Monday, January 31, 2011

Salisbury Beach

DSC_0060 Juvenile Bald Eagle 1-22-11

On January 17th my new friend Merry Robin took me to Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Here on this windswept plain winter birding is all about winter raptors and winter seabirds. On the 17th I saw my first Rough-legged Hawk for Massachusetts and all of New England. Since it was a holiday and Merry did not have to work, she called me up and invited me to go out to breakfast with her. After breakfast she drove me to this nearby beach. I did not know Merry was going to take me here, so I did not have my camera, but I did have my bins! We spent about an hour here that day. I was so impressed with this place that I had Gus bring me back again on the following Saturday. Good thing he did. We barely arrived when this juvenile Bald Eagle flew up in front of us! I jumped from he car to get photos as it flew over the mouth of the river and landed on the beach near some crows before taking off again. We were parked near the boat launch and it was in this same area that I saw two other significant birds. Scroll down to see what we saw!







Red-throated loon-Winter Plumage 1-22-11

Life Bird # 391!

DSC_0122 The Hunt of a Northern Harrier 1-22-11












While I watched and counted birds, Gus played with his camera, giving me some great shots for Skywatch Friday. Below you can see us in our winter plumage!

 DSC_0178 Gus in Winter Plumage 1-22-11 (photo by Kathiesbirds)

DSC_0032 Kathie in winter plumage (photo by Gusto!)

And that’s MY World Tuesday!

Birds seen at Salisbury Beach State Reservation:

  1. American Black Duck 1-17-11
  2. White-winged Scoter
  3. Black Scoter
  4. Red-breasted merganser
  5. Common Loon
  6. Horned Grebe
  7. Northern Harrier
  8. Red-tailed Hawk
  9. Rough-legged Hawk
  10. Ring-billed gull
  11. Herring gull
  12. Great Black-backed gull
  13. American Crow
  14. Northern Mockingbird
  15. Song Sparrow
  16. Common eider 1-22-11
  17. Long-tailed duck
  18. Bufflehead
  19. Red-throated Loon
  20. Bald Eagle

This is the total of birds seen by me at this location so far. Click on either link to see the rest of the world through the eyes of others! Enjoy My World Tuesday!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In Quest of Birds

DSC_0005 Red-tailed hawk, my yard 1-25-11

My Big January count isn’t going so great. My January total of 54 species equals the number of birds I could see in one day at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, AZ! This is a new thing for me to have to work so hard just to see birds.

My own yard has been practically silent since the invasion of hawks last week. The same day the Cooper’s hawk showed up I also saw a pair of Red-tails hunting my back yard later on that afternoon. I was just about to go out when I noticed motion out my bedroom window. I looked just in time to see one red-tail drop like a rocket to the ground. On the tree next to it I saw a gray squirrel scurrying up the bark. Then, to my utter surprise another red-tail flew out of one of the tall pines and landed on a bare branch closer to me. I grabbed my nearby camera and watched, but apparently the hawk also saw me pressed against the glass and it soon flew off.


The next day the little birds returned to the feeder and so did the Cooper’s hawk. Birds scattered everywhere. The feeders were abandoned. The final incident which has rendered my feeders virtually silent was the day of the snow storm. On the west side of our apartment the yard is bordered by a hedge that ends at a little stone wall which marks the corner of my neighbor’s yard and the backyard lawn and woods. There a little tangle of branches and vines tumbles over the wall creating a nice place for the juncos and sparrows to gather and hide. Sometimes the Carolina wren joins them. It always seems like a happy place and the birds seemed safe there. I have even seen mourning doves lying in the leaf litter in this location, sunning and preening themselves, or even taking a nap. The ground slopes slightly up on this spot so it is elevated over the rest of the yard. I suppose it is a bit like having a terrace to sit on and survey your surroundings. For whatever reason, the birds love it.


However, as Gus and I were exiting the house in the afternoon after the snow had stopped and the paths had all been shoveled we heard a commotion in the backyard and then a squeak! Gus was ahead of me and saw more than I did but we both looked up to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk on a branch above our heads and slightly in front of us. I saw the black and gray banded tail hanging down over the branch and there in the Sharpie’s talons a small butterscotch-colored bird was held tightly. The sharpie, heart pounding from the hunt and eyes flaming clutched the little bird. I had my bins in my purse and quickly tried to raise them up to see which bird it had, but the sharpie spied us and gathering itself it flew off, the little bird dangling beneath its body as it flew away. Oh! I hope it is not the Carolina Wren, I think to myself as the hawk flies away.

