Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Savannah Sparrow

1. Savannah Sparrow-kab Savannah Sparrow 4-14-14

On April 14 I had my first Savannah Sparrow in the yard. It showed up at the edge of the driveway underneath the spruce tree where I throw a cheap mixed seed on the ground every morning. I have seen it almost every day since then. You can tell it is a Savannah Sparrow and not a Song Sparrow by the fine streaks on its breast and yellow lores on its head. This little bird was not shy and hopped right out into the open where I sat at my outdoor table drinking tea and watching birds. I never thought I would have a Savannah Sparrow as a yard bird!

2. DSC_0235 Many of the streaky sparrows have streaks that gather into a central breast spot, including Song Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Fox Sparrow, so you must look beyond the central beast spot for other clues to identification. Only Savannah has these yellow lores. The lores are the feathered area between the eyes and the beak. However, just to keep things tricky, there is a large-billed sub-species with little to no yellow on its head! Yeah, sparrow I.D. is definitely a challenge, but I sure enjoy these birds!

3. DSC_0237 

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. I regret that I was not able to participate like I did last year but I did write and post a few poems. Some were written long ago but a couple are new poems and today’s poem I wrote just today. So, if you are interested, just click on the link and come on over to

Kathie’s Poet Tree!

4. DSC_0240

Monday, April 28, 2014

Notes from My Nest: Too Busy!

1. 4-27-14 Mere Point Boat launch Mere Point Boat launch 4-27-14

It’s another blustery day here at Mere Point Cottage. Thick gray clouds are rolling like cotton overhead, whipped along by gusty winds. Down in Maquoit Bay the water has been whipped into white-capped waves that roll ever onwards. It’s quite a contrast to the calm, flat water I saw last night when I stood on the shore and watched the watermelon sunset. Then all I heard was a gentle lapping as Common Eiders grunted and growled and Wild Turkeys gobbled distantly in the surrounding woods. Every day is an adventure as I get to know this land and its rhythms.

2. 4-27-14 Maquoit Bay sunset Maquoit Bay Sunset

I don’t think I have ever lived anyplace with so many bird species. It seems every day I am adding to my Yard List which has already grown to 55 species. This made me curious so I looked back over the data for all my previous yards and I discovered that I have reached 50 species faster here than in any other yard where I have kept records! Sycamore Canyon in Corona de Tucson currently holds the title of most yard birds with 86 species, but I lived there for three years. If things keep going the way they are I may pass that total in less than a year of living here at Mere Point! Being near the ocean certainly helps as I get both woodland species and ocean species.

3. 4-25-14 new squirrel baffle I continue to do battle with squirrels and finally bought an acrylic bird baffle from the Freeport Wild Bird Supply as well as a pole and baffle system with a hopper style feeder. So far both seem to be working just fine, but I have been so busy that I have not had much time to observe birds in my yard.

4. 4-25-14 new feeder Since buying the baffle and new feeder with pole I have noticed that I am not refilling the feeders as often. Keeping the squirrels off the feeders is saving me money by only feeding squirrels and not rodents! The baffle and this pole set-up were quite expensive but I feel they will be worth it in the end in the amount of dollars saved on bird seed! In the background you can see a cheap plastic squirrel baffle that I bought at Walmart. It is totally useless as the squirrels quickly learned how to get around it. they also have already chewed big chunks out of it along the edges. It was a waste of $8.00! I will be going back to purchase yet another $30 acrylic squirrel baffle for that ball feeder which I like to fill with nuts. It attracts the titmice and nuthatches to the yard. Plus, with all this New England rain, I like providing a dry place for the birds to feed, and dry seed is less likely to mold!

5. 4-18-14 piscatagua river bridge Crossing the Piscataqua River Bridge between Maine and New Hampshire 4-18-14

Last weekend Gus and I both went to New York City with my youngest brother. We had a great time but we arrived home so late Monday night that I was exhausted and slept late both Monday and Tuesday. I spent Wednesday buying and setting up the new feeder and baffles and then drove to Bangor on Thursday to pick up my son and grandkids for the rest of the week.

