Monday, February 28, 2011

A Winter Week in CT

1. Red-tailed hawk Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk 2-22-11 Bridgeport, CT

Last weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. While I spent the first three days counting birds in Massachusetts, I ended the count in Connecticut where I went to visit my family for my birthday. On the third day, which was Sunday the 20th, I did not count many birds as I spent the morning writing blog posts, the afternoon packing, and the rest of the afternoon driving to CT. On day four of the count I awoke to snow and, though I could not go out and count birds, the snow brought plenty to my Mom’s feeders giving me a list of 14 species. These are the birds I counted in my Mom’s yard:

  1. Mourning Dove 1
  2. Downy woodpecker 2
  3. Blue Jay 2
  4. Black-capped chickadee 2
  5. Tufted Titmouse 2
  6. White breasted Nuthatch 1
  7. Carolina Wren 1
  8. American Robin 1
  9. White-throated sparrow 1
  10. Dark-eyed Junco 8
  11. Northern Cardinal 2
  12. American Goldfinch 7
  13. House Finch 6
  14. House Sparrow 2

I counted for 45 minutes. This was the only day this week that I saw the Carolina Wren or the Robin. The rest of the species are fairly regular visitors to her feeders. On Saturday morning before I left I also saw 2 European Starlings and about 5 American Crows.

2. The Donovans Me (center) with Alice and Ron Donovan 2-22-11

Tuesday was my birthday and my mom and sis took me out for breakfast before we took my mom to the train station in New London where she was boarding a train for Florida to visit family and friends. Her train was delayed and though  it was sunny but very cold I still managed to count a few birds from the Train Station which is right on the Thames River in New London. Across the tracks at the water’s edge a few fish crows called from the tops of poles. Fish Crows and American Crows are notoriously difficult to tell about except by their voices. These were very clearly saying “Un Uh! Un Uh!” I later read something on the internet that said: How do you tell a Fish Crow from an American Crow? Because when you ask a crow if it is an American Crow it will answer, “Un Uh!”

Once Mom was safely on the train I headed to Bridgeport, CT to visit some friends I had not seen in 30 years! Alice has known me since I was 16 years old and Ron met me just a few years later. They were both married to other people at the time but Ron became a widow and Alice was divorced for several years before they reconnected and married each other. Since I knew both of them and their former spouses I was wondering how it would be to see them together but once I was there it all just seemed so natural. I could see the love in Ron’s eyes as he looked at his wife and Alice seemed so happy and smiley!


Perhaps Alice is so smiley because Ron does the dishes! Or perhaps it is because of her adorable grandson, Caine!









I had a wonderful time and hope to visit them again soon as they live near a population of feral parrots which I hope to see and add to my Connecticut Life List one day!

3. Hawk kathiesbirdsJuvenile Red-tailed hawk 2-22-11 Bridgeport, CT

In fact, while I did not count any birds while visiting them, I did count some in the parking lot of Auto Zone on Main Street, Bridgeport where I stopped to pick up some canolis from Del Prete Italian Pastry across the street. My sister found this place on line and told me it was voted the best Canolis in the state! Since it was only about 3 miles from the Donavan's house it worked out perfectly for me to stop on the way. As I was walking back to my car with the canolis I noticed this hawk sitting on the wires over the parking lot. the street below was puddled with snowmelt and on the Auto zone building itself some fish crows sat and scolded the hawk. Though my path brought me closer to the hawk it did not flee but rather seemed intrigued with something on the ground below. I opened the back of my car, put down the canolis and grabbed my camera. a few quick shots, a glance to see what other birds where in the vicinity, and I was on my way! It was only later when I entered the bird count into eBird that I discovered this was my first bird count for Fairfield county, CT! With Fairfield County now captured I only have one more of Connecticut’s 8 counties to count birds in! However, I still have not seen that elusive 107th species in the state that will put me over the top as far as having counted more birds in Connecticut (a state I have lived in) than in West Virginia (a state I only visited for a week as part of the New River Birding and Nature Festival which is coming up real soon!)

