Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hurray! Stirling Street Bog is now a eBird Hotspot!

1. Autumn 2010 bog-kab Stirling Bog October 2010

When I first moved to Andover in September of 2010 I was delighted to find this bog on a back road in my neighborhood. Since leaving my home in Sycamore Canyon in Tucson, which I had already established as an eBird Site Survey, I knew I wanted to start a new survey in my new location. When I found this bog so close to my home I felt I had landed on my feet! I started counting birds at this location that very first autumn and have managed to count birds there at least once a week in the two years since. I have only missed two weeks in that whole time, one of which is the first week of August, which I will knock off tomorrow when I do a bird count there this year. The other week is the first week of September, and I will be back in Tucson by then. That will be the only week that is missing data in the eBird Bar Charts.

2. Stirling Street-kab Stirling Street near bog October 2010

Last year when I was out counting birds here at the bog I meant a woman named Susan who was doing a program through Massachusetts Audubon to earn herself a certificate. We chatted about birds and I told her of my bird counts and my blog. she asked if she could use some of my data to assist her in tracking bird populations here at the bog. I told her yes. This year she contacted me again and we go together. I was delighted to find out that she not only used my data to compile a bird guide to Den Rock Park for mass Audubon, but she is also hoping to get that guide published as a paperback book that will be available to the public! You cannot imagine how thrilled I am to think that all my bird counting is paying off to help educate others about birds and birding!

3. autumn sunset 2010-kab November 2010 Sunset at the bog

So, this year I finally suggested the Stirling Bog as a birding Hotspot to eBird. Apparently it was accepted because if you log into eBird now you can find it on the map as an eBird Hot Spot! Just click on the red balloon to pinpoint your location and the name pops up! It also means that this location is now listed on their Bird Log app making it even easier for you to count birds here! This also means that even if you are not an eBird participant, you can go to eBird, click on the Explore Data tab, then click on Bar Charts, then scroll down through the states to find Massachusetts. Once you have highlighted the state, you click on the button for Hot Spots. From there you press “Continue,” then find Stirling Bog in the list. Click the box next to the name and click “Continue” again. The database will then bring up the bar charts for this location and you will be able to see all the species seen in this location as well as the frequency and time of year that they occur here! In other words, now all this data is accessible to anyone who wants to view it! This bog has been my comfort and solace through the two years I have lived here. It has brought me much joy and filled my life with calm. Whenever I needed a nature break it was so close by. Now that it is an eBird Hotspot I hope more of you will stop by and continue the count of bird species at the Stirling Street Bog! I would love to see the data for this location continue to grow!

Below are just a few of the photos I have taken through the seasons here at the bog. A post with the birds of the bog will soon follow! Enjoy!

4. crow moon sky 2010-kab In Autumn the Crows stream across the bog in the evening 11-18-2010


5. wooly bear warning-kab Wooly Bear Caterpillar trying to warn me of the upcoming winter (seen at the edge of the bog in October of 2010)

6. Jan 2011 Winter bog-kab January 2011 Record snowfall covers the bog

7. winter bog-kab January 2011 Stumps and grasses poke through the snow


8. deep snow-kab January 2011 tree screams for help from deep snow!


9. melting spring 2011-kab March 2011 The snow is finally gone!


10. bare bones Mar 2011-kab Bare Bones at the bog March 2011


11. April 2011-kab Springtime April 2011


12. June 2011-kab May 2011 Green is seen


13. July 2011 Lilypads-kab July 2011 Water Lilies!

14. July 2011 Summer bog July 2011 Summer Bog

15. aug 2011 starlings-kab August 2011 Flocks of Starlings fill the sky


16. Aug 2011 after Hurricane August 2011 after Hurricane Irene


18. Autumn Oct 20011-kab October 2011 Autumn again


19. Feb 2012 Gray bog-kab February 2012 We had little to no snow this winter


20. April 2012 spring bog-kab April 2012 Spring returns again

21. Spring 2012 forsythia April-kab Forsythia at edge of bog April 2012


22. May 2012 bog-kab May 2012 the bog is filling up with cattails


23. June 2012 bog-kab June 2012 Summer Greenery

Stirling Bog can be accessed from off of Stirling Street in Andover, Massachusetts, but you can also access the bog from Den Rock Park across from Market Basket in North Andover/Lawrence on Route 114. Click on the links below for additional information.

