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!
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!
Northern Parulas called from the woods. Palm Warblers hopped about from branch to branch. Black-throated Green warblers sang their, “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.
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.
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!
Suddenly I find a wood sprite walking on a log!
(Update 6-19-14: It’s a Fly Honeysuckle. Thanks Karen!)
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.
Farther down the trail I found this little empid who has yet to be identified!
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.
Not to be outdone, the Baltimore Oriole soon put in an appearance as well!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.