Monday, November 29, 2010

Stirling Silver Bog


Stirling Bog 11-18-10

The last leaves of autumn have fallen in the bog. Only a remnant cling stubbornly to the branches. In the fading light of autumn the silver trunks shimmer gold, but it is false color, for the bog has fallen silent with the temperature drop.


Two weeks ago I was at the bog when geese and ducks floated peacefully in its chilly waters.

Yesterday I went there to do my bird count and the bog was covered with a thin layer of ice. I counted 100 Mallards here on November 26th. Yesterday there was not a goose or duck in sight!

Still, I am seeing new birds at the bog with almost every visit. The bog has cast its spell over me with its silver stumps and silver water, cold and clear and now, stiff. I am wondering if the bog will freeze for good for the winter.  I am wondering if I have seen my last duck or goose here until spring. This is the benefit of doing a Site Survey for it lets us know over time how the bird populations change.

DSC_0055 There is a Red tail hawk that likes to hang out here at the bog.  I see it either perched or soaring almost every time I visit. It rests on a branch like a king on his throne but yesterday I watched as 4 crows mobbed the Red-tail as it soared across the bog.

DSC_0054Robins at the bog 11-18-10 

On November 18th when I went to count birds it was at the end  of the day.  The sun sets early now that we have switched to Eastern Standard Time. By 4:15 P.M. it is dark most days. With the darkness comes the cold and if I want to get out and see birds I must get up early and go out by noon. The sun does not wait for me to be ready!

DSC_0067 As the sun dropped lower in the sky a steady stream of crows came flying overhead.


DSC_0078 I counted wave after wave of birds, 50, 100, 200, and more!


They kept on coming in tattered lines and they never stopped coming. I counted 500 crows flying over the bog from southwest to northeast.


I finally gave up but continued to watch crows streaming across the pink laced sky as I walked home.

My World Tuesday!


I and the Bird edition #139

Hosted by 

T.R.Ryan From the Faraway, Nearby.

Thanks TR!


Bird seen at the bog so far:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk    9-30 2010
  2. Red-bellied woodpecker
  3. American Crow
  4. Palm warbler
  5. Northern Flicker
  6. Lincoln’s sparrow
  7. Yellow-rumped warbler
  8. Eastern Bluebird
  9. Downy woodpecker
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch
  11. Chipping sparrow
  12. Blue Jay
  13. American Robin 10-13-2010
  14. Black-capped Chickadee
  15. Dark-eyed Junco
  16. Canada Goose
  17. Carolina wren
  18. Tufted Titmouse
  19. Northern Cardinal 10-25-10
  20. American Goldfinch
  21. Song Sparrow
  22. Cooper’s Hawk
  23. Mourning Dove
  24. Mallard
  25. House sparrow
  26. Common Grackle 11-2-10
  27. Golden Crowned Kinglet
  28. Green-winged Teal 11-12-10
  29. Northern Mockingbird
  30. American black duck 11-18-10
  31. White-throated sparrow 11-27-10

On a Personal Note: I am sorry I have been away for so long. A lot is going on right now and I cannot post about it yet. I miss all of you, my blogging buddies! Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  I did think of you amidst the chaos.  I had my grandkids here for 3 days and returned them to Maine on Saturday. Now I need to restore order to the house!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Dawn Fine Sky

1. White-throated SP Ledyard, CT

White-throated Sparrow 11-5-10 Ledyard, CT

It was one of those typically gray and dreary New England autumn days when I went to visit Dawn Fine in Ledyard, CT. While it made bird photography a bit difficult, Dawn and I made our own fun. Inside Dawn’s motor home all was sunshine and hot coffee! 2. WT sparrow

Outside the birds gathered at her feeders and hid in the brush. I saw my first White-throated sparrow of the year. The house sparrows were out in force, but other birds showed up. Inside, Dawn and I played with our computers and giggled like two little girls. Jeff graciously left us to ourselves…or perhaps he left to save his sanity!

We were having so much fun, the day just flew by! Suddenly we realized that it would be dark soon.3. Dawn

So, we grabbed our gear and went for a walk around the block to see what other birds we could see. Dawn’s feeders had already attracted quite a few birds, but not the Wild turkey that we saw down around the corner!  White-throated sparrows were everywhere, but the gray light made it very hard to get decent photographs. Even this one picture that I took of Dawn came out blurry and gray. We were too concentrated on birds and blogs to remember to take pictures of each other! 

4. brightening sky As we continued back up the hill suddenly, the sky started to brighten…

6. forest edge …setting the damp forest aglow

7. misty forest …illuminating the trees

8. storm lighting …and tree tops

9. autumn sky …and hillsides and homes

10. clearing sky …we looked heavenward to see clouds breaking apart in tatters

11. sunset …we saw a bit of blue sky at the horizon, and then, as we said good-bye, not knowing when or where we would see each other again, we looked overhead together and it was as if the clouds parted to receive the joy we felt at being friends, a sky filled with promise for tomorrow and future birding adventures.

