Sunday, June 29, 2014

Family and Birding

1. DSC_0351 The Adams Family 6-28-14

Yesterday was the Annual Adams Family Road Race in Connecticut. Every year my family gets together as sort of a family reunion and runs our old cross country course from when we were all in high school. then we eat and celebrate my mother’s birthday. We are all happy to still have her here to celebrate with since it has been two years of her surviving breast cancer. You can find the results from this year’s race here.

2. DSC_0348 Gramma and her great grandson.

3. DSC_0349 Tony (This one’s for you, Betty!)

I didn’t take many photos of the road race since I didn’t run but was instead the person who kept track of all the times. My friend, Chris Rohrer took some more photos for us but I still need to download them.

4. DSC_0261 Chris and Micheal are here visiting and we have been straight out birding! Here they are at Plum Island, looking for birds. We are off to the White Mountains of New Hampshire tomorrow to look for the elusive Bicknel’s Thrush, among other birds. Since his arrival Chris has seen over 90 species in Maine, 49 species in Massachusetts, and 49 species in Connecticut. He has seen over 101 species over all and he has added 23 species to his Life List while I have added three species to my Life List, bringing my total to 473 species! We are all hoping for more! Below is a peek at just a couple of the birds we saw on Plum Island in Massachusetts on June 26th.

5. DSC_0317 Piping Plover Chick seen at Sandy Point, on Plum Island 6-26-14


6. DSC_0333 Least Tern on Sandy Point Reserve, Plum Island, MA

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crystal Spring Farm Birdwalk

1. lambs-kab Baby lambs at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, Maine 5-15-14

I had driven past Crystal Springs Farm several times since moving to Brunswick but I had no idea that is was part of a land trust and open to the public. When one of my neighbors dropped off a newspaper clipping informing me of several birdwalks in the area, but with an arrow pointing specifically to this one, I marked it on my calendar and showed up at the appointed time!

2. sheep-kab A flock of sheep were in the pasture bordering the parking lot when I pulled in off of Pleasant Hill Road. On this damp and gray morning the parking lot was already full of cars. Birders clustered in small groups talking or gazing through their binoculars as the surrounding farmland and trees. Then our bird guide spoke up.

3. Jan Pierson-kab He introduced himself as Jan Pierson. I didn’t know anything about him but later learned that he is a professional bird guide.  Apparently this was a birdwalk arranged by three different groups: Merrymeeting Audubon, Brunswick Land Trust, and ???  There were about 30 people gathered to watch the birds as we set off down the wet grass path. Already we could see and hear birds around us. Starlings gathered near the farmyard, chipping sparrows flitted on the ground, and Song sparrows sang from the hedgerow. But what I wanted to see were Bobolinks! And I didn’t have long to wait. We rounded a corner near a pasture and their they were. bobbing and singing their electronic song everywhere!  The weather was awful for photography with a light mist falling, but I couldn’t resist! I tried anyways, I was so enthralled with them. In many places the bobolink population is in decline due to loss of habitat, since they need overgrown pastures to breed in, but here in Maine I have been surprised and delighted to find them in several areas. So, below are my several attempts at photographing this amazingly colorful and vociferous blackbird!

4. bobolink-kab Bobolink atop a distant tree.

8. bobolink-kab Bobolink atop a closer tree.

9. bobolink-kabFrom this view you can see its yellow head and the white wing patches and rump.

 bobolink on ground-kabBobolink on ground 5-15-14

None of these photos does the bird justice but they are my first photos ever of this bird. I think I tried to photograph them when I was at the New River Birding and Nature Festival back in 2009, but those shots didn’t turn out very well either.

But Bobolinks were not the only birds we saw.

5. rosebreasted grosbeak-kab A male Rose-breasted grosbeak singing his heart out in the rain!

I was wondering why I took the photo below. was it just to show the tender and colorful new leaves? But then, as I was uploading it I saw something. Do you see it?

6. warbler-kab It’s in the middle of the photo.


7. prairie warbler-kabIt’s a Prairie Warbler!

We saw and heard several of these beauties in the same area as the Bobolinks!

In one of the farm ponds I spotted a Solitary Sandpiper and pointed it out for the group. We also saw some Wood Ducks in that same pond. While the wood ducks hid in the reeds and the sandpiper was too distant and deep in the grassy edges of the pond, I was able to get a photo of this much larger Canada Goose!

10. goose-kab Canada Goose at Crystal Springs Farm


11. chipmunk-kab This little chipmunk must have thought we were nuts to be out in this weather watching birds! In fact, several people did leave after the stop at our first location and before we headed out to bird around the former quarry in a steady drizzle, but I stayed until the end. In fact, I stayed until everyone else left and just gazed around the farm…and took a few more photos of the sheep! Jan Pierson did a great job and was a kind and informative guide and very patient with everyone. Thank you Jan!

