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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Artist Conk


This photo is of an Artist's Conk (a fungi which lives upon the side of trees). It is known as an Artist's Conk due to its amazing capability to tattoo its underparts . . . nah I'm just joking. People (mainly artists - hence the name) can etch pictures on to its pale white bottom (like the Bald Eagles shown above.) Actually I recently collected some Artist's Conk just the other day! Maybe I will get around to using them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trustom Pond continued



I just realized that I forgot to mention in the last post that we discovered a pair of green feet (we found them on the side of the path a few feet away from the waters of Trustom) which apparently had lost their owner. They where sickly green with lobed toes and some gray feathers on the top of the legs (the feathers were stuck to some blood and gore which in its turn was stuck to the legs).

We easily identified them as recently belonging to an American Coot.

I wonder what got the bird: maybe it was an Otter (we've seen Otter tracks here at Trustom before) but River Otters eat mainly fish, frogs, crayfish and mollusks. A more likely possibility would be a Bald Eagle - they often winter around Trustom and this apex predator has an appetite for Coot. Sadly though we will very likely never know what took out this Coot!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nov 18, 2010 10;30-1:50 sunny 50` windy Trustom Pond, South Kingstown RI





It was a sunny day, with a cool breeze which rustled the bows of the trees. Above us soared a Red-Tailed Hawk watching our car as it pulled into the parking lot at Trustom. As usual the feeders were covered with birds. White-Throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Dark-Eyed Juncos and Mourning Doves littered the ground (they were so plentiful that they had worn away the grass under the feeders) while above them Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, American Goldfinches, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers flitted constantly from bush to feeder and back to the bush.

We started down the trail stopping here or there to watch a Murder of Crows passing overhead or the occasional Blue Jay, on another occasion we found a flock of Golden-Crowned Kinglets flitting through the over-reaching bows of an old wrinkled tree which bore more of a resemblance to a witch then any commonplace plant.

Golden wings flashing, over went a Northern Flicker. We paused to watch a Brown Creeper scramble up a tree. A little further on I peered into the undergrowth and discovered a Hairy Woodpecker watching us (Hairys are very similar to Downys except they're hairy and are larger).

On the pond we found a huge flock of Mute Swans at least 50 strong. Mixed in with the Swans was a large flock of scaup species and Double-Crested Cormorants. Scattered over the pond was a large assortment of waterfowl: Common Loon, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks Gadwalls, teal species, American Wigeons, scaup species, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks and American Coots.

The Coots were the most exciting of the waterfowl. There were huge number of them only 20 or so feet from the observation deck. We stayed for quite a while photographing them and watching the Northern Harrier and Herring Gulls in the background.

We saw three species of mammals on the walk: 1 White-Tailed Deer, 1 Red Squirrel and my mother saw one mouse which was running about in circles and then vanished down its hole.

It was great day all in all!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

October 17, 2010 2:45-4:30 Sunny 65' Allen's Neck, Dartmouth MA






Scrambling up a tree went a Brown Creeper, body fading into the bark, curved bill probing hungrily for an insect to munch upon. We were only twenty feet down the path and already the birds were all around us; Titmice, Chickadees and Kinglets flitted through the bows which radiated from the trees like hundreds of stiff arms crooked and notched, worn and beaten, ripped at by both rain and wind they still held fast sticking to the trunk that gave them life.

A burst of screeches came to our ears alerting us to the presence of two Blue Jays shrieking "bloody murder".

Squealing, a wild band of piglets passed across the path and headed towards their parents who were presently stuck in their muddy but still cozy pen where the females and youngest piglets were kept. Even the electric fence did nothing to constrain the rampaging little piglets. The pigs were lucky enough to be living in one of the most pig friendly farms in history. The larger pigs were kept together in groups of around five and each group had a plot of about 1000 square feet surrounded by an electric fence. Surprisingly some of the electric fences actually touched the footpath-there was an accident just waiting to happen as any passerby could clearly see (luckily none of us were zapped). The teen age pigs were kept in one big pen where they could romp and rollick whenever they pleased.

In the bushes Northern Cardinals were chirping and singing away, the males with crimson body, head, wings and crest, black mask shining darkly and the duller females with their red crests and their brown bodies, their faces lacking the males black masks.

Gray wings flashed as a bird left the ground, the bird landed in a cedar 20 feet away, I raised my binoculars; red breast, gray back, gray head, gray wings and tail, its bill was thick and straight it cocked its head quizzically at us beady black eyes examining us fascinated by the family watching him then the Robin took off and shot away in his gray wings.