Birds seen in Bridgeport, CT on 2-22-11 (5 minute count):

  1. Red-tailed Hawk 1
  2. Rock Pigeon 4
  3. Fish Crow 4
  4. European Starling 1

4. Eagle Tree k The Eagle Tree on Norwich Ave, Colchester, CT 2-23-11 (My sister just texted me and told me she saw the eagles there again today! 2-28-11)

On Wednesday I tried to go out birding again but it was all cold sunshine and few to no birds. My sister drives a school bus and in the spring and fall se regularly sees Bald Eagles in this tree on Norwich Avenue in Colchester which is across the street from Savin Pond. Ever since I loved back east last fall I try to drive by this spot but have yet to see the eagles there. right now the pond is frozen solid and I saw no birds here at all on this day.

5. Red Cedar Lake kathie Ice Fishing Tent on Red Cedar Lake 2-23-11

So, I drove on to Camp Moween rd and Red Cedar lake where I hoped I would see SOMETHING. Though there were a few titmice and chickadees in the surrounding trees, the rest of the lake was empty and silent save for a bright red tent used as a shelter by ice fishermen.

I had much more success on Thursday afternoon when I went with my sister to get my hair cut at a friend’s house in Amston, CT. Her home is located in a wooded area with a pond below her house. She has put out bird feeders and in the hour that I watched birds there I saw 14 species of birds including 4 varieties of woodpecker, though no Pileated I am sorry to say. I also saw 3 Eastern Bluebirds and yet another Red-tailed hawk!

I had originally intended to head back to Massachusetts on Friday but a rain/sleet/snow storm on Friday kept me at my mother’s house for an extra day. I was a bit anxious as I watched the rain form a large pond in her backyard and the power flashed off, and then on two different times in the morning. Though I was concerned about her basement flooding my mom has a sump pump installed and it easily handled all the water that tried to rush in. I wrote a poem about it entitled In the Backyard the Rain which you can read by clicking on the link.

6. HOFI kathie House Finch 2-26-11 Colchester, CT

I awoke Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. and started packing. Before I left I refilled the feeders for my Mom (and the birds!). then, as I stepped out the front door I set my suitcases down and put my camera to my eye to capture these photos of the birds in the tree where her feeders are located.

7. WBNU Kathie White-breasted Nuthatch 2-26-11

8. DEJU kathie Dark-eyed Junco 2-26-11

Good-bye for now sweet Connecticut Birds! You know I will be back soon. It is then I hope to find species number 107 and beyond for my Connecticut Life List!

My World Tuesday 

eBird Stats Update:

  • Life List 392 Species
  • 2011 Year to Date Totals 60
  • February Total Species Seen 31
  • CT Life List 106
  • CT year totals 24
  • ME Life List 94
  • ME 2011 Totals 7
  • MA Life List 90
  • MA Year Totals 58
  • NH Life List 23
  • NH 2011 Totals 8
  • RI LIfe List 15
  • RI 2011 Totals 0
  • VT Life List 0
  • VT 2011 Totals 0

I first wrote about this eBird State Totals thing in a blog post last year. If you are interested, click on the link and scroll down to the last paragraph and the list:

Birding CT Devil’s Hopyard State Park

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yep, It Did It Again!

1. titmouse kathie Tufted Titmouse, Andover, MA 2-27-11

Snow! After predicting 1-3” if snow we awoke this morning to 6-7” of that white stuff!

2. feeder kathie The birds are flocking to my feeders which I have refilled since returning from a week spent in Connecticut.

3. titmouse kathie Tufted Titmouse 2-27-11 Andover, MA

4. titmouse kathie 

5. titmouse k 

6. red squirrel Red Squirrel in Feeder 2-27-11

No, it is not trapped! It climbed in there itself through the openings and gorged on birdseed, then it climbed down. I suppose this squirrel considers this it’s own private diningroom! (The little rascal!)

