Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brown Creeper, Blue Sky

10-27-11 Brwon Creeper-kab

Brown Creeper on Willard's Island at Hammonassett SP, CT 10-21-11

Skywatch Friday!

Last week my friend Kathryn and I went birding at Hammonassett Beach State Park in Connecticut. Kathryn has never been to New England before so we travelled all over the Northeast birding and sight-seeing. We found this little Brown Creeper while walking through a wooded area of Willard's Island at Hammonassett Beach State Park. Brown Creepers are tiny cryptic-colored birds that cling to the bark of trees. Unlike nuthatches, they cannot go head first down a tree trunk. Rather, they fly to the base of a tree and creep up the trunk probing for insects in the bark with their thin, curved bills. When they have gone far enough up the tree, they fly back to the base and start the climb all over again, or they fly to another tree, and continue their hunt. I am always delighted to see this sweet little bird. I hope you enjoy it also. You may click to enlarge the picture for better viewing and then click on the link to see more amazing skies from around the world!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn Marsh Sky

10-20-11 Autumn Marsh sky-kab
American Bittern flying over the marsh at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, MA 10-1-11

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Butter-butt Bonanza at the Bog

1.yellow-rumped warbler kab Yellow-rumped Warbler 10-10-11 Stirling Street Bog

I’ve been counting birds at the Stirling Street Bog for over a year now. Last October when I first moved here to Andover I counted several warblers there in the month of October. I presumed the bog would be full of warblers next spring and summer, but I was wrong. The warblers I saw last year were just migrating through. So, this autumn I have been waiting for them. Finally a cold front moved through on the night of October 5th. When I woke up on October 6th, I was greeted by the sound of a white-throated sparrow singing, “Oh Sweet-Canada, Canada, Canada,” outside my window. While drinking coffee on the back porch and watching birds, I saw a black-throated green warbler in the tree next door. That’s when I knew I’d better grab my bins and camera and get down to the bog. Sure enough, there were birds everywhere!

2. butter butt kab Yellow-rumped Warbler a.k.a. “Butter-butt”

Yellow-rumped warblers are affectionately know as Butter-butts because it looks like someone placed a little pat of butter on their rumps in the area right above their tails.

3. butter butt-kab Butter-butt showing its yellow rump.

Yellow-rumps come in two varieties: Myrtle, predominately on the east coast; and Audubon’s, predominantly out west. The Myrtle has a white throat and the Audubon's has a yellow throat but they do overlap in territory and during migration.

4. yellow-rumped warbler-kab Eye-arcs seen clearly here on yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warblers are closely associated with coniferous trees during the breeding season. It seems to me that I often see them around water. They often act like flycatchers, picking insects off the ends of branches or snatching them from the air. Because they can and do eat berries, they are often one of the first warbler species to migrate north in springtime.They make a little “tic” sound as they glean insects and it is often one of the ways that I find them. Yellow-rumped warbler was one of the first warbler species I ever saw and learned to identify. I saw my first one in Florida in January of 2003, and then I saw them again in my back yard in Maine of that same year. Since then I have seen them in 11 states.

5. YRWA-kab Yellow-rumped warbler on guardrail between road and bog 10-6-11

These yellow-rumps here are all seen in fall plumage. While not quite as colorful as their breeding plumage, I still think they are adorable and I am so happy to see them at the bog again. They are only here for a short time and soon they will be gone again until next year.

6.Autumn bog-kab Autumn Splendor at the bog 10-11-11 Andover, MA

WBW Just click on the image to see more birds!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn at the Bog 2011

1. Common yellow-throat-kab Common Yellowthroat at the bog 10-11-11

The return of autumn and a change in temperature has brought the birds out in droves at the bog. I went down one day last week and there were so many birds flitting around that I could not count or identify them all. I was having a bird bonanza and wishing I had a scope and some friends to help me count the birds.

2. autumn bog-kab Autumn at the bog October, 11, 2011

Brilliant color now contrast with the green of cattails and evergreens. Yhe oaks have yet to turn, but the maples and aspens are putting on quite a display.

3. fungus rose-kab Fungus Rose “Chicken of the Woods”

On my way to the bog I have been watching this enormous fungus rose grow at the base of an oak tree. Dawn Fine identified it for me as “Chicken of the woods,” a mushroom that grows on oak trees either on the trunk or at their roots indicating that the tree has heart rot. This particular “rose” is bigger than a soccer ball!

4. south end bog-kab South end of bog 10-11-11


5.silver swamp-kab Silver Swamp Water 10-11-11


6.geese-kab  Canada Geese in Swamp 10-11-11

The Canada geese have returned with the autumn. I hear their wild honking as they fly over my yard. Hearing them also makes me feel restless, as if I, too, should be migrating.