In the fields which littered the Audubon we found large numbers of birds mainly sparrows and Yellow-Rumped Warblers but also some gulls and raptors. In the fields we saw; 2 Song Sparrows, 1 Field Sparrow, 1 Great-Blue Heron (flying), 3+ Yellow-Rumped Warblers, 2 Goldfinches, 2 Savannah Sparrows, 1 Greater Yellowlegs (calling in the distance), 20 Canada Geese (flying in a V formation), 1 Red-Tailed Hawk (soaring), 1 Peregrine Falcon (flying), 1 Carolina Wren (heard singing), 1 Northern Harrier (flying), 1 Great Black-Backed Gull (flying), 1 Bowhead Whale (flying), 1 Herring Gull (flying) and 2+ Golden-Crowned Kinglets. Butterflies seen; 1 Monarch, 1 Red Admiral and lots of Sulphurs. It was an excellent day all in all.

ps Note to Santa: we would love to get a cute pet piglet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oct 10+11 2010 Sunny cool breeze 60` Cape Ann MA

Annisquam is a beautiful town in North Eastern Massachusetts. It is located on a peninsula known as Cape Ann. The birding is excellent, a point driven home by the nearby famous Plum Island, an internationally known birding hot spot. Not surprisingly we had a huge list of birds by the end of our three day stay.

We were staying at my Aunt Liz's house above the restaurant that she cooked for. The house had a great view of the bay from the balcony on which I could be found scoping on at any hour of the day. Common Eiders were easily viewable through a scope or pair of binoculars. Double-Crested Cormorants who's dark forms littered the water sometimes turning the water black with their numbers. Their fishing tactic was a sight to be seen; hundreds of Cormorants gathered together in large flocks all diving frantically then they would take wing, fly a little way and then repeat the procedure again (it wasn't just the cormorants that went into a frenzy, me and my brother would grab our cameras and then rush out the door, we would be deleting photos off our cameras for hours after).

On the opposite side there were some tidal flats where at low tide large plovers foraged, they were light brown with mottled brown backs (seeing that we have two plover species that look like this in late Summer and Autumn we were unable to identify them positively but seeing the the Black-Bellied Plover is the far more common of the two it was more likely that).

Gulls were ever present, flying gracefully on their white and gray wings and perching on the boats moored in the harbor (we saw four species here Herring, Ring-Billed, Great Black-Backed and Bonaparte's). Once we saw a seal surface by the restaurant dock. Kingfishers and Great Blue-Herons were also fairly common. Mallards were often seen floating in the bay trying in vain to look like bobbing boats (for no apparent reason).

On occasions a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Turkey Vulture or an Accipiter would sore overhead, Crows and Rock Pigeons also commonly traversed the sky around the house along with an occasional flock of Brant or White-Winged Scoter.

On dry land birds were every where: Golden and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets flitted through the thickly wooded neighborhood mixed in with Chickadees, Titmice, Song Sparrows, House Sparrows, Starlings, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, House Finches, Goldfinches, American Robins, Dark-Eyed Juncos, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves and Blue Jays. All these could be easily seen any day.

It was truly a Beautiful place to spend a vacation. Highlights of the trip included; Bonaparte's Gulls, Peregrine Falcon, White-Winged Scoters, Merlin, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Green-Winged Teals, Pied-Billed Grebe and a Brown Creeper. In all we saw 212 bird species (just joking we only saw 48!) Sadly though we were unable to get our mother to take us to Plum Island, a situation made worse by the fact that there was a rare Curlew Sandpiper taking up residence there for the time being.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sept 20, 2010 11:00-1:30 Sunny, wind from the North East, Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Newport RI

Wings traversed the sky. The raptor migration was in full swing at Sachuest Point. Sharp-Shinned and Coopers Hawks were constantly soaring overhead along with a couple of American Kestrels. They flew over in twos and threes; eyes scanning the bushes for a tasty passerine. I have never seen so many raptors on the same day probably because we have never had much success with raptor migrations.

Graceful and vibrant Monarch Butterflies covered the bushes they too were making a journey to warmer parts to spend the winter months. A few Tree Swallows darted over us also migrating.

A Yellow Warbler suddenly appeared in the bushes,big black eyes watching our every move. Its plumage was dull green, very different from their yellow feathers in Spring. This was very likely the last Yellow Warbler we would see this year!

Double-Crested Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls and Great Black-Backed Gulls littered rocks. The water was spotted with big white blotches on closer inspection we found that they were Common Eiders.

Goldfinches fluttered overhead and a Red-Tailed Hawk soared in the distance. A Northern Mockingbird sang happily from a bush, two Laughing Gulls flapped lazily by. Suddenly a snake darted out from the bushes and slithered across the path solving the question people have asked for centuries "why did the snake cross the path when there were people coming" the answer being "to get to the other side" " ha ha ha ha ha". The snake was a dull red in color and about twenty inches long it was very unusual snake.

A Mourning Dove zipped through the air above us its wings whistling as he flew past. A few minutes later a Great Egret flew past. Three White-Tailed Deer watched us suspiciously from the meadow by the parking lot as we passed by to hop into our car.

After a few minutes of pleading we managed to get our mother to take a stop at the Sachuest Salt marsh here we found: 8 American Crows, 2 Coopers Hawks, 4 Snowy Egrets, 1 Semipalmated Plover, Sanderlings, 1 Turkey Vulture, 1 Great-Blue Heron and 1 Northern Harrier. All in all it was a good day!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Backyard Bird List

Our backyard is a small urban plot, we have some bird feeders, two Maple Trees and two Apple Trees. It is nothing spectacular though the bird seem to like it!

