Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In the Footsteps of My Grandfather: Moosehead Lake

DSC_0479 Mount Kineo at Rockwood, Maine 5-2-15

Ever since I was a child I heard of Moosehead lake. It was a place of legend for me, for that is where my grandfather took my grandmother on their honeymoon so many years ago. It is they place they went to every summer for six weeks until my grandfather died on that lake from a heart attack in 1970 while driving his boat. I was always told that his love of Moosehead Lake and Maine is what kept him alive when he had an earlier heart attack at his home in Connecticut. I always felt that it was right that he should have died in the place that he loved most in all the world. But, in all the times I have lived in Maine and visited it I had never yet been to Moosehead Lake! When Gus heard me talking about it to someone in April, he said, Let’s go! So, he rented us a room at a bed and breakfast for the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd and off we went!


Rockwood, Maine is where my grandparents went on their honeymoon. I remember my grandmother talking about Mount Kineo. While it is a state park and on a peninsula, there are no roads to drive there. One must take a boat to get to the mountain. I was told that in the summer a ferry service runs from this Rockwood pier to the State Park several times a day. It was quite a moving experience for me to finally see this legendary place! Following are just a few of the photos I took at this location.






DSC_0497 I had another reason for wanting to go to Moosehead as well. Moosehead Lake is in Piscataquis County, which is one of the least birded counties in Maine. As of the day I went there, there were only 25 species listed for the whole county! By the time I left 36 hours later there were 52! This is not to toot my own horn, but to point out how many species were being missed, because no one was birding in Piscataquis County! Today I showed you some of the scenery from Moosehead Lake. All these photos were taken in Rockwood, which, I discovered, happens to be in Somerset County! So, we traveled back to Greenville and drove up the west side of the lake to Lily Bay State Park. Greenville and Lily Bay are both in Piscataquis County!

I think Moosehead Lake and the surrounding regions are an under-birded gem in Maine and I hope more birders and eBirders will make the trek to record the many birds that can be seen here. I will be posting some of my bird photos in a forthcoming blogpost, but for now, I want to acknowledge my Nana, who would have been 106 today. It is her birthday and I still miss her so much. She was an amazing woman. She taught school in a one room schoolhouse before moving on to teach first grade in the Colchester, CT school system for many years. After my grandfather died she never remarried but stayed loyal and in love with him for the rest of her life. In a strange turn of events, she was actually my reading teacher when I was in first grade as the school at that time sent students to different teachers for reading class.

Happy Birthday, Nana, wherever you are!

Thanks for teaching me to read!

Hairy Woodpecker-kab Hairy Woodpecker 5-2-15

On the edge of the parking lot at Rockwood, ME

More Moosehead birds coming soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Spring Yard Birds on Mere Point

1. DSC_0323 YRWA-kab Yellow-rumped Warbler (male, Myrtle) 4-25-2015

During Spring Migration I see many birds in my yard that I do not see the rest of the year. This spring I saw some familiar birds as well as at least one new yard bird. Here are a few of the species I was able to photograph as they passed through, along with the dates they were seen. Some visited several times, or hung around for a few days; some I only saw once and they were gone. And some have stayed to raise their young, which they are now bringing to my feeders! Scroll down to see who came to visit me!

2. DSC_0424 EAPH-kab Eastern Phoebe 4-27-15

I only seem to see this species in my yard when they pass through during migration but, after that they seem to disappear. I have not seen a phoebe in my yard in weeks!

3. DSC_0426 PIWA-kab Pine Warblers 4-27-15

Pine warblers were here for a few weeks in early spring, but have since moved on. They love to eat suet! Still, sometimes I wonder if that is one I hear calling from the tops of the tall pines that surround my yard, but since chipping sparrows have a similar call it can be difficult to tell. I know I have Chipping Sparrows because I see and hear them. I have not seen a Pine Warbler here in weeks.

4. DSC_0431 NOMO-kab Northern Mockingbird 4-28-2015

This was a new Yard Bird for me this year!