7. snug as a bug k Meanwhile, Breezy Boy and Bonnie have the right idea. What better way to spend a snowy day!

If you are looking for something to do on this snowy winter day I have a few recommendations for you. some of these are old friends and some are new, but please check out these blogs to open your minds and be inspired!

Recommendations for a Snowy Day:

Poetry is happening on Kathie’s Poet Tree 

Friday’s Flowers and Kathie’s Poems (a fellow blogger surprised me with this!)

Learn all about birding on Birding is Fun

Two New Bird and Nature Photography and Poetry Blogs Wildwood and Kindling

Take a stroll through some Art Blogs:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pale Quiet (SWF)

SWF Quiet Gusto

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse 12-11-10

Pale Quiet

liquid light

softly surrounds me as

I drown in the chaos of


I reach out for safety,

grab what I can

of the Pale Quietness

of Stillness

of Hope

~Kathie Adams Brown (February 15, 2011)

Skywatch Friday 

Photo by Gusto! w/Nikon D90, 18-200mm lens

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fear in the Park!

2. HOSP House Sparrows in Burlington, MA 2-19-11

It is afternoon on day 2 of the Great Backyard Bird Count. After counting birds all morning in Andover, Gus and I head off to Burlington, Massachusetts where Gus has an eye doctor’s appointment. We park at the doctor’s office and while he goes inside, I stay outside and count birds in the parking lot. I mean, why not? Birds are everywhere (I hope). So I bundle myself up and walk around the back of the building and try to stay out of the gusting wind by tucking myself into a corner against the building. This office building is built into the slope of a hill, so the land to my right as I stand against the back of the building slopes steeply up and is held by a retaining wall. Behind the building and the parking lot I face a wooded area and to my left the level parking lot stretches off to guardrails and a steep drop-off. On the hill above me are what looks like an apartment building immediately adjacent to the office building and then some small homes strung out along the ridge. I purposely avoid pointing my camera or bins at the houses or buildings and scan the sky and the wooded area instead.

Once again the lazy gulls float over my patch of blue and gray sky. As usual, there are a few Ring-billed Gulls and then, always there seems to be one lone Herring Gull. I hear a soft tweet beside me on the slope. Once again in a tangle of vines and twigs I find birds. This time it is a flock of house sparrows trying to find shelter from the wind. Tiny brown birds decorate the vines as camouflage. They fly from a small bush low on the slope up to a vine covered stump higher up, then fly back down when startled. As I am watching them, I see fluttering farther in the woods. There I find a dark-eyed junco hopping along a slender branch. As the wind howls I stand there freezing, waiting for my 15 minutes to pass. A few spits of snow taunt me. With no other birds appearing I head back to my car for warmth. As I do three blackbirds of some sort fly overhead and into the sun. I cannot tell what kind they are, so I do not count them. Only 4 species of birds in this location.

1. Simonds Park Simonds Park 2-19-11

Across the street from the office building a large wooded area exists. Tall pines tower at a dark green height. I decide to drive up the street and see if this might be a place where I can count birds. As I turn the corner on Bedford Street I discover this is a town park. A sign welcomes me to Simonds Park and I drive up the paved entrance to a parking area. This park sits atop a small hill and I find a playground and buildings, a ball park, and the large wooded area beyond. The sidewalks are all plowed and dry, so I smile thinking this will be someplace I can actually walk around. Though the wind is buffeting my vehicle and a few flakes are falling, I bundle up once again and get out of my car with my Eagle Optics binoculars and my Nikon D80 with the 70-300mm lens attached. The parking lot and playground are abandoned. No one is here. I am alone and I like it this way. Besides, who but me would be out on such a cold, gusty, gray day?

4. where i walked to The edge of the parking lot I walked to trying to find the hawk.

As I step from my car a raptor flies by low and quick in a flat glide past me and disappears into the trees beyond. Perhaps I should have seen this as an omen. I hobble across the parking lot in the direction the bird went for my right foot has been hurting me since Monday making walking difficult. I am all the way to the snow bank across the parking lot from my car and staring off into the trees where I saw it disappear when suddenly I sense something behind me. My animal instincts kick in and I feel the danger before I see it.

