Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Search of Sandhill Cranes

1. Sandhill cranes-kab Sandhill Cranes in Rowley, MA 11-29-11

I am more of a “Lister” rather than a “chaser” when it comes to bird watching, but every now and then I see a bird exciting enough for me to chase after it. When entering my eBird data on Monday I happened to notice that Sandhill Cranes were being spotted in a farm field in Rowley, Massachusetts. Since moving here over a year ago my eBird Life List for Massachusetts has grown from a meager 18 species to 158 species. Since I happen to love Sandhill Cranes and since I haven’t seen any since moving away from Arizona and since I would love to add this species to my Massachusetts Life List and since Rowley is only about 35 minutes away from my apartment I decided I would see if I could find them the next day.

2. Lake cochickewick-kabSouth end of Lake Cochichewick in North Andover 11-29-11

It was close to noontime when I finally set out for Rowley. On my way to Route 133 I took a short cut past lake Cochichewick in North Andover. I was not going to stop but when I saw a small flock of Ring-necked ducks at the south end of the pond I could not resist.

3. ring-necked ducks-kab Ring-necked ducks on Lake Cochichewick

I saw my first ring-necked ducks in Massachusetts just about 3 weeks ago at Baker’s Meadow. This is the third time I have seen this species since then. I only stayed for about 10 minutes, then hurried on my way. Once I rounded the end of Great Pond Road and turned east onto Route 133 I was driving into new territory.

4. Rowley farm field-kab Farm Field on west side of Route 1A north of Rowley, MA

My route took me through the small towns of Boxford and Georgetown, with typical New England architecture and stone walls. After having lived in the Sonoran Desert for 3 1/2 years I am still intrigued by the water I see everywhere. It seems there is a brook, bog, river or pond around every corner. It is never boring to go for a ride through the countryside in New England. NO, I did not stop to take pictures. I was on a mission to find birds! After reaching the intersection of routes 133 and 1A in Rowley I turned north. The cranes had been sighted in some farm fields between Rowley and Newbury. I had no idea what I would see or if I would find them, but I drove north anyways with anticipation beating in my heart like the wings of a a bird in a cage.

5. cranes out my window-kab First view of the cranes out my car window.

As I came around a corner just north of the village center I suddenly spotted them in a field on the right and close to the road. There were two other women stopped and looking and I really can’t remember if I saw the women or the birds first. The birds were so close to the road that I was able to just pull over and roll down my window to get my first shot.

6. sandhill cranes-kab After getting one shot off, I zoomed in for a close-up.


7. sandhill cranes in rowley-kab Sandhill Cranes in Rowley, MA 11-29-11

Though I could hear the sounds of blackbirds in  the trees, I was totally focused on these magnificent birds in front of me. They always seem so exotic to me. For me, they represent everything that is wild and good in America. If you have never heard the sound of sandhill cranes “garooing” your soul has missed the song of the wild.

8. crane-kab 

9. cranes eating-kab 

10. sandhill cranes-kab 

11. Moving off-kab As more and more people pulled over to see and photograph the cranes they casually moved off towards the edge of the woods.

12. blackbirds-kab I finally focused on the blackbirds to see if I could identify what species I was seeing. Since most of them were little more than dark silhouette’s against the sky it was hard for me to tell, but I did hear at least one Red-winged blackbird’s trill and I saw one Common Grackle as it broke off from the flock and flew directly over my head. I think the flock was a mixture of species and I entered it into eBird that way. What a racket they made!

13. grazing cranes-kab With the cranes far across the field I got back into my car and drove away.


14. bridge-kab Newbury Bridge over the Parker River on Route 1A

I crossed the bridge on Route 1A and turned into the Newbury Boat Launch to turn around. since I was here I decided to get out for a minute to see what I could see. I hoped to see a few birds, but it was fairly quiet.

15. river-kab View of the Parker River looking east.

There was nothing on the river…

16. pond-kab …and only a few juncos along the edge of this pond.


17. turtles-kab In the pond a few turtles tried to sun bathe, but there was little sun. Still, turtles in November! This is such weird weather! Though rain was predicted for later in the day, it was still 60F! In November!

18. pigeons-kab I found a flock of pigeons flying around as they emerged from their roost under the bridge and like them, I decided it was time for me to go home.

Please click on the link below to see more birds on…

World Bird Wednesday!

