Thursday, April 5, 2012

Signs of Spring at the Stirling St. Bog

1. cattails-kab Cattails and stumps at the bog 4-3-12

On the first day of spring I walked down to the bog in the evening and watched golden sunlight fall across the dry grasses. Amongst the reeds and cattails I found a muskrat romping. Birds were everywhere calling, singing, and flying about. I heard a soft but steady rustling in the reeds and turned my eyes to the sound. I could see the grasses bend and sway and then watched in utter surprise and delight when a dark lumpy creature crawled slowly into view. It was a giant snapping turtle! I held my breath and didn’t move as it lumbered over the bent grasses and slipped away into a pool of water. What a way to start springtime at the bog! However, I did not have my camera with me on March 20th, so today I was determined to bring it along and get some decent shots*.

2. forsythia-kab It is Tuesday, April 3rd and the sun is shining brightly as I head to the bog. I arrive around 8:50 AM. Though the sun is bright and the temperature around 45F a northwest wind is blowing, so I am wearing gloves along with my two shirts and a down vest. I do not often come to the bog to count birds at this time of day because the sun is rising in the east and I am standing on the western edge of the blog. this makes it difficult to get the right lighting for photography or even for Bird identification. It is much better to have the sunlight behind your back falling on your subjects! But, here is my dilemma, often the birds are most active in the morning, so I am here and I am not disappointed!

3. waterlilies-kab In the shallow water I can see the water lilies already starting to rise from below the surface. I did not know they started out red like this, as if chilled from the cold!

4. song sparrow-kab A song sparrow flies to a nearby twig and sings its song to the rising sun.


5. phobe-kab In a flash of movement I find an Eastern Phoebe. I had been hearing them here for the past couple of weeks, but today I saw several and was able to photograph them.

6. kingfisher-kab When I heard a laughing rattle I knew to look for a Belted Kingfisher! this is the female sitting on this branch. Later she was joined by her mate. It is the first time i have ever seen more than one kingfishers at a time at the bog. I watch her for awhile, then am distracted by tree swallows swooping low over the water on the far side of the bog. too far for pictures but not too far to observe that characteristic shape of to see the sunlight glinting off those beautiful metallic blue backs! As I am watching the swallows fly I suddenly hear a ruckus and look to see the kingfisher engaged in evasive flight as a pair of crows chase her down! It appears that she may have caught a fish and they are trying to steal the prize from her! I watch as they swoop and dart in-between tree stumps and snags. suddenly the kingfisher drops from my sight and the crows peel off. did she win? I don’t know, but what a thrill that was to see. I was rooting for her, of course. Those old crows can find their own food as far as I’m concerned!

7. yellow-shafted flicker-kab Just as this drama is unfolding I hear a rat-a-tat-tat behind me. something is drumming on the guardrail! but why? It sounds so close, so I turn to see and there on the other side of the pine tree I am standing behind is a Yellow-shafted northern flicker! It is so close that I could almost reach out and touch it if this tree wasn’t in my way. I don’t dare move but watch and wait. I even try to slowly maneuver my camera around to see if I can somehow get a shot through the foliage, but then a car comes up the road and the flicker flies off. after the car has passed I see the bird on the opposite guardrail across the street. I move slowly and get into position and snap off a dozen photos of this, one of my favorite birds.

8. EAPH-kab Not time to rest, because here comes the phoebe again!

9. EAPH-kab This time it is closer than ever, and then I see another one!

10. phoebe-kab Eastern Phoebe in the cattails 4-3-12

11. greening up-kab A few green shoots are pushing up among the dead grasses.

12. new house-kab Behind my back and across the street a new house is going up. I can hear the pounding of hammers as I stand here in the sunlight watching birds.

13. sentinals-kab I am always struck by the bare branches of the dead trees reaching up to blue skies. How is it that there is so much life among the dead? The thought so overwhelms me that I stop to write a poem: There Are the Dead.

14. cattails-kab Before the new cattails grows the dead ones go to seed.

15. wind-kab The spring winds bend the reeds with forsythia in bloom as a backdrop.

16. CANG-kab A Canada Goose feeds among the reeds and grasses keeping watch over its nearby mate.

Then the murder of crows starts up its mobbing again! This time it has a Red-tailed Hawk in sight!

