Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Walk in the Park after the Storm

1. Sacred Heart Park-kab

Sacred Heart Park 6-29-12 at 10:30 a.m. EST

I awoke this morning to the sound of thunder and the pitter-patter of rain outside my window. The rain washed air smells cool and fresh drifting in the open windows of my Andover apartment where I have lived for almost two years now. In spite of the rain, the birds are out in force at my backyard feeders. Rain drenched chickadees, titmice, house finches and house sparrows fill the feeders in a feeding frenzy. On the suet feeders I see first one and then two more bedraggled downy woodpeckers clinging, and picking at bitefuls of the gooey stuff. I make myself a cup of green tea and wait for the storm to pass. It’s been over a week since I’ve counted birds at the park and I am eager to go before today’s heat and humidity roll in. As soon as the rain stops I grab my binoculars, my notebook and pen, and my small digital camera. I decide to leave my larger SLR camera behind, not wanting to take it out in the dampness in case another brief shower rolls by. Plus, I know that once these clouds burn off the humidity will make hauling that thing around a bit uncomfortable. So, with insect repellent slathered on and a thermos of cold water in my car I drive the short distance to the park.

As soon as I pull up I see birds scattered all over the green soccer field. Usually when I am here at this time of day I am lucky to see a robin or two. It is now 10:30 a.m., but the rain has just ended and the birds are taking advantage of the still wet grass. My car thermometer reads 67F. I roll down my car windows and count birds from the car before getting out and scaring them away. Within the first 10 minutes I am here I see robins, grackles, blue jays, house sparrows, and a northern flicker. A couple of chimney swifts fly over the roof of my car, and then I see first a tree swallow, then two barn swallows swooping low over the wet grass, and then they are gone. It was such a brief encounter that, if I had not been here at this particular moment I would never have known they were here!

2. the edge-kab I step out of my car with binoculars in hand and stand near the fence surrounding the parking lot. As I do, a woman comes up to ask me if I am going to be photographing birds. She wants to know if she will disturb me if she walks her dog in the field while I am bird watching. I am astonished and pleased by her consideration since so many times I have met rude and irresponsible dog owners. She even offers to go walk her dog somewhere else if it will bother me. But I tell her no, I am headed for the wooded area. Beside, her dog is just a little terrier. She lets her dog out while I am getting the rest of my stuff together and then she heads south across the field while I head north. Her little dog is bouncing all over the place, and sure enough it chases off a few robins, but they are not here long and the robins quickly return to the grass while I make my way along the eastern edge of the soccer field.

3. KAB-DSCN1541 The grass is wet beneath my sandaled feet. When the wind blows heavy water droplets fall from the overhanging trees and speckle my binocular lenses. I wipe them dry and keep on walking slowly around the perimeter. Overhead the vibrant orange of a lichen covered branch catches my eye. It provides such color beneath this green canopy!

4. mist-kab Then, the motion of a northern flicker as it flies into a tree high overhead distracts me and leads me on. I can see the clouds are starting to break up causing a mist to rise from the grass near the woodland edge.

4. wee bunny-kab

As I am walking and examining trees, field and sky, I suddenly notice a wee bunny rabbit nibbling on grass just ahead of me. I slow my pace and pull out my camera hoping for a decent shot. I creep ever closer and closer, amazed that it shows no fear. Finally it feels I am too close, just as I am thinking the same thing and considering walking far around it. It bolts for the thicket along the edge, little cottontail bouncing as it goes! Why do these little nature moments bring me so much happiness? I do not know, but I keep seeking them out, over and over again.

5. butterfly-kab So, it is no surprise when I stop to look at a Monarch butterfly feeding on the flower of a milkweed that is growing along the un-mowed edge of the field. It clings ever so delicately to the blushing pink flower blossoms, then floats away softly into this summer day.