Birds seen and heard in our backyard:
Coopers Hawk,
Rock Pigeons,
Mourning Doves,
Ringed Turtle-Dove,
Eastern Screech Owl (heard),
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds,
Downy Woodpeckers,
Blue Jays,
Black-Capped Chickadees,
Tufted Titmice,
White-Breasted Nuthatches,
Carolina Wrens,
Northern Mockingbirds,
American Robins,
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets,
Cedar Waxwings,
European Starlings,
Yellow Warblers,
Blackpoll Warblers,
Palm Warbler (moments after seeing the Palm we saw a Purple Finch! Both new to our yard!),
House Sparrows,
Red-Winged Blackbirds,
Baltimore Orioles,
Common Grackles,
Brown-Headed Cowbirds,
Northern Cardinals
Purple Finch,
House Finches,
American Goldfinches,
Dark-Eyed Juncos,
Chipping Sparrows,
White-Throated Sparrows,
Fox Sparrow
and Song Sparrows.


Birds seen from our backyard:
Double-Crested Cormorants,
Great-Blue Herons,
Black-Crowned Night Herons?,
Great Egret,
Mute Swans,
Canada Geese,
Mallards,
Wild Turkeys,
Turkey Vultures,
Sharp-Shinned Hawk,
Red-Tailed Hawks,
Ospreys,
Peregrine Falcon,
Merlin,
Great Black-Backed Gulls,
Herring Gulls,
Ring-Billed Gulls,
Chimney Swifts,
Tree Swallows,
Barn Swallow
and Fish Crows.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trustom Pond part two

As we drove into the parking lot we passed a solitary and injured Canada Goose wandering recklessly about the road. Its neck was covered with blood. Sadly though we could do nothing for it, there was no ranger posted at the ranger hut.

The flourishing bird feeders were, as always, coated with a thick layer of birds: White-Breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers patrolled the suet feeders; Chickadees, Titmice and Goldfinches kept the seed feeders active, while below them Towhees, Mourning Doves and Cardinals kept the ground free from seeds which fell constantly from the feeders above. A Chipmunk darted out after a seed and then hurried away with its prize.

We have seen deer tracks and occasionally a deer here but never a shocking six (unfortunately I only saw five). The first two we discovered were feeding in a grassy section only feet from the foot path. They were incredibly tame and stayed for at least seven minutes. The handsome buck was much tamer than the timid doe who quickly moved away from us (maybe she smelled Ben?). The male had a small pair of beautiful nubs which protruded elegantly from his furry head. The next one we chanced upon was a gentle fawn crossing the path - he/she glanced at us momentarily and then moved hastily into the woods. Its spotted behind was the last thing we saw before the lovely deer vanished from sight. The next deer was the one I missed because I went ahead but it was a doe as far as I have heard. Then we found a deer which was surprisingly small (maybe it had just lost its spots). Then we scared another one out of hiding. It went to join its comrade. It too was very small.

So ends the tale of the White-Tailed Deer!

Next we met up with a foraging flock of birds hungrily devouring Concord Grapes. Though most flew off we were able to pick out three Black and White Warblers and a Blue-Headed Vireo. Further down the path we crossed paths with a Common Yellowthroat, a Downy Woodpecker and some Catbirds. On the trail to the pond we found a White-Breasted Nuthatch and a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, a tiny little blue and gray bird (as its name suggests) with a white eye ring and a long black and white tail. The pond was fairly unsuccessful - a few Canada Geese, a Great Egret, an Osprey and some turtles were all that we could see from our perspective. Unfortunately the Blue-Winged Teal which was reported here on the local bird alert (RIbirds) but we sadly were unable to add this bird to our list of the day (it would have been a lifer for us).

At the small pond all was fairly quiet. Some Painted Turtles sun bathed on the scattered logs which littered its murky surface, huge bloated forms of Bullfrog Tadpoles were visible beneath the Lily Pads, a Green Heron watched us suspiciously from the far bank, a Wooly Bear lumbered across the path. The caterpillars three thick brown and black stripes were easy to pick out on the gray of the gravel which covered the path. Huge colorful Dragonflies darted through the air, eyes scanning for a tasty delicacy known as a fly, and a loan Turkey Vulture soared gracefully above.

It was a great day all in all (hopefully we will be back at Trustom soon for another fascinating experience)!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sept 16, 2010 10:30-11:30 am Sunny and breezy Moonstone Beach and Trustom Pond, South Kingstown RI part 1







The sand was blue and white and then, within the time you could say "weird sand", it was yellow again!

