Friday, July 26, 2013

Birding with the Brownstone Birder

1. cedar waxwing-kab Cedar Waxwing in Portland, CT 6-29-13
On the morning of June 29th I drove to Portland, Connecticut to go birding with Larry of the Brownstone Birding blog. As a blogger I have known Larry since January of 2008. When I lived in Andover, MA I met him in person for the first time at a gathering of the Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp in Wilton, CT. However, this would be my first time going birding with him by myself. I always consider Larry my eBird mentor since he is the one who first turned me on to eBird when I first started blogging. His birding treks around his hometown of Portland are legendary and I was looking forward to seeing some of his favorite spots for myself. I was also hoping to see some of his favorite birds! After a brief stop at the Portland County Fairgrounds, we headed for some power lines on a back road.
2. powerlines-kab As we headed up the steep trail a small family of Wild Turkeys scurried out of our way! They were too quick for me and my camera!
3. damp and gray-kab While the heavy gray skies threatened to open on us, we kept walking.

4. prairie warbler-kab It was worth it when we saw and head this Prairie Warbler sing!
This was a new Connecticut species for me!

5. common yellowthroat-kab We saw and heard several Common Yellowthroats!

6. blurry blue-winged-kab I was only able to get one blurry shot off of a Blue-winged Warbler, yet another new species for my Connecticut Life List!

7. field sparrow-kab We saw several Field Sparrows. This one has a mouthful of something.
We also saw and heard Blue jays, crows, and a Rose-breasted grosbeak while here. Though we didn’t walk very far, we saw lots of birds. when it started to sprinkle we headed back to the car. After a quick drive we stopped at the Portland Reservoir.
8. portland reservoir-kab Here the drizzle continued. the temperature was rising and the humidity with it. Still, we ventured on. We followed a trail around the edge of the reservoir with a blog on the left and the reservoir on the right. Tree swallows swooped over the bog. An Eastern Phoebe called from the fence near the water.
9. frog-kab And in weather that was only fit for ducks and frogs, a frog sat in the mud!

10. mosquito alley-kabThe trail took us through the woods in what I call mosquito alley. After resisting using bug spray, this spot forced Larry and I to give in. There were so many mosquitoes! I’m glad we went because it was down this trail that we heard the least flycatcher, a Life Bird for me. I so wanted to see it but it was hidden high in the leafy tree tops and it never did come down into sight. Even with the bug spray the mosquitoes soon drove us away.
11. song sparrow-kab Back out in the open a song sparrow serenaded us from a fence post.

12. brook-kab Before leaving the reservoir we took a short walk up another trail where we found American Redstarts in  the trees.
13. color-kab I loved seeing these colored leaves, though it seemed a bit early for them to be changing. I don’t think it was autumn chill that made them change, however. On this warm and muggy day it certainly didn’t feel like it!

14. flooded fields-kab Larry and I knew we didn’t have much time before the weather became unbearable, so we headed back to the flooded fields of the Portland Fairgrounds. This time we tried to walk around the grounds without getting our feet wet!
15. ducks-kab These mallards didn’t have to worry about that!

16. Larry-kab I’m sorry to say that this is the only picture I got of Larry. We were both too busy birding! The Connecticut River flows along one edge of the fairgrounds. Larry led me down a trail to see if we could get in view of the river. We had to dodge several puddles along the way, but finally we made it!
17. cowbirds-kab I found these cowbirds in a brush pile along the riverbank.

18. bald eagle-kabAcross the river from the cowbirds I spotted an adult Bald Eagle. A bit lower in the trees we found a juvenile. Larry told me this is a well known nesting sight for them. Larry’s knowledge of the local birds is outstanding and his sense of humor is quirky and fun. As the sun started to break through the overcast the temperature and humidity started to rise and we both knew we were done for the day. I had a great time and I so appreciated his taking the time to show me around.
19. fair skies-kab Clearing skies over the Portland Fairgrounds 6-29-13
Thanks Larry!

