Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hermit Thrush in Winter

1. hermit thrush in yard-kab Hermit Thrush in my yard January 18, 2015

Hermit Thrushes are rare but possible here in Maine in the Winter. They are the only brown thrush usually seen in North America during the winter. This little guy showed up in my yard on January 18th and has been here ever since! I have seen it eating berries, seeds and suet as well as the mealworms I put out for the chickadees and titmice. It was feeding right along with all the other birds during the blizzard and it was here again yesterday. Hermit Thrushes are related to Robins and Bluebirds, though most often they are confused with Wood Thrushes, Swainson’s Thrushes and Veerys during the summer if you don’t know what to look for. So how do you know you have a Hermit Thrush and not one of the other species of thrush?

2. HETH-kab Look for a complete white eye-ring and brown spots on the breast.


3. eye ring and collar of spots-kab The bird is olive brown in color with a rust-colored tail.


4. hiding in the thicket-kab It is the only thrush with this brown upperparts and rusty tail.


5. eating berries-kab It has a complete eye-ring that does not look like spectacles!


6. beneath the rhodedendron bush-kab Can you see it hiding beneath the rhododendron bush?

I took this photo on January 21st.

There is a feeder just out of sight around the corner.

7. searching for food in the snow-kab This is the Hermit Thrush in my yard on 1-25-15

It is after last Saturday’s snow but before the blizzard.

8. before the blizzard-kab I hope it makes it through until Spring!

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Big January Began with a Barred Owl

1. Barred Owl-kab Barred Owl on Rossmore Road 1-1-15

January 1, 2015: Ever since I started blogging I have been doing a Big January. I was first challenged to do this by fellow blogger and eBirder, Larry of the Brownstone Birding Blog. He is the one who got me started on eBird all those years ago, and I have never looked back. Now every January I feel the pull to see how many species of birds I can see in one month in my own home state, wherever I happen to be! I have done Big Januarys in Arizona, Massachusetts and now, this would be my first time doing one in Maine. However, I have a huge handicap this time around. It has only been 11 days since I had major abdominal surgery and I cannot drive myself around, or go out walking and risk slipping and falling. I cannot bend over or lift anything over 8 to 10 pounds! While I want to wander far and wide and tramp through field and forest, I must restrain myself. So, I start off counting birds in my own yard on the morning of January 1st. By the end of the day I count 16 species in my yard!

2. Cooper's hawk-kab In the afternoon, Gus drives me through the boat launch and I count birds there. Then, as we head north on Mere Point Road a Cooper’s Hawk flies right across the road in front of us! Gus pulls over and I snap a few photos of the bird. I decide to do a bird count on Rossmore and Mere Point Roads, which is an eBird Hotspot. We drive north and then turn west on Rossmore Road. While I did not see or hear many birds on Mere Point Road, it isn’t long before I spot my heart’s desire on Rossmore Road. There across a field perched in a tree is a Barred Owl!

3. Barred Owl-kab It seems everyone but me had been seeing barred owls around here! I did not have one on my Maine Life List yet and I so wanted one! What a way to start the New Year! This was so exciting for me! Gus pulled the car off to the side of the road and I slowly rolled the window down to snap a few photos. At one point the owl flew down into the field and landed in the long grass.

4. Barred owl-kab Can you see it?


5. Barred owl-kab I could not get over this beautiful bird!

Since January 1st I have seen a Barred Owl many more times, including twice in my own yard! This species is now on my Maine Life List, My Cumberland County List, my Mere Point Yard List, and my 2015 Year List! Score!

6. Maquoit bay sunset-kab I counted birds all the rest of the way across Rossmore Road. Then Gus drove me down to Wharton Point. While there were not a lot of species there, it sure was a pretty sunset!

7. susnet on the ice-kab Part of this shallow bay was frozen and the light shimmered on the frozen sea.

It was very cold and windy at Wharton Point, so we soon left, but as we drove up the road towards home I spotted three Wild Turkeys in someone’s front yard on Maquoit Road! Species number 23 for my 2015 Big January Count!

8. Fire in the sky-kab On the drive home it was as if the sky decided to celebrate with me, for it was aflame with color and I made Gus stop once again so I could take pictures of all this beauty!

