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!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Notes from My Nest: A Winter's Morn

View to the North from living room windows 1-6-16
It is cold, gray, and still on this Winter’s morn as I open the curtains and gaze across the yard. Through the trees I see the silver plate that is Middle Bay, calm now after the fierce winds of the last 3 days which whipped t into whitecaps and roared through the trees. A shallow blanket of snow still covers the ground, a remnant from last week’s first winter storm. Through those same trees I can also see the multi-colored Christmas lights still twinkling on my neighbor’s front yard Christmas tree. Somehow seeing them there makes me happy. While I do not know that neighbor, their lights seem friendly and welcoming, a small gift to this little neighborhood on the back roads of Maine.

waiting for the sun 7:32a on 1-6-2016

While the bay is seen out the North windows of this house, a walk to the dining room windows reveals a sliver of a moon rising over the trees, resting on its back with the Morning star shining as its companion. I only see patches of sky from this house. We are set down in a hollow with trees all around and a tree-lined ridge silhouetted against the sky. From the back deck I can hear the small creek tumbling and splashing on its way to the bay just beyond the edge of the yard. As the sky starts to brighten to mouse gray and then blush and blue, the yard birds start to arrive.

A song sparrow makes a surprising first appearance today, followed by the little dark-eyed juncos. Soon a mourning dove settles down onto the platform feeder, and even through the closed windows I can hear the whistle of its wings. Often when I open the curtains in the morning I startle a murder of crows. It is not unusual for me to find 30 to 40 crows in the yard but once the see activity in the house they disperse, and I will only see a few at a time throughout the rest of the day. I have tried on occasion to get a picture of their number, but they always fly off when they see me, no matter how stealthy I try to be! They are just too smart for me!

This morning I am being treated to a pair of Golden-crowned kinglets flitting about in the trees just outside my window. They are so tiny and cute with their golden streaks like racing stripes over their crowns of their heads. I hear their tiny silver whistles as they flit from branch to branch and from the back they briefly remind me of the Hutton’s vireos I would see in Tucson when I lived there. But I am here now in the Maine woods in winter with snow covering the ground and the flat water of the bay turning pink and blue in ribbons like bolts of silk laid out on display. I am still waiting for the sun to rise over the ridge at 8a. The day has begun in this New Year, filled with promise, hope, and birds!

8:19 a.m.

Notes: Yes, I have been out counting birds. While I am not specifically trying to do a Big January, I am still keeping track and so far have added at least one new species to my 2016 Year List every day so far, except for January 4th when it was so freezing cold that the birds and I all stayed home! My goal for this year is to get a new computer and a new camera or lens and then learn how to use them both! While Gus’ old 18-200 mm lens is what I am using right now after my 300 mm broke back in October, I am finding myself frustrated by the lack of magnification. I just cannot get the birds as well as I could with the 300, even though it was heavier! So, if you don’t hear from me at times, it is because I am out birding, or trying to learn new things! It also takes more time to compose a blog post ever since Live Writer has gone defunct. I am still adjusting to THAT! Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for reading my blog!

2016 Stats

Total Species: 
  • Life 483  
  • Year 39
  • Month 39
Yard Birds
  • Life 75
  • Year 21
  • Month 21
Sunlight on the edge 8:30 a.m.