Carol Jacks from Merrymeeting Audubon also talked to me afterwards and gave me much useful information about birding in the area. She is the one who pointed me towards Brunswick Landing, which has now become one of my favorite eBird Hotspots! Thank you Carol!

12. sheep-kab 

I counted 41 species in a little over two hours at this location. Crystal Spring Farm is an eBird Hotspot that is well worth visiting! Just remember, there is no “s” on Spring, a mistake I found myself making several times!


13. scratch-kab

Monday, June 23, 2014

Birds and Creatures of Mere Point Boat Launch

1. yellow warbler-kab Yellow Warbler in tree at Mere Point Boat Launch 6-2-14

Now that the weather is nicer I find myself walking across the street to the mere Point Boat Launch several times a week. I never know what kind of birds or creatures I will find when I go there. Just last weekend I saw four seals in the bay and a whale breaching down towards the point and in the open waters of Casco Bay! I did not know the water here was deep enough for whales! Mere Point Bay is now an eBird Hotspot, so if you come to Maine, come on down and count the birds here. If you are an eBirder there are several eBird Hotspots in the area, including Rossmore and Mere Point Roads, Wharton Point, and Brunswick Landing. These are just a few of the birds and creatures I saw while walking there on June 2nd.

2. horseshoe crab-kab Horseshoe Crab Floating near the dock.


3. jellyfish-kab Sea Ghost…I mean Jellyfish!

4. loon-kab Just beyond this point is a young Common Loon.

(This is where I saw the whale.)

5. catbird-kab Gray Catbird

6. yellow warbler-kab I see and hear several Yellow Warblers every time I visit the boat launch!

Explore Mere Point Boat Launch

7. singing-kab It makes me feel like singing too!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Merrymeeting Bay Day

1. Red-eyed vireo-kabRed-eyed Vireo at Chops Point 5-2014
I had the privilege at the end of May to lead bird walks for some elementary school children as part of the Merrymeeting Bay Day put on by the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay. I had met up with the organizer, Dup Crosson earlier in the month. He found me through my blog when I posted some photos of the birds along the Androscoggin River. While I had heard about Merrymeeting Bay, I knew little about it, or how special and unique it is in all the world. It is one of only four inland tidal estuaries worldwide. The three others are in California, India and Iraq. It is the largest staging grounds for migratory waterfowl in the northeast! Merrymeeting Bay is formed by the confluence of six rivers: The Kennebec, the Androscoggin, the Eastern, Abadagasett, Muddy, and the Cathance. The Kennebec and the Androscoggin are two of Maine’s largest Rivers. And all that water has to flow through a narrow channel called Chops Point!
2. bald eagle-kab There was so much to learn and so much to tell all these students. For the most part I was winging it and learning as I went about the river, but I did know my birds and fortunately they were out in force. One of the species that has returned to the area are the Bald Eagles and on my first of four outings for the day one flew just above the tree line as if on cue!
3. chestnut sided warbler-kab Chestnut-sided Warbler in the woods along Merrymeeting Bay 5-20-14
We heard and saw many warblers, a few sparrows, plenty of Brown-headed cowbirds as well as Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles. I did not have time to take a lot of photos as I was busy trying to point out birds to kids, but I did finally get my chance to photograph a beautiful chestnut-sided warbler near the parking lot at the end of the day!
4. chestnut-sided warbler-kab I loved learning about this unique area and hope to do more birding in and around the bay. It will be interesting to see what can be seen once fall comes and the ducks come to stage in the bay. I know the woods were full of warblers and vireos while I was there! I just wasn’t able to count or photograph them all!
Here is a list of the birds I saw on this day during the three hours I was there:
  1. Double-crested Cormorants-4
  2. Osprey-1
  3. Bald Eagle-3
  4. Herring Gull-3
  5. Mourning Dove-6
  6. Red-eyed Vireo-1
  7. Blue Jay-7
  8. American Crow-8
  9. Black-capped Chickadee-1
  10. Tufted Titmouse-2
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch-1
  12. American Robin-4
  13. Gray Catbird-3
  14. European starling-5
  15. Ovenbird-4
  16. Northern parula-4
  17. Chestnut-sided Warbler-2
  18. Yellow-rumped Warbler-1
  19. Black-throated green Warbler-1
  20. Canada Warbler-2
  21. warbler sp.-1
  22. Eastern Towhee-1
  23. Chipping Sparrow-4
  24. Song Sparrow-2
  25. Scarlet Tanager-1
  26. Brown-headed Cowbird-4
  27. Baltimore Oriole-2
  28. American Goldfinch-2
You can learn more about Merrymeeting Bay by clicking on the links below:
5. red-eyed vreo tail-kab Red-eyed Vireo as seen from below

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Dance of the Broad-winged Hawks

1. DSC_0390-kab Adult Broad-winged Hawk flying over my yard 6-2-14

On June 2, 2014 as I was standing in the yard a trio of hawks came soaring into the open above the tree line. I happened to have my camera with me and so started snapping their pictures.