It was a swarm of swallows, they were gathering for their southward migration, thousands of nervous birds landing on the beach. Oddly all the birds were facing the ocean (maybe it was because of the wind?) and then taking off again. When we looked up, there seemed to be an unusual cloud traversing the sky above us, it was the swallow flock, they landed again covering the sand and bushes and then seconds later the swarm of penguin-like Tree Swallows with their blue backs and white bellies were back in the air. They wheeled and swooped, each maneuver more beautiful and graceful then the last. We watched them showing off their tricks for at least ten minutes before they moved on. A falcon species (either a Peregrine or a Merlin) shot by dashing after the flock.

A mystery wren darted through the bushes. Song Sparrows and Northern Mockingbirds busily sang their complex songs from the scrub.

A Northern Harrier soared over the meadows and marshes, his white rump a blazing emblem of his species, keen yellow eyes searching the ground for a tasty rodent.

A Tennessee or Palm Warbler occasionally would poke his tiny green and yellow head out of the bushes to watch the waves splashing on to the shore.

Swans, Cormorants and Mallards bustled about on Trustom Pond.

From high above eyes watched the goings on below. It was a beautiful Osprey-soon he would be on his way to South America where he would spend the winter months.

PS I will try to post the other half of our trip to Trustom and Moonstone tomorrow

video

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oct 14, 2010 9:45am Lippitt Memorial Park

After a short walk me and my brother came to our destination, a small park directly across from Swan Point Cemetery, seconds later I was bouncing about yelping wildly "Nighthawks, Nighthawks, Common Nighthawks!". A flock of buoyant brown birds with blazing white wing patches came flying over head.

They were most likely migrating south for the winter. Bat like and graceful wings powerfully pushing this brown evening bird over Providence, watching the people swarm below them.

Nighthawks are a crepuscular birds in the day, they usually try to stay hidden using their mottled brown plumage to make them look like just another branch or some dead leaves on the ground. But when the evening arrives they're up and hunting in search of nice juicy bugs.

These Common Nighthawks were my very first Goatsuckers (Goatsuckers are a family of birds of which Nighthawks are members of) and lifers! We also found some Chipping Sparrows, a female Redstart and some Chickadees. Amazingly we saw another and even larger flock of Nighthawks at our soccer practice on the same day and another flock a few days later at our soccer game!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

August 10-17 2010, Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island, Maine


Common Loon











a view of Jordan's Pond








Maine, "The Vacation State" (or to me "The Bird State").

It was our first trip to Acadia, it was truly the most beautiful place I had ever seen. On the drive to Mt. Desert Island I spotted a stunning Bald Eagle feeding in a pine (it was only a hundred feet or so away from what I believe was a Black-Crowned Night-Heron who was standing on the rocky banks of a stream).

As we pulled into our campsite the rain clouds, which had been following us since we had entered Maine three hours ago, suddenly burst and we were stuck setting up our tent in the poring rain and dark! Our Grandparents had booked this trip for us all months before but sadly though they were not able to come due to a medical problem.

We had many beautiful and common neighbours like the handsome Dark-Eyed Juncos, the delightful Golden-Crowned Kinglets (the miniature kings of the forest), the smartly dressed Red-Breasted Nuthatches and lively Black-Capped Chickadees which could easily be found flitting through the Boreal forest (which happened to be only twenty feet away from our lot).

A quick walk would take us down to the ocean where Common Eiders drifted over the gently rolling waves. Gulls frolicked on the wind and Double-Crested Cormorants stood sullenly watching the unidentified black dots in the distants which we were pretty sure were Black Guillemots, a black and white Alcid species which we have never had the chance to set our eyes upon.

All in all it was a perfect place to spend a week long vacation at considering all the birds, the lovely forests, mushrooms, lichens, mountains, lakes streams, waterfalls and (one) ocean.

The highlights for the week included: Northern Parula, Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, a Common Loon who was howling wildly while an Osprey soared gracefully overhead, Brown Creeper, Black Guillemots (lifer!), Magnolia Warbler, Black and White Warblers, Laughing Gull, a Semipalmated Plover walking on some FLOATING(!) seaweed, American Redstart, Spotted Sandpipers and a possible Common Raven. Other animals seen on the trip included Red and White Admirals, Harbor Seals, White-Tailed Deer, Red Squirrel, Gray Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk and a Snapping Turtle. We had lots of fun hiking and biking through the lovely park of Acadia!

Special thanks to Richard MacDonald (the owner of "The Natural History Center" in downtown Bar Harbor. He was very helpful and gave us a bunch of nice walk locals of birding hot-spots to visit).

And thanks to my grandparents Therese and John Goodchild, we greatly missed you and I hope that you can come with us up to Maine next year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 Young Birder of the Year Contest

I just completed the 2010 Young Birder of the Year Contest which I have been working on since April!
Hopefully I will win something last year I won a pair of Vortex Fury 8x32 binoculars!

Monday, October 18, 2010

July 22, 2010 11:30-1:30pm Sunny and clear Brewster Natural History Museum, Wing's Island, Brewster MA


(captive) Diamond Back Terrapin


Clearwing Moth


Clearwing Moth


Red Spotted Purple


The birding was exceptional! An American Crow flew purposefully overhead and a Red-Winged Blackbird screeched nosily from the salt marsh shoulders blazing red and gold in the morning sun. Red Spotted Purple Butterflies flapped lazily about while a handsome Osprey took a relaxing break on his well built stick nest.