Update August 1, 2012: I counted birds at the bog tonight for 35 minutes and saw a pair of sweet little House Wrens climbing around a dead snag. When I entered that count into eBird I discovered that I had never seen that species in this location before! So, that makes House Wren species number 71 for the bog!

24a. Cang-kab Follow me to see the Birds of the Bog

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thoughts of Tucson

1. Santa Rita Mtns-kab Santa Rita Mountains as seen from Sycamore Canyon May 7, 2008

It is a funny thing that, just when I told my husband I was tired of him looking for new jobs and, that If we didn’t move soon I wanted to stay here for another year, that he should get a phone call and a job offer. The phone call came through while I was in Connecticut visiting my family and friends. Suddenly everything shifted, and I started thinking of what was before me, and what I would leave behind.

2. Mt. Fagan-kab Mt. Fagan in Corona de Tucson 8-7-2010

Two years ago when we left Sycamore Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains of Corona de Tucson, we thought perhaps we would return in a year and move back into our house if it didn’t sell. Well, the house didn't sell, but we are not moving back in. We are just one of the millions whose house was so far underwater that we could not sell it and we could not refinance because we no longer lived in it. In the two years since we have been here so many things have happened. The first year was spent planning my Mother’s 75th Birthday party. The next year was spent trying to save her life as she battled breast cancer, which she discovered only two months after her party! She is through with her surgery and treatments now and all seems well, but you can imagine that it is just a little bit hard to leave her, not knowing if I will be needed again, and knowing it will be a bit harder to get back here if I am needed.

3. calendar-kab My dining room calendar

As I was starting to look at my calendars to plan this move I suddenly noticed that two out of the four calendars I have in my house have photos related to Arizona. This one on my dining room wall not only has a saguaro cactus for July’s monthly picture, but the photo was actually taken at Saguaro National Park in Tucson!

4. July Calendar-kab My kitchen calendar

Then I noticed that the kitchen calendar has a photo of a broad-billed hummingbird, a species easily seen in the Tucson area. Below it in the right hand corner is a Gila woodpecker, a species also see in the Sonoran Desert. Not omens actually, but certainly an interesting coincidence!

5. Sabino Cyn-kab Sabino Canyon, March, 2008

I know that when I get back to Tucson I will be able to visit all my favorite birding places like Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park and I will love seeing all the exotic and normal desert species of birds once again, but make no mistake, I will miss my New England birds as well, especially some of the more common ones that greeted me every morning when I woke up. There will be no Black-capped Chickadees calling to me in Tucson, no Blue Jays flying through the trees with blue wings flashing. I will not have nuthatches hanging upside down on my backyard trees, and I will miss them all. Thankfully I plan on flying home at least once a year to visit my family where these familiar birds will hopefully greet me once again. Until then, I look forward to seeing my first Cactus Wren. It has been long enough.

6. Catus Wren-kab Cactus Wren, the Arizona State Bird

New Poems on Kathie’s Poet Tree

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Photo Session with a Downy Woodpecker

1. downy on mullein-kab Downy Woodpecker on Common Mullein in my front yard 7-25-2012

Yesterday I when I was leaving to go count birds at the park I saw this Downy woodpecker on a Common Mullein Stalk in my front yard. Not wanting to scare it away, I decided to go out the backdoor instead and then I decided to see if I could sneak up on it with my camera! So, I grabbed my D80 with its 70-300mm lens and crept quietly out the back door. I slipped slowly along the side of the house until I was behind a bush and started snapping away. The little downy didn't seem to notice me at first, and then it didn’t seem to care. whatever it was after in that flower stalk had its attention more than  did. Eventually I was able to creep even closer. I set the camera on center-weighted metering and worked my way around to try to get the sun out of my lens and eyes since it was almost 11 a.m. and I was facing south!