I have not seen the juncos or sparrows in the stonewalled corner since that day. Now the birds take flight at the slightest motion when I walk past the windows or try to peek out and see them. On at least one occasion I have entered a count of zero into my eBird data as there have been no birds to count! One count I entered had just two birds; a crow flying overhead, and a poor shy dove huddled beneath the drooping branches of the yew tree. Yes, it has been very exciting and now very quiet around here.


The snow has not helped my quest for birds either. I drive around the country roads looking for places to find bird but the trees are empty, which is a good thing, because there is absolutely no place to pull off and watch them! Snow banks tower overhead everywhere I go! I cannot see over them in many places to the meadows beyond, and if I am driving through forest, the snow covered branches are void of birds. All the ponds and lakes are frozen as are the creeks and streams. Even most of the rivers are frozen yet there must be open water somewhere for I have seen ducks and even Great Blue Herons flying over my head. Where are they going? I want to know! I want to see!

Gus and I drove out to the Ipswich Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield yesterday in hopes of seeing birds. While it is only about 13 miles from my house it took us 30 minutes driving winding country roads to get there. In many places my view is blocked by the ever towering snow banks. We drive past old colonial homes from the 17 and 1800’s. It is a pretty drive but I do not see any birds the whole way. Once at the sanctuary we park in the parking lot and I get out. While this sanctuary encompasses 2,200 acres, it is all snow covered and I cannot walk the trails. In the trees surrounding the parking lot I see chickadees and titmice, but I have those same birds in my yard. There is nothing new or different here and the hour is late, so we leave. The drive is not wasted for I will return here when the snow melts, but for today it was a bust as far as adding to my Big January total. At one point I thought I heard the call of a northern flicker, which would have added to my list, but though I scanned the fields and forest around me, I never found the bird and it stopped calling.

Today in January 30th. I have two day left to count. Today Gus and I will take a trip to the ocean once again, for it seems to be the only place I can find and see birds in all this deep snow! If I could see a purple sandpiper or a razorbill or even a cormorant, that would be exciting for me! Right now the sky is cloudy and threatening but the roads are clear and the temperature has climbed to nearly 20 degrees!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Winter Skies (SWF)

DSC_0147 Salisbury Beach State Reservation 1-22-11 by Gusto!

DSC_0166 Plum Island Beach Parker River NWR Parking lot 1 by Gusto!

Skywatch Friday 

In our search for more birds for my Big January Count Gus and I visited Salisbury Beach and Plum Island last Saturday before the next storm and the football playoffs! All these storms have made birding terribly slow and difficult. Big January update to come but for now, enjoy our winter skies!

Note: both photos were shot by Gusto with the Nikon D90 and the 18-200 lens.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cooper’s Hawk Hunt

DSC_0303 Cooper’s  Hawk in yard 1-25-11

After two days in arctic temperatures I awake to yet another snow fall. Soft feathery flakes drift slowly from the sky coating the yard and the road. As usual the small sparrows and juncos are collecting beneath my feeders while chickadees and titmice land on the feeders themselves. A bright red male cardinal comes in and huddles against the feeder as if trying to hide while it eats. As for me, I am wandering the house from window to window with coffee cup in my hand looking out to see which birds are where. It is while I am in the front office that a large dark shape flies swiftly by giving me a jolt no cup of espresso could ever do.


The room where my office sits is on the southeast corner of the house with windows looking out in both directions. The feathered warrior flashes past the south windows and courses low over the snow on the east side where it pierces the branches of the snow-covered yew tree like a missile! Birds fly everywhere. I grab my camera from off my book shelf and walk swiftly to the kitchen window. My heart is pounding the whole way. Will it still be there, I wonder? Earlier this month a sharp-shinned hawk landed in the same tree near my feeders and surprised me by hanging around for a few minutes and even dropping down onto the ground and walking around. So, I hurry hopefully to the kitchen window, which is closest to the feeders.


I scan the dark green tree for any signs of the bird’s presence, but see nothing. Then, by twisting my head and contorting my body I look up and to the northeast. There in the naked maples above the yew sits the hawk! He is magnificent! His rusty breast is bright against the gray branches and white snow. The capped appearance of his gray head and his large size lets me know that he is a Cooper’s and not the similarly colored Sharpie, which is much smaller and has a more hooded appearance to its head.