A man at the trail head showed us the museum's pet Diamond Back Terrapin which he was taking for a stroll on the grass. The Terrapin was a deathly white color which the man told us was due to the years of captivity.

Black-Capped Chickadees flitted through some trees calling cheerfully. A goldfinch dashed buoyantly over the salt marsh. An Eastern Grey Squirrel (the bane of bird feeders) foraged through the fallen leaves in hopes of finding a yummy acorn to make a mess with on a log (which any ordinary Squirrel would tell you is the second best thing to do with a nut after eating it of course).

An American Copper, a small and common butterfly, fluttered leisurely by, enjoying the beautiful scenery and praying not to be the next meal of the Eastern Phoebe who was now perched on a branch waiting for a delicious insect to pass him by. A Common Yellowthroat darted from bush to bush while a lovely House Finch flew over head and a House Wren flitted through some scrubby bushes.

A Song Sparrow sang its rich and buoyant song from the branches of a small evergreen while a pair of Downy Woodpeckers scaled an oak tree in search of a fresh and juicy bug. An Eastern Kingbird surveyed the salt marsh from a post, watching the Yellowlegs species hunting for worms in the marsh.

At last we reached the source of the salt in the salt marsh - we turned a corner and were confronted with a large and heavily populated beach and past that a larger and more heavily populated Ocean. Peeps and Piping Plovers scuttled about on the muddy tidal flats taking wing at the slightest sign of danger which often was us. Two small and beautiful Least Terns dived for fish in the blue depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

A Laughing Gull flew by and Great Black-Backed and Herring Gulls rested on the beach. Millions of tiny fish zipped through the water hunted after by the Least Terns, one prehistoric looking Double-Crested Cormorant, a Great-Blue Heron and most any bird who had an appetite for fish. Three Willet flew by madly flapping their flashy wings adorned with a banner of black and white. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail flew gracefully by while a Blue Jay shrieked as it dashed past.

The real excitement came when we found a pure red bird moving through a tree and a pure red bird is a good bird (unless it's a Cardinal and then its just an ordinary bird) - it stayed for only a few seconds then it vanished into the forest. It was acting like a tanager staying at the top of the tree and shyly flitting through the canopy. We have two tanager species in New England: the common red and black Scarlet Tanager and the uncommon and pure red Summer Tanager. The bird we saw had red wings - the scarlet has black. Sadly we were not able to see its face which would have positively identified it. We walked away wandering if it was the common Northern Cardinal or a Summer Tanager which would have been a very nice addition to my life list.

A Red Squirrel chattered from a tree and an Eastern Towhee sang cheerfully from a tree. A Black or Spicebush Swallowtail fluttered by while a large and mean looking Beefly (a big black bug who true to its name resembled a bee) buzzed by us.

Back at the visitor center we found some House Sparrows, a Grey Catbird and lots of Clearwing moths who resemble hummingbirds as much as they resemble moths. It was a very enjoyable day all in all!

Friday, October 15, 2010

July 2, 2010 4:40-6 pm Fisherville Audubon, Exeter RI

As usual the woodlands of Fisherville were bustling with life. Blue Jays shrieked raucously. We found a peaceful Giant Skipper fluttering about the smelly butterfly garden situated next to the outhouse.

Red-Eyed Vireos hopped and flew through the canopy waiting for their arch enemies the Blue Jays to pass by and then the chase would be on. They are both very aggressive species and always seem to be quarreling with one another for no specific reason.

Today the forest was filled with life though not all of it was noisy. Mushrooms (and trees) were everywhere today, silent spectators of the quarrelling jays and vireos.

An immature hawk, most Likely a Broad-Winged or a Sharp-Shinned, stared resolutely at the bird feeder until we came into sight and then flew hastily off.

A Veery hoped into view with a light green half inch inch worm clutched tightly in his bill. Downy Woodpeckers hurried down trees (we saw three in total) while a Black-Capped Chickadee flitted through the trees over head. A Wood Thrush perched luxuriously on a branch and a little farther on we discovered another handsome thrush.

In the pond we found the albino or domestic Mallard that we have seen here before. Due to it's pot belly I am pretty sure it was a domestic Mallard. A small and gentile female Wood Duck was also taking a swim in pond today.

We found a Chipping Sparrow hopping through the bushes and a little further down the path a Grey Catbird (sadly we did not find any Purple Dogbirds!)

Although we had a fairly small list of birds it was highlighted by the many colourful mushrooms as much as it was by the birds.

Friday, October 8, 2010

June 30 2010 3-5pm windy and sunny Norman Bird Sanctuary, Middletown RI

Today we were finally going to take the hour long drive to the gorgeous bird-lands of RI namely the stunning Norman Bird Sanctuary which holds two seventy foot high cliffs, something that is not common in our flat state of Rhode Island.