6. 4-24-14 Central Park Central Park 4-24-14

We had a great time with them and we took them to Reid State park on Friday. The kids got to ride in Grandpa’s Camaro, which made them grin from ear to ear! It was Gus’ first time seeing the park and he loved it. He took a long walk on the beach by himself before I joined him. I spent some time with my grandkids, and then set off to count birds. I discovered that they have roped off part of the beach as a nesting area for terns and piping plovers!

7. 4-26-14 Trey in grandpa's car 

We brought the kids home on Saturday, then stopped to see my in-laws, and though it was raining I could not resist a trip to Oosoola Park to count birds. I did not think I would see much but was surprised to find Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Savannah Sparrow, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Blackburnian Warbler! The Blackburnian was across the backwater cove flitting about on a dead tree and landing on the ground. Its brilliant orange head and throat positively glowed in all that grayness. I took some blurry photos which I will show you when I have them offloaded.

8. 4-26-14 Oosoola park kennebec river I have never seen the water this low along the Kennebec River but I believe it is because they have open some flood gates farther down river to mitigate the spring flooding that has been happening all over Maine.

9. 4-27-14 eiders in Mere Point Bay Back here at the point I took a walk down to the Boat launch last night and discovered they have set a floating dock out into the bay. I was able to walk out and look back at the shore for the first time. It was nice to get that perspective. A small flock of eiders floated nearby and I snapped a few photos with my cell camera.

10. 4-27-14 evening on Maquoit Bay It was near sunset, so I took some photos there, then realized I could cross the street to Maquoit Bay and watch the sunset from there as well. So far we have no leaves on our trees. They are only just starting to put out their buds. A few daffodils are blooming in the woods, but that’s it. We are in that sweet spot where it’s warm enough to be outside but cool enough not to have a bunch of insects buzzing around. It won’t last forever, I know. Soon the mosquitoes and black flies will be out in force and I will be forced to spray myself with pesticides just so I can be outside! It is one of the drawbacks of living in New England.

The craziness is not over. Later this week I will head to Connecticut to visit my mom and sister. It will be the first time I have actually been there long enough to visit my family and count birds. I will head home on Saturday after a Mother-Daughter brunch at Mom’s church to celebrate Mother’s Day. I feel very fortunate and thankful to still have her around!

11. 4-27-14 Indigo night on the point Indigo Sky on Mere Point 4-27-14

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Notes from My Nest: Life on Mere Point

1. Mere Point Point-kab Mere Point Bay as seen from Mere Point 4-4-14

I am still settling in and getting to know my way around Mere Point. In my mind it is broken up into different birding segments. I count birds at my home, which is Mere Point Cottage. I count birds at Mere Point Boat launch, which is a Public Access site to the bay. I count birds along Mere Point Road, which is 5 miles from my driveway to where the road ends in Brunswick, and I count birds at Mere Point Point which is Private Access Only. You must live there or have permission from someone who does live there to access the site. Anyway you look at it, I am surrounded by water and birds. In just the week since I posted my latest Mere Point Cottage Yard List I have already added 6 more species of birds! I am now at 48 Yard Birds in a little over 2 months time and migration is just beginning! I have yet to add a warbler to my yard list. Sparrows are well represented with Savannah and Chipping Sparrows being the most recent additions! I heard a Carolina Wren on April 11th calling several times, but I have not heard it since.  I had a Northern Flicker show up on the 13th and a Golden-crowned Kinglet on the 14th! While I had heard Fish Crows in town already I was surprised to hear one outside in my yard on April 15th. At this point I have no idea what species is going to show up next! I had not seen the Fox Sparrows for a few days, but then they showed up again on the 14th. White-throated Sparrows have now become the most numerous sparrow species in the yard, displacing the Song Sparrows who held that title for a couple of weeks.