Oh, and the Sandhill Cranes make species number 159 on my Massachusetts Life List!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here’s What’s Happening in My World

1. Fitchville, CT-kab Canada Geese on the Yantic River in CT 11-18-11

I have found a new place to count birds when I go to Connecticut. A few weeks ago as I was travelling west on Route 2 from Norwich towards Colchester I saw a huge flock of water fowl alongside the highway at exit 23. I immediately pulled of the exit and onto the side of the road where I identified and counted hundreds of Canada Geese. Mixed in with the geese were a few mallards and my first American Coot in Connecticut. Since that time I have kept an eye on this spot, so when I was on my way home on November 18th I drove up Old Route 2 to try and find an easier access point to the river with a good view of the geese. I drove all along the village of Firtchville and down every little side street, but there was no place to park near to where the geese were resting.

2. parking-kab Parking Lot

I finally parked in the commuter parking lot right off the exit, then walked down the street and across the road to the west end of the bend in the river. From there I had a decent view of all the birds. I estimated there were 500 Canada Geese as well as 8 Mallards, 6 Hooded mergansers, 2 Coots and 2 American Crows.

3. RTHA Andover-kab Red-tailed Hawk seen from my backyard 11-23-11

On the gray day before Thanksgiving I spotted this Red-tailed hawk sitting in tree next door overlooking my backyard. I do not know how long it was there for but it stayed almost until dusk watching birds and squirrels and me.

4. Feaster 5K-kab Andover’s Feaster 5K Thanksgiving Morning 11-24-11

On Thanksgiving morning I found it hard to get anything done as Andover’s Feaster 5K was happening right outside my front window! Apparently this is such a popular road race that they cap the runners at 10,000! That’s right, 10,000! I had 10,000 people running right past my front yard. I went in and out of the apartment several times to watch and take pictures. What started out as a dribble…

5. 10,000 runners-kab Just a few of the 10,000 runners!

…soon swelled to a floodtide of runners. You can’t even imagine the sounds 10,000 runners make with all that heavy breathing and the plop, plop of foot steps on asphalt. It’s very rhythmic and peaceful in a way, as if the whole world were breathing and running together.

6. Feaster 5K-kab Running towards the finish line.


7. running for the finish line-kab The crowd swells, filling the street.

I had a peaceful Thanksgiving Day. My son and his future bride came down with her son and a few other family members. Though I did all the cooking, they did help some and we ate when the food was ready and relaxed afterwards. No pressure, no rush, no pictures! No blogging, no facebooking, no email or phone calls. We just enjoyed each other's company and the food. It was perfect.

8. andover yard squirrels-kab Today in my backyard the gray squirrels are peacefully feeding…


9. feeders-kab …the bird feeders, full of seed, are waiting for birds…


10. woodpile-kab …the wood pile is waiting for the first snow of winter…


11. last autumn leaves-kab …and the last leaves of Autumn are waiting to fall.

Our World Tuesday!

Go visit!

As always, it has been a busy month around here with no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. There are Christmas plans to be made, decorations to put up, presents to wrap and mail. While I am still cleaning up from the Thanksgiving bustle today I just need to get out of the house. The weather has been so warm here lately with highs in the mid to upper 60’s and lows at night only dropping into the 50’sF. I can go outside in my shirt-sleeves and not be cold. The weatherman says this November is the 2nd warmest on record. It sure feels strange to me. Still, with rain predicted for later on this evening and reports on eBird of Sandhill cranes being sighted in Newbury, MA, I am setting out to see if I can find them myself. So, I am going In Search of Sandhill Cranes. I will let you know what I find tomorrow!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

1. wild turkey madera cyn-kab Wild Turkey in Madera Canyon, AZ 1-9-2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

2. WITU Salem, CT-kab Wild turkeys in Salem, CT 9-29-2011


3. birch trees-kab Birch Trees in Norridgewock, ME 11-5-11

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for my family, for my friends, for my blog, for the birds…and for colors!

4. autumn gold-kab

  • I am thankful that my son returned safely from the war in Afghanistan.
  • I am thankful that I have a warm house to live in.
  • I am thankful that I have food to eat.
  • I am thankful for my husband who puts up with me and my birding and blogging.
  • I am thankful for my mom.
  • I am thankful for my sister and brothers, all of my children and grandchildren.
  • I am thankful for music, art and poetry.
  • I am thankful that I can read.
  • I am thankful for the simple tings in life that we so often take for granted.