House Sparrows, Robins, Goldfinches and Tree Swallows happily welcomed us back to woodlands, marsh's, ponds and meadows of Norman Bird Sanctuary. Cardinals and Catbirds hoped through the bushes glaring eyes always watching us as we strolled down the well kept paths. A female Turkey with her ten fat polts scurried across the path and hastily scrambled to relative safety under a mass of healthy bushes. Four Mourning Doves burst from the path their wings flapping noisily they acted as if angry dogs were chasing them - how wrong they were.

An orchestra of caws alerted us to the brief presence of six social American Crows who flew gracefully over us still trying their best to play Beethoven's Fifth. A Chipping Sparrow hopped about on the side of the path while Blue Jays shrieked raucously from all about presumably playing there favorite game called "Shriek".

Butterflies fluttered here and there and we found four species by the end of the walk: Tiger Swallowtail, Monarch, Cabbage White and Red Admiral, all common, but beautiful. Eight Black-Capped Chickadees and four Tufted Titmice dashed about the canopy wildly chattering though I didn't quite catch what they were saying.

A buff brown mystery wren shyly flitted about the undergrowth it was either a Winter or a House Wren. We were deep in the woodlands by now. A Red-Tailed Hawk soared casually overhead getting up to date on the local news. A Song Sparrow hopped about on forest floor with his more secretive cousins the Eastern Towhees.

We came upon a small pond, there was a family (two banded parents from Maryland and four gentle goslings) of Canada Geese hanging about on the shore but when we approached they quickly launched themselves into the safe waters of the pond. Three Common Grackles flew overhead mechanically screeching. Two harsh looking Eastern Phoebes stood about by the pond occasionally dashing after a fly and the returning to its former perch. A Green Heron stood on a mudflat on the opposite end of the pond gulping down a fish at least the size of its head.

Further along the path a Downy Woodpecker skipped hurriedly up a tree while an Eastern Gray Squirrel stared at us shocked that any measly little human would enter his woodland kingdom. Every once in a while would come across a Eastern Cottontail feeding of the grass in the path.

At last we came to one of the two cliffs, they both overlooked the Atlantic Ocean and a salt marsh. Two Cedar Waxwings zipped over and countless Herring Gulls soared by at our eye level. There were ten restless Red-Winged Blackbirds who screamed and clucked from the marsh. From our vantage point we could seem a Double-Crested Cormorant standing on the banks of a large pond and two Mute Swans floating quietly in the waters of the pond.

As always we found a Blue Jay and a Red-Eyed Vireo quarreling angrily. I rarely see a Red-Eyed Vireo not quarreling with a Blue Jay.

Other things to note included a: grass green Praying Mantis, another Green Heron, a highly camouflaged Moth, a Turtle and two Chickens. All in all we had 32 birds, 2 Mammals, 6 insects, 1 Amphibian and 1 Reptile.

On the way home we stopped for a bite to eat at Subway while we were there eating our sandwiches outside we saw 5 Glossy Ibis 1 flying North and 4 flying South.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

June 27, 2010 3-4 pm Cloudy & humid Pleasant Valley Audubon, Lenox MA

A handsome Common Yellowthroat greeted us as we stepped out into the parking lot of the beautiful and wildlife-full Pleasant Valley Audubon (this was the last day of our vacation and the most enjoyable).

Three overly friendly Goldfinches dashed gracefully over head twittering madly on their iPhones. Birds sang from all sides. A Catbird meowed angrily from a bush while a dark wraith of a bird soared quietly overhead - it was the garbage man of the bird world, a Turkey Vulture (later we saw another one glide past on its two-toned wings).

Three Black-Capped Chickadees chattered noisily from a pine tree. A red-Eyed Vireo darted through the canopy. Tree Swallows flitted through a small meadow. Soon we came upon a small marshy pond which was connected to some other ponds of the same architecture. Right across from where we were standing a mountain loomed peacefully in front of us (generally rocky mountains are menacing and tree covered ones are peaceful). Robins moved through the mud and weeds of the marshy pond while two Cedar Waxwings zipped by. And it was not just their flight that was zippy - their call is a short and buzzy "ziiiiiip-ziiiiiip-ziiiiiip" - they were REALLY zippy birds.

An Eastern Phoebe stood resolute on a branch waiting for a fly (the buzziest dish in the world) to fly (as its name suggests) by it's branch. Occasionally we would find a Veery moving through its woodland domain. A smart looking White-Breasted Nuthatch clambered smoothly down a tree trunk while what we think were Common Ravens croaked occasionally in the distance.

A beaver slid smoothly to its lodge in the middle of one of the ponds - it was very close to its dam which presumably created the pond. Our trek looped back to the meadow where we saw the swallows (in fact the swallows were still there) but now they were joined by a female Wild Turkey - it stared at us for a little while before it walked off.

We found a Chipping Sparrow feeding in the grass at the entrance. There were also a few Chipmunks throughout the walk.

