Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Yard Birds and Mystery Hawk

1. Hawk-kab Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk 4-24-11

Spring migration has begun bringing a slate of new birds to my yard, but no warblers as of yet. Still, I have already added 9 new species to the yard list just this month! Below is are photos of some of them with the dates they were seen listed. The hawk is a juvenile *red-shouldered hawk I believe but please tell me if you think I’ve mis-identified it and why as the red-shouldered and broad-winged hawks are still new to me. Please note that I saw this hawk at dusk but it did appear to be brown and not gray on its back. I am not sure the photos show this very well. Also, some photos were taken through double pane windows, such as the Northern flicker, or silhouetted against a gray sky, as in the case of the waxwings, but all are clear enough to ID the species. Enjoy!

*Correction: This is a Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. ID confirmed by Marshall Iliff from eBird 5-4-11. Consult above post.

2. creeper-kab Brown Creeper 4-11-11

I’ve watched for this species all winter and it finally shows up this spring!

3. waxwings-kab Cedar Waxwings 4-20-11

About 60 birds showed up in my yard on this day eating the buds off whatever tree this is that they are perched in. the next day I saw 6, then they were gone. I have not seen or heard them since.

4. NOFL-kab Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker 4-20-11

5. feeders-kab Red-bellied Woodpecker 4-21-11

Though I have seen Red-bellied woodpeckers in the yard before they seem to be coming by more often now that I have moved the feeders to the back yard. I have also had to change feeders and seed due to the influx of the next couple of species to my yard.

6. grackles-kab Common Grackle 4-21-11

7. red-winged black-kab Red-winged Blackbirds 4-21-11

8. hawk-kabJuvenile Cooper’s Hawk 4-24-11

9. hawk-kab 

10. hawk-kab 

11. hawk-kab 

12. starling-kab European Starling 4-25-11

13. purple finch-kab FOTY Purple Finch 4-25-11

14. BRCO-kab Female Brown-headed Cowbirds 4-25-11

As of December 30th 2010 I had 26 species on my Yard List. So far this year I have added 19 new species to the list which can be seen in the sidebar for a total of 45 species of birds seen at this location. I set out my first hummingbird feeder Thursday but have not seen one as of yet and I am still waiting to see my first warblers of the year! Not included in these photos is a Fish Crow I heard and saw flyover on April 25 at sunset. The Wild turkeys I saw run through the yard on April 4th can be seen in my blogpost It’s Starting to get Exciting Around Here! 

Happy Birding Everyone!

Note: This post was corrected on May 4th after discovering I had misidentified this hawk as a Juvenile Red-shouldered when it is actually a juvenile Cooper’s. Read about it here, Two Juvenile Cooper’s Hawks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Love my new Crossley ID Guide!

1. Crossley ID Guide
Ever since I first heard of this book I have been coveting it. A month ago I finally got my hands on a copy and I must say that I just love it! The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley is a whole new approach to bird guides. I like how each species is displayed in an illustration showing the bird’s most likely habitat. I also like that he shows you several views of the bird from different angles and in different plumages where this applies. While the book is large and not something that I would ever take out to the field with me, it is something to have on hand at home where you can compare your photos and field notes with what you saw in the field or in the yard. Beneath each illustration is a description of the bird as well as the four letter alpha code which many bird guides lack. For someone who is just learning these codes it is hugely useful and convenient.

2. warbler pagesEach entry also has the range maps for the species. I really appreciate this especially since I have just moved back east and need to learn all my warblers! I have already consulted the guide several times as new migrants come it. I used the guide earlier this week to identify a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that flew into the yard and landed in a tree. One detail I noticed about the hawk was the way it looked like it was furrowing its brow in deep thought. When I consulted the guide Crossley mentioned in his description that, on juvenile birds, “pale areas above and below eyes give studious look.” This description clinched the ID for me! Plus, his illustration matched what I saw and what I photographed.

At the beginning of the guide are pages with all the bird species laid out in photos that compare relative size, which I feel is a useful feature. If I have one criticism, other than size, it is that he does not include wingspan along with length on bird species where it would be appropriate, like eagles, hawks, geese and swans. I find this kind of information useful especially where teaching children about birds and it would be nice to have it readily available at your fingertips. But, overall, I would say that this has become one of my favorite books and a go to guide as I learn all my eastern migrants.
3. studying Though the size of the book its large, it is also what makes the illustrations so beautiful and so useful. If it were any smaller the visual impact would not be the same. With that being said, you are very likely to see me sitting outside on my back porch with book in hand and binoculars and camera nearby as I wait. Come on warblers! I am ready for you!