2. bird feeder-kab I continue to do battle with the squirrels and hoped that this cheap baffle I bought at Wal-Mart would do the trick. It only cost me $8 bucks and I  would have done better spending that money on additional seed. It didn’t take them long to figure it out and find a way around it. The black plastic bowl balances on the hook but it is easily tipped by the wind and the squirrels which scramble down the chain, tip the black bowl and twist and grab the feeder to climb up and eat at their leisure! Back to the drawing board for me. It looks like I will have to break down and buy a $40 baffle from the bird store instead!

3. old squaws-kab Long-tailed ducks in Maquoit Bay 4-7-14

One local resident gave me permission to walk down to the water’s edge near his house. I stood in awe on the shore and looked across Maquoit Bay. There were so many ducks in it, but only a few of them were close enough for me to identify with my binoculars. There was a large flock of Long-tailed Ducks raising a ruckus out in the water. They made so much noise! I don’t quite know how to describe the sound, but they would all get in a bunch or in a line and then dive simultaneously. I do not know if this was a hunting and feeding technique or if they were just diving whenever they realized I was looking at them through my binoculars!

4. gull on rocks-kab Great Black-backed Gull on the seaweed covered shore of Maquoit Bay.

I found it so amazing to be standing on the shore with tall trees and woodland birds behind me and sea birds in front. When the tide goes out the seaweed covered rocks are exposed and yes, they are this golden! While I see gulls on the rocks all the time, I have yet to see any peeps along these shores though, I do keep on looking for them. April 7th was such a nice day that I did not want to go inside, so I decided to cross the street and go count birds at the Boat Launch.

5. chickadee-kab On the short road in I found this little Black-capped Chickadee in the leaf litter alongside the road. In the trees along the sides of the parking area I saw and heard several species of blackbirds as well as Mourning Doves, Blue Jays and more Song Sparrows. While I am not surprised that the blackbirds are over here, I am surprised that the Blue Jays like to hang out in this area more than my yard, which is a stone’s throw away. I cannot always count on seeing jays in my yard but they are a sure bet over here!

6. herons-kab The effects of spring migration are being seen with the return of the Great Blue Herons. These are just two of the four that flew over my head while counting birds at the boat launch. But then I was surprised by another string of migrants…

7. cormorants-kab Double-crested Cormorants! My FoTY* in Maine!

I would love to tell you that life is settling down here at My new Nest in Mere Point Cottage, and while it is starting to feel like Home, there is still so much to do. We are registering our cars in Maine and finding doctors, dentists and hairdressers. I still have boxes to unpack but I need some shelves built and I keep getting distracted by the birds! I wake up every morning and grab my bins before I even get dressed and start watching and counting them. I keep telling myself that I should take a shower and get dressed first, but I cannot resist looking, and once I take one look I have to start counting them! Everyday is something different and I find it all so new and exciting, even though I have seen most of these birds before. This is my first time living in Maine as an eBirder and eBirding has taught me how to pay attention to the timing of birds and their behavior. Birds are part of the rhythm of life wherever one lives and learning and feeling this rhythm is what makes me feel part of Life!

So many times I would “Bird My Way Home” from a trip, yet my home keeps on changing. Perhaps I have finally Birded My Way Home for good. Perhaps after all these years of wandering around the country and longing for Idaho (my first love), perhaps I have finally found my real home at last.

*First of The Year

My Mere Point Birds by the Numbers:

  • Mere Point Patch—59 species (all my locations on Mere Point)
  • Mere Point Yard List—48 species
  • Mere Point Boat Launch—37 species
  • Rossmore and Mere Point Roads—21 species
  • Mere Point Point—15 species

Explore Rossmore and Mere Point Roads, an eBird Hotspot

8. geese string-kab Canada Geese Flying over Mere Point Boat Launch 4-7-14

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Afternoon at Reid State Park

1. Reid state Park-kab Inlet at Reid State Park 4-11-14

I drove the tree-lined road slowly, looking and listening all the while. I start to see glimpses of open ocean through the trees. Then, I emerge near an inlet and immediately pull off the road. The sound of roaring surf fills my ears. A stiff wind is blowing in off the ocean. I pull my coat together around me and put on my hood and my gloves. There is so much to see and I want to see it all!