The hungry raptor scans the trees with a fierce red eye. Suddenly he spots movement and darts into the yew. He flies deftly through the branches and emerges on the other side chasing some small bird. Up and over the road he flies into the neighbor’s hemlocks. I watch as he weaves his way between branches going ever upwards towards the sky and then I see the small bird flying frantically with Cooper’s in hot pursuit until they both disappear into the distant trees beyond my neighbor’s yard.


How does this story end? I cannot tell you. One bird needs to eat. One bird wants to live. One will win and one will lose. It is the cold, harsh reality of winter here in New England. The snow has stopped for now, but yet another significant storm is headed our way tomorrow. For today I am warm and safe inside my house with my own window on nature right here in the middle of a New England town and with action like this, who needs coffee! 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Birding at the Bog (MWT)

DSC_0002Since moving here to Andover I have signed up with eBird to do a Site Survey of the bog neat my apartment. So, to the best of my ability, I walk to the bog at least once a week and count the bird species I have seen there. Since moving here and starting the survey I have counted  species of birds at the bog. It’s a bit tougher to do, now that winter has come and the snow has fallen. As you can see from the picture, a wall of snow cuts me off from the bog. I used to duck between these pines for a wide open view of the bog.


Now I peek between the branches and over the wall of snow. But all is quiet at the bog these days. Where I used to see up to 15 species of birds, I am now lucky to see 5 or 6.  On my most recent count on January 20th I only saw 3 species of birds.







The cattails are dry and brown. The water in the bog is all frozen and snow covered. These condos across the bog used to be hidden by the leaves on the trees. Now they are open and exposed like the naked trees around them.


Shadows lie long and blue across the unbroken snow…


grasses poke through like golden threads on white silk linens…


and jagged stumps appear as the broken teeth of some submerged monster!


It is a skeletal landscape to me. I cannot keep from comparing it to bones, yet how serene it is, here in the midst of the neighborhood.


The Blue Jay is the most common and numerous bird I see here nowadays, but often I see or hear a red-tailed hawk who seems to hunt this space on a regular basis. Other than that it is mostly occupied by sparrows…

DSC_0019 …and juncos hiding in the twining brush.

Birds seen at the Stirling Street Bog to date:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk 9-30-10*
  2. Yellow-rumped warbler
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Downy Woodpecker
  5. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  6. Palm Warbler
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Northern Flicker
  9. American Crow
  10. Chipping Sparrow
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch
  12. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  13. Carolina Wren 10-13-10
  14. Canada Goose
  15. Black-capped Chickadee
  16. Tufted Titmouse
  17. American robin
  18. Dark-eyed Junco
  19. Northern Cardinal 10-25-10
  20. Cooper’s hawk
  21. House sparrow
  22. American goldfinch
  23. Mallard
  24. Mourning dove
  25. Song 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. Hairy Woodpecker 12-13-10
  32. American Tree Sparrow 12-22-10
  33. White-throated Sparrow 11-28-10 
  34. European Starling 1-1-11
  35. Herring Gull* 1-14-11
  36. Swamp Sparrow
  37. Ring-billed Gull 1-16-11

*Notes: Birds listed below Bold dates were seen on that same date.  I have seen gulls at the bog many times flying high overhead but only recently learned enough and had them fly low enough for me to feel like I could properly indentify the species.

My World Tuesday 


Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Birds!

DSC_0042 Female Cardinal 1-18-11 Andover, MA


It’s everywhere now. It is all the time. We get a break for a day, or sometimes two, and then it snows again. It is snowing again today for the 3rd time in a week. After the storm the temperature is suppose to drop below zero this weekend. If New England is trying to convince me that I should not have moved away from Arizona it is doing a good job!

DSC_0044 Blue Jay 1-18-11 Andover, MA

DSC_0055 I took these photos on Tuesday at my friend, Merry Robin’s House. She is kind enough to let me come and watch her birds and share a cup of tea with me. She is yet another friend I have made in all my travels around the USA. I collect friends.

DSC_0049 Of course, I have now started a bird list for her backyard. So far I have seen 13 species of birds there. I suspect the list will grow as the year progresses. Watching birds makes being trapped indoors more bearable. Eat hearty Snow Birds!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Solitude Sky

DSC_0017 Stirling Bog 1-16-11

What winter sky can I reach,

what solitude have I

on this sunny day,

this cold day in winter

when no birds sing?

Yet at each branch tip

in buds tightly wrapped,

red against a cerulean sky,

I see the promise of spring.

~Kathie Adams Brown (1-20-11)

Skywatch Friday