Friday, September 30, 2011

A Change of Seasons, Exciting News

1. Lincoln's sparrow-kab Song Sparrow 9-29-11 Colchester, CT

The misty, muggy, foggy days of Autumn have brought more than one kind of change to me this year. Besides the migrating birds I am seeing, another new experience is opening up before me. Many of you already know that I am an avid eBirder. As a result, I have found a kindred spirit in Robert Mortensen of the Birding is Fun blog. So when he asked me if I would become a regular contributor on his blog, I eagerly agreed! Click on the Birding is Fun link to get the full story.

Meanwhile, once again I have been travelling all over New England. After having just returned from a three day trip to Connecticut to visit my family and count some birds, I am off at Plum Island today with Dawn Fine and some of the birders from Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp.

2. Turkey-kab Wild Turkeys 9-29-11 Colchester, CT

One of the good things about eBird is that it keeps all of your lists organized for you. With a just a simple click of the mouse, you can check on any sighting you have had anywhere as long as you have entered that data into the eBird data base. If you have not tried eBird before or have not tried it in awhile, they have recently improved the data entry process, which makes it easier than ever. Just click on the eBird link to learn more or start your own account. Click on the badge at the top of the sidebar to learn about the eBird Challenge!

The following data is from My eBird Statistics:

eBird Stats for September 2011

Life

Year

Month

Total Species

414

163

86

Total Checklists

3414

851

69

Counties Counted In      
1. Essex, MA

106

96

37

2. Barnstable, MA

63

63

38

3. Suffolk, MA

18

17

8

4. New London, CT

103

66

22

5. Middlesex, CT

57

39

9

6. Windham, CT

33

17

6

7. Rockingham, NH

50

46

30

8. Somerset, ME

67

47

4

9. Cumberland, ME

30

14

2

10. Kennebec, ME

22

14

3

11. York, ME

20

4

4

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sky From my Yard (SWF)

1.sky thru the trees-kab View of the morning sky in my backyard 9-26-11

 

2. sky in the window-kab Evening sky reflected in the western window of my office 9-26-11

 

3. oak trees-kab Sky through the oak trees (these are the trees reflected in the image above)

4. bug in the window-kab Bug in the window.

This is why I went outside in the first place, to photograph this insect which I could see crawling around on this spider’s web in the window of my office with no spider in sight! It seems an appropriate harbinger of October and Halloween with its black body, orange antennae and a spooky spider’s web!

Happy Skywatch Friday!

Please go visit!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In the Backyard

1. autumn-kab Autumn leaves in the yard 9-26-11

After days of busyness and family gatherings and a catching up on things I finally took a few moments to myself and ate my breakfast once again while sitting on my porch in the backyard. Autumn is certainly making its appearance now, though it has been sultry gray and muggy for the past week (which inspired a poem, see link below). Finally today the sun shone and it was drier and more pleasant to sit outside. Here is what I could see from my porch as I enjoyed this autumn day.

2. Ballerina-kab As always, my ballerina keeps me company.

3. suet-kab I have hung the suet from the porch roof for the coming winter.

3. trees-kab Trees beyond the porch.

4. juv cardinal-kab A juvenile female cardinal and a white-breasted nuthatch at the feeder 9-25-11

5. HOFI-kab Male House Finch 9-26-11

6. chipmunk-kab The yard is full of chipmunks busily gathering food for the winter…

7. woodpile-kab …while I am busily gathering wood for the fireplace!

Please read my Poem: When Autumn Was Delayed on Kathie’s Poet Tree

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Willets and Yellowlegs (WBW)

1. yellowlegs-kab Greater yellowlegs (center) and Lesser yellowlegs (left and right)

Greater and Lesser yellowlegs are a variety of sandpiper found coast to coast in the United States. The Greater yellowlegs is taller, meatier, and has a longer bill that can sometimes be slightly upturned. The lesser’s bill is shorter and you can see the difference in this photo. However, Greater and Lesser can be very difficult to tell apart unless they are seen together for comparison, so many people just call them, “Yellowlegs.” I photographed these birds on my recent visit to South Beach in Chatham, Ma. You can read about all my adventures here by clicking on the “Cape Cod” label below, or just scrolling down.

2. willets-kab Eastern and Western Willets 9-13-11 Cape Cod, MA

Who knew that willets come in an eastern and western subspecies? I did not, until birding with Matt Malin and Jeff and Dawn Fine on South Beach.  Apparently these subspecies are “geographically separate” during the breeding season, but during migration they are found together. The Western variety is taller with a longer neck and bill. While the western willet winters along the southern coast, the eastern variety does not winter in North America.

3. willets-kab Even in flight you can see the longer bill and body of the western willet.