Day 1 of Big January ended with 23 species counted and 5 checklists submitted!

Previous Big January Totals:

  • Arizona 2008 / 89 species
  • Arizona 2009 / 107 species
  • Arizona 2010 / 113 species
  • Massachusetts 2011 / 55 species
  • Massachusetts 2012 / 68 species
  • Arizona 2013 / 145 species
  • Arizona 2014 / 137 species
  • Maine 2015 / 52 species as of 1-30-15

I feel like I could have beaten my Massachusetts totals and even come close to some of my Arizona totals if I could have gotten out to bird more. All of the species I have seen so far were seen within 30 miles or less of my home! I have one day left to bird, but with yet another storm blowing in, I do not think I will be going out birding! So, the birds will have to come to me!

More bird photos and stories to come. I finally offloaded and processed another photo card with my most recent bird photos. Now I just need to organize them and write! See you again soon!

9. barred owl-kab

P.S. I have reposted the Red Squirrel story with a couple of updated photos.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chasing Birds

1. geese-kab Canada Geese in Thornhurst Farm Fields 11-6-2014

When I first started birding instead of just bird watching, someone asked me if I was a “lister” or a “chaser”. At the time I really didn’t know what those terms meant, but as time went on I realized I was a lister. Everywhere I went I counted birds and I liked to get them on my list! Getting a big list with lots of species was always fun, but I just liked counting the birds and creating lists. A few times I went chasing birds by myself to get a specific species on a specific list, or to see a Life Bird, but mostly I was content to just let the birds happen. However, with all the moves I’ve made and all the birds I’ve seen, it’s getting harder to add new species to my list by casual birding. And so last November when I saw postings of a leuchistic Canada Goose on the loose in Maine, I went chasing! I looked up the sightings on eBird and found myself on the back roads to places I had never been to before.

2. Thornhurst Farms 11-6-15 I ended up by these farm fields at an eBird Hotspot called Thornhurst Farm.

Somewhere far across this field is a leuchistic Canada Goose as well as a Greater White-fronted goose. the leuchistic goose would be a novelty to see. The greater White-fronted Goose would be a Maine Life Bird!

3. canada geese in field-kab Where in these geese is it?

As I was scanning the field and the birds with my bins, another birder showed up.

4. a fellow birder-11-6-14 This kind young man helped me find the Greater White-fronted Goose, as well as the leuchistic Canada Goose. Getting photos was rather difficult as the birds were far across the fields and the light was flat and gray. The greater White-fronted goose was laying down, but the leuchistic Canada Goose stood up and stood out like a swan in a flock of crows.

5. leuchistic goose-kab The leuchistic Canada Goose. It’s the white one.

It has no pigment in its feathers but it is not an albino bird.

(see link at end of post for info on leuchism)

There were not many birds here on this gray November day,

but I got the ones I came for.

I was chasing birds!

6. november skies-kab A lone Ring-billed Gull flew by these gray November skies.

I got back into my car and headed down the road to the next spot.

7. geese and crows-kab This time I pulled off on the side of the road at Gillespie Farm on Mayall Road.

Sandhill Cranes, Snow buntings, and Horned Larks were reported here.

I found more Canada Geese, a murder of crows, and…

8. birds not dust-kab Dust specks?

No. Those are just a few of the Horned Larks flying around the fields!

How am I suppose to count them all?

9. more geese and crows-kab More Geese…

10. crows-kab More crows…


11. geese-kab More geese, but no cranes!


12. horned larks-kab And somewhere in these hundreds of larks there are probably some snow buntings! I counted the larks but not the buntings. I could never positively identify them! However, I did get to see the larks up close and personal with my bins. However, with birds on the ground in these conditions, my photos were just too terrible! Straw-colored birds on straw-colored ground in gray autumn light is not easy to differentiate! Still, I was adding species to my Maine Life List. Now I wanted to add to my Androscoggin County List, so I headed to Auburn, Maine.

13. gray skies at lake auburn 11-6-14 I was hoping to find some ducks or loons at Lake Auburn, but no luck.

It was so still and quiet!

14. autumn leaves at lake auburn 11-6-14The only birds I found here were a Ring-billed Gull and some goldfinches and chickadees! So I moved on to another new location for me:

Sabattus Pond

15. sabbattus pond-kab By now it had started to rain. It was late afternoon and the poor gray light was fading even more. I tried one side of the pond at first, then found a southern access alongside the main road.


