On Sunday April 10 Gus and I took a drive to Maine once again to visit his parents. I contacted my friend and fellow blogger, Beth Maddaus to see if she wanted to go birding with me.
We met at the junctions of routes 2 and 4 in Farmington Maine along the Sandy River. Though the day is a bit gray and gloomy, it is also relatively warm.
We walk down along the Sandy River to see if there are any birds. The swollen river is rushing by but there are no ducks or mergansers as we had hoped. There are no herons or egrets, or bitterns, which Beth tells me she has seen here before.
But in the wooded area near this old barn a pair of Downy Woodpeckers are chasing each other about. It looks like two females to me and I can only assume that one is trying to chase the other off its territory.
We find some Song Sparrows in the grass and we see a White-breasted Nuthatch in the trees. A Rock Pigeon flies over our heads and we hear and see some crows. When we encounter a NO TRESSPASSING sign we decide to try another location.
We don’t go far. We travel just across the intersection and park at the local McDonald’s. Fisrt we use the restroom. Then we head north across the parking lot to Front St. There behind the McDonald's is a small building like a ranch house that said “Country Store.” On the building is a sign that says, “Closed.” However, on the narrow end of the building that faces front street is a vine covered deck with a couple of bird feeders hanging and we immediately start to see birds. Snow is still piled here on the north side of the store and alongside this north side runs a little wooded area that slopes down to a brook and then an open field.
At first we see Song Sparrows hopping about. Then I notice a grayish bird flitting about in the brush and alighting on tree branches. It flies up to the eaves and then out again. First one, and then another. Phoebes! I am seeing a pair of Eastern Phoebes nest building! I point them out to Beth as birds continue move around us. A House Finch flies into the feeder, then I find a small flock of American Goldfinches high in the branches on a nearby tree. We take a look at them, then look back to the vine covered deck. What is this I see?
Hiding in the tangle of vines a small, streaked bird peers cautiously out at me. I look in amazement, my jaw drops and my adrenaline rushes. I have been wanting to see this species all winter but it has eluded me! Now here it is right in front of my eyes! The black chin and red cap on this tiny streaked birds let me know that I am seeing…
In fact, I counted 3 here at the feeder. Beth and I are standing here in awe and amazement enjoying all the birds were are seeing when I hear something in the woods beside us. It sounds like someone or something is banging on a tree trunk. My heart skips yet another beat as I hope against hope for what I suspect it is. I turn my gaze from the house with its feeders and start to scan the trees as I try to locate the sound I am hearing. Sure enough, there it is! A Pileated Woodpecker! I point it out to Beth and we start to walk that way. I have my D80 up and the 70-300mm lens locked on it and I start to snap away as we move ever quietly closer. However, this bird is so intent on its task that it does not seem to care that we are here.
We walk and watch and stop and snap photo after photo as wood chips fly. I must have taken over 100 shots in a 5 minute period. Just look at the hole when I first started snapping and how much excavating it did in this short period of time! I have posted the time of the shot beneath the photos so you can compare.
We walk off down a snowmobile trail a short distance to see if we can find any other birds, but all we find are a small flock of Robins. I can feel that the day is wearing on and soon I must return to Norridgewock so we can drive back to Andover, which is a three hour drive. So, Beth and I decide to head back towards her car. As we pick our way though mud and snow we pass the Pileated Woodpecker again. He is still working on that tree! Beth wants some of the woodchips he has chiseled out that have fallen to the ground beneath the tree. In an effort not to disturb the bird, she tromps down the wet creek bank and gets some chips from a position where she is not quite so visible, but I am thinking now that he really doesn’t care if we are here! I am at a different angle now and I so love this bird that I snap off a few more shots. Meanwhile, Beth climbs back up the steep brush covered bank, her shoes and pants soaked with mud! I tell you, Beth is one dedicated naturalist!
As we pass the little store a friendly little white-breasted nuthatch flies into the vines and peers at us curiously. We are all smiles as we walk to the car and go in search of a place for pie and coffee. After driving past two closed coffee shops Beth remembers a cafe a mile or two west on Rt. 2. Thankfully it is still open and we each make our choice. I pick Lemon meringue pie and tea, while Beth chooses coconut cream pie and coffee. I should have taken pictures of all of this, but we were having too much fun recounting this day and chatting away. We were like two little magpies in Maine. When Beth takes me back to where I have parked my car we realize that we have not taken any photos of each other. So we stop and get out our cameras and as we do I see a Downy Woodpecker at this feeder that i didn't even notice before! All this birding must have gotten to Beth, for she leans forward as if to eat from the bird feeder! I suddenly get my wits about me and snap this shot as she is pulling away! Ha! Ha! LOL! I love Birders!
Thanks Beth! I had such a great time birding with you! Hopefully we can do it again soon now that the weather is getting better! And hopefully Beth will update us soon on her blog, Beth’s Stories, about the birds and the bees and the beavers in her neck of the Maine woods!
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