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!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The 2011 GBBC Has Begun!

2. 1st bird

Lesser Goldfinches in Sycamore Canyon on the slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, AZ January 2010

Last year for the 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count I was in living in Tucson, AZ. Then I had Lesser Goldfinches on many of my bird lists! Now I am in Massachusetts and birding in snow! Gus and I are getting ready to head out and see what we can find! It is already 37 degrees F and should warm into the high 50’s. The snow is melting everywhere but there is so much that it is going to take awhile.

If you have never participated in the GBBC now is a great time to start. counting birds is simple and all the instructions are on the website. As a GBBC Participant you can be a citizen Scientist and help track winter bird populations. It is a fun way to be involved. On the GBBC website is a cool interactive map which shows the bird counts across the USA as they come in. You can count fro as little as 15 minutes on one day or in several locations on all four days. You choose your level of participation. And don’t be afraid to enter a count of zero if you count birds in a location and you do not see any birds. The scientists want to know where the birds aren’t as well as where they are.

So, Get out there and get counting! My first birds of the day are:

  1. Black-capped chickadee 2
  2. Tufted Titmouse 2
  3. White-breasted Nuthatch 1
  4. Northern Cardinal 1

Great Backyard Bird Count Main Page

How to Participate

Explore the Results

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Moody Blues (SWF)

SWF Moody Blues Gusto

The Mouth of the Piscataquis River 12-11-10

Photo by Gusto! with Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm lens

Skywatch Friday!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birds of Ft. McClary

DSC_0206 Common Loon

On December 11, 2010 Gus and I drove to Kittery, Maine looking for places to get close to the ocean so I could see what birds were about.

DSC_0191 Fort McClary Blockhouse 12-11-10 by Kathiesbirds

As we drove along Rt. 1A we came to Fort McClary State Historic Site. We parked our car and got out. Gus had his Nikon D90 with him so I knew he would have fun photographing the scenery.  Me? I grabbed my bins and Nikon D80 with the 70-300 mm lens and went off in search of birds!

DSC_0182 However, trying to find birds in this sea of buoys was not easy!


These photos are admittedly horrible but are presented here only as proof that I did see Long-tailed Ducks, Life Bird # 390 for me! They also illustrate how far out the bird were from land, for even with my lens zoomed out as far as possible they are but specs in the frame. Then, I still had to crop and enlarge the shots at home on the computer. Another thing I need to learn is how to shoot photographs in such a reflective environment! In the shot below you can actually see the long tail of the male sticking out behind him in a thin black line.

DSC_0257 Long-tailed Ducks


Scoter Silhouette

DSC_0207 Common Loon

DSC_0186 Abandoned Granite Blocks
(I found a Carolina Wren and a Dark-eyed Junco here)

Birds Seen at Fort McClary State Park 12-11-2010:
Location: Fort McClary State Park
Observation date: 12/11/10
Notes: Saw a large, gray raptor and 3 little finch-like birds fly out of the woods when some tourists walked up onto the path. Might possibly have been a Northern Goshawk but I only say its belly and tail as it flew away from me. I tried to follow it into the woods but could not locate it for a positive i.d.
Number of species: 11

Surf Scoter 2
Long-tailed Duck 4*
Bufflehead 3
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Common Loon 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
American Crow 8
Carolina Wren 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Dark-eyed Junco 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

* Life Bird!

Fort McClary 12-11-10