2. inlet-kab A mixed flock of Buffleheads, Red-breasted mergansers and American Black Ducks floats  and dives in the inlet. This is looking roughly west so the sun is in front of me and I can not get around to another location to see those two shorebirds across the way.

3. peeps-kab 

Wind and salt sting my eyes, but I stare and stare trying to identify these birds. At first I think it is a Yellowlegs and a Spotted Sandpiper, except something wasn’t right. The “spottie isn’t bobbing its tail and the other bird’s beak looks too short and the legs not long enough! What could it be? A closer look at the bird on the right showed me a hint of the developing black belly of a Dunlin, but what of the bird on the left? I shot from the hip and guessed Pectoral Sandpiper, but when get home I did more research I discovered that a Pectoral Sandpiper was the same size or smaller than the Dunlin, so THAT was out. Then, I saw the photo below. That face looks like a plover, but what plover would be that size and color and in this location? Nothing appeared on the eBird checklist or bar chart. I clicked through the “Explore Hotspots” Data and no one else had listed a species that even remotely resembled this bird.  I started to think, Black-bellied Plover, but there was no data for them being in this location at this time. So, I posted these photos on Facebook in a couple of locations and soon had confirmation. It IS a Black-bellied Plover, still in its winter plumage!

4. plover and dunlin-kab 

5. side by side-kab 







Here you can see them side by side for a size and shape comparison. Both species are new Maine birds for me! I am ecstatic! But the roar of the sea was calling me and I soon turned to go. Across the street from the inlet I can see the open Atlantic! Up until now most of my shore birding has been in the bays and coves near where I live. this is a whole new world for me!

6. open ocean-kabThere is a sign on that rocky island warning people to keep off because it is a tern roosting site! No terns are there yet, but I am excited to know there soon will be! I am so busy looking through my new bins and taking photos that at first I don’t see the little creatures scampering around on the rocks at my feet, but I soon hear them! I look down just in time to see a pair of Red Squirrels!

7. red squirrel-kab This is one of a pair of Red Squirrels scrambling around in the rocks!


8. rocky shore-kab I wander farther along Maine’s rocky coast.


9. crashing woaves-kab I love the pounding surf!

And then…

there is…

10. the beach-kab The Beach!

I am soon down in the sand and walking along the surf.

Believe it or not, I almost didn’t do this. While I was still standing up on the rocks looking down I scanned the shore for peeps but could not see any. I scanned the ocean for birds, but did not see much, and what I did see was too far away, so I thought, maybe I shouldn’t go. But then I could not resist walking on the beach, so I clambered down the rocks and started walking. All the while I scanned the shore and sky for birds. A flash of motion up over the dunes revealed an American Kestrel kiting over the marshland. I watch it hover and flap, then bank and dive and hover again. As it banks I catch a glimpse of its rufous tail as sunlight illuminates the rich color of a male kestrel. Out in the waves I discover I can see more birds down here at beach level than I could from up on the rocks. I see Common Eiders, Common Loons, and Surf Scoters. And then, as I near the rocks at the distant end of One Mile Beach, I see them! Peeps! I’m not sure what they are yet since the sun is behind them and in front of me. I walk slowly, snapping photos and pausing to look through my new binoculars. They behave like Sanderlings, but are they? From this vantage point they look bigger and darker to me.

11. shore birds-kab Sanderlings?


12. sanderlings-kab Yes! Sanderlings!


13. sand patterns-kab And sand patterns!


