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 


  1. What an exciting morning counting birds. I love going bird watching with you Kathie, especially from the heated car with the heated seats. You got some great series. Every bird counts.

  2. Gaelyn, thanks for stopping by! I am counting away though yesterday I spent most of the day blogging since I am out of town at the moment visiting my Mom in CT! Lots of birds down here also!

  3. What a wonderful morning of birds! Love the tufted guy.

  4. You were amply rewarded for your patience! It was so interesting to see the Crows chasing the Hawk.

  5. Out in the freezing wind and snow, Kathie, you are an intrepid birder. All I did today is look out the window at my feeder. Great post! Beautiful shots of the Junco and Tufted Titmouse, also of the mobbing of the Red-tailed Hawk. Love the photo of the hawk sitting in a tangle of branches!

  6. It just doesn't seem fair to go from 60 to 32 in one day! What a shock to the body (although it can go the other way in one day any time it pleases!). It was an exciting count...hopefully you won't have to bundle up for too long. Snow is supposed to come in for us tonight...

  7. I think the car is the best place at the moment for you Kathie.
    However you observed lots of interesting species in one go.

  8. Well I was doing the same thing, however, I sat in my LZboy reading, note book nearby, also counting. You really went out and after it. I'm embarrassed at my lackadasical effort. We did have a blizzard here yesterday though. :)

  9. Oh, Kathy, I'm such a wimp compared to you. I'd never have gotten out of my nice warm car, and I would have missed the birds and the birdy drama.

    The park reminds me of some of the places we birded in West Virginia. I think it's the stone walls, though maybe it's the birds. :)

  10. Hi Kathie

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your blogs. I loved the
    pictures of the squirrel it has
    given me something to aspire to.


  11. KAthie, you are so right about the wind keeping down the bird count. I managed to sit outside on our back porch this afternoon when the winds let up a bit and the count at the feeders was pretty dismal with not a single cardinal and usually there are 3-5 when the feeders have been refilled. Thanks too for the info provided on the camera and lenses you use - much appreciated. Also appreciated the visit to our blog.

  12. very nice images from the count Kathie


  13. Wasn't so bad after all, was it? You got quite a few birds for your count.

  14. kathie, it sounds like you did have an exciting day of birding. The hawk and crows would be great to watch. I had to laugh at the idea of birding form the car with the heated seats. My GBBC was done from my dining room window.

  15. Barb, Yes, I felt that way after they showed up!

    Hilke, the junco and titmouse were shot from my friend's diningroom and kitchen. That was the warm and easy part! The hawks and vulture I had to work for but it was worth it! I love that kind of unexpected excitement! I am pleased that you like the photo of the hawk in the tangle. It seems I got a lot of hawks in a tangle lately! They know how to hide well!

    Kelly. I will be so glad when this snow is gone and I can get outside more! Hope you survived your snowfall!

    Roy, that car with the heated seats has become my Best Birding Buddy at the moment!

    Troutbirder, don't be embarrassed! I am just so glad that you counted! It all matters and it all adds up, so good for you!

    Wren, so glad that park brought back such fond memories!

    Guy, what a nice thing to say! Thank you for your visit to my blog!

    Beatrice, don't you hate it when the birds don't show up during a count and you just know they are out there SOMEWHERE!

    Dan, thank you! I spent Monday down in your state counting birds in my Mom's yard but this time the snow kept me inside and I did not go out all Day!

    Arija, I did and I was pleased!

    Eileen, it was an exciting day! a little more exciting than I wanted what with the Fear in the Park incident, but I did have fun though it was so-o-o-o cold!

  16. Nice!You had some cool
    sky-bird action there! You never know what is going to make a good birding moment-could be the number of birds,the rarity of birds, or just how you're feeling when you see them.-interesting photos too.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.