I turn around and there is a small dark car parked between me and my vehicle. The person inside is just staring at me. I look at them and my heart starts to pound. Where did they come from? Why are they looking at me? I cannot tell at first if it is a man or a woman. Then, as I am running through ideas in my mind about what I will do I realize that I have several thousand dollars worth of equipment around my neck and my cell phone in my pocket. I try to act casual and look back at the trees as I think.

The person in the vehicle backs his car up, and I soon discover it is a man as he parks his car 3 spaces away from mine and gets out. He is a small, dark-skinned man with some facial hair. He casually walks over to the garbage can and examines its contents, always glancing back at me. He is sizing me up.

3. where I parked (I was parked in front of this building to the left of the picnic table. The tree on the right is the one he used as a bathroom.)

Then, he walks behind a nearby tree; a tree near to the playground and my car. He turns his back and takes a leak!

5. Playground Playground across from the tree.

At this point I should have called the police, but instead I call my husband as I hurriedly hobble back to my car. The man is now walking towards the parking lot, which is also towards me, but he sees me on my phone and veers towards his car instead. I jump inside my car and lock the doors. Gus is with the doctor, so I need to hang up. I sit there in the car with my heart pounding as the man in the little dark car backs up and starts to drive away. It is then that I get my wits about me. Picking up my bins I look through them at his license plate and memorize the number. Then, still with heart pounding, I try to decide if I should call the police. Why is this even a decision, you might ask? I don’t know. It shouldn’t have been, but for me it was. Is this really a crime? I think it is. Was I in danger? I think I was.

5. Tree he hid behind 

I jotted the license plate number down on my birding list and now I use my smart phone to find the non-emergency number for the Burlington police. Still, I pause, wondering if I should call. I am doubting myself, and I come from a family which hates to make a scene and hates to bother people. Then, I decide. I dial the number and press the call button. I can tell by the voice it is a female officer. I explain who I am, where I am and what just happened. The officer not only knew where I was, but she chuckled when I told her I was bird watching and how I saw a hawk soar by. She told me she lives nearby and sees that same hawk soar over her house on a regular basis. But then she also told me that I should have called 911. She reassured me that my instincts were correct and she informed me that urinating in public is a criminal offense. It is indecent exposure. She pointed out that there could have been children nearby. Then she took the license plate number and my cell phone number. I do not know if they tracked the man down and arrested him but I know I got a lesson in safely. Next time I will call the police first!

6. tall pines 

After it was all over I drove back to pick up Gus. I chattered away about all that happened. He drove me back to the “scene of the crime” and I showed him where I was and the tree the guy used as a toilet. Though it is only about 30 minutes since it all happened, there are now families in the park and other cars parked in the parking lot. A mother and father with a small child walk past me pulling a sled. Two teenagers with plastic swords walk off for a pretend fight in the forest. Three young woman walk by as I step out of the car to take pictures to illustrate this story. As I stand there in the parking lot with the sun sinking behind me I ponder how quickly a place can go from bird watching solitude, to fearful menace, to playful family experience. At the moment this hardly seems like the same place!

7. red-tailed hawk Red-tailed hawk at Simonds Park

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the hawk flew back past me at one point when I was here before and it was a Red-tailed Hawk which is when I got these shots! Success!

Monday, February 21, 2011

GBBC Day 2: A Surprise in the Park

1. Andover Town Park Andover Town Park 2-19-11

The Great Backyard Bird Count is on and I am out counting birds. Today is day 2 of the count and I start by counting the birds in my own yard. After yesterday’s High of 60 degrees the 32 degrees I wake up to today feels frigid, especially when you add in the high winds and the wind chill factor. After counting birds in my own yard, I move on to my friend Merry Robin’s yard. I count the birds there for 15 minutes. 

2. DEJU k I spot this Dark-eyed junco on a branch in her yard…

3. tufted timouse k …as well as this cute tufted timouse!

