Thursday, May 12, 2016

Where Has This Little Bird Been?

Hello from my new home in Jefferson, Maine!

No, I do not have any photos to show you yet because I need a new computer! I am posting this from my very small laptop and if I can figure out how to process and post photos on this I will soon have photos for you. I have been taking plenty!

So much has happened in the past three months. I had to have surgery again which a 6 week recovery period, and before that ended, we had to move! Thankfully my kids were around to help and we moved into an old farm house at the North end of Damariscotta Lake. A wide and lazy stream rolls past the house and we are surrounded by water on three sides! This makes for very good birding habitat and in a little over a month I am already up to 62 species in this new yard! More about that later, but here is a list of all my yards and their species totals from when I lived there:
  1. Livermore Falls, Maine--43 species (October 2002-March 2004)
  2. Sycamore Canyon, Corona de Tucson, AZ--83 Species (April 2007-August 2010)
  3. Andover, MA Yard--65 Species (October 2010-August 2012)
  4. Tucson Yard--69 Species (August 30, 2012-January 31, 2014)
  5. Mere Point Yard, Brunswick, ME--117 Species (February 2014-August 2015)
  6. Harpswell Yard--90 Species (August 2015-May 2016)
  7. Jefferson Yard--62 Species (March 12*-May 12, 2016)
*Note: I started counting birds here from the first day we looked at this house. We did not move in until the middle of April.)

This new yard is so amazing. I have already seen beaver, muskrats, gray squirrels, red squirrels, and chipmunks here. I have had loon came paddling up the stream past my house, and one night while Gus and I were on the back deck we saw tow Great Horned Owls fly into some tall pines at the edge of our yard near the stream. It is so hard for me to get anything done with all these birds and all this wildlife around. I have two families of geese that visit the yard on occasion, and this morning a momma mallard and her newly hatch brood of 8 ducklings. There are turtles in the stream as well as many frogs. At night we are serenaded to sleep by their loud chorus! I can see water from every window in this house and I love waking up and opening the curtains to see the new day. I feel so at peace here. I feel so at home. I am happy once again.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Birding Lincoln County, Maine

Great Blue Heron in pine 9-28-15
 September 28, 2015: I took a drive up through Lincoln County, Maine to count birds at as many places as I could last Fall. I had heard of a place called the Great Salt Bay in Damariscotta, so I decided to bird my way there and check it out. My first stop was just over the bridge in from Bath, Maine in Woolwich.

George Wright Puddle on the Saranosa River 9-28-15
 It is called the George Wright Puddle on eBird and it was my first time birding here. It was very windy this day and I was lucky to see any birds at all. There is a dirt pull-off and parking lot with a public boat launch, but there was also a dirt road that was gated and said no trespassing. That was a bit frustrating as I could see there were ducks and gees feeding among the grasses and reeds up in the bend, but I could not get close enough to see them all. So, I counted what I could see.

European Starlings on Utility Pole
 These starlings we just over my head in the parking lot area.

Double-crested Cormorant in George Wright Puddle

Wiscasset Waterfront 9-28-15
 I stopped briefly at the Wiscasset Waterfront to count birds as well. Mostly there were gulls and cormorants again. You can see how hard the wind was blowing from the way these flags are blowing straight out in the wind!
Bridge over the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset 9-28-15
 Farther up Route 1 I stopped at a roadside rest area known as Sherman Lake. I did not find any birds around the immediate parking lot but a walk down a bit of a dirt road towards the Sheepscot River netted me a few sparrows hiding in the low bushes and some crows and cormorants in the river.

Savannah Sparrow at Sherman Lake 9-28-15

Savannah Sparrow and Song Sparrow hiding in bush.

Cormorants in Sheepscot River
 I finally made it to the Great Salt Bay Farm Preserve around 4:30 PM. There were children and other peole there for some kind of educational and informational program, but it was almost over and I set off on the trails by myself. The sun was sinking lower as I walked the trails through fields to the woods at the edge of the bay. 

Great Salt Bay Farm 9-28-15
 The trail brought me to the waters edge where I was able to peek through and see the bay and the birds that used it. There were dozens of cormorants on the rocks drying in the sun. I only found a couple of chickadees and a downy woodpecker in the woods, but it was late in the day and the wind was still blowing. Farther along the trail I came to a spot where there were some black ducks.

Cormorants and gulls on rock in the Great Salt Bay 9-28-15

American Black Ducks in Marsh
 The biggest surprise was when I spotted a large figure balanced on top of the water. Was it a mermaid???

A seal in the Great Salt Bay

Seal and cormorant in the Great Salt Bay of the Damariscotta River
 I can only guess this seal was sunning itself on a barely submerged rock!

Great Blue Heron in pine tree at the Great Salt Bay Farm Preserve
If I hadn't scanned the trees on the far side of this cove I would never have seen this Great Blue Heron, which blended in perfectly with the silvery bark of this tall, old pine! I had a great time at the Great Salt Bay Farm Preserve and I hope to go back again this year...once the snow has all melted!


Cormorants on rocks in the Great Salt Bay of the Damariscotta River

Friday, January 22, 2016

More Birds from Mitchell Field

The piers at Mitchell Field 9-8-15
 Whenever I go to Mitchell Field I have to start at the top of the road which is off Route 123 in south Harpswell. Since Mitchell Field is only 1/2 Mile from the end of my road, it makes it very easy to bird here often. When I first moved to Harpswell last summer there had only been about 11 eBird checklists submitted for this location. Since then I have done my best to add to that data, but birding at Mitchell Field is a pleasure. It is a place I go to to clear my mind and get lost in nature.