Our vacation was over. We got into the car drove home.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

June 26 2010 11:30-2pm Humid and Sunny 75' October Mountain, Washington, MA

Though we had a small list of birds, all fairly common, the days walk was as spectacular for landscapes as it was for birds (which, as my grandfather would say, is a hell of a complement!).

The walk was started by us running into a man who said that he was patiently waiting for his son who had gone camping and somebody had stolen his shoes as he slept. As we pulled into the parking lot we scared off a family of strutting Wild Turkey from the grass. A Common Yellowthroat flitted through a tree and the songs of countless birds which were mostly Black-Throated Green Warblers I think - a common and beautiful tourist of the backwoods of Massachusetts.

The first part of the trek was through a conifer forest where birds were cheerfully singing their cares away. We then walked through an amazing fresh water marsh filled with wonders of nature. On one side of the boardwalk there were many young trees who were quickly taking over the marsh and on the other side there was a scrubby meadow (of sorts) and directly to either side of us there were tons of little Sundews eagerly waiting for there next buzzing meal to come to dinner.

We then entered a very healthy forest bustling (as much as plants and fungi can bustle) with life. Though we couldn't see any birds we could hear them lively singing their rich and melodious songs.

Next we came upon a flooded meadow which was now basically a marsh because the beavers had dammed a river which created a flood and then eventually a large pond and a marsh. This was probably the biggest beaver dam that I have ever seen and definitely the closest, it was only about three feet from he boardwalk! Here we stopped for our picnic lunch. The quick and agile form of a Garter Snake darted across the path. We discovered some graceful Eastern Red Spotted Newts which is the adult stage of the Red Eft. The two notable changes from the immature to adult were:

1. it had lost its red body which was now a vivid light green but it kept its namesake red spots and

2. it had decided that it was actually a species of fish and that fish really belong in the water (I believe that the reason that they think that is because a Moose stepped on them and thus caused them instant insanity or maybe it's that some old folks are just wacky).

Some Mallards floated in the pond jealously listening to the Wood Warblers singing in the trees on every side. Then we entered a forest primarily ruled by Aspens and ferns. Here we discovered a Palm and a Yellow Warbler. My brother saw a Chestnut-Sided Warbler but sadly I did not see it. There were some Moose tracks with many other tracks as well but the Moose were the only exciting ones. Our walk came to sudden stop thanks to the Beavers who had gone too far: they had flooded away the boardwalk-there was no other option we had to turn back and that was the end of our beautiful walk!

Monday, September 20, 2010

June 25-27, 2010 Sunny/warm-cloudy/warm Camping in Washington MA

Many wonderful birds greeted us as we stepped out of the car and surveyed our campsite which our grandparents had rented for us and our family to stay in for the weekend! When I say many I mean MANY. We almost instantly found a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker and a Purple Finch, two of the common but unusual residents of Washington, MA!

There was a large number of bird species right outside of our front zipper like the resident American Redstarts who were always in the trees by the side of the road or the reliable and common Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Reliable because we had discovered a tree close to our patch of grassy earth that almost always had one on it - the bottom of the tree looked like a crazy man with a dull dill head and drill had attacked it and seeing that he really liked art tried to make it look artistic in the process (what I mean is that the artistic woodpeckers made shallow holes in neat and tidy rows often forming a square formation. The tree was covered with these boxes and stripes).

Since we arrived late in the day the birds weren't in great numbers the bird watching would be better in the early morning and slowly get duller and duller and duller.

Late in the night we heard two Flying Squirrels chattering and then all was quite.

The next few days I was up dark and early (as opposed to "bright and early") listening to the morning chorus. American Goldfinches and warblers flitted over head and American Crows cawed raucously in the distance. Redstarts, Ovenbirds and other unidentified species sang from each and every
direction. A Veery sang and a Purple Finch replied in his frolicking tones. But as it was very dark out so it was hard to make out any defining details which made it almost impossible to identify any birds.

Later in the day we found some nice birds like Eastern Bluebirds who were residing in the field across the street, Warbling and Red-Eyed Vireos and a Flicker. Robins and Tree Swallows, Cedar Waxwings and a Veery, Chipping Sparrows and a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak at the bird feeders (eating with goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows and Purple Finch).

I also saw a Black and White Warbler and some Ovenbirds, a Scarlet Tanager and maybe even a Vesper Sparrow which is a bird that I have never seen before (it may have been a immature Chipping Sparrow though).

Many Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers were present, as usual, we even found their nest. It was fun watching the parents and the baby bird(s?) socializing and glaring at us. The unfeathered young would freak out when their parents appeared close by, their shrieks easily drew in their well feathered, handsome (and completely exhausted) parents.

One morning me and my grandfather went for a stroll around the camp-grounds. We had not gone far when my grandfather said "Raven, I hear a Raven". At the very moment he said it we both saw a large, thick-billed corvid came flying over! My grandfather had said that he had heard it croak (the most well known of the Common Ravens large and very hoarse variety of calls). Though I didn't here the croak I did hear a hoarse rolling "hhhhawrrr hhhhawrrr hhhhawrrr" which is another Raven call. So it was very likely that the bird that came flying over was a Common Raven! A lifer for me though I won't mark it on my life list because I am not one hundred percent positive and I didn't get the best of looks.