4. wings-kab Willet Wings 

If the willet appears drab standing on the shore

gray bird, gray bill, gray legs,

its beauty is revealed in flight

when you see Willet Wings!

~Kathie Adams Brown (9-27-11)

WBW

Go Visit!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gray Seal Surprise (OWT)

1. Napping-kab Gray Seal napping on South Beach in Chatham, MA 9-13-11

 

2. splashing-kab Splashing into the Ocean 9-13-11

 

3. safety-kab Safe!

When we were out at South Beach two weeks ago we came upon a group of seals lounging in the sun on the Atlantic side of the beach. As we drew nearer the seals all slowly lumbered into the water except this lone seal. It stayed there so long and was lying there so strangely that we thought it was dead, but as we drew closer it suddenly sprang to life and splashed off into the sea. It is a gray seal I believe due to its long head, but I could not decide if it was a young one or an old one. It was the only furry looking seal I saw and when I googled “gray seals” all the information I got was basically the same on every page. Nothing I found described this furry type of seal. All of the pages informed me of the cool fact that a gray seal's scientific name, Halichoerus grypus, derives from the Greek words meaning "hook-nosed sea pig." Finally I found one page that described the process of molting. This is when a seal sheds its skin and it can take up to six weeks to complete. According to the web site Seals-World the seals can get very cranky at this time. However, not one web site I visited noted that seals are mammals, which they are, and none of them told me what a group of seals is called. So I googled that question and discovered conflicting information. I read that a group of young seals is called a pod, but a colony of seals is called a herd! What? How many seals make a colony and why is it not just called a colony instead of a herd? Is there anyone out there smarter than the internet please?

Links to Gray Seal Facts and Info:

Our World Tuesday!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Black-bellied Plover in Autumn

1. Black-bellied plover poem-kab Black-bellied Plover 9-13-11 Cape Cod, MA

The black-bellied plover in autumn

is a black and white painting of a bird

an exercise in pointillism

by the God who designs birds

Feathered creatures who fly

and wade on ocean shores

Where wind and water shape their lives

and bend the light

‘til we see dots.

~Kathie Adams Brown (September 23, 2011)

2. black-bellied plover-kab 

3. black-bellied plover-kab

The black-bellied plover is just one of 15 Life birds I saw while out on South Beach in Chatham, MA with Jeff and Dawn Fine two weeks ago. When looking at these photos, which are greatly enlarged and cropped, it made me think of the pointillism paintings by Seurat. I hope you enjoy the photos and the poem inspired by them.

Click on the link to view Serat’s Painting Sunday Afternoon on on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the paintings. You may click on my photos to enlarge also.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tern Song (SWF)

1. Terns-kabJust a Little Flight Music

 

2. solo flight-kab Solo Flight 9-13-11

 

3. beach music-kab Beach Music 9-13-11 Cape Cod

When I was out at South Beach on Cape Cod last week I saw so many birds and took so many pictures. When I saw the first shot of the terns in flight it reminded me of the pattern of musical notes on a bar graph. Then I realized that each of these photos reminded me of poetry and music. I hope you enjoy them as they seemed the perfect shots for…

Skywatch Friday.

Go Visit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Flight of the Jaeger (WBW)

1. Jaeger-kabJuvenile Parasitic Jaeger on South Beach of Cape Cod 9-13-11

Last Tuesday I had the privilege of going birding on South Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts which is out on Cape Cod. While I was there I saw so many birds! Many of them were species I thought I would never see in my life. 15 were Life Birds! The Jaeger is one of them. So, imagine my surprise and delight when this bird flew in over the beach in pursuit of a Forster’s tern. I focused my 70-300mm lens on it and panned as it flew over the beach zigging and zagging and eventually flying right over my head! When I off-loaded the photos I was amazed, but I still needed the help of Matt Malin for a positive I. D. Matt birds around this area regularly and knows the species. Jeff and Dawn Fine and I followed him around the beach for the day and I will always remember it as being one of the best days of my life. I am letting the photos speak for themselves. They were all taken with the Nikon D80 set in Sports Mode for rapid firing and central focus. In this way I could lock on the bird and follow its flight. Not all shots are perfect but I think they will give you a feel of the excitement and the flight of both species of birds. I am amazed at the shapes their wings take as they fly and matt tells me the jaeger is missing its central tail feathers which it has probably molted. I hope you enjoy The Flight of the Jaeger.