5. DSC_0436 EUST-kab European Starlings 4-29-15

Once the starlings arrived, they never left. They gobble up all my seed and suet. It’s no wonder they have survived and multiplied in this country, they eat everything! I quit putting out meal worms because these greedy birds eat them all in one day!

6. DSC_0635 RBGR-kab Rose-breasted grosbeak 5-5-15

Every now and then this species shows up again, so they must be nesting nearby.

7. DSC_0638 GCFL-kab Great-crested Flycatcher 5-7-15

This species is still hanging around and I often hear its noisy call through my open windows!

8. DSC_0660 RBWO-kab Red-bellied Woodpecker 5-12-15

I had this female Red-bellied hanging around all winter, but I never saw a male. I knew she needed a partner in order to nest and reproduce but one never showed up. She must have moved on, because I have not seen her in a long time. She was always very shy and flew off at the slightest sight of me. I was lucky to get this picture!

9. DSC_0661 finches-kab Male Purple finch (left), Male House Finch (right) 5-12-15

Both these species are still being seen in my yard.


10. DSC_0664 CARW-kab Carolina Wren 5-12-15

This was a one day wonder and this was my only chance at a photo through the window. I never saw this species again. Last year I had the same experience where a Carolina Wren passed though the yard one day and then was gone.

11. DSC_0665 sparrows-kab Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and 1 White-crowned Sparrow

All the above sparrows were seen in my yard on May 12, 2015. This was an overlap in seasons with White-throated Sparrows being a winter species here, White-crowned being seen only during spring and fall migration, and Song Sparrows being a returning summer breeder! The Song Sparrows and an occasional Lincoln or Savannah Sparrow are all I see now.

12. DSC_0679 INBU-kab Indigo Bunting (male) 5-12-15

I have not seen this species in my yard in awhile.

13. DSC_0685 NOPA-kab Northern Parula 5-12-15

I think you can tell that May 12 was a very busy migration day here!


14. DSC_0690 GRCA-kab Gray Catbird 5-12-15

There are still plenty of catbirds hanging around!


15. DSC_0696 BAOR-kab Baltimore Oriole 5-13-15

I had hoped this species would hang around and I tried to find an Oriole feeder to encourage them, but none of the stores sold them! Rats! Still, it was nice to see them while they were passing through.

16. DSC_0699 RTHU-kabRuby-throated Hummingbird (male and female) 5-21-15 

I had at least 4 Ruby-throats in this yard at one time, but then their numbers dropped. For awhile I was only seeing 1 male hummingbird on rare occasions, but just yesterday I finally saw a female again. They are very fussy about the feeder and like fresh nectar. I have to change it every 2 to 3 days to keep them coming and to keep the feeder from growing mold, which is deadly to them.

Hummingbird feeding tips: It is important to remember not to use red dye in making their food, and do not be tricked by companies trying to sell “flower nectar” at ridiculous prices. Hummingbird nectar is easily made from traditional white sugar and water. Just dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 4 cups of water warmed on the stove and stirred until it is dissolved. Cool and refill your feeders. You can store the extra in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Do not try to use honey to make nectar. This could also prove deadly! Wash your feeders in plain water as dish soap leaves a residue. If you find it necessary to use soap, please rinse the feeders in a mixture of white vinegar and water to remove any residue and prevent mold. Never put warm or hot nectar out in your feeders as hummingbirds lap up their nectar with their long tongues which would get burned!

During the peak of migration I was seeing 20 to 30 species of birds in my yard every day. Now that number has dropped back to 14 to 18 species a day. If I get 20 species right now, I feel lucky! I feel lucky anyways because I love to see the birds. it is so nice to hear their calls through the open windows, or see them at the feeders and in the yard! Birds make my yard come alive, and I feel alive then too!