6. mower blur-kab I continue walking along deep in thought headed for the woodland path that will lead me down to the river when suddenly I hear a loud rumbling ahead of me. I poke my head around the ragged edge of the brush just in time to see the source of the noise—a large mower with a man riding it and he is headed right towards me! Now I am like the bunny scurrying for the trees! I run for safety unsure if the person driving it will see me around the brushy edge of the field where I am walking. I dart into a clearing just as the machine roars past in a blur. The man driving it sees me and smiles and continues on his way. I am thinking, “Who mows the grass in a thunderstorm?” and, “Now he has scared all the birds along the river away!” I know the small song birds will quickly return, but if there were any herons or ducks down there, they are long gone! Still, I continue on my path to the river, going slowly as I like, trying to take everything in.

7. daisy-kab I have been sick at home for the past four days with a summer cold, so it feels good to be out and about looking for birds again. The lushness of this green landscape never ceases to amaze me after having lived in the Sonoran desert for three and a half years and three years in Utah before that. Though I am from New England it has been quite awhile since I have lived here. Seeing all this green seems even more impressive now that I have lived out west for so long. I happen to love the western landscape and it has taken me a long time to appreciate this New England greenery once again.

8. woodland path-kab The path down to the river through the woods is very short, but I stop to admire the play of light and shadow on the leaves. I can still see droplets of rain on some of them, even though the sun is fully out now and trying its best to dry the earth up. The trees here are so thick that they make a cool green tunnel to walk through. In the undergrowth English Ivy grows in abundance, an escapee from someone’s yard I presume.

9. ghost tree-kab Before me the ghost tree rises. He is always here to greet me, or trying to scare me away! I smile at his distorted face and upraised arms. He is a familiar friend to me and I am not scared one bit!

10. riverbank-kab As I emerge from the tunnel the green lawn of the riverbank opens up before me. I turn left and walk the perimeter toward the farthest reach of the mowed area. Here, more robins hop across the grass, while song sparrows sing from the river and pond edges.

11. overgrown-kab I tuck into the grassy path that leads to one small backwater pond with a view of the bend in the river. In early spring this was an easy thing but now it is overgrown with weeds and wildflowers as well as a few raspberry brambles just to keep me on my toes. I am careful to avoid the poison ivy I see. Though it has never bothered me much, it seems as I get older I am more susceptible to its itchy rash. I don’t want to push my luck!

12. warbler pond-kab I stand quietly in place hoping to see something new. This spot is always reliable for catbirds and first one, then two, and then three all pop up on a branch as if checking me out instead! While they are looking at me the song sparrows continue to sing, and then I hear the “wicka, wicka, wicka” call of a Northern flicker. Occasionally a bull frog croaks. Life is just about perfect right now standing here in the woods!

13. heron pond-kab I stand there looking and seeking for more birds species, but none emerge, so I head back out to the grassy area and up to the knoll. Here I have a view out over the bigger pond where I often see herons. In early spring I would see Canada geese, mallards, or even wood ducks here. Now everything is so overgrown that my views are restricted to glimpses between green-leaved frames!

14. tangled-kab Vines grow in tangles over many of the trees, and I find one tree totally choked by a strangling vine, its life blood cut off, it’s bark gone. Yet the vine lives on, and will, I suppose, until the tree trunk rots and falls. Some of these vines are bittersweet that produce beautiful red and orange berries that feed the robins in winter. I counted over 75 feeding here one day earlier this year.

15. blue sky-kab I am starting to feel the heat whenever I step into the sunlight, but in the shade it still feels cool as a light breeze wafts lightly over my skin. I am not ready to leave just yet. This is all so peaceful and if it wasn’t for the sound of traffic I can hear from nearby Main Street just across the river I could almost get myself to believe I am somewhere deep in the countryside. I hear little sharp chips coming from the woods and look up to find a family of cardinals skulking among the branches. The reddish brown fledglings flutter and chirp, begging their weary parents to feed them. I soon spot the male moving through the branches, bright red against the emerald leaves, trying to console them and encourage them to feed on their own. They continue to beg and whine, wanting their parents to do it for them! But this cannot go on forever. Soon the harsh reality of life will kick in when their parents kick them out for good!