2. downy-kabFor the next 15 minutes I snapped away, taking over 160 photos! In all that time the downy never flew off but continued to work its way around the flower stalk and up and down it’s length. I have no idea whether it was eating seeds, insects, or sap but whatever it was after, it loved it! I finally decided I had enough pictures and brought my camera back inside. When I came back out the bird was still there and didn’t seem to mind as I slipped past it and crossed the street!

3. parts fly-kab 

4. closer-kab 

5. closer-kab 

6. wide view-kab 

7. hiding-kab 

8. working-kab 

9. DOWO-kab 

10. Dowo-kab 

11. cute-kab Aren’t I cute?

These mullein plant grew wild in the front yard and are over 5 feet tall. I did not know that birds would eat them and was fascinated by this activity. You can read more about common mullein by clicking on the link below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Birding My Way Home

1. AMRO-kab American Robin in the fountain 7-13-12

After our birding adventure at Colchester's Cohen Meadows Dawn and I went to Mom’s house for a visit and lunch. We barely pulled into the yard when we saw a robin in Mom’s backyard fountain.

2. Red squirrel-kab Red Squirrel by the barn in Mom’s yard 7-13-12

Then, to my utter surprise, we saw a red squirrel by the barn! While I have seen chipmunks, gray squirrels and groundhogs here before I have never seen a red squirrel in Mom’s yard. This little cutie kept jumping up and down off the old metal chair. It would grab a seed, eat it on the chair, then jump down for another seed!

3. Dawn-kab Dawn sitting by the fountain

After a visit with Mom in the backyard we ate lunch and then I packed up my dog and my car and brought Dawn back to her “Homey.” Then it was my turn to get on the road and head for home. Often when I travel I bird my way home on the return trip. I intended to stop at Owen Bell Park in Killingly, but was so absorbed in the book on CD I was listening to that I drove right past the exit! However, by the time I neared the Oxford, MA Exit off Route 395 both the dog and I needed a restroom break. As I drove towards the exit the highway crossed Lowes Pond. From the corner of my eye I saw two Mute Swans floating in the still water. I decided to take exit 4a (which is towards the pond) instead of 4b (which is where I normally get off to get gas and use the restrooms) so that I could drive behind the Home Depot and Market Basket grocery store to see if I could get a better look at the swans.

4. Lowes Pond-kab Lowes Pond with Route 395 in the background 7-13-12

Whenever I Bird My Way Home I often find new places to count birds this way. Today I hit the jackpot for as I drove behind the store I saw a Green Heron on a chain link fence surrounding a smaller retention pond. As I parked the car to let the dog out I saw an eastern phoebe. Mourning doves were resting on top of the street lights and barn swallows swooped overhead. Song sparrows sang from the pond edges and, as I walked the dog along a cliff-like retention wall goldfinches twittered and robins hopped along the grassy edge.

5. wood ducks-kab Below in the pond a family of wood ducks paddled away from me.

These are the birds I saw in 15 minutes at Lowes Pond in Oxford, MA:

    1. Mute Swan, 2
    2. Wood Duck, 6
    3. Green Heron, 1
    4. Mourning Dove, 2
    5. Eastern Phoebe, 1
    6. Blue Jay, 1
    7. American Crow, 1
    8. Barn Swallow, 2
    9. Black-capped Chickadee, 2
    10. Tufted Titmouse, 2
    11. American Robin, 1
    12. Cedar Waxwing, 6
    13. Red-winged Blackbird, 2
    14. American Goldfinch, 2

6. robin-kab What did you say?

With our upcoming move back to Tucson I suppose I will really be Birding My Way Home then for I will be driving across the country with my birding buddy and longtime friend, Kathryn Kelley of My Mountain Green from Utah. One of the best things about becoming a blogger and a birder are all the new people that I have met. When I moved here two years ago I did not get much chance to write about the birds I saw as we drove across the United States back then. Hopefully this time it will be a different story, but I think that no matters where I live, I will always be Birding My Way Home!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cohen Meadows; Birders’ Heaven!

1. gazebo-kab The Gazebo at Cohen Meadows 7-13-12

Cohen Meadows is a little known nature spot off McDonald Road in Colchester, CT. I like to go birding here when I come to town to visit my family. When I am here, I always count the birds and submit that data to eBird. Last week when I visited Dawn Fine I decided to take her to town to meet my mother and to go birding at this wonderful place! When you come around the corner of McDonald Road, which is just off Route 85 in Colchester, one of the first things you will notice as you pull into the parking lot is the cute little gazebo.