There are so many birds at the bog!

7. swamp sparrow-kab  Swamp Sparrow at bog 10-11-11


8.COYE-kab Common Yellowthroat 10-11-11


9. Downy-kab Downy woodpecker


10. crow-kab  American Crow


11. SOSP-kab  Song Sparrow


12. RTHA-kabRed-tailed Hawk


13. YRWA-kab  Yellow-rumped warbler

Complete list of birds seen at bog on 10-11-11:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Belted Kingfisher
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Eastern Phoebe
  9. Blue Jay
  10. American Crow
  11. Black-capped chickadee
  12. American Robin
  13. Gray Catbird
  14. Common Yellow-throat
  15. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  16. Chipping sparrow
  17. Song Sparrow
  18. Swamp Sparrow
  19. White-throated Sparrow
  20. Northern Cardinal
  21. Red-winged Blackbird
  22. Rusty Blackbird
  23. Common Grackle

14. autumn blaze-kab This is my autumn World!


Our World

Click on the button to go on a virtual tour of Our world!

Click on the link to read more information about “Chicken of the Woods”.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Bracket of Cardinals

As I pulled into the driveway of my Nana's yard I saw a male cardinal perched in the bush nearby to where my mother keeps her bird feeders. In the gloaming his bright red feathers were still easily visible. I though how appropriate it was to be greeted by this bird, for it was my Nana's favorite, and though this is her home, she has been dead for 12 years now,and October was the month she died in. To me, seeing the cardinal there now is like having her presence here in her yard.

I shut the car off and start to unload my suitcase and my birding gear. Everywhere I go I bring my binoculars and since I plan on going on a birding outing with the Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp on Saturday, I also have my camera and various other equipment or clothing I may need for that outing, including the infamous camouflage rain poncho I acquired a few years ago for the New River Birding and Nature Festival. Hopefully I will not need it this Saturday.

After hauling all my stuff inside and greeting my Mom, I set out to refill the bird feeders, which are empty. I bring the two from the back yard to the front of the house where Mom keeps the seed and get down the one front yard feeder and refill them all. Night has almost fallen now. The sky is dark and gray. Street lights have come on, and a steady line of traffic is moving down main street as people return from work, or hurry to the stores and restaurants. I've learned to ignore the sounds of modern life for the most part and I concentrate on listening for birds and listening to the crickets chirping and the late autumn chorus of what I think are peep frogs. It is a peaceful occupation, a calming thing, to refill feeders and watch autumn leaves fall.

When the feeders are full I accompany my mother outside. She is going up to her church for a special program tonight, so I come out to say good-bye. As she walks towards her car the air is ripped by the sound of screeching tires and then a woman's screams! I hurry down the stairs so I can see around the corner of the ell to the street. Across the darkened park we can see a group of people gathered. The woman's voice rises frantically above the din, "Oh My God! OH MY GOD! SOMEBODY HELP ME! OH MY GOD!"

Mom and I rush inside to grab a phone. My mind is rushing to try and figure out what the tragedy is. I want to call 911 but I need more information. I poke my head out the front door and tried to see across the green through the darkness to the street. What I think I am seeing alarms me. I think someone has been hit by a car. As I start to dial 911 I only get to the 9-1...when we hear Mom's scanner go off. The call has already gone out and we hear that a person HAS been hit by a car on Main Street.

I know that the police and ambulance with paramedics and EMT's will be there soon and I try to think how I can help. I know that one of the first things to be concerned about in this kind of trauma is shock, so I ask my mom for an old blanket and run across the street.

By now a crowd has gathered. There are people trying to help the injured man who is lying on the asphalt. Chinese food is strewn along the curbing and out into the street. The first police officer arrives just as I am throwing the blanket over the man. Others there spread it out. The officer comes over and cradles the man's head in his hands, stabilizing it. I know my limitations and I hear the ambulance coming so I step back and let others do their jobs. I look to see how I can help and position myself by the frantic woman, who turns out to be the man's wife. She is kneeling in the road by his legs. She is understandably screaming and crying. I put my arms around her and try to offer comfort and calm her down. Soon an officer arrives and moves us off to the edge of the green, not only so the EMT's can do their job unimpeded, but also to try to calm her down so she will not distress her husband anymore.