To read the Overview of this day please scroll down one post or click on the link: South Beach Birding Overview

2.jaeger in pursuit-kab 

3. jaeger-kab 

4. close call-kab 

5. jager n tern-kab 

6. pursuit-kab 

7. flight-kab 

8. jager-tern-kab 

9. the scream-kab The Scream 9-13-11

10. wings-kab 

11. tern dive-kab 

12. flight-kab 

13. jaeger peel off-kab 

14. who are you-kab 

15. parasitic jaeger-kab 

16. juv parasitic jaeger-kab 

17. jaeger good-bye-kab Good-bye Jaeger!

World Bird Wednesday!

(click on the link to see more amazing birds!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

South Beach Birding Overview (OWT)

1. On our way-kab Matt Malin, Jeff and Dawn Fine 9-13-11

My journey to South Beach on Cape Cod’s barrier island began at five a.m. on September 9, 2011. I was suppose to get up at 4 a.m. but due to an unfortunate twist of fate I set my alarm clock to the wrong time. It put me an hour behind schedule and though I missed out on having coffee with Jeff and Dawn we drove down to the harbor anyway and were fortunate enough to get the ferry out to the island after all. Another birder named Matt Malin was headed out there also and as we rode across the waves with the wind whipping in our faces we struck up a conversation and became fast friends for the day. Matt tells us he has birded the island several times and often comes here to count birds. Apparently he is an eBirder also, so he and I have something in common. However, I am feeling very lost as far as identifying species out here on this island. Not only do I not know what to expect, I know I have little to no experience with most of the species and I also know that many of them are molting to their fall or winter plumages, which makes identification even more difficult. So, I am trusting Jeff and Dawn to guide me this time, and now, Matt Malin.

2. mud flats-kab It soon becomes apparent that it is a very horizontal world out here. Everything is long and flat. There are no trees, a few small scrubby bushes, and lots of sand and waving grass. The small ferry gets us as close to shore as possible, then we jump into the water up to our knees and wade to shore. It is a sunny day which, though it started out cool is already warming under the bright, though late summer sun. The water feels cool and refreshing as I step out of the boat. I feel my heart pounding with excitement and anticipation. I am doing something I thought I would never get to do with friends whom I love in a place that seems so wild and exotic to me. And it is wild. There are no buildings of any sort on this island. The restroom facilities are open air behind a dune and hope a plane does not fly over! But I don’t care! I am here and I’m with friends on a grand adventure and it is wild and I will be outside all day long! It is about 8:45 a.m. when the ferry drops us off. It won’t be back to pick us up until 4 p.m. Until then, we are on our own!

3. checking out birds-kab It isn’t long before we see birds. Jeff and Matt set up their scopes and soon we are scanning the shoreline.

3. common tern-kab Common terns are some of the first birds we see…

4. Sanderling-kab …along with sanderlings.

 

5. beach grass-kab I love the softly waving grasses and the wet sand beneath my feet.

 

6. shorebirds-kab Common Terns landing on beach. 

7. oystercatchers-kab But I am drawn to these American Oystercatchers, which are a *Life Bird for me.

8. Black-bellied plover-kabSoon I see another Lifer; a Black-bellied Plover! I thought I would never see this species of bird! We watch for awhile as a few other black-bellies pick along the shore line. I get very good looks through bins, scope and camera lens. The plovers are currently molting into winter plumage and so have an almost calico look to them.

9. a horizontal world-kab We hike across the dunes to the open Atlantic side of the island.

 

10. seals-kabHere we are greeted by hundreds of seals! They lounge on the beach and bob in the waves watching us as curiously as we are watching them. I have tried and tried to find seals on Plum Island and at Salisbury Beach farther up the coast. I would have been trilled to see just a few, now we have a crowd of them and cormorants to boot!

11. jaeger-kabParasitic or Pomerine Jaeger? Neither! Immature laughing Gull!

(Matt Malin politely pointed out that this is not a jaeger at all, but rather, an immature laughing gull!  So, I have corrected myself and added in the photo of the jaeger below with more jaeger photos to follow tomorrow after Matt has reviewed them. I did not have his email address until today. We saw the jaegers out over the open ocean and then one that flew over the beach. I compared my photos to photos and info in 4 bird guides but still could not figure it out! I still have so much to learn! Thanks for your help Matt!)

 

Jaeger-kabParasitic or Pomerine Jaeger? 

It is when we are on this side of the beach that we see our first of many Jaegers. A Jaeger is a seabird that steals its food from other birds, especially terns. It does not hunt for itself. On this side of the island we also see Wilson’s Storm Petrels bouncing off the waves and one Northern Gannet flying low along the horizon. I was so thankful for Matt’s help and the use of the scopes which allowed me to get a good look at these birds, all Life Birds for me.