DSC_0385 Note the wide white band in the short tail and the dark outline of the broad wings.


DSC_0391 I suddenly realize they look like they are doing an aerial dance!

Look at those glorious broad wings!

DSC_0392 Two of the hawks looked just the same, like this one, but one of them looked different. If you look in the photo below, you will see one of the hawks has a more barred tail and a translucent area near the tips of its wings. It is also molting, so it is missing a couple of its flight feathers and tail feathers.

DSC_0393 Adult above, Immature below.

At first I thought maybe the third hawk was a Red-shouldered hawk, because they have translucent comma-shaped areas at the tips of their wings, but this just didn't look right for a Red-shouldered hawk. Further research revealed that this was a immature or sub-adult broad-winged hawk. You can see the same shape and the same pattern on its throat and breast.

DSC_0394 I think the parents were flying and playing with their child!

Then, on Monday of this week, I saw two of these three hawks flying over my yard once again. I think they were the same family because this immature Broad-wing came flying over the treetops again missing the same feathers in its wings and tail!

I posted this story to my Facebook page of my birding experience on that day with just a few more details here:

So, it’s Monday and I am doing housework when I hear a Black-and-white Warbler out the open window. I rush outside to see it when a Black-billed cuckoo flies across the yard. With bins and camera I follow the cuckoo to the caterpillar infested oak tree it has landed in, hoping for a picture. It, however, disappears deeply into the foliage. As I stand there searching the tree for the cuckoo a Red-shouldered hawk drifts overhead to the southeast! Then, as I turn away from the Red-shouldered Hawk, I suddenly see an adult Broad-winged Hawk soaring at the Northwest corner of the yard! As I am watching it, the same juvenile comes gliding over the treetops from the east towards the adult at the Northwest! How am I suppose to finish my housework with all of this going on?

DSC_0395 Immature Broad-winged Hawk 6-2-14

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Birding with KaHolly

1. Karen and Hollis-kab Sisters Karen and Hollis 5-9-14

May 9, 2014: One of the benefits of blogging is getting to know and sometimes getting to meet other bloggers. I have known Karen, a.k.a. “KaHolly,” through her blog since 2010 or longer. We talked about meeting each other when I lived in Andover, but it just never worked out. Now this year as Karen made her way from Texas to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia we were finally able to make that happen. Arrangements were made for us to meet at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine. Karen has a brother-in-law named Don Smith who is a very good birder and eBirder. Don’s job keeps him quite busy, but, like me, he loves to bird and he was missing it. None of us knew each other and so we all wondered how good the other birder would be, of if we would get along or even like each other. But, life is short and I like to bird, so what the heck, I gave it a chance. Plus, I had the chance of finding new places to bird and maybe, just maybe, I would find a Life Bird!

2. cormorant-kab Double-crested Cormorant

The air was cool and damp with gray skies threatening rain when I met Karen, Hollis and Don at the entrance to Greenwood Cemetery. Being new around here, I am still getting to know the good birding spots. After introductions and hugs we all got back into our cars and I followed them to the birding spot. We drove past gravestones tall, thick and strong, stones arranged in rows, each one its own story of a life lived and now gone. If their spirits can see us now, I wonder what they are thinking about all these crazy birders walking around their graves! For I quickly discovered that we are not the only ones tromping around looking for birds. Car are parked all over the place and people with binoculars, cameras, and big lenses were everywhere! Don was out of the car and down the path before I knew he was gone. I had to get my gear on, and with the morning’s chill, I still needed gloves to keep my hands warm. Karen, Hollis and I followed a path alongside a small pond. A double-crested cormorant relaxed on the trunk of a fallen tree. Overhead, the woodland trees seemed to drip with warblers. They were everywhere!

3. blackburnian-kab Even in the misty gray light the throat of a Blackburnian Warbler seems to glow!

Northern Parulas called from the woods. Palm Warblers hopped about from branch to branch. Black-throated Green warblers sang their4. NOPA, “zee, zee, zoo, zee” song, or, as Karen liked to say, they called out, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5!” I soon learned that Hollis knows all about the forest flora and she pointed out various flowers and plants to us as we walked down the trail. As we walked and chatted I felt an easy grace with these two women. I felt that I had once again found others who share my love of nature and understand her voice. Not only do they understand it, they need it for their own inner healing and sanity.