The woman is hyperventilating and I try to get her to slow down and breathe. Her words come in a tumble and she vascilates between trying to give the officer medical and personal information and describing what she saw, and crying out for them to save her husband, and yelling to him that she is right here, to calling out to God and praying, to wanting to call her friend. She finally pulls a phone from her pocket and scrolls through the numbers 'til she find the person she want to call. Her voice is so frantic and her words so jumbled that I ask if I can take the phone and talk to her friend. I tell the man what is going on and ask him to come for her. She wants him here.

The man lying in the road is 59 years old and has had 6 bypasses. He is on his back. I can only see the sea of bodies gathered around him trying to work. Most of my attention is focused on the woman, but as they start to put the man on the stretcher, I see his right foot and ankle bent at a 90 degree angle. Someone straightens it out and they lift him up. However, I did see his chest moving in steady breaths, and his hands moving in a purposful manner, as if with conscious thought. One of the emergency personal tells us that it looks worse than is appears.

As the man and the woman are bundled into the ambulance for their trip to the hospital I stand on the curb with another woman about my age who has been there helping all along. I discover that she is a nurse. She thanks me for stepping in to help. I tell her it is in my blood. My grandfather was the Fire Chief in this town at one time, and my cousin is still a volunteer fireman and EMT. All my family holidays as a child were permeated with the sound of the siren going off and all the male relatives jumping up to leave. My mother still keeps a scanner for this reason and she prays for those who are in trouble. It is in her blood too.

In the flickering and flashing lights from the police cars, which still have the street blocked off, I can now see the pool of bright red blood lying where the man lay just a few moments ago. It looks like thick red paint spilled on the road. I am amazed at how much it looks like thick red paint. The car that hit him is stopped in its gruesome tracks. The windshield on the passenger side is fractured from the impact into a thousand spider veins. An officer asks myself and the nurse to step out of the way so he can photograph the scene. Others are already starting to do their cleanup job. I take the used blanket and toss it ove my shoulder and head back to Nana's house.

It is late when I finally go to bed. After that kind of adrenaline rush it is hard to calm down. It is long after midnight before my eyelids grow heavy and I reach up to shut off the light.

The next morning I awake to the sound so of wind and birds. I pull back the covers and grab my bins and head for the window over the kitchen sink. Though the glass is old and thick and wavy I still try to focus on the bird feeders in the back yard to see what I can see. At first there is just a titmouse, a chickadee and a house sparrow. I put the kettle on to make my tea, and then I hear the chip note, the short, sharp call that I am waiting to hear. This time a pair of cardinals has come. I see the bright red male and the soft red and brown female in the bush by the garage, coming to the feeder. I feel that Nana and Grandpa are still here in this yard watching over me and my mother. I feel their strength inside me and I am thankful.

In punctuation brackets are a way to set off a thought or an idea. They are a pause in the running dialog. In today's blogging and texting world, some people use they to indicate a hug. I feel like I have been encompassed by a bracket of cardinals with a traumatic event in-between and a reassuring hug on either side. I do not know what happened to the man or his wife and I know I would not be able to find out, but I can only wish him the same grace that I feel here in Nana's yard. I wish him a Bracket of Cardinals.

Note: I am in Connecticut at my mother's house for today. Tomorrow I am heading home but on the way I am going birding with the birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp. Today I am going to see The Big Year Movie with Jeff and Dawn Fine. Currently it is 68F and pouring rain outside. Autumn leaves are falling carpeting the yard and the streets. It's a good day to stay inside and watch a Birding Movie. I expect the computer situation to be resolved by Monday and I will finally be able to post pictures to my blog once again! I hope you enjoyed today's story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lesser Black-backed Gull (WBW)

1. lesser n Greater-kab Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls on South Beach in Chatham, MA

Last month when I was out at south Beach in Chatham, MA with Jeff and Dawn Fine and Matt Malin we came across a small flock of gulls. It was a mixed flock with Herring and Greater Black-backed gulls and everyone was just walking by them except me. I started looking at their legs. Why? Because I know that Lesser Black-backed gulls have yellow and not pink legs and I wanted to see if I could find one. Since I am new to this whole shorebird thing, I know I am not very good at identifying those species, yet! But telling yellow legs from pink legs is fairly easy and sure enough, my scan of the flock paid off! I was so proud of myself because it was basically the only bird I identified before anyone else that day!

2. Lesser n greatr GBBG-kab Lesser Black-backed Gull (left) Greater Black-backed Gull (right)

In this photo you can easily see the size difference. The Lesser  is also more charcoal gray and not quite so dark black, but the legs are the giveaway to me. Not only are they yellow, they are also shorter on the Lesser. I saw my first Lesser Black-backed gull when I was down in Alabama birding with Matt Morrow in March of 2010. The gull was far out on a pier laying down and I only know it was a Lesser because he told me so, but this one I knew for sure.