12. my heart flies to heaven This is my Dawn Fine Sky!

Happy Skywatch Friday!

May you be blessed with good friends and dramatic skies!

Birds Seen with Dawn in Ledyard, CT 11-5-10

  1. Wild turkey
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Downy woodpecker
  4. Blue jay
  5. American Crow
  6. Black-capped chickadee
  7. Tufted Titmouse
  8. White-breasted nuthatch
  9. Carolina Wren
  10. American robin
  11. Northern Mockingbird
  12. White-throated sparrow
  13. Dark-eyed junco
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Common Grackle
  16. House Finch
  17. Pine siskin
  18. American Goldfinch
  19. House Sparrow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feeder Birds: Tufted Titmouse

1. titmouse 10-29-10 Tufted Titmouse 10-29-10 Andover Yard

Tufted Titmice are some of the sweetest yet most nervous little birds that I have ever encountered.  I love their sweet faces and their busy-i-ness but it makes them a bit difficult to photograph as they hardly ever stay still! However, this wariness is what helps the little birds survive. A bird that never sits still is a bit harder for predators to catch! Tufted Titmouse is one of the first species I ever recorded in my bird book so it it one of the first species on my Life List. Having lived in Arizona for the past 3 1/2 years I had not seen many Tufted Titmice but I did fall in love with the Bridled variety which I would see in Madera Canyon and other mountainous areas.  I have yet to add Juniper, Black-crested and Oak Titmice to my life list but for now I will enjoy these busy little birds here in my Andover Yard.

2. titmouse 11-16-10 Tufted Titmouse 11-16-10

Species # 7 Tufted Titmouse
Family Paridae
Location Andover, MA (yard )
First sighting at this location 10-11-10
Kathiesbirds Life Bird #8 Date: 2-5-78
First Sighting Location Jewett City, CT

3. titmouse 11-16-17 Tufted Titmouse 11-16-10

First Sightings in Other States Date Seen
Florida 1-27-2003
Maine 3-13-2003
Ohio 4-26-2009
West Virginia 4-26-2009
New York 6-21-2009
Kentucky 3-15-2010
Alabama 3-16-2010
Massachusetts 9-16-2010
New Hampshire ? (Still waiting)


4. titmouse 10-29-10 Tufted Titmouse 10-29-10

5. Titmouse 11-16-10 Tufted Titmouse 11-16-10

6. titmouse_0035 Tufted Titmouse 11-16-10

Tiny gray shadow

Grab a seed fly, flit, flit flit,

Your way to survive

~kathiesbirds (November 16, 2010)

7. good-bye Good-bye!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Plover Mix-up on Plum Island

DSC_0061 Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
My move to the east coast has brought me into contact with birds I am not familiar with in the desert southwest. To make everything more challenging, I moved here at a time when species are in transitional plumage from juvenile to adult and from breeding to winter plumage. Thus is was that on November 1 I misidentified this little plover as a Piping Plover. Fortunately for me, I do have many good birding friends from the east coast and one of them graciously and discreetly messaged me and let me know of my mistake. I posted a picture of this little plover on Facebook asking for more input and was rewarded with even more info as to why this is a semi-palmated plover and not a piping plover.  Here is what I learned in the process:
Both plovers frequent beaches along the eastern seaboard. Semi-palmated and piping plovers are both small birds that run along the waterline, but semis outnumber piping by a huge margin and are the most frequently seen plover which would explain why I recorded 7 at this location. When I entered this data into eBird they flagged my report asking if I was SURE I saw 7 Piping plovers.  With all the enthusiasm of a novice I checked off the box to confirm my sighting. I have since gone back and corrected this report. I have also corrected my blogpost.  While both plovers have orange legs, the Piping plover has bright orange legs and its plumage is much paler than the semi-palmated. It’s little beak is even stubbier.
DSC_0132 Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
DSC_0134 Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
DSC_0138 Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
So, this started me thinking. I had recorded a Piping Plover at Misquamicuit State Beach in Rhode Island on September 17, 2010 when Gus and I visited there. Was that a semi-palmated plover also and what would this do to my Life List? I had to know.
DSC_0140 Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
Fortunately for me I had taken a few photos of the Piping Plover at Misquamicuit. However, I had not processed the photos yet.  I went to the file, pulled it up and easily confirmed that I HAD seen a Piping Plover there! Look at the photos below and compare them to the Semi-palmated shots above.  You can easily see the difference in the color of the plumage, the beak and the legs. Look at the little Piping Plover’s pale feathers, all dark stubby bill and bright orange legs. compare that with the darkness around the eyes and the neck of the Semi-palmated as well as the darker overall plumage. Julie says the piping plover is a “pale ghost” compared to the Semi-palmated and I agree. I only got a couple of shots of this little guy before it ran off down the beach with the sanderlings but this makes the Piping Plover Life Bird number 387 and the Semi-palmated Life Bird number 389! (The White-winged Scoters I saw on Plum Island are #388).
DSC_0328 Piping Plover at Misquamicuit State Beach 9-17-10
DSC_0329 Piping Plover at Misquamicuit State Beach 9-17-10
Many thanks to Matt Morrow, Loralea Kirby and Julie Zickefoose for setting me straight on my plover I.D.’s. My good friend Dawn Fine also chimed in. You can read Julie’s comments on the original post. Birders are such good people, always willing to help and I thank you all! Please, if you ever think I have mis-identified a bird on this blog, let me know and tell me why you think so!  I would rather get the I.D. correct.  It matters to me and to eBird!
I just want to add a note about Matt Morrow. I first met him earlier this year in Alabama when I was there to visit friends.  Later, he came to visit me and we were Chasing Birds in Arizona.  Matt is not only and excellent birder, but an aspiring musician. He plays guitar and sings. If you ever hear that he is singing in your area, I would certainly check him out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feeder Birds: House Finch