Next I move on to Sacred Heart Park in Andover.Gus and I discovered this place when we first looked at the apartment we are renting. It is a perfect place to bird watch with open fields, wooded areas and a lazy river meandering through it. But, when I arrive today the field is still covered with almost 2 feet of snow. The temperature has dropped from the 60 degrees it was yesterday to 34 degrees today with high, gusty winds. In other words, it is very cold out there. So, I sit in my heated car with its heated seats and roll down a window so I can hear any birds and wait.

4. Hawk in tangle k 

A lone gull soars overhead, then another. Time is passing slowly and I am seeing nothing. I scan the trees surrounding the field for any sign of movement. Nothing. Usually I see or hear crows and jays. Nothing. Suddenly I see a pair of pigeons fly overhead, then, Nothing. My time is almost up and I scan the trees one more time when I detect a funny lump in the tangle of twigs and vines. I focus as best as I can through the branches and there I find a Red-tailed Hawk just sitting. Wanting a closer look and perhaps a photo I shut off my heated car, grab my bins and camera and get out. As I step out of the car I hear a blue jay call. Species number 4 for this location.

5. red-tailed hawk 

I walk out onto the field. In the gap between the guardrails the snow has been worn down and I think this will be no problem, but, after 3 or 4 steps out my feet start to sink in the snow. Soon I am up to my ankles, then my knees, and I do not have boots on, so the snow is tumbling into the tops of my shoes. I chalk this up to a bad idea, take one last shot, and head back to my car as a couple of crows call from over the treetops. I get a total of 5 species in my 15 minutes at this location with having seen 2 species of gulls.

19. Gazebo

I move on to Andover town Park next where I park in a virtually abandoned parking lot. I back up to on snow bank and face the park. Gray cloudy tumble overhead in a boiling sky. The gusting wind is tearing branches from the trees and littering the parking lot with debris. I know that windy days keep the birds down, but I sit here anyway. If no birds arrive, I will enter a count of zero into the GBBC and eBird, for they both want to know where the birds aren’t as well as where they are. After sitting in my heated car with heated seats for about 10 minutes I decide to get out and just walk over to the spruce and pines I see surrounding the park just so I can peek up through the branches and see if any little feathered friends are hiding in the tree. You know, bird watching and birding are all about timing, and life was just about to teach me that once again.


6. TUVU 

As I step from the car into the freezing wind with my bins around my neck and my camera slung over my shoulder I must have looked like an Eskimo in my hooded parka. I close the car door and walk around the front of the vehicle. As I do, I am facing northeast, in the direction I am walking. Suddenly up over the eastern horizon I see a dark shape rocking on the wind. As it comes closer I cannot believe my eyes, for I know what it is. I raise my camera and click! Click! Click!

7. TUVU shadow 

But the turkey vulture rides the current and drops behind the tree line to the south.

8. big tree kMeanwhile, behind me I hear the cawing of crows. I turn to see what is going on and from the northwest over town I see a fury of black shapes chasing a large raptor. This roiling and boiling bunch of feathers is headed my way, but a large maple tree is blocking my view. I scurry to anticipate which direction they are going so I can hopefully capture some shots as they move into a clear patch of sky.

9. hawk n crows 

For a few brief seconds they are directly over my head and I snap away.

10. hawk and crows 

11. kathiebirds 

12. crow dance kathiesbirds 

13. hawk n crow kathiesbirds 

14. parting crow Kathiesbirds 

15. red-tailed hawk kThrough the lens of my camera I cannot see any details of the hawk they are chasing. In my heart I am hoping I am seeing a Northern Goshawk. I think to myself that the bird looks awfully pale and gray from below, but when I look at the photos afterwards I discover it is just another red-tailed hawk. Still, I am pleased.

16. TUVU kathie As the hawk heads south the mob of crows breaks up and turns back to the north. I also turn to walk back to my car when suddenly I see the turkey vulture retuning from over the southern tree line and the large brick buildings before me.