3. gulls on south Beach-kab Herring, Lesser Black-backed, and Greater Black-backed Gulls 9-13-11.



Just click on the button to see more birds!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Remembering the White Vermillion Flycatcher


Leucistic Vermillion flycatcher 1-4-10 Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, AZ

As many of you know, I used to live in Tucson, AZ. When I lived there, one of my favorite places to go birding was Sweetwater Wetlands. I could go there almost any day of the year and see 30 to 50 species of birds in just a couple of hours. I would often get lost in my birdy world wandering the paths and watching birds. At times like that, time just stood still for me. On this day in January of 2010 I saw the most remarkable bird of all, a leucistic Vermillion Flycatcher. I did not even know it was hanging out there, but some other birders I met on the path alerted me to its existence. It wasn’t long before I found it and was able to snap off quite a few shots.

DSC_0003 Normal Male Vermillion flycatcher 1-4-10

Leucisism is a little understood and much disputed color mutation in birds according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site. It is not albinism, which is a total lack of melanin in the cells and would cause a bird to have pink eyes and skin. Birds with leucism have some pigment but it is not deposited in the feathers for some reason as I understand it. You can see that this Vermillion Flycatcher has dark eyes and some pigment in the skin on its back where it would normally have a mink brown mantle. However,the feathers all appear white.

Since I can’t offload any more photos on my regular computer yet, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at this magnificent bird which I will never forget!

4_0145 Aren’t I cute!

Computer Troubles Update: I have found a good computer guy through a friend and he was here today looking at everything. My PC is still good, it just needs more storage. He is going to help me solve that problem, plus help me finally get all my data off my last 2 computer hard drives! Yay! Meanwhile, I am still limping along on this old laptop which Dawn Fine helped me download Live Writer onto but I have very little access to photos right now. These photos are currently on this laptop and I do not even remember how they got here! I know. I’m hopeless. However, at least I can do limited blogging and check my email, so that is good.  Later this week I am headed to Colchester again to help my Mom who is undergoing a medical procedure. I will be back again soon and birding as I go.

Andover Update: The weather here has been phenomenal after a brief cold front moved through last week and caused a bird fall out at the bog and in my yard. I saw my first Black-throated Green Warbler in my yard, along with the first White-throated sparrows of the fall on October 6th. I took photos at the bog that are still in my camera waiting to be offloaded. Today I saw my first ever yellow-bellied sapsucker in the the yard, so that’s two new yard birds in two weeks! It doesn’t get any better than that!

And that’s a look at My Birdy World on…

Our World Tuesday!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where've You Been?

Every time I disappear from the blogosphere and then come back I always think of the words to that old song,

Where have you been
I've searched for you forever and a day
Where have you been
I'm just not myself when you're away
I'm just not myself when you're away 
Well, I knew this day was coming. My computer is so full that it won't work. I have zero storage left and it's time to buy a new one. Gus and I went out looking last night. I found one I like with all kinds of RAM and Memory. It's an HP laptop with a 14 inch screen and only 4 lbs. It also has an 8 hour battery, so I can take it anywhere. However, we probably won't be buying it for a couple of weeks, so, until then, I am limping along on this old laptop which has a limited operating system on it. I can access the internet and even blog, I just might not be posting photos for awhile.

However, I did manage to get a guest post up on the Birding is Fun blog before my computer crashed. It posted yesterday. If you would like to read my take on  Why Birding is Fun, just click on the link. There are lots of photos there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Song or Lincoln’s Sparrow? (WBW)

1. song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow 9-29-2011 Colchester, CT

A couple of days ago I mis-identified this bird as being a Lincoln’s Sparrow on my blog. I would like to correct myself. After reviewing some photos I have a Lincoln’s it became readily apparent to me that this was a Song Sparrow and not a Lincoln’s sparrow. So, how did I get the two mixed up? Well, song sparrows can have a wide variety of plumages. When I saw this bird in the bush, I noticed the buffy breast overlaid with dark streaking and the buffy auricular circle or stripe. These are characteristics of a Lincoln’s sparrow, but this bird is much too chunky for the Lincoln’s and the streaking far too dark and heavy. Below you can see a true Lincoln’s sparrow held by Bill Hilton, Jr. at the New River Birding and Nature Festival I attended in 2009.