5. solitary sandpiper-kab Solitary Sandpiper

As we round the tip of the pond and everyone is looking up in the treetops for birds I suddenly notice the rippling of the water as a small bird wades through the shallow depths. It is a Solitary Sandpiper and I point it out to the others, including Don. They seem surprised and pleased to not only see the bird, but impressed that I know what it is. Warbler after warbler flits about us and I try to photograph them when I can. The light is low, the sky is gray, and the birds really do flit around. They are rarely motionless or posing for the camera. Hungry from their long journey and with may more miles to fly, they are gobbling up every insect they can find with little thought for us mere humans below.

6. Palm Warbler-kab Palm Warbler


7. blackandwhite warbler-kab Black-and-white Warbler


8. least flycatcher-kab Besides all the warblers we did find this cute little Least Flycatcher high on a twig!


9. tuti-kab Tufted Titmouse

Though I have seen them all winter in my yard, I am always happy to see a Tufted Titmouse! Karen and Hollis lead me down another path through the woods where we find Trout Lilies. Of course, I had to ask Hollis what they are called. I know my birds better than my woodland flowers. By now Karen and Don have gone ahead and Hollis and I are having a lively  and interesting chat!

10. trout lily-kab Trout Lilies

Suddenly I find a wood sprite walking on a log!

11. wood nymph-kab It matters not her age, she is still a child of the woods!


12. woodland flowers-kab Hollis told me the name of this flower, but I do not remember it!

(Update 6-19-14: It’s a Fly Honeysuckle. Thanks Karen!)


13. flowering tree-kab Everything was in its new and tender stage back at the beginning of May.

After spending almost two hours at Evergreen Cemetery we counted 23 species before moving on to Capasic Pond.  And orchard oriole had been spotted there and we were hoping to see it for ourselves. I had only seen this species twice before and never in Maine, so I was eager to see one here! When we parked the car some of the first birds we saw were various Blackbirds. Then, we found yet another Palm Warbler.

14. palm warbler-kab Palm Warbler in a Fir Tree

Farther down the trail I found this little empid who has yet to be identified!

15. empid-kab Unknown empid at Capisic Pond 5-9-14

We met others who had seen the orchard oriole but as yet, we had not seen it. We walked the trail along the pond and wetlands to its end, then turned back. As we neared the beginning of the trail, suddenly we saw it! There on the ground was the orchard oriole! and nearby on a low bush was its mate! However, this was the first day my camera started acting up and my lens would not focus! I tired and tried again, and finally got a shot that shows its darker rust colored body and the full black hood and back of this smaller oriole.

16. orchard oriole-kab Orchard Oriole at Capisic Pond 5-9-14

Not to be outdone, the Baltimore Oriole soon put in an appearance as well!

17. BAOR-kab Notice the brighter and more extensive orange of the Baltimore Oriole!

However, not to be outdone, a chestnut-sided warbler soon caught our attention in the underbrush! I quickly learned his song of, “pleased, pleased, pleased to meet-you,” and now here it in my own yard every day!

18. CSWA-kab 

19. cswa-kab Chestnut-sided Warbler at Capasic Pond in Portland, Maine 5-9-2014

We spent and hour and 20 minutes at Capasic pond and saw 28 species of birds. Now, under threatening skies we drove to the Scarborough Marsh. While I knew it was an eBird Hotspot, I had never been here yet and I was quite eager to see it and find out where to park and where to bird. Plus, there was the potential for a new Life Bird for me, and a rare one at that; a Northern Wheatear! It’s so unusual that I didn’t even know what it looks like! I had to look it up! The skies are now a cold and threatening gray as we park our cars and add more layers of clothing and coats! A stiff wind is blowing in off the ocean and right through our bones, I swear! I follow Don, Karen and Hollis across a bridge and down a sort of dike between the open bay and the marsh. We soon come to a spot where various birders are gathered with spotting scopes and cameras gazing out at this:

20. where is the bird-kab Can you find the bird in here?

It’s there I promise you, but this is what we were faced with. Most people could only find the bird when it flew and alighted again. It is the color of that dried grass and so small and far away.

21. northern wheatear-kab Close-up of the Northern Wheatear, Life Bird Number 469!

Though it was cold and the bird quite far away I did get a good look through someone’s scope and I was quite excited to add it to my Life List! Beside the Wheatear, we did see a few other species.

21. yellowlegs-kab Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs


22. savannah sparrow-kab Savannah Sparrow


23. tree swallows-kab Tree Swallows (We did see a few Barn Swallows as well)


24. willet-kab Wading Willet

We saw several of these and they were my first Willets in Maine!

I had such a good time with Karen, Hollis and her husband, Don. I do hope I will get to go birding with them again. I fell like I met some kindred spirits on  this day.

Helpful Links:

25. yellowlegs-kab Yellowlegs at the edge of the marsh.