DSC_0329 YRWA-kab

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Places to Bird

1. Bradbury Mt. Summit view 6-14-15 View from the summit of Bradbury Mountain State Park in Maine

Getting and staying healthy is a full time job. Ever since I dislocated my shoulder in January I have spent more time at the doctor’s and the Physical Therapist than I care to think about. At times I got discouraged and felt twenty years older, but things are looking up now and my physical therapy is nearing an end. In the meantime, my daughter needed surgery on her elbow and since she had it done with the same orthopedic group as I did, she also has the same physical therapist. So twice a week she comes over for her physical therapy and we spend time together. My husband has also had trouble with his big toe on his right foot that has required some continual medical care. As I have to go to those appointments as well, I have had little time left for blogging lately. Still, I have managed to squeeze some birding time in, and lately I have been motivated to try some new locations. So, last Sunday while Gus was home resting, I decided to take a hike on Bradbury Mountain in Durham, Maine.

Bradbury Mountain 6-14-15

2. Bradbury Mountain sign 6-14-15 Bradbury Mountain is a well know birding Hotspot for watching migrating raptors. While spring migration is over, I thought I would still check it out and see what I could see. It took me about 30 minutes to get there, and I paid my $3 and parked. I immediately spotted an Eastern Phoebe when it flew off its nest under the eaves of the nearby outhouse. I could hear an ovenbird calling loudly from the woods, as well as a Black-throated Green Warbler. After eating my snack under a shower of drifting pine needles, I was ready to head up the mountain.

3. Bradbury Mt. Summit trail sign 6-14-15 I chose the short 2/10 of a mile Summit Trail which, while shorter, is a steeper climb. But I figured it was better to be heading uphill than downhill on a steep ascent. As soon as I entered the woods, I could hear other warblers. Tall pines rose around me and granite ledges protruded everywhere. It was a dry and breezy day, so there were few to no mosquitoes or black flies, a real bonus at this time of year.

4. Bradbury Mountain 6-14-15 Summit trail I stopped a few times along the ascent to admire my surroundings and catch my breath. It has been too long since I have been out hiking!

5. Bradbury Mt. 6-14-15 Summit Trail Going Up!


6. Bradbusy Mt. Tree tops 6-14-15 Leafy Roof


7. Bradbury Mt. 6-14-14 Rocky Ledges Almost there!


8. Bradbury Mt. 6-14-15 Roots Roots on the route to the top!


9. Bradbury Mountain Summit 6-14-15 As I gained the summit a turkey vulture came soaring over the rocky crest just above me head. It was followed by one after another until I counted 7 in all. I gazed at the view around me, then tried to locate a bird I heard singing. It sounded somewhat like a pine warbler, and somewhat like a chipping sparrow and also like a Dark-eyed junco. I finally found the bird singing from a high twig on a pine tree. It was, indeed, a Dark-eyed Junco with pink bill raised in song!

10. Bradbury Mountain rocky top 6-14-15 I had to cross this rock to get to the North Loop Trail, a gradual 1 mile descent to the parking lot.

11. Bradbury Mt. 6-14-15 Dappled light on forest floor After wandering around the massive granite crest, I sought out the Northern Loop Trail for a gradual mile long descent back to the parking lot. For most of this walk I was alone on the trail, save for a father I met hiking with his three young children, and two people on mountain bikes. It was mostly quiet but I did find a Red-eyed vireo along this trail, and I heard a wood thrush call.

12. Bradbury Mountain North Bluff 6-14-15 View from the North Bluff


13. into the woods 6-14-15 All along the way I found evidence of woodpecker activity, but I never saw any. I only saw 12 species of birds on this hike, but it was nice to be in the Maine woods enjoying nature once again.

13. weeping woodpecker tree 6-14-15 The Weeping Woodpecker Tree

14. woodpecker holes 6-14-15 More Woodpecker Holes


15. stumped 6-14-15 Bradbury SP Woodpecker Dining table!