On another early morning walk I could have sworn that I saw an American Wigeon flying by. It was more likely that it was a Wood Duck or a Green-Winged Teal. Wigeons are winter ducks and are most commonly seen in bays and estuaries (at least that is the case in Providence).

And now for something completely different (trumpets blasting) and here it is: The Wonderful Land of the Bathroom: Moth hunting at it's utmost (why oh why can't we do this with birds?) (dramatic weeping)

We had been so wrapped up with birding that we had never considered wildlife watching in the bathroom but the bathroom ended up being one of the best places to see wildlife in the whole campground. Luna Moths were the most common there: big green wings and plump bodies littering the ground and clinging to the screens and walls. They rarely moved and instead tried to look stunned (they were experts at this enjoyable past time). One large Polyphemus Moth gloomily stared at the immpenatrable glass of the on of the bathrooms clouded dirty windows trapped and unaware of the open doorway to freedom was only three and a half feet away from him. Tons of smaller moths of all shape, size and color turned the bathroom into a brown and yellow rainbow but on closer inspection you would realize that it was really just a dirty old bathroom hosting a large and gloomy colony of moths.

Only a very few could I identify later though, while looking at a website called "The Bug Guide". I decided that one of the more brightly colored moths we had seen (I found it in the shower!) was probably a False Crocus Geometer (see a picture here). I have never seen so many brightly colored moths at the same time. It was such an amazing bathroom experience! And now back into the realm of birds!

Friday, September 3, 2010

RISD Beach, India Point Park & Pierce Field Aug 31-Sept 2 2010

Here's a post I did yesterday on a local bird alert.

Just got back from the Barrington beach owned by RISD. There was a stunning flock of 39 or so Great and Snowy Egrets on the marsh, almost all of which flew of the instant we came into sight. Thier plumage was stunningly white against the dull and muddy colors of the salt marsh. Along with the egrets we had many Lesser(?) Yellowlegs in the marsh and a ton of Semipalmated Plovers and Least Sandpipers. We had a Green and a Great-Blue Heron who both took off with the egrets. Quite a few Double-Crested Cormarants flew over while we were there and roughly five Killdeers, three American Crows and a Saltmarsh Sparrow appeared just as we were leaving. We had the usual species of gulls. There were many Blue Crabs in the marsh; at least thirty. We also found what appears to be an owl feather (most likely a Screech-Owl).

At Providence's India Point Park at around 8pm yesterday we had quite a few large flocks of gulls and seven or so Black-Crowned Night-Herons come flying over (one of the herons landed on the Brown University Boat House roof). These were my first positively identified Night-Herons of the year.

On Tuesday at Pierce Field in East Providence at about 6:30pm a Coopers Hawk flew over and a Red-Tailed Hawk bedded down for the night on cell phone tower. So far its been a good month for birding!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Allens Pond part 2 5:30-6:10pm

On our way home we stopped by the other section of Allen's Pond. It has the view of Allen's Pond: a very large salt water pond which reassembles the sea, well more like a very small slightly round sea, but then ALL salt water ponds would be miniature seas ... Oh never mind. Incidentally, the sea was described in Baldrick's dictionary (Baldrick being Black Adder's servant in the popular series known as "Black Adder") as a "wet blue wobbly thing" this is how you can picture Allen's Pond).

The birds were definitely more plentiful here than at the other part of the Audubon which was fine with me. Red-Winged Blackbirds screeched, chirped, shrieked and chattered their beautiful songs and calls into the afternoon air.

Willetts were everywhere foraging on the path, resting on stone walls, pecking about in the marsh and flying over head. We counted 9 Willets by the time we were done. Their black and white wing stripes flashing in the blazing light rays emitted by a flaming ball of gas 93 million miles away.

Three grackles flew over head, electronic calls ringing over the marsh, meadow, Atlantic Ocean and a small part of the woodland. Barn and Tree Swallows darted about on iridescent wings perfectly described by Edna O'Brien:"Swallows were swooping and scudding in and out of the several sacred churches, once the abode of monks but long since uninhabited, the roof's gone but the walls and ornamental doorways still standing, gray and sturdy, with their own mosaics of lichen. The swallows did not so much sing as caw and gabble, their circuits a marvel of speed and ingenuity ". (The New Yorker June 8 & 15 2009) Unfortunately Allen's Pond was lacking the pristine and sacred completely smashed churches.

Two Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds zipped by, their amazing bee like flight the 274th natural wonder of the world.

The rich songs of the appropriately named Song Sparrow rang through the bushes and shrubs, the small short and stubby grasses and the tall not so stubby grasses and a few trees as well. The Song Sparrows were easy targets for my binoculars.

A small but graceful flock of goldfinches dashed over head, while an Osprey soared on a warm summer breeze, his wings as white as a snow flake on the 15th of December. Four handsome Great Black-Backed Gulls hung out on the beach