Check out the Crossley ID Guide for yourself!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Joy Montage

1. Sunrise in Sabino3-6-07-kab Sunrise in Sabino Canyon 3-6-07

Happy Easter!

I hope you enjoy this photo essay of pictures from my archives that make me think of springtime and Easter.

2. Tree Swallow 7-10-08-kab Tree Swallow at the Raymond Bog along the Airline Trail in CT 7-10-08

3. Daylily 7-9-08-kab Daylilies in CT 7-9-08

4. fountain 6-29-09-kab Fountain in CT 6-29-09

5. butterfly AZ 4-16-07-kab Butterfly on Palo Verde tree in Arizona 4-16-07

6. mountain laurel CT 6-17-09-kab Mountain Laurel in CT 6-17-09

7. Queen anne's lace-kab Queen Anne’s lace in CT 7-7-08

8. ocatillo 4-24-07-kab Ocotillo Blossoms and Thorns 4-24-07

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April Evening Reverie at the Swamp

1. Swamp-kab Stirling Swamp

It rained all day today and I have been inside sitting like a lump in my chair and watching TV. I feel the laziness in my legs and bones. I feel the need to move. The rain has faded away leaving a foggy mist outside. I see the damp grayness through the window and yet l feel the need to be out there. I feel the need to move. I shake the inertia away and pull on my sneakers, sweater, coat, jacket, gloves. I sling my bins around my deck and step out the door.

The dampness meets my face as I walk out as the sound of robins trilling fills my ears. In the still bare woods a light green mist is forming as a few tiny leave emerge on brush. The tall trees overhead are budding out, some in fine red and some in tender green. I walk across the soggy grass to the pavement and point myself towards the bog. It’s really not a bog I guess, though that is what I have been calling it since I moved here. It is a swamp and it certainly looks like one now as it is flooded with water. Everything is bathed in a soft gray light, muted and fuzzy with no sharp lines. Overhead tall oaks and maples tower along with a few eastern white pines. Manicured lawns roll up to old New England homes and inside some of them I can see the lights of the other TV’s flickering as I walk by.

2. grackles-kab

It is peaceful out here on my way to the swamp. Though I am in a town, I feel alone and almost remote in my solitude. I am not lonely; I feel peaceful. It is after 7 o’clock and though I cannot see the sun, I know that it has set. There is little light left to this day and I mean to take advantage of what is left. I hear Blue Jays calling as I walk along, a sound so familiar to me from the years I have lived in New England before. I have been away for over 6 years until moving back last fall and now all these familiar sights and sound seem somehow comforting.

3. goose on nest-kab 

As I near the swamp I can see it shimmering through the pines like pewter glass. It is so calm! In this light all the stumps are dark as iron and blunt edged. There is no greenery here as of yet. Last year’s reeds and cattails lie damp and brown against the ground matted and bent and old. A few red-winged blackbirds call from the swamp and in the dead trees I see a small flock of grackles. I scan the water for ducks and geese but find only one goose on the nest and another feeding placidly amidst the stumps. Across the street from the swamp another goose feeds on a neighbor’s lawn. I stand at this quiet edge of life. I feel the stillness here. I have seen this swamp so alive with life and birds that I did not know where to look first, but tonight all is tranquil and serene. It feels like another world.

A lone crow flies out from the south end of the bog, cawing as it rows across the silver sky with its powerful wings. It lands atop a tall dead tree at the edge of the woods and looks out across the world like a king in his kingdom. But he is not the king to me. I think he is a sentinel, a security guard. He watches over the swamp. He and his companions sound the alarm when there is danger and drive the hawks away. I have seen them do this. I like the crows.

The light continues to fade. Soon the manmade lights in the apartment building beyond come on and shine like gold on the still waters. Fog continues to build softening and muting everything until I feel like I am standing on the edge of a monochromatic water-colored painting. It is as if someone has let the water run down the paper bleeding one tone into the other and I feel as if I may bleed and blend in with it all and be absorbed.