2. wildflowers-kabIf it is anywhere near to summertime the next thing you will notice are all the wildflowers. Much of the property is maintained as a wildflower meadow. The meadows attract all kinds of butterflies and dragonflies, and of course, birds! We heard and saw sparrows as soon as we stepped from our car. From the midst of the meadows we heard the “wichety, wichety, wichety” call of Common Yellowthroats.

3. RSHA-kab High overhead in the pale blue sky a Red-shouldered hawk circled and soared.


4. wild turkeys-kab As we headed for the edge of the pond we found a small flock of turkeys at the edge of the woods!


5. bluebird-kab On a pond-side picnic table an Eastern Bluebird greeted us.


6. cormorant-kab Then, to our utter surprise, a cormorant flew up from the distant pond edge!


8. the pond-kab Most of the pond is covered with vegetation right now, but there were still a few areas of clear water.


9. Dawn birding-kab Dawn walked ahead photographing birds and butterflies.

In the line of pines and spruce trees phoebes fluttered and chipping sparrows sang their sewing machine sounding call. We scanned the pond for any sort of ducks or herons or even flycatchers but saw none, until a Great Blue Heron was spooked by our presence and revealed itself. With long, deep wing beats it flew up from the water’s edge and disappeared into the steamy gray-blue sky. The humidity was building with the heat of the day, but we pressed on in search of more birds.

10. into the woods-kabDawn heard the call of a red-eyed vireo and we followed it into the woods where the turkeys has disappeared earlier. Down the path we went until we found it. High in the forest canopy it called and called, but we could see its cute striped face as it peered at us with curiosity. We wanted to go further but the mosquitoes and deerflies were menacing and so we retreated from this woodland path. We left with some regret, wondering what we would have seen if we kept on following it.

11. pond-kab Back out by the large pond we saw even more song sparrows, chipping sparrows and catbirds. Of course we found a few robins, and then Dawn heard a Great Crested Flycatcher! I was not so sure but we kept watching and listening and soon it flew to the top of one of the nearby pine trees where we had a good view. It didn’t linger for long but headed back to the woodland edge. Later we saw and heard another.

12. EAPH-kab But the ever bold phoebes stayed nearby and landed on twigs in the shade.

We crossed the street to the small pond next searching the fields and sky for more birds. We kept hoping we were seeing some Savannah Sparrows or even Vesper Sparrows but were never sure, so we did not count any.

13. Song sparrow-kab Juvenile Song Sparrow at Cohen Meadows 7-12-12

Here are the bird species we did record for that day:

    1. Wild Turkey, 5
    2. Great Blue Heron, 1
    3. Double-crested Cormorant, 1
    4. Red-shouldered Hawk, 1
    5. Turkey Vulture, 3
    6. Mourning Dove, 4
    7. Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1
    8. Downy Woodpecker, 1
    9. Eastern Phoebe, 2
    10. Great Crested Flycatcher, 2
    11. Red-eyed Vireo, 2
    12. Blue Jay, 3
    13. Tree Swallow, 3
    14. Barn Swallow, 4
    15. Black-capped chickadee, 2
    16. Eastern bluebirds, 2
    17. Wood thrush, 1
    18. American Robin, 6
    19. Gray Catbird, 6
    20. Common Yellowthroat, 6
    21. Chipping Sparrow, 6
    22. Song Sparrow, 15
    23. Red-winged Blackbirds 20
    24. American goldfinch, 4

Cohen Meadows is truly a birder’s paradise. Come see it for yourself! Bring a picnic or your coffee, or, go birding first and then head back into town where you will find numerous restaurants and coffee shops to meet your needs! Dawn and I had a great day and it was very hard to leave! We spent an hour here but we were getting hot and hungry and so we headed into town to visit my mom and enjoy her air-conditioning!

You can read Dawn’s version of the day and see her photos here: Ruby and Elizabeth Cohen Woodlands. (P.S. She has more photos of butterflies, dragonflies and flowers than I do!)