16. river-kab But he is not the only weary parent I will see on this day. As I head back down along the river I hear the plaintive squawks of a grackle. I look out to see it perched on a snag in the middle of the river, pink gape open wide, wings fluttering low, while an anxious parent flies in with something in its beak. The glossy black adult lands facing the youngster and deposits the food into the fledgling’s gullet. Then, to my utter surprise, when the grackles fly off, an eastern kingbird takes their place! This snag is a favorite perch of many birds. I have also seen herons and ducks take advantage of its relative safety from the middle of the river. The beautiful gray and white kingbird looks around for a moment, then takes flight, its white edged tail visible as it flies high into a tall tree across the river. There I notice a mourning dove sunning itself on a bare branch of the same tree.

17. shawsheen river-kab I am starting to feel the heat and humidity but I am so lost in my reverie as I walk along this riverbank. I am thinking about all the riverbanks I walked along when I was young back in Colchester, CT. There were tall green trees, and cool clear water and swimming with my family all summer long. Why it that as one grows older these memories seem to come back even stronger. I do not look to be nostalgic, but it just comes to me anyways.

18. Balmoral-kab I finally reach the terminus of my self-set boundary for this eBird Site Survey. I look through the trees out over the track field where I can see the Balmoral Condominiums silhouetted against the hazy sky. It’s time to turn back and finish my bird count in the upper soccer field.

19. muddy-kab So, back I go, past the ghost tree where I avoid the muddy slope where a spring seems to seep out of the ground. It is always muddy here and I always walk around.

20. into the field-kab As I emerge from the woodland path to the field I hear and then see yet another kingbird. Then the shadow of a large bird passes over the grass and I look up to find a turkey vulture rocking on the thermals in a sea of blue sky.

21. playground-kab Other than hearing a phoebe call, I do not see or hear any additional species as I walk the rest of the way around the field. The playground is empty today but as I climb into my car another person gets out of his vehicle, metal detector in hand. We all have our obsessions I suppose. I have been here for just under two hours now. The temperature has risen to 78F and with it so has the humidity. I am hot, hungry and thirsty. It’s time for me to go home.

22. parking lot-kab

Note: I guess you can tell I was in a writing mood today. I have many more photos and will post some on a separate page. It felt good to get outside and wander and observe and in the end I counted 20 species of birds here today. The Barn and Tree swallows I saw when I first arrived brought my total count of birds for this location up to 56 species!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Backyard Birding in June WBW

1. HOFIs-kab House Finch Family in my backyard 6-6-12

June has been a very busy month for me with lots of family activities. Still, I did manage to squeeze in some birding time, especially in my backyard. These are just a few of the species I have enjoyed watching this month!

2. feeder-kab My feeders were full of birds today.


3. flicker-kab This yellow-shafted Northern Flicker flew in briefly yesterday.


4. NOCA female-kab A female Cardinal grabs a bite to eat 6-26-12


5. NOCA male-kabWhile the male feeds on the ground beneath the feeder.


6. NOCA chick-kab Then a newly fledged female chick tries it out! 6-26-12


7. robin-kab The Robins have been gorging on mulberries from my neighbor’s tree!


8. im. robin-kab This immature robin still has its breast spots 6-26-12


9. MODO-kab The inevitable Mourning Dove beneath the feeder 6-26-12


10. RBWO-kabA male Red-bellied Woodpecker eyes me warily 6-26-12


11. Dowo-kab Downy Woodpeckers are everywhere!


12. grackles-kab I am still getting a few grackles, but 6 are easier to deal with than the 40 I was seeing back in May!

13. WBNU-kab Is there anything cuter than an upside down Nuthatch! 6-26-12

I have been seeing rose-breasted grosbeaks for about two weeks now but until today I had only seen males. I sat outside on my back porch watching birds for a couple of hours this mourning and was so surprised to see this…

14. female ROGR-kab A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak!

And then the male showed up!

15. male ROGR-kab Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak!


16. flying-kab Coming in for a landing 6-26-12


17. landing-kab Clinging to feeder


18. hovering-kab Hovering again


19. feeding-kab Inside and chowing down!