4. water-colored-kab

At the very edge of darkness the peep frogs start to sing; first one, then another, then the whole chorus. There can be no choir in heaven more beautiful than this sound, this renewing sound of spring. There are no flowers here in the swamp. I have not seen the new green shoots pushing up through the dead reeds yet. But I know there are there. I know there are coming. I know there is renewal just beneath the surface and just around the corner. I swallow this moment and turn away to walk back to my apartment serenaded by peepers and robins as darkness falls. I know tomorrow a New Light will dawn.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oosoola Park Eagle Sky

1. Bridge-kab New Bridge in Norridgewock 4-10-11

There is a small little park at the bend of the river in Norridgewock, Maine called Oosoola Park. For 34 years I have been married to my husband and coming to this town and driving past this park. But, since moving back east last fall I have decided to see what birds I can see at Oosoola Park! From  the parking lot near the boat launch I can see the new bridge being built across the Kennebec River. The old bridge was taken down over a year ago and a temporary one set up as work continues on the new one. My husband’s grandfather actually helped build the old bridge and you can see what it looked like if you ever watch the HBO movie called Empire Falls. They used the old bridge in that movie as part of the set for the fictional town of Empire Falls. Much of the rest of the movie was filmed in nearby Skowhegan and Waterville, ME.

2. Kennebec-kab Kennebec River as seen from Oosoola Park

Downstream from the bridge the river runs wide and deep. According to the Norridgewock Chamber of Commerce and my sister-in-law, Doreen, the name “Norridgewock” in a native American word from the Abenaki tribe meaning “smooth water between two rapids.”

3. Eagle tree-kab Across the river from Oosoola Park is what I call the Eagle Tree. The eagles only seem to come here when it is cloudy or foggy though, and today it is cloudy and I am in luck.

4. eagle-kab There at the top of the tree against the steel gray sky, the eagle sits and watches.

5. Bald eagle-kab Bald Eagle from below.

I have to drive over to the River Road across the bridge to get closer pictures of the eagle. Photographing against a dull sky is always a challenge and I sharpened, cropped and D-lighted some of these shots. Still, you can see the magnificent beak and the strong talons of this bird.

6. Bald Eagle-kab 

7. bald eagle-kab Bald Eagle 4-10-11

Skywatch Friday!

(All photos click to enlarge)

I only added 3 species to my Maine Year list at Oosoola Park: Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher and Mallard. I have seen all of these species in Maine before. After Birding with Beth, this was a fine way to end my day.

Species Totals Life Year Month
Maine 2011 Stats 94 26 24

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Birding Maine with Beth

1. Pileated woodpecker-kab Pileated Woodpecker Farmington, ME 4-10-11

On Sunday April 10 Gus and I took a drive to Maine once again to visit his parents. I contacted my friend and fellow blogger, Beth Maddaus to see if she wanted to go birding with me.

2. Beth-kab Beth 4-10-11

We met at the junctions of routes 2 and 4 in Farmington Maine along the Sandy River. Though the day is a bit gray and gloomy, it is also relatively warm.

3. sandy river-kab The Sandy River in Farmington, ME 4-10-11

We walk down along the Sandy River to see if there are any birds. The swollen river is rushing by but there are no ducks or mergansers as we had hoped. There are no herons or egrets, or bitterns, which Beth tells me she has seen here before.

4. old barn-kab Old Barn 4-10-11

But in the wooded area near this old barn a pair of Downy Woodpeckers are chasing each other about.  It looks like two females to me and I can only assume that one is trying to chase the other off its territory.

5. sparrow-kab Song Sparrow in grass.

We find some Song Sparrows in the grass and we see a White-breasted Nuthatch in the trees. A Rock Pigeon flies over our heads and we hear and see some crows. When we encounter a NO TRESSPASSING sign we decide to try another location.

6. SOSP snow-kab Song sparrow in snow.

We don’t go far. We travel just across the intersection and park at the local McDonald’s. Fisrt we use the restroom. Then we head north across the parking lot to Front St. There behind the McDonald's is a small building like a ranch house that said “Country Store.” On the building is a sign that says, “Closed.” However, on the narrow end of the building that faces front street is a vine covered deck with a couple of bird feeders hanging and we immediately start to see birds. Snow is still piled here on the north side of the store and alongside this north side runs a little wooded area that slopes down to a brook and then an open field.