Birds seen at Bradbury Mountain State Park 6-14-14

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Eastern Phoebe
  3. Red-eyed Vireo
  4. Barn Swallow
  5. Black-capped Chickadee
  6. White-breasted Nuthatch
  7. Wood Thrush
  8. Ovenbird
  9. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  10. Black-throated Green Warbler
  11. Dark-eyed Junco

Protocol: 1.2 miles/1.47 hours

The North End Launch Facility 6-17-15

16. North End Launch Facility So, this morning I had to take my husband to work after dropping his car at the dealer to have an oil change. Since I was in Bath, I decided to bird a few locations there, since he would need me to pick him up and take him back to his car as soon as it was done. I tried one of my local favorite spots, The North End Launch Facility, but it was pretty quiet with just the usual gulls, osprey and Bald Eagles being seen.

Thorne Head Preserve 6-17-15

17. Thorne Head 6-17-14 From there I drove to a new spot the waitress at the café in town told me about. I had seen it on the eBird Hotspot Map, but was unsure of how to get to it, or where to park. It turns out you drive west on High street to the very end where it turns into a dirt road until you come to a parking lot. I parked my car, donned my gear and headed off into the woods. While there was a trail map posted on the sign at the edge of the parking lot, there were no distances listed for the various trails, so I had no idea if it was a quarter mile of 3 miles to the end of the property. Still, I headed out to see how far I could go until Gus called me back.

18. Overlook Trail 6-17-15 Once again I found myself walking on pine needle duff. It made a soft cushion under my feet and the dappled light around me was soothing and serene. Ovenbirds and Black-throated Green warblers called from the woods, but I could hear other warblers as well. I took my time, walking slowly and enjoying this experience of being in the woods alone. I heard a woodpecker drumming, but could not locate the bird, so I do not know what species it was. But other warblers revealed themselves to me and I counted 6 species in all. I know there we others I could not find and I did not recognize their songs to identify that way, but it made me happy to know that I had found a good warbler spot so close to home!

19. Old Bench near pond at Thorne Head 6-17-15 Old Bench by the small pond.


20. Leaves at Thorne Head 6-17-15 Sunlight through leaves


21. green light at Thorne Head 6-17-15a Big green leaves


22. Trail's end on the Overlook 6-17-15 As I neared the end of the trail I heard a bird calling loudly from the treetops. It was unlike any of the other bird songs I heard so far. I tried to focus in on the song and place it, and I came up with one of two species: either a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, or a Scarlet Tanager. After watching and listening for a few minutes I finally spotted the bird when it finally flew from one tree top to another. The red body with black wings told me I was seeing a male scarlet tanager! It was too high up in the trees for a photo op, but I sure enjoyed watching and listening to this bird for about 5 to 10 minutes. By now I could see that I was at the end of the trail. I walked the final few steps to the top where the view opened before me, framed by the limbs of Eastern white pines. I was now looking down onto the Kennebec River just after it leaves Merrymeeting Bay where five rivers all come together before flowing out to the sea.

23. View of Kennebec 6-17-15 It took me almost and hour to go about 3/10 of a mile where I came out to this overlook on the Kennebec River. In fact, the trail I followed was called The Overlook Trail! There were other trails to follow and I considered trying a different loop to get back to the parking lot, but it was at this point I received the phone call saying the car was ready. I could not believe how short the walk back to the car was, even when I did take a short detour around the small pond I passed on my way in. I now have plans to visit this location again, as I counted 22 species here. It was certainly worth the walk!

Birds seen at Thorne Head Preserve 6-17-15

  1. Mallard
  2. Herring Gull
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Red-eyed Vireo
  5. Blue Jay
  6. American Crow
  7. Common Raven
  8. Black-capped Chickadee
  9. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch
  11. Hermit Thrush
  12. Wood Thrush
  13. Gray Catbird
  14. Ovenbird
  15. Black-and-white Warbler
  16. Northern Parula
  17. Pine Warbler
  18. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  19. Black-throated Green Warbler
  20. Chipping Sparrow
  21. Scarlett Tanager
  22. Common Grackle

Protocol: .5 miles/1.45 hours

    Links to eBird Hotspots:

    leaf light 6-17-15