17. TUVU k Slowly and quietly it rocks, riding the wind like a pro.

18. TUVU blessing

As the vulture dips its wings towards me I feel as if it is giving me its blessings. I get in my car, turn the heat back on, and drive away. I only counted 3 species at this location but what an exciting count it turned out to be!

My World Tuesday 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

GBBC Day 1: Counting Birds Everywhere

1. Goldfinch katiesbirds American Goldfinch 2-18-11

I am out counting birds everywhere on Day 1 of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

2. feeders kathiesbirds 

The rising temperatures have freed my yew tree from its snowy bonds. The snow beneath my feeders is starting to melt and you can see the patch I shoveled to try to keep those pesky squirrels from leaping onto the feeders.

 3. SOSP Kathies 

Under the front yard feeders I find a song sparrow. A few juncos, white-throated sparrows, chickadees, titmice, house sparrows, a nuthatch and a cardinal are the species I record form my yard today. Then I head out on the town to see what I can see!




4. Gull Kahties At the Shawsheen Plaza I count gulls and crows.

5. NOCA Kathies At Merry Robin’s House I count 10 species of birds including this male Cardinal and the American Goldfinch above. On the way home to pick up Gus I drive past another industrial area where the Shawsheen River flows close to the parking lot. I can usually find a pair of mallards here as well as pigeons on the building but I see neither species today. I only count 2 birds at this location: 1 blue jay, 1 titmouse.

6. Crow Kathie

The day has grown warmer with each passing minute. when Gus gets in the car we drive with the windows down. the car’s thermometer reads 58 degrees! It is starting to feel like spring. We head east towards Steven’s Pond and lake cochichewick. Gus pulls into the soggy parking lot at Steven’s Pond in North Andover and I gingerly step out onto the slushy snow. Brilliant blue skies arch above me, but the trees surrounding the parking lot are mostly silent. A few crows fly into the trees above my head scrutinizing me and trying to decide if I am alarming or not. Then a couple of chickadees and titmice put in an appearance and I add my first woodpecker to the list-a Hairy. I counted 5 species here.

7. skunk cabbage K 

Next we drive to Lake Cochichewick’s south end. I have not been birding here in awhile since the lake is frozen solid, but across the street in the woods I see hope in form of skunk cabbage shoots poking through the melting soil.

8. melting k On the lake I see hope in the form of melting!

We drive around the lake and stop at the north end, but there are too many cars to sit and watch birds at this time of day, so we move on.  As we come to the junction of routes 125 and 133 in North Andover we see a business where people are forming a line up to an open window. Could this be an ice cream parlor? I glance at the sign above which reads Mad Maggie's Ice Cream. We do a quick U-turn and park our car. I count birds while devouring Khalua Brownie Fudge ice cream. Yup, it tastes even better than it sounds! Oh, and by the way, a flock of about 75 crows flew over my head while standing in Mad Maggie’s parking lot!

9. HOSP k

By now it is getting late and though the day is still warm we need to buy some milk, so we stop by our local Market Basket and while Gus goes in the store…you got it! I stay outside and count birds! Here on the grocery store sign the House Sparrows have taken up residence. I watch them for awhile and count a flock of 24 but then I head over to the edge of the parking lot where there is a wooded area.

10. hawk k I scan the sky and forest for birds.  Sometimes I  hear a faint twittering, but do not see the birds and then…I spot this! a Red-tailed Hawk in the tangle hiding from me and everyone else! I try to reposition myself for a better shot, but though I am quite far away with a fence and deep snow in-between the bird gets uncomfortable and takes off.

11. forest k However, in this same forested area I also find a Downy Woodpecker climbing the branches of a tree. Amazing, isn’t it? Woods on one side…

12. commercial k …and commercial property on the other. But birds are everywhere and I am counting them all!

I submitted a total of 9 checklists to eBird and the GBBC for today. 5 in Andover, 3 in North Andover, and 1 in Lawrence, Massachusetts!