7. Song sp-kab Song sparrow in vines.

At first we see Song Sparrows hopping about. Then I notice a grayish bird flitting about in the brush and alighting on tree branches. It flies up to the eaves and then out again. First one, and then another. Phoebes! I am seeing a pair of Eastern Phoebes nest building! I point them out to Beth as birds continue move around us. A House Finch flies into the feeder, then I find a small flock of American Goldfinches high in the branches on a nearby tree. We take a look at them, then look back to the vine covered deck. What is this I see?

8. CORE-kab Not a Song sparrow.

Hiding in the tangle of vines a small, streaked bird peers cautiously out at me. I look in amazement, my jaw drops and my adrenaline rushes. I have been wanting to see this species all winter but it has eluded me! Now here it is right in front of my eyes! The black chin and red cap on this tiny streaked birds let me know that I am seeing…

9. Redpoll-kab …a Common Redpoll!

In fact, I counted 3 here at the feeder. Beth and I are standing here in awe and amazement enjoying all the birds were are seeing when I hear something in the woods beside us. It sounds like someone or something is banging on a tree trunk. My heart skips yet another beat as I hope against hope for what I suspect it is. I turn my gaze from the house with its feeders and start to scan the trees as I try to locate the sound I am hearing. Sure enough, there it is! A Pileated Woodpecker! I point it out to Beth and we start to walk that way. I have my D80 up and the 70-300mm lens locked on it and I start to snap away as we move ever quietly closer. However, this bird is so intent on its task that it does not seem to care that we are here.

10. Pileated-kab Pileated Woodpecker 4-10-11 2:21 PM EDT

We walk and watch and stop and snap photo after photo as wood chips fly. I must have taken over 100 shots in a 5 minute period. Just look at the hole when I first started snapping and how much excavating it did in this short period of time! I have posted the time of the shot beneath the photos so you can compare.

11. PIWO-kab 2:22 PM EDT

11a.  excavating-kab 2.22 PM EDT

12. PIWO-kab Woodchips flying 2:23 PM EDT


13. hammer head-kab Hammerhead 2:25 PM


14. WP hole-kab The classic rectangular Pileated Woodpecker hole 2:25 PM

We walk off down a snowmobile trail a short distance to see if we can find any other birds, but all we find are a small flock of Robins. I can feel that the day is wearing on and soon I must return to Norridgewock so we can drive back to Andover, which is a three hour drive. So, Beth and I decide to head back towards her car. As we pick our way though mud and snow we pass the Pileated Woodpecker again. He is still working on that tree! Beth wants some of the woodchips he has chiseled out that have fallen to the ground beneath the tree. In an effort not to disturb the bird, she tromps down the wet creek bank and gets some chips from a position where she is not quite so visible, but I am thinking now that he really doesn’t care if we are here! I am at a different angle now and I so love this bird that I snap off a few more shots. Meanwhile, Beth climbs back up the steep brush covered bank, her shoes and pants soaked with mud! I tell you, Beth is one dedicated naturalist!

15. PIWO-kab Stiff tail feathers serve as a brace 2:29 PM.

16. PIWO-kab Pileated Woodpecker 2:30 PM


17. WBNU-kab White-breasted Nuthatch 4-10-11

As we pass the little store a friendly little white-breasted nuthatch flies into the vines and peers at us curiously. We are all smiles as we walk to the car and go in search of a place for pie and coffee. After driving past two closed coffee shops Beth remembers a cafe a mile or two west on Rt. 2. Thankfully it is still open and we each make our choice. I pick Lemon meringue pie and tea, while Beth chooses coconut cream pie and coffee. I should have taken pictures of all of this, but we were having too much fun recounting this day and chatting away. We were like two little magpies in Maine. When Beth takes me back to where I have parked my car we realize that we have not taken any photos of each other. So we stop and get out our cameras and as we do I see a Downy Woodpecker at this feeder that i didn't even notice before! All this birding must have gotten to Beth, for she leans forward as if to eat from the bird feeder! I suddenly get my wits about me and snap this shot as she is pulling away! Ha! Ha! LOL! I love Birders!

18. Beth the bird-kab Beth the Bird 4-10-11

Thanks Beth! I had such a great time birding with you! Hopefully we can do it again soon now that the weather is getting better! And hopefully Beth will update us soon on her blog, Beth’s Stories, about the birds and the bees and the beavers in her neck of the Maine woods!

Species Totals Life Year Month
Maine 2011 Stats 94 22 17