker on Mere Point Road while driving to town this past weekend, so there is hope! I have also seen evidence of their excavations on some trees over at the boat launch.




8. noca-kab Northern Cardinals are regular yard birds.

I took this picture through the bow window on March 21st.

9. feeder-kab These feeders seem to work pretty well. I have two of these that I brought with me from Tucson which I got at the Wildbirds Unlimited on Tangue Verde Road. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find the seed cylinders here in Maine but discovered that the Freeport Wildbird Supply sells them.

10. sonsp-kab Song Sparrow in Yard 4-3-2014

Now that the weather is warming up it is much easier to go outside to photograph birds. I am going to have to learn to sit and be quiet and wait for the birds because taking pictures through these windows is practically pointless because of the distortion. I have also discovered that Song Sparrows look an awful lot like dried leaves and when the wind is blowing it is hard to tell if that’s a sparrow hopping or a leaf fluttering on the lawn! Binoculars are definitely needed!

11. cedar waxwing-kab I had my first Cedar Waxwing on March 3rd. It was only one and I haven’t seen any since. I think this is some kind of fruiting tree it was perched in but the very hungry robins devoured all the fruit long ago. I keep hoping for a Bohemian Waxwing but that is doubtful here at the coast! If this was a Bohemian Waxwing it would have rusty colored undertail coverts instead of the pale ones you see here. (Undertail coverts are the feathers underneath the bird’s tail that hide its private parts. I sometimes call them bird underpants!)

12. FOSP-kab Fox Sparrow 4-3-14

I had my first Fox Sparrow on March 31st. Since then they have been regular yard birds though their numbers have dropped from a high of 10 birds seen in one day on April 4th. Yesterday I only saw two.

13. feeder-kab I moved this bird feeder from the yew bush on the side of the house where it was hanging to the back yard where I could hang it from a limb. However, I could only reach so high and by the time I hung the chain, squirrel baffle and feeder, the feeder was about waist high. It worked for about two days, then the squirrels realized they could leap straight up and get on the feeder, so yesterday I dragged a step ladder out of the basement and climbed the steps to hang the feeder higher on the limb. It is now face high to me, which means about 5 feet off the ground. I can still fill the feeder easily and hopefully the squirrels will not be able to get on it. One good thing about moving it to this location is it is away from the side road and has more cover for the birds. Since moving the feeder over here I have been seeing more titmice and nuthatches. However, I am wondering what all of this is going to look like once everything leafs out!

Before going to Florida I had seen 16 species of birds in this yard. Since my return I have added to that total almost daily. One of my favorite yard birds right now is the American Woodcock, also known as a timberdoodle. I love this bird! It’s dawn and dusk calls and flight displays are spectacular. I cannot believe I have this bird as a yard bird! One night one landed right at the edge of the driveway as I was walking towards the house. I got to see it do its rocking walk where it takes a step and rocks back and forth, then takes another step. I read there is speculation that they do this to startle the earthworms and make they move so they can probe in the mud and eat them.  Since they are mostly active at dawn and dusk it will be hard to get a photo of them, but I have seen them during the day and it is my hope to get a picture of one someday soon!

You can see the complete Mere Point Cottage Yard List in the sidebar or click the links below for more info:

Mere Point Cottage Recent Species:

25 Canada Goose
Mere Point Cottage
22 Mar 2014
26 Red-breasted Nuthatch
Mere Point Cottage
22 Mar 2014
27 Brown Creeper
Mere Point Cottage
22 Mar 2014
28 Turkey Vulture
Mere Point Cottage
24 Mar 2014
29 Greater Scaup
Mere Point Cottage
28 Mar 2014
30 Great Blue Heron
Mere Point Cottage
30 Mar 2014
31 Fox Sparrow
Mere Point Cottage
31 Mar 2014
32 European Starling
Mere Point Cottage
31 Mar 2014
33 American Woodcock
Mere Point Cottage
02 Apr 2014
34 Cedar Waxwing
Mere Point Cottage
03 Apr 2014
35 Common Grackle
Mere Point Cottage
03 Apr 2014
36 Purple Finch
Mere Point Cottage
04 Apr 2014
37 Common Loon
Mere Point Cottage
05 Apr 2014
38 Common Eider
Mere Point Cottage
06 Apr 2014
39 Great Black-backed Gull
Mere Point Cottage
06 Apr 2014
40 Brown-headed Cowbird
Mere Point Cottage
06 Apr 2014
41 Eastern Phoebe
Mere Point Cottage
07 Apr 2014
42 White-throated Sparrow
Mere Point Cottage
08 Apr 2014