17. mob-kab The Hawk tries to take evasive action!

18. crows n hawk-kab It changes direction and tries to fly away!

19. chase-kab But the crows are relentless and chase it off!


20. geese-kab Then I hear a wild honking as three more geese come to join the flock in the swamp. I have been here for over two hours now. My hands are cold and my stomach is telling me its time to go home,

21. flicker-kab But before I leave the flicker comes to bid me good-bye. It lands on the curb at the edge of the road, then hops up into the shade cast by the pine trees along the edge of the guardrail and the bog. I finally figured out WHY the flicker was drumming on the guardrail. You can read about it over at Birding is Fun on Saturday, April 7th when I post My Friend Flicker.

21a Nuthatch-kab

A little white-breasted nuthatch has landed nearby. Grackles are still whistling and clicking, red-winged blackbirds call. The nuthatch’s mate flies over to join him and they  fly off “yank, yanking” to a snag in the bog.

22. forsythia-kab As I look around me it is quite apparent that spring has begun at the bog.

*Note: After four years of owning my Nikon D80 I am finally getting frustrated with the quality of my photography so I decided to be brave and see if I could change a few of the settings on the camera. I went into the menu and switched the White-balance to Daylight, then I switched the ISO to 400. After offloading my photos I discovered one choice was good and one choice was bad. The choice to change the White Balance really brought out the colors in my shots better but the choice to drop the ISO meant I lost some of my depth of field. If you are wondering WHY it has taken me so long, it has been because I was so impatient to just take pictures, so I left the camera pretty much in Auto Mode except for a couple of tricks I learned from Troy, a fellow blogger. Besides, I was more interested in having the adventure and telling the story than in taking time to get perfect shots. I would say that is still my focus, but I want to see if I can do better. So, we will see!


  1. Your pictures are awesome! What a fun walk you had. Happy Easter!!

  2. Great tour Kathie. Lots of great birds and some super photos of those pretty Eastern Phoebes. I love reading your posts, they always take me right there onto the trail.

  3. Your photos are always so wonderful. Well at least the ones you share. I know, we have to get off Auto. Seems like once you can figure out the settings for what you shoot the most, just leave it alone.

    This was a very bird productive day at the obviously spring bog.

  4. What a beautiful ode to Spring. You got great shots of the birds, and I particularly love the red tail shining in the sun. Happy Spring!

  5. This looks like a great place and you really got some great shots of the Phoebe. They are such sweet birds. I like watching all of the bug catchers. The Kingfisher is one bird that I can tell for sure when it makes a noisy, but aren't they great to see??

  6. Your photos are beautiful Kathie! They always capture the essence of your trip, which are fun to follow along on with your stories:) The Eastern Phoebe is a lovely bird, which I'm glad makes an appearance around here as well.

  7. I love these photos! It's so nice to know that spring is actually arriving. I was looking at your other blog, Sycamore Canyon and then I noticed that you recently moved to Andover. Quite the change!

    I'm writing on behalf of KEEN Footwear. We've launched our Recess campaign to motivate people to take a break and get outdoors. I'd love to have your expertise and input for this project. If you have the time, check out our Recess page. I'd love to see your favorite locations in AZ and MA on the map.

    Here's a link to the site:

    KEEN Recess Team

  8. What a wonderful series of pictures, you caught a lot of action in the bog.

  9. KaHolly, thank you! It was fun!

    Laurence, I am glad you feel this way!

    Gaelyn, thanks!

    Carole, why thank you! I always love to see the light coming through the tail of a red-tail. It show them off to their best advantage!

    Mary, I love seeing kingfishers. I think they are amazing and magnificent birds!

    Tammy, phoebes have that subtle woodland beauty. I am glad that you get to see them as well! Thanks for stopping by!

    Gillian, thank you. I love going there to bird!

  10. I loved reading your post, Kathie. Lovely photos, great colors, perfect for a bright morning.

  11. Geez, your photos are gorgeous! The colors are vibrant and phenomenal. Love the close up of the cattails.

  12. Hi Kathie

    I love the shot of the geese.

    A neat post.



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.