I wish you a day filled with family, food, and fun and most of all, Thankfulness!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baker’s Meadow WBW

1. CANG-kab Canada Geese 11-9-11 Baker’s Meadow

We have had such lovely weather here in New England that I just cannot stay inside! So, on November 9th I decided to go exploring at one of the Andover Village Improvement Society or AVIS Sites that I had read about on the internet. The webpage claims that over 145 species of birds have been observed at Baker’s Meadow. I figured it was time for me to check this out for myself!
2. pathway in-kab Pathway between the houses

From the directions on the internet and by using my GPS I finally found Meadow View Lane and parked in the cul de sac. From there I followed this path down between the houses to the trail surrounding the pond.
3. Baker's meadow pond-kab View of the pond

The large pond opens out before me through the tall pines, maples and oak trees. I observe a lone fisherman casting from the bank. He and I are both content with the quiet and we each engage in our separate activities without a word. I find a spot along the edge of the pond and gaze out over the water. While I can see birds along the far shore I know I need to get closer in order to identify some of them, though the geese are quite easy from this distance with my binoculars. After evaluating my options I turn to the right and follow the trail though the woods…
4. brook-kab Baker’s Meadow Brook

…and over the brook with its spillway..
5. spillway-kab Baker’s Meadow Spillway

6. bridge-kab “Bridge” across the spillway

…and a makeshift bridge!

7. woodland-kab Quiet Waters

Quiet waters gather in the cove by the spillway but on the other side the water tumbles with noisy abandon. Late autumn sun still warms the air around me. the path beneath my feet is soft with pine needles a rotting leaves. I step gingerly over tree roots and wind my way around tree trunks where moss grows green and vibrant along the ground. I make my way off the path through the underbrush to the pond’s edge where I can get a better view of the open water and the birds.
8. reflections-kab Autumn splendor at the pond 11-9-11

I soon find myself close enough to photograph a pair of Canada Geese. They watch me warily trying to decide if it is safe for them to stay or if they should take flight. But I move slowly and keep my distance and soon they relax while keeping one eye on me.
9. MUSW-kab Mute Swan 11-9-11 Baker’s Meadow Pond

As I am watching the geese a Mute Swan comes paddling by around the bend of the next cove. With the autumn colors reflecting in the water affording me a perfect view. I am starting to feel the magic of this place. I am reveling in the quiet.
10. reflections-kab Baker’s Meadow Pond

The swan was one of 3 I saw on the pond this day, but far across the water other birds gather. I can tell they are diving ducks by their behavior and am soon able to make out the black heads and necks of Ring-necked ducks with their black backs and the white spur onto their shoulders which helps in identifying them from a distance. A few mallards float nearby, the males with their glossy green heads and necks, the females drab but subtle in their beauty. In front of the ring-necks a lone Pied-billed grebe floats, then dives. While I can see there are a few shorebirds of some sort on the spit of mud the geese are gathered on, they are too far away from me. With the low angle of the sunlight reflecting off of their bodies it makes it difficult to see any kind of field marks. I try photographing them and enlarging the shots but they are little more than white blurs on the screen.
11. shoreline-kab Forest Surrounding the pond

While I do not hear or see many woodland birds beyond a Downy Woodpecker and a chickadee, this was certainly worth the trip to Baker’s Meadow for me. The Ring-necked Ducks and the pied-billed grebe were first my sightings of these species in Massachusetts.
12. looking up-kab Looking up!

13. water view-kab Looking down!

14. woodland reflected-kab Forest Reflection

I probably would have lingered here longer but soon other hikers came along, almost all of them with dogs off leashes with almost all of them rushing up to smell me. Some of them were barking and one was even growling. Golden Retrievers must be the official dog of Andover because I swear everyone had one. I met one group of women with 4 or 5 of them romping around! Yes, all off leash. I like dogs, but not when I am birding! I think I counted more golden retrievers than bird species in the woods on this day! (15 dogs, 9 species of birds!)
15. sunset-kab Sunset through the pines

Still, this is such a pretty place. I will come back again (I hope!) and see if I can find more of the 145 species purported to be here!
16. path up-kab Path back up to Meadow View Lane in Andover, MA


Birds Seen at Baker’s Meadow November 9, 2011:
  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Ring-necked duck
  4. Mallard
  5. Pied-billed Grebe
  6. Downy woodpecker
  7. American Crow
  8. Black-capped chickadee
  9. peeps

17. geese-kab