DSC_0032  Male House Finch 10-29-10

Species #20 House Finch
Location Andover, MA (yard )
First sighting at this location 10-29-10
Kathiesbirds Life Bird #20 Date: 5-26-1985
First Sighting Location Brooklyn, CT

Note: Life Bird number and species location list number are purely coincidence!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Oak Tree Sky


So often when people extol the wonders of autumn in New England they extol the virtues of the sugar maple, and rightfully so, but the mighty oak has nothing to be ashamed of either as these photos of the oak trees outside my office window show. I took this series of shots on October 31st while sitting at my desk writing. I have a window to the left of me and this is what I see, while straight ahead is a set of windows out which I can see one of my two bird feeding stations. It’s a pretty sweet setup. The leaves are falling swiftly now and will soon be gone, but for now I will enjoy my Oak Tree Sky!




Skywatch Friday!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Feeder Birds: Attack of the Grackles!


I awoke on a rainy October morning to find my yard invaded by the common grackle!  They were everywhere!  Still half asleep and groggy from being sick I went to grab my camera only to discover the battery was dead.  I fumbled with the spare battery and camera as I rushed to change it so I could capture this event in megapixels. I had not seen any grackles here before and quite frankly, they have not been back since, but this morning I was thrilled to see them and I counted close to 100 birds as they covered my lawn and attacked my feeder. Some of the photos are blurry due to shooting through a window on a rainy day and partly due to my excitement. Yes, of course I thought of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie THE BIRDS and believe me it felt a little bit like that but, I was safely inside the house though still fighting the flu. I suppose these photos sort of portray how I was feeling, a little off center and unbalanced!


Common Grackle 10-27-10

Species Common Grackle
Location Andover, MA (yard )
First sighting at this location 10-27-10
Kathiesbirds Life Bird #12 Date: 3-15-1978
First Sighting Location Jewett City, CT


Views through my kitchen window 10-27-10DSC_0020


This day inspired me to write this poem:

 I Got Lost in my Day Today


I hope to continue “Feeder Birds” as a feature each week with a graph showing when and where the bird was first sighted here in Andover and for my Life List. I will alternate with birds seen at the bog sometimes in a post I will probably call “Bog Birds.” Who knows where this will go, but I like the format.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Plum Island (MWT)