Birds seen while Birding with Larry on June 29, 2013:
  1. Mallard-Portland Fairgrounds 7:50 AM
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Red-winged Blackbird
  5. Common Grackle

  1. Wild Turkey-Portland Powerlines 8:10 AM
  2. Great Blue heron
  3. Chimney Swift
  4. Northern Flicker
  5. Blue Jay
  6. American Crow
  7. Veery
  8. American Robin
  9. Gray Catbird
  10. Cedar Waxwing
  11. Blue-winged Warbler
  12. Common Yellowthroat
  13. Yellow Warbler
  14. Prairie warbler
  15. Chipping Sparrow
  16. Field sparrow
  17. Song sparrow
  18. Rose-breasted grosbeak
  19. Indigo bunting
  20. Red-winged Blackbird
  21. Common Grackle

  1. Great Blue Heron-Portland Reservoir 9:11 AM
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Ruby-throated hummingbird
  4. Downy Woodpecker
  5. Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted)
  6. Pileated Woodpecker
  7. Least Flycatcher
  8. Eastern Phoebe
  9. Warbling Vireo
  10. Red-eyed Vireo
  11. American Crow
  12. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  13. Tree swallow
  14. Tufted Titmouse
  15. White-breasted Nuthatch
  16. Wood Thrush
  17. American Robin
  18. Gray Catbird
  19. Cedar Waxwing
  20. Ovenbird
  21. Common Yellowthroat
  22. American Redstart
  23. Yellow Warbler
  24. Pine Warbler
  25. Eastern Towhee
  26. Chipping Sparrow
  27. Field Sparrow
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  30. Indigo Bunting
  31. Red-winged Blackbird
  32. Common Grackle
  33. American Goldfinch

  1. Canada Goose-Portland Fairgrounds 10:45 AM
  2. Mallard
  3. Great Blue heron
  4. Black Vulture
  5. Turkey vulture
  6. Bald Eagle
  7. Great black-back gull
  8. Downy Woodpecker
  9. Great Crested Flycatcher
  10. Eastern Kingbird
  11. Yellow-throated Vireo
  12. Warbling Vireo
  13. Blue Jay
  14. Tree Swallow
  15. Tufted Titmouse
  16. White-breasted Nuthatch
  17. American Robin
  18. Gray Catbird
  19. European Starling
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Common Yellowthroat
  22. Yellow Warbler
  23. Song Sparrow
  24. Northern Cardinal
  25. Red-winged Blackbird
  26. Common Grackle
  27. Brown-headed Cowbird
  28. American Goldfinch

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened While Feeding the Birds

1. COHA-kab Cooper’s Hawk in my yard (from my archives)

It’s a gray and steamy morning here today after a late night rain storm. The gray skies lured me into sleeping a bit late, but I finally got up around seven. After dressing I go downstairs and start opening blinds as I do every morning to let in the daylight. After a full day of birding yesterday I can see some of my feeders are empty. I step out into the steam bath that awaits me outside my door and trot around filling nyjar seed feeders. Then I realize it has been three days since I changed nectar in the hummingbird feeders, so I go out the front door and grab the feeder hanging from the front mesquite tree and bring it inside. Once I have washed and refilled it I take it back out to hang under the feathery green canopy provided by it and my neighbor’s mesquite trees. The birds seem to love these trees and they seek shelter in the shady boughs.

Next I open the slider to the back patio where I have two feeders hanging from the columns of the covered patio. As I walk towards the feeders I feel my ankle breaking through the gossamer threads of last night’s spider web building. I only hope they are not black widows as I grab the first feeder. It is as I am walking back towards the door that I hear a funny squawking sound coming from the front yard. It is not a bird sound that I am familiar with, and I don’t have my binoculars with me, but still I walk towards the backyard gate to peer between my house and my neighbor’s at the twin mesquite trees out front. From this angle I cannot see all of the trees, but I can see enough.

2. hummingbird feeder-kab

I start to scan the leafy branches searching for the maker of the sound. The noise is frantic and incessant as I spot a rufous barred belly with a gray upper body and white fluffy undertail coverts. It doesn’t take my long to recognize the Cooper’s Hawk standing on a branch, but is he the one making the sound? I have heard Cooper’s Hawks “cuk, cuk, cukking” before but this doesn’t sound like that. It’s more like the cross between a squawk and a quack. Yet, it is definitely a bird. As I stand there near the gate watching it suddenly the bird launches off the branch and swoops between the houses flying low and I realize it is coming directly towards me. Then, as the hawk is swooping about 2 feet above my head I look to see a gray and white bird dart out of the foliage in hot pursuit! It is a Northern Mockingbird! Once the hawk has cleared my head and the gate the mockingbird turns back and disappears within the leafy arms of the mesquite tree. Me? Well, I am standing there still holding the hummingbird feeder with my jaw slack and my eyes wide. I think to myself that I just had a Cooper’s Hawk skim my head. Did I get any pictures? No, I was just outside to fill my feeders. I did not have my camera or my bins! Later when I calm down I think that no matter how much time I spend in and with nature, it never ceases to surprise and amaze me. But, I never did figure out who was making the noise!