12. least sandpiper-kab Least Sandpiper

After walking back to the west side of the island we find many plovers and sandpipers in a little cove. We set up out scopes and watch birds at this location for quite awhile. While we are here a little savannah sparrow climbs in and out of the grasses and gave us a good look when it darted across an opening between the grass clumps. the lengthening shadows of the grass make us aware that time is slipping away. As the sun continues its arc across the sky we decide that we should start to head back north to the ferry pick-up sight. With the wind at our back and sand scrunching beneath our feet, we head north. Soon we are walking through what I call the green snot mud, which is really the dried algae blanket which the shore birds love but is treacherous to walk through. It is my one unpleasant memory of this day. We had to cross some of it several times and Dawn and I walked slowly so as not to slip and fall on our bums! The guys must have had better shoes, for it didn’t seem to be a problem for them and they were carrying the scopes! Me? Well, I am ashamed to say, I only had flip flops, the kind with a canvas band which soon wore a blister onto the bridge of my foot!

13. horseshoe crab-kab All over the beach I saw the exoskeletons of horseshoe crabs. Most were small and still translucent but along our way north I found this large dark beauty, a reminder of the life and death struggle to survive in all of nature.

14. high tide-kabOur journey north up the west side of the island takes us across the now flooded mudflats we walked across when we first arrived. High tide arrived a couple of hours ago and is now back on its was out again. This part is fun, though slow going. I would rather walk through water on soft sand than on dried green snot mud!

15. Snowy seas-kab Snow on the water.

We have seen a Northern Harrier coursing over the dunes throughout the day but now we are seeing white egrets rise and fall in flight. From a distance it is hard to tell whether they are Great Egrets, or Snowy Egrets, but when this flock passes close to shore we can see the black beaks and legs with the characteristic yellow feet of the Snowy. It makes me smile to think of them as “Snow on the water in summer!”

16. Saltmarsh sparrow-kab Saltmarsh sparrow 9-13-11

It is while we are hiking through even more dune grass that someone spots a Saltmarsh Sparrow. We all freeze and train our bins on it, for this is a shy and elusive bird. I am told they usually fly up and back down into the grasses, disappearing swiftly, but for some reason this one stayed up and out on this grass mat giving all of us a relatively decent look and me some okay photos. Still, I am pleased to see yet another Life Bird!

17. willets-kab Eastern and Western Willets in flight.

We are seeing so many birds and when we come upon a trio of willets it is Matt who points out that one of them is the western subspecies while two are eastern willets. For now the two are lumped together as one species but you never know when they will be spit into two separate species. The western willet is taller with with a longer neck, longer legs and a longer bill. This bird species appears rather plain and dull looking until it takes flight which is when it shows off its spectacular black and white wings.

18. birds everywhere-kab As we walk along I feel my legs getting heavier and heavier. We have been out in the sun all day and we have hiked 3 to 4 miles through sand, marsh and water. As we near the pick up point we come upon a cove with hundreds of birds! If I thought I was trilled to see one black-bellied plover, now I am seeing hundreds! Mixed in with them are dunlins, red knots, short-billed dowitchers, whimbrels, and numerous plovers and sandpipers! But we are running out of time. We cannot linger long! The boat is almost here! And so we take a few quick looks, a few quick shots, and hurry on our way. Matt or Jeff Called the captain and told him we are running late. It is almost 4:30 P.m. when he finally picks us up. We have been here for almost eight hours and it has not been enough time!

19. Great egret-kabGreat Egret

My legs feel like they are about to fall off as I wade out to the boat and climb in. Though I am tired and ready for a hot meal, I am reluctant to leave this island wilderness. I want to linger longer. As the boat pulls away from the shore Matt points out the thousands of Tree Swallows swarming over the dunes. From where I sit, and without my binoculars raised, they look like swarms of flies or mosquitoes, but I know they are something more pleasant than that. They are birds. I cling to the colors of this day. I carry the memory in my heart and relive it as I drive home. There is salt and sun, sand and sea, and kelpies in the waves smiling at me as I watch the birds.

Thanks Dawn, Jeff and Matt for a truly magical day! And don’t you think every day should be magical in…

Our World Tuesday!

Helpful Links:

*Life Birds: As mentioned I added 15 Life Birds to my Life List on this trip. For those of you new to birding, a Life Bird is the first time a birder has seen a particular species. These are the new Life Birds I saw on this day:

  1. American Oystercatcher   DSC_0053
  2. Black-bellied Plover
  3. Semi-palmated Plover
  4. Red Knot
  5. Dunlin
  6. Short-billed Dowitcher
  7. Whimbrel
  8. Hudsonian Godwit
  9. Parasitic Jaeger
  10. Wilson’s Storm Petrel
  11. Northern Gannet
  12. Black Tern
  13. Least Tern
  14. Roseate Tern
  15. Saltmarsh Sparrow