16. coots and ducks-kab It was here that I saw my first Coots in Maine!


17. coots-kab Coots in Sabattus Pond 11-6-14


18. pipits-kab I also found my first American Pipits in Maine!

With the daylight fading I crossed the street to get back in my car, but as I neared the door I saw something in the top of the trees in the bog.

19. blackbird-kab I could tell it was a blackbird, but which species?

As I drew closer I could just make out some rusty coloration on its back and breast. In this poor light, I could see its white eye and square tail! These are the markings of a Rusty Blackbird! What a bonus! This chase brought me to new places and added new species to my Maine Life List and my 2014 Year List last year. I think this was my last chase of the year, for shortly after this I got sick and passed out on my hallway floor, then I hurt my leg and was on crutches for a week, and then I had a major abdominal surgery right before Christmas. I was barely getting around after that when I fell and dislocated my left shoulder! It will take awhile to mend from that but I hope it will not be too long before I am out chasing birds again! Until then, I’ll just keep listing the birds in my yard!

20. rusty blackbird-kabRusty Blackbird near Sabattus Pond 11-6-14



21. coots-kab American Coots on Sabattus Pond 11-6-14

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Red Squirrel

DSC_0287 Red Squirrel in Spruce Tree by my driveway 5-21-14

I have the cutest little Red Squirrel living in the spruce tree by my driveway. This tree is directly across from my back door. Last spring I would sit outside and watch him (or her, I didn’t check) while it scampered through the branches. Whenever I threw seed on the ground for the sparrows it would chase them away, as well as the larger gray squirrels. He is quite feisty and fun to watch.

DSC_0288 This red squirrel rules the branches!









DSC_0295 I think it is a boy!


DSC_0384 Last Autumn I noticed it gathering mouthfuls of grasses to build a nest in the spruce tree. I watched as it scrambled up the tree and placed the grasses only to scamper down for more. It seemed such a nice cozy nest and it withstood the wind and rain storms all summer and Autumn, until last week. On Sunday night, January 18th we had a massive wind storm.

nest on ground 1-19-15 The next morning I found this on the ground.


squirrel nest on ground 1-19-15 There was the nest beneath the tree, a lump of tawny grasses.

I could see the little tunnel inside from the ends.

squirrel nest in tree This is the place where the nest used to hang.

I do not know what the little squirrel will do now, or where it is sleeping.

I worry about it with the current blizzard raging outside.

I hope it survives.

DSC_0370 my yard I like to see it scampering beneath the spruce and pines.

It makes me laugh to hear it sit up and scold me!


But then this happened…

DSC_0496 *Red Squirrel stuck in milk jug baffle.

Earlier this month this foolish squirrel got trapped when it climbed down the chain trying to get into my dome feeder which has sunflower seeds, fruits and nuts in it. I had to put a cutoff milk jug on top of the dome to keep the gray squirrels from being able to dangle by their hind feet and twist their way into the feeder. The red squirrel had never bothered it before, but as Gus and I were headed to the car on our way to do errands in town, I heard a strange noise.

trapped squirrel 1-11-15a

I turned to see the red squirrel down inside the milk jug and trying to climb back up the chain. Its little head was sticking out the mouth of the milk jug, but it could not go up and it could not go down! I was so upset! I called to Gus and he jumped out of the car and came right over to the feeder. I happened to have my camera with me and I wanted to take pictures of him setting it free, but I did not think he would be able to release it without cutting the jug away. As I turned towards the house to go fetch some scissors, Gus simply reached up inside the jug and grabbed the squirrel by the tail, and while simultaneously lifting the edge of the jug upwards he pulled the squirrel downwards. The startled squirrel was free!

DSC_0499 It leapt to the ground and scrambled up the tree where it sat scolding us from the branches with indignity! Hold on tight little buddy! The storm’s a’coming!

Update 1-29-15: I have seen the Red Squirrel on both days since the blizzard. It is alive and well and gobbling up sunflower seeds and peanuts when I toss them out! Now I am worried about the Barred owl that is suddenly hanging around my yard!

*New Photos added 1-30-15.