Notes from my nest: I know I have been bouncing back and forth between what is happening in Connecticut and what is happening here in Tucson. This story actually happened to me today. Tomorrow will be another Connecticut story. In spite of the heat and humidity I have be able to get out birding, sometime with Chris Rohrer, sometimes with Celeste, and sometimes by myself. I have so many more stories to come and I hope you will come back and read them. Thank you always for your visits and your comments on my blog! and don’t forget to take a peek at Kathie’s Poet Tree!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gold, Green, and Gray at Devil’s Hopyard State Park in Connecticut

1. covered bridge-kab Covered Bridge at Devil’s Hopyard 6-29-13
I grew up visiting this park so it is always fun to go back to visit it. Of course, I have to count birds while I am there, but on this gray and wet day in June there were more mosquitoes than birds. Still, I soaked in the tranquility and the lush green of New England. I knew it would be a long time before I would be seeing this again.
2. inside bridge-kab

3. Gold-kab Gold water…

4. green-kab Green picnic area…

5. gray-kab Gray titmouse in a green forest…

6. gray phoebe-kab Gray Eastern Phoebe…

7. gray bridge-kab Gold, Green, and Gray.
Gold, green and gray,
These are the days
of early summer in New England
when the sun has yet to dominate
and the mosquitoes rise in clouds
from wet forests and flooded fields,
where humidity turns into rain and back again
in an ageless alchemy of water
and life,
and emerald.
It is the time before the blazing days of summer
when everything starts to wither and wilt
and turn brown.
These are the gold, green, and gray days
the pensive days, the dreaming days,
the remembering.
~Kathie Adams Brown (July 23, 2013)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nesting Birds at Lion’s Pond

1. Great Blue heron-kab Great Blue Heron 6-28-13
From the first day I arrived in Colchester until the last I made several visits to Lion’s Pond. Located on Halls Hill Road across from the elementary school, it is a great place to take a quick break and watch birds.
2. bog beyond-kab There is a small parking lot on one side of the pond and beyond the pond lies an inaccessible bog. Often there is a great blue heron perched on a snag in the bog, though sometimes it is hunting or sunning on the near shore. There would be no sunning on this day as it was wet, gray, and dreary. The heron was on the shore when I arrived, but quickly flew to its favorite perch. Can you see it in this photo?
3. heron perch-kab Here is a close-up of the bedraggled bird. Believe me, I felt almost the same way!

4. goose family-kab A family of geese was nesting here again this year.

5. baltimore oriole-kab I kept watching a pair of orioles fly in and out of this maple tree at the edge of the pond near the parking lot. When I saw one of the parents fly out and drop a fecal sac over the water I decided to take a closer look.
6. maple tree-kab Can you see the nest?

7. nest-kab Here’s a closer look with momma bird’s hind end sticking out!

8. female oriole-kab She popped out to check on me and see what I was up too!
In the top of this same tree I also spotted a pair of nesting Eastern Kingbirds! I don’t have any pictures of their nest. It was too high up and obscured by leaves.
9. a place to sit-kab Many mornings I would get my coffee and sit at these tables to relax and watch birds. Lion’s Pond is also a fishing pond, and in the winter it is used for skating. If you are an eBirder, it is also an eBird Hotspot. So, if you are ever in Colchester, grab a coffee and come sit a spell. It’s a tiny bit of nature in my hometown!
10. The Watcher-kab Perhaps the guardian of the pond will be there waiting for you!

Note: I will have more photos of Lion’s Pond and the Goose Family to post later. These pictures were taken at the end of the month of June and the end of my visit. More photos and stories to come and a mystery to solve!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Water, Mud and Birds at Perry Park

1. mperrypark-kab Michael Perry Park view of Rincon Mountains 7-6-13

On Friday, July 5th the monsoon let loose on Tucson. Gus and I spent most of the day inside but by evening the rain had tapered off and I wanted to see the after affects of the storm. We jumped in Gus's car and in little over a mile were stopped by the barricades and flash flooding on Harrison Road where the Pantano Wash crosses it. We were not the only ones out looking. Other cars were parked and people were taking pictures of the raging water that tumbled brown and frothy across the road. The air was thick with moisture and a few clouds still hung overhead, but the storm itself had moved on, or petered out.