14. waves and birds-kab As I am nearing the birds, all the while creeping slowly along and keeping my distance so as not to scare them off, suddenly I hear a sound and look to see two young teen boys running along the water’s edge in nothing but swim trunks! It is barely 58 degrees with a stiff wind coming in off the ocean, but these two kids run right between the birds and me and clamber up the seaweed covered rocks that frame the south end of the beach. I thought sure the birds would take flight, but I guess they perceived the boys were no threat and they just kept feeding along the surf line! Finally I was getting closer and as I passed the birds the sun was now falling on them and was behind my back. Then I saw this…

15. who is this-kab Who is this?

16. piping plover-kab Here’s another one!


17. piping plover 2-kab Piping Plovers!

I am thrilled! I take so many photos of these adorable little birds. I thought they were Piping Plovers but I know that species is threatened and rare and since I had not seen them in awhile and since one of them had a darker ring around its neck I second guessed myself and submitted them at Semipalmated Plovers, thinking that I would correct the I.D. after I had a chance to offload my photos and study them. I thought I was erring on the side of caution but before I even got home I received an email from the eBird reviewer who informed me that it was too early for Semipalmated Plovers but Piping Plovers were spotted at Reid Park just the day before! I have so much to learn about shore birds! But in this case and the Black-bellied plover seen earlier, my first instinct was right! I guess I just need to trust myself more!

18. sanderlings-kabMore Sanderlings, because they’re so cute!


19. beach bones-kab Beach Bones

When I reach the edge of the beach I thought I would have to turn back. I did not want to climb up over the rocks as the boys did to get to Half Mile Beach, which is the other beach I can hear on the other side. I think that in spite of how chilly it is, I would like to take my shoes and socks off and run through the sand, but as I search for a dry spot to sit down on I discover a sandy path that leads through to the other parking lot and the other beach! I follow it through. There is no one here! I have the whole place to myself! I walk along the grassy edge of the marsh where I am serenaded by Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows and frogs! I kept looking for Savannah Sparrows but never saw any.

20. tidal marsh-kab Tidal Marsh

The marsh is so calm and quiet!

21. not a snowy-kab I wanted this to be a Snowy Owl…but it was just a stump.


22. sandy path-kab The path through the dunes.


23. footprints-kab Mine are the only footprints on this path.

I discover a wooded ravine near the edge of the parking lot that is full of woodland birds! Here I found a Downy Woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, a Golden-crowned Kinglet and…

24. brown creeper-kaba Brown Creeper!


25. song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow

Finally I realize the sun is setting and I know I have to get back. The park closes at 7:10 PM and I am still over a mile away from the parking lot where I am parked! Clouds have rolled in, the light is fading and I still have a mile long beach to cross! While the temperature has dropped some, as I step back onto the beach sand I am seized by the same crazy thought I had over an hour ago.

25a. 4-11-2014a Should she Should I…..?

25b.4-11-2014a yes Reid state park Yes!

I balance in place and pull off first one shoe and then the other! The ground is cool and damp beneath my feet, but not cold. I stuff my socks into my shoes, pick my shoes up in one hand and run down the beach like a child! I didn’t get far before I had to slow down and walk, but OH! what fun! I feel so alive! I feel so free! With the surf pounding in my ears I lift my arms to the heavens and shout to the waves and world,

“I want to live here forever!”

and in my heart I felt such gratitude for moving to Maine.

26. piping plover-kab Piping Plover

On my walk down the beach and back towards the car I find it is easier to walk in the hard packed sand near the water’s edge than up in the dry, but shifting stuff farther up the tide line. Always alert, I see a pair of Bald Eagles fly overhead. As I near the rocks where I first entered the beach I see the little Piping Plovers again. They have moved to this end of the beach. I climb the wooden steps to the boardwalk and sit on a built-in bench to dust the sand from my feet and put my shoes and socks back on. It is now 6:50 PM. The park closes in 20 minutes. A few more people have come to see the ocean before night falls. A car just pulled up and six people got out and walk towards the beach as I walk towards the parking lot. Beyond them in a tidal pool, in the last silvery light of the day a Common Loon floats serenely, a benediction on a perfect afternoon.

27. Loon-kab Common Loon

Explore Reid State Park, an eBird Hotspot