20. sharing-kab Sharing with the immature cardinal and a young House finch!


21. birds-kab Young House Finch and House sparrow in bushes near feeder.

Yes, life is busy here for

World Bird Wednesday

21. HOFI-kab House Finch adult male and fledged chicks 6-6-12


22. clouds-kab Cloudy Sky as seen from my backyard porch 6-26-12

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Adams Family Road Race 2012

1. line-up-gusto Lining Up for the 2012 Adams Family Road Race on June 16

Every year in June my crazy family gathers together near Colchester, CT to run a three mile road race on our old cross-country course from high school. My three brothers and my younger sister and I all ran cross-country for Bacon Academy as we made our way through the upper grades. I am second oldest of the siblings but it is my middle brother, Stephen, who came up with this great idea over 15 years ago. He thought it would be a great way to help motivate us to keep in shape as we grew older. I must admit that he and some of my siblings take it way more seriously than I do, but it is a fun way to get the family all together and start the next generation on the path to a healthy life style and hopefully to develop a love of running in some of them.

2. on your mark-gusto My sister-in-law, Lori, holds the stopwatch.


3. they're off-gusto And we are OFF!

4. running-gusto Run, family, RUN!

5. running-gusto Behind the crowd stands my Mom, who survived a fight with breast cancer this year.

6. helping-gusto No one is too young to run!

7. the Lake-gusto While Gus waits for the first runner to appear he photographs the lake.

8. the winner-gusto Here comes my nephew, Bernie!

9. burning up the road-gusto He is burning up the road and is the first runner to cross the finish line!


10. 2nd place-gusto My youngest brother is next! Not bad for an older guy (older than the grandkids, nephews and nieces, but younger than the rest of us)!


11. 3rd-gusto Brother Stephen is fighting a leg injury.


12. stephen-gusto Still, he comes in third, though he would have loved to beat his younger brother!


13. MG-gusto Now here comes my younger sister, the marathoner!


14. boyfriend,  dog n niece-gusto This is my niece with her boyfriend and her dog. They are so light on their feet they barely touch the ground! Gus, how did you manage to get this shot!


15. Tony-gusto Brother-in-law, Tony!


16. big brother-gusto Big Brother, Rick (he’s married to Lori)


16a. Big B-gusto Big B runs for the finish line!


17. grandson-gusto My grandson, Trey! Yay!


18. c and niece-gusto My great niece with her Uncle C running alongside to encourage her.


19. mom n son-gusto My niece and her son sprint for the finish line! Yes, he ran the whole 3 miles!


20. bro n me-gusto Here I come…finally! C runs back to encourage me also.


21. hard work-gusto It’s a slow jog and hard work, but I made it!


22. last one-gusto And I wasn’t last either! Here comes my new daughter-in-law, Melissa and my granddaughter, Brooklyn!


23. splash time-kab Now it’s time to splash and play…


24. the lake-kab in the beautiful lake we all just ran 3/4 of the way around!


25. Steve n Linda-kab My dear friend, Linda and my brother Stephen.


26. my niece-kab My niece and her dog.


27. Father n son-kab

Papa with the newest member of the family!


28. the bride-kab Chris and Melissa sort of eloped in January so we are celebrating their wedding now! Congratulations kids!


29. the cake-kab The impromptu cake!

30. the matriarch-kab And the matriarch of the Adams Family watches over it all.

She is the REAL champion!

31. family-kab This is just part of the motley crew that is my family that I love.

32. the monster-kab This is the only bird I photographed today. I think it is a young Canada Goose but it looks an awful lot like Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, don’t you think? Still, I heard Wood Thrushes as I walked/jogged around the lake. I saw robins, cardinals and chipping sparrows. Here at the beach I saw and heard song sparrows, blackbirds and chimney swifts. I just can’t help myself. I always notice and count the birds! I had a fun week with my son and his family, but now they have returned to Maine and I am once again playing catch-up! There will be more family and birding adventures posting here soon!