2. paloverdedown-kab Palo Verde down at Perry Park 7-6-13

The sun was setting as we drove away and headed west on Golf Links Road. As we drove west we could hear and then see emergency vehicle headed towards us. We wondered where they were going and suspected perhaps to a swift water rescue. After a drive around the streets, I asked Gus to drive me over to Michael Perry Park. I wanted to see the wash flooded as this would be my first time being there when the water was raging. It was dark by now and as we headed east on Golf Links road we had to cross the bridge over the wash before we could turn into the park. As we neared the intersection I looked to my right and saw the road was blocked by the emergency vehicles! All along the trail there were ambulances and fire engines. Instead of turning in, we drove right by then stopped for an ice cream cone a bit farther down the road. From where we parked I could see a helicopter circling overhead and shining a spotlight down on the wash. It wasn’t until the late news came on that I found out what had happened. Apparently some woman decided it would be okay to take her dog for a walk in the flooded wash but then she got stuck on one of the sand bars as the water started to rise. Thankfully she and the dog were safely rescued, but I couldn’t help but wonder who would take their dog for a walk in an already flooded wash?

3. trail-kab After an hour or so the drama was over, so I asked Gus to drive me over to the Pantano Parkway so I could looks at the raging torrent. by now it was very dark and most everyone had gone home. There was no one in the parking lot where we stopped and got out to looks at the current illuminated by the street lights. I was fascinated by the tossing waves and tumbling debris carried by such force. I have walked along this wash so many times with its sand and dry brush. Birds, rabbits, lizards and coyotes all live in this wash. But tonight it looks like a raging river. Water in the desert always amazes me and it seems like a miracle, even though this water was brown and frothy.

4. pantano wash-kab So it was that on Saturday morning I got up and drove over to the park by myself. Gus was sleeping in and I wanted to see if there was still any water in the wash.

5. peopleinwash-kab To my utter surprise, no only was the water gone, but there were already people, kids and dogs running around in the wash again!

6. mudpatterns-kab Still, the remnants of last night’s flood were still visible.

7. ripples-kab The water left mud patterns everywhere.

8. alluvial fan-kab A small alluvial fan of sand.

9. mud-kab Mud patterns left by the flash flood in the Pantano Wash.

10. ashtroated flycatcher-kab Since there wasn’t much water, I decided to count the birds, but then, you knew I would do that, didn’t you? I found an Ash-throated Flycatcher munching on on bug in a bush by the baseball fields.

11. verdin nest-kab I head a verdin calling form one of the pine trees and looked up to find this Verdin nest. As I stood there photographing the nest I noticed something else even higher in the tree.

12. whats this-kab What is THAT, I thought?

13. coopers hawk-kab I don’t think the Cooper’s hawk liked me watching it, so I moved on. It was so hot out and I did not want to chase it off its shady perch.

14. zebra tail-kab There was little shade for this Zebra-tailed lizard as it scurried across my path!

15. water-kab Finally I found a pool of water leftover from the flash flood.


16. reflections-kab Though it was fun to look at the reflection in the pool, I knew it would not last long in this heat. Before long Pantano Wash would be a dry wash once again.

17. juv vermillion-kab As I headed back to the parking lot I started to melt from the humidity. I knew I needed to get out of the sun and head home. A small flycatcher landed on the railing before me. A quick look revealed a juvenile Vermilion flycatcher. Between the monsoon rain, the flash flooding, and the birds I was seeing, there was no doubt that I was back in the Sonoran Desert in summer. I watched as a few Barn Swallows swooped over the wash catching insects in mid flight. As I headed to the parking lot and anticipating the cool air-conditioning in my car a male Vermilion Flycatcher fly by and landed on the tip of an ocotillo. It always amazes me how they can do that, perch among the thorns, but they do. And since I like to be amazed, it seems like I live in the right place. It was as if the desert was saying, “Welcome Home Kathie!”

18. vermilion fly-kab Male Vermillion Flycatcher in Michael Perry Park 7-6-13


And Mom Said we Could!

I remember a thunderstorm

A day when we played in the mud

And Mom said we could!

I remember sliding,

Gliding in

Black sticky ooze

And laughing, laughing

All of us laughing,

And Mom said we could!

And my brothers

And sister and I

Were all one

In the fun

Of the sticky, black oozing mud,

And Mom said we could!

~kathiesbirds (12 May 1988)