On the eastern coast of Massachusetts is a well known birding hotspot called Plum Island.  Ever since I have moved here everyone has been telling me I need to go to Plum Island, so on a sunny Sunday in October Gus and I abandoned the unpacking and headed for the coast. Only 30 miles from where I live, it took us about 40 minutes to arrive at this coastal island. I felt myself shiver with excitement and anticipation as we crossed the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. We soon found ourselves at the gate to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Though there is a nominal fee of $5 to enter, I was pleased to discover the Inter-agency Pass I bought in Arizona before leaving covered our entrance to the refuge. We took our map and drove in.
Immediately after passing the gate there is a parking lot on the left-hand side which has the only flush toilets in the refuge. From this same parking lot one can access the beach, but we decide to drive all the way to the end of the island and work our way back.  However, as we pull out of the parking lot and start to head down the road I see some sandpiper-like birds in the marsh on the right-hand side. I ask Gus to stop the car and I get out to identify the bird.
I am standing on the side of the road with bins, camera and bird book.  Soon another couple comes over to me wanting me to ID the bird and I am feeling like an absolute novice!  I know it is in the sandpiper family but goodness knows which one!   After consulting with the birds guide and then hearing the bird call as it flew a short distance away to join 2 others of the same species we decide it is a Greater Yellowlegs. Other than a crow and a seagull, it is my first species in the refuge! I know there are great things ahead since we have driven little more than a quarter mile so far!
We continue down the road past parking space after parking space and pond after pond.  I see some viewing towers along the way and other hiking trails. I see and hear blue jays as they cross the road. We stop at one spot to view some yellow-rumped warblers, and another spot where there are waterfowl in a pond. We drive all the way to the southernmost tip which is called the Sandy Point Conservation Area where we park and hike out through the dunes to the waiting ocean.
The beach is a huge pale crescent before me. The tide is our right now and I pad along on the sand wishing I had brought my flip flops so I could easily take them off and feel the wet sand on my feet. The retreating ocean makes such lovely patterns in the sand as I head for a rocky area where I think I see some peeps!
A pair of semi-palmated plovers is feeding among the seaweed and rocks. I take a few steps, then snap a few photos, then take a few more. The birds are heading towards me as I cautiously creep towards them. I do not want to frighten them or disturb them.

All the world has faded away from me and I am totally focused on what I can see through my lens. Eventually I hear a mother say to a child, “Walk over here and don’t disturb the lady with the camera.” I don’t even look their way but silently thank the mom in my heart. The birds are getting even closer now and I simply freeze and let them walk closer to me. They are getting so close that I fear my lens will soon be to long for them. Their small bodies are starting to fill the frame.  I am thinking how fortunate I am to be here at this place and time when suddenly the birds give an alarm call and fly off farther down the beach. As I lower my camera I hear a voice beside me say, “Oh, I’m sorry.  Did I get to close?” It is an adult woman with a small digital camera. I was so focused on the birds I did not even see or hear her come up on my left side. I do not know how long she has been there or how fast she came up.  I only know the birds are gone now. Flabbergasted, I walk farther down the beach away from her. No, I don’t own the beach and she has every right to take photos but I do find it amusing that the mother with a child had more sense than she did!
Here is a series of photos I took of the semi-palmated plover.  I took almost 100 pictures I think. These are from towards the end. The one immediately below shows the plover with a little sandworm in its beak.
DSC_0131 DSC_0140 DSC_0145   Semi-palmated Plover on Plum Island 10-17-10
The shadows are getting long as the day wanes. I find my husband waiting patiently on some driftwood for me.  DSC_0176
He looks like he belongs here. He looks like he has come home.
We head back through the dunes and the waving sea grasses to our waiting car and drive back to the first parking lot. The sky has clouded over, the temperature has dropped and the wind has picked up. I zip my jacket up and put on my gloves as we hike the boardwalk to the beach.
Out on the beach the waves tumble and roar.
I watch a pair of sanderlings running in and out of the surf looking for a meal.
A great black-backed gull marches down the beach unconcerned.
There are few gulls out today and many are in transition or winter plumage but the one in the foreground on the right is a Herring gull I believe due to its pink legs, long neck, large bill, and large eye. The bird behind it is a ring-billed gull. It’s legs are yellow-green, it’s eye small and sweet, its neck short. Though the Herring gull looks like it has a ringed-bill from what I have read this is due to being winter plumage. It will regain its more traditional red spot on the lower mandible when breeding season returns. 
As we leave Plum Island I know that I have only seen a small part of what it has to offer. The good thing is that I am close enough to come back again! Being here on the east coast has left me feeling like a novice when it comes to bird identification. Being here at the ocean has left me with a dreamy sort of feeling. I did not see a large number of birds today but I saw one new one, a White-winged Scoter. Scoters are dark ocean ducks that nest in the Arctic. They migrate down here for the winter. A small flock flew out over the waves just off shore.  I snapped a photo that was good enough to identify the birds but not to publish. Still, it is a *Life Bird for me.  I hope you enjoy…

  Birds seen on Plum Island October 17, 2010:
  1. American Widgeon
  2. American Black duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Common Eider
  6. *White-winged Scoter
  7. Black scoter
  8. Great Blue Heron
  9. Greater Yellowlegs
  10. Semi-palmated Plover
  11. Sanderling
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Ring-billed gull
  14. Herring gull
  15. Great black-backed Gull
  16. Common Tern
  17. Turkey Vulture
  18. Northern Harrier
  19. Mourning Dove
  20. Rock Pigeon
  21. Blue Jay
  22. Crow sp.
  23. European Starling
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  25. Dark-eyed Junco
*Life Bird Number 388 for me! (A Life Bird is the first time a birder sees that species in their life and adds it to their Life List.)