2. Lincoln's sparrow NRBF WV-kab Lincoln’s Sparrow 4-27-2009 West Virginia

We were Birding by Butt on this day and we started the day watching a demonstration of the birds being banded after being caught in the mist nest set up that morning. When Bill held up the bird he asked anyone who knew what it was to raise their hand. I was the only ne there who could identify it as Lincoln’s sparrows are very secretive. However, I had just recently seen one in my yard in Sycamore Canyon in Arizona, where I lived at the time. since I knew what bird it was, I was given the privilege of releasing the bird after it was banded. I was simply in heaven! You can see the photos and read more in the links below, but today I want to make the point that this is a tiny sparrow, very delicate, with a buffy eye-ring, buffy malar stripe, and buffy breast overlaid with fine dark streaks. By looking at these two photos you can see the obvious difference. It always pays to take a second look. I have corrected the identification on my first post and in eBird. I hope this post helps you in your quest to learn how to identify these challenging sparrows!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bog Update: a year in review

1. bog bluebird-kab Eastern Bluebird 9-25-11

After a busy summer of breeding blackbirds, and a flush of ducks and geese earlier in the month of September, things have quieted down at the bog. I was thinking and hoping that I would see more warblers coming through on migration, but so far this has not been the case. It has been a year now since I first started counting birds at the bog. I have done my best to count birds there at least once a week and report my finding to eBird. For the most part I have been able to do this, but with all the travelling I have done and the family activities there have been a few times I have missed a week or two.

In my years since first starting to eBird I have come to see the value of consistently counting birds at one location, for it gives the scientists and myself a view of the bird population over time. To count birds at one location every day is not hard and does not require a lot of time. In Just five minutes you can count birds and submit that data to eBird. That is all it takes. I count birds in my yard every day, often taking my coffee or tea out onto the porch and enjoying it while I watch birds. The amount of time I spend at the bog is often dictated by how many birds I am seeing. If it is relatively quiet,  I do not stay long, but if there are a lot of birds I get so excited and absorbed in watching them all that I often stay for 40 minutes or more. But this is a peaceful and renewing time for me, and I enjoy it. I first counted birds at the bog on September 30, 2010. Since that time I have seen a total of 64 species at the Stirling Street Bog in Andover, Massachusetts. You can see the complete list is in the sidebar.

2. gray bog-kab View across the bog 9-25-11

We have had at least two weeks of gray sky and gloomy, muggy days, and while it has cooled off today, until recently it was warm and muggy. While there is a hint of autumn in the air, the leaves are really just starting to turn where I live and have yet to reach their peak blaze of color.

Here is the list of species seen at the bog during the month of September 2011:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Great Blue heron
  5. Merlin
  6. Gull species
  7. Mourning dove
  8. Belted Kingfisher
  9. Red-bellied woodpecker
  10. Downy woodpecker
  11. Hairy woodpecker
  12. Northern flicker
  13. Eastern Phoebe
  14. Eastern Kingbird
  15. Blue Jay
  16. American Crow
  17. Black-capped chickadee
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch
  19. Eastern bluebird
  20. American Robin
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Cedar Waxwing
  23. warbler species
  24. Song Sparrow
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. American goldfinch
  27. House sparrow

Our World Tuesday

Please click on the link to take a tour of our amazing world!

To read more about the bog, just click on the links:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Change of Seasons, Exciting News

1. Lincoln's sparrow-kab Song Sparrow 9-29-11 Colchester, CT

The misty, muggy, foggy days of Autumn have brought more than one kind of change to me this year. Besides the migrating birds I am seeing, another new experience is opening up before me. Many of you already know that I am an avid eBirder. As a result, I have found a kindred spirit in Robert Mortensen of the Birding is Fun blog. So when he asked me if I would become a regular contributor on his blog, I eagerly agreed! Click on the Birding is Fun link to get the full story.

Meanwhile, once again I have been travelling all over New England. After having just returned from a three day trip to Connecticut to visit my family and count some birds, I am off at Plum Island today with Dawn Fine and some of the birders from Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp.

2. Turkey-kab Wild Turkeys 9-29-11 Colchester, CT

One of the good things about eBird is that it keeps all of your lists organized for you. With a just a simple click of the mouse, you can check on any sighting you have had anywhere as long as you have entered that data into the eBird data base. If you have not tried eBird before or have not tried it in awhile, they have recently improved the data entry process, which makes it easier than ever. Just click on the eBird link to learn more or start your own account. Click on the badge at the top of the sidebar to learn about the eBird Challenge!

The following data is from My eBird Statistics:

eBird Stats for September 2011




Total Species




Total Checklists




Counties Counted In      
1. Essex, MA




2. Barnstable, MA




3. Suffolk, MA




4. New London, CT




5. Middlesex, CT




6. Windham, CT




7. Rockingham, NH




8. Somerset, ME




9. Cumberland, ME




10. Kennebec, ME




11. York, ME