The blue water tower
 Whenever you drive into Mitchell Field you have to drive past this blue water tower. Keep your eyes open when passing, because lots of birds like to hang out around this water tower, especially in the summer and fall. I have yet to experience spring at Mitchell Field. So far this winter, most of the birds I am seeing are down near the shore. 
The top of the road.
 It has been too cold for me to walk the .7 mile road that is plowed in winter. The two mile trail that loops along the perimeter of the property is not plowed, but so far this winter the snow is not deep so some people walk it anyways.

Parking at the bottom of the field.
 In the summer I liked to park in the shade beneath this tree, but this area is not plowed in winter either. During the summer they have concerts every Sunday at that gazebo. I had to remember that Sunday afternoons are not the best time to bird at Mitchell Field! But, the concerts were nice and it was nice to see the community come out and enjoy this place.

Cormorants and gulls on the pier.
 I usually drive to the shore, park, and start birding. I always like to see what birds are hanging out on the pier and in the water. During the summer this pier is covered with cormorants, gulls, and pigeons. Sometimes I would see starlings out there as well. 

The mini estuary on the beach.
 There is a public beach, but it is very rocky, though once you get in the water, there is sand beneath your feet. A small creek flows into Middle Bay here, and during low tide many of the birds gather here to feed and drink the fresh water.

Osprey 9-15-15
 Except for the winter, it is not unusual to see an osprey fly overhead!

Canada Geese flying in 9-15-15
 Canada Geese like to take advantage of the estuary as well!

Canada Geese

Coming in for a landing

Sharing the beach with the gulls.

Contentment at the shore.
 I have seen Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Bonaparte Gulls, Common Terns and even a Black-legged Kittywake here! It's all about timing, but there were more gulls here during summer and fall. Now their numbers have diminished for the winter.

Semipalmated Sandpiper 9-18-15
 I have not seen many shorebirds at Mitchell Field. This little Semipalmated Sandpiper was the first I had ever seen here and it is the only one I have ever seen here. So far I have not recorded any other sandpipers or plovers here.

Yellow-rumped warbler 9-16-15
 However, Mitchell Field is thick with warblers during migration. I saw hundreds of Yellow-rumped warblers in the fields and hedgerows this fall. It will be interesting to see what spring will bring! But, if you check the eBird Hotspot list you will see that other birders have reported many warbler species here.

Yellow-rumped Warbler 9-16-15

Gray Catbird 9-18-15
 Catbirds were a commonly seen species during the summer and fall.

Common Loon in Middle Bay as seen from Mitchell Field shore.
 The loons started to show up around the middle of September.

Common Loon 9-18-2015

Juvenile Double-crested Cormorant 9-18-15
 I saw Double-crested Cormorants here all summer and fall. I have yet to see a Great Cormorant hanging around, however. But I keep hoping! This juvenile Double-crested Cormorant almost tricked me because it was so big and fat, but it is still just a double-crested cormorant!

Yellow-rumped warblers 9-29-15
 Autumn at Mitchell Field was very picturesque. I loved walking the perimeter trail.

Autumn Yellow-rumped Warbler with berries 9-29-15
 Below are some of the other birds I saw at various times during fall migration.

A very poor picture of a White-crowned sparrow seen along the pier 10-6-15

Common Yellowthroat female seen along the pier 10-6-15

Savannah Sparrow seen in the sumac along the pier during fall migration, 10-6-15
I love to go birding at Mitchell Field!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Morning at Essex Woods in Bangor, Maine

Solitary Sandpiper 9-12-15
 On September 12, 2015 I happened to be in the Bangor area and decided to check out the Essex Bog. I had seen other birder's reports and photos on eBird and the Maine Birds Facebook page but had not been able to get there myself before this, so it was with eager anticipation that I parked my car and headed down the trail. it was a bit of an overcast day, but not too chilly. I could see the bog before me, and beyond it I-95 rolled by with cars whizzing past. Like many urban areas, the birds had adapted to the constant noise and went about their business. 

Down the hill
 There weren't a lot of birds around, but I did count 18 species, most of them birds associated with water, plus a few woodland species like woodpeckers and nuthatches. You can just see the trail in the above picture. What you can't see is how steep this hill is! I had to be very careful not to slip as I walked down the damp slope. While the trail went left into the woods, I decided to go right because I saw a kingfisher on a branch out in the middle of the bog. I also knew I wanted to stay closer to the water to see what I could see and I could see the trail to the right looped around the end of the bog and I would be able to get closer to the open water on the other side.

The bog waters

Along the trail
 The trail did enter a bit of a woodland briefly around the southwest end of the bog. I found some cedar waxwings nearby here. 

Swamp Sparrow

Can you find the duck?

Solitary Sandpiper
 On the other side of the bog I was delighted to encounter this solitary sandpiper, my First of the Year! I was lucky to get it before it headed south for the winter! 

Solitary Sandpiper reflecting on Life!

Female Mallard
 Of course, there were the usual Mallards hanging about. Most of them were quite tame as if they have been fed before. But I also found some Green-winged and blue-winged teal, which was nice, but they were so far across the bog and in the weeds and stumps that I was not able to get a decent photo of them. They were a bit more shy and moved into cover when they spotted me.

 A big surprise was this merlin that showed up. My, are they ever fast! It flew out of this tree and back a couple of times before taking off and disappearing for good. 

Great Egret far across the bog.
 When I spotted these Great Egrets across the bog eBird flagged them as rare. I guess they should have already migrated, but there were at least 4 of them still hanging around. They were so far across the bog and in such a hunched position that I almost thought they were Cattle Egrets when I first saw them, which would be an even rarer occurrence! You can see the yellow bills on them. Snowy egrets would have black bills. 

Mallard welcoming committee

Showing a little wing!
 I had a great time at the Essex Woods bog and would definitely go back again. I can see why it has been named an eBird Hotspot!