July 10, 2014, Augusta, Maine: A week after Chris and Micheal left I met my friend, Beth at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta, Maine. I had seen eBird reports from this location, but had never birded there yet myself.
I was looking forward to seeing my friend, Beth again, and checking the place out. It was a sultry summer day with haze and humidity thick in the air, yet we did not let this stop us form having a good time. Beth met me in the parking lot and we headed down the trails.
We took the trail that led through the newly constructed art walk. Sculptures dotted the landscape set off by farm fields and gardens. Since I love art, and I love nature and farming, this totally appealed to me! Sparrows flew up out of the grasses and dashed across out path as we walked on. it’s always a challenge to try to balance my camera, binoculars and cell phone. I’ve learned to use my cell for many of the landscape shots while I try to save the camera for the bird photography. But when I first see a bird, it is my instinct to look through my binoculars first, and then take a photo. Fortunately the sculptures were stationary and I did not have to try to decide which camera to use first!
We looked up when we heard the roar of planes overhead and we both took a step back to see a larger plane being escorted by some smaller fighter planes, but when they passed by several times we figured out they were doing some kind of exercise and sure enough I heard about it later on that night on the evening news.
We continued up the grassy path with robins hopping ahead of us, and I was soon distracted from the plane by the sound of a bird loudly calling from the nearby orchard. We both stopped and scanned the trees looking for the source of the sound. We both knew it was there right in front of us, so why couldn’t we see it! Finally I found one and Beth found the other bird…
With its gray breast and yellow belly, this bird totally blended into the tree!
We continued on our way through some cool, shady woods, then down a hill to a small pond. In the distance I saw gulls flying. In the grasses we saw sparrows. Out over the pond a small flycatcher hawked insects. Too distant for me to identify, we chalked it up as an empid, and moved on. Much closer we spotted a female Rose-breasted grosbeak feeding on the berries of the honeysuckle bush.
As a child, we always called these “dogberries.” I don’t know why. We never ate them as some adult must have told me they were poisonous. Well, apparently they are not poisonous to birds as they were gobbling them up! I have seen the birds and squirrels in my own yard feasting on these berries.
(Note: I decided to do some research and discovered these are Honeysuckle berries and while some varieties are edible, most are poisonous to humans, or at least will make you mildly ill. Given this bit of information, I will leave these berries to the birds! However, sipping the nectar from the flowers in spring is totally safe! I love honeysuckle sipping!)
Beth only had a short amount of time to spend with me, but we had a great time anyways. I know we both wished we could have lingered longer, but we turned and headed back to our cars. On our way back through the woods a few warblers put in an appearance and we saw Chestnut-sided warblers and a female American Redstart!
I know I have barely scratched the surface of birding this place and I cannot wait to go back again. On the day we visited, it was not crowded, but peaceful and serene with a variety of habitats. My one complaint would be that their trails are not well marked, so you’d better pay attention to where you are going!
Birds seen at Viles Arboretum on July 10, 2014 at 4:06 PM; we birded for 1 hour and 22 minutes and walked 1 mile.
- Herring Gull, 1
- Mourning Dove, 3
- Downy Woodpecker, 2
- Eastern Phoebe, 2
- Great Crested Flycatcher, 2
- American Crow, 2
- Tree Swallow,2
- Black-capped Chickadee, 3
- American Robin, 10
- Gray Catbird, 4
- Cedar Waxwing, 10
- Common Yellowthroat, 2
- American Redstart, 1
- Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1
- Chipping Sparrow, 1
- Song Sparrow, 4
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 2
- Red-winged Blackbird, 5
- House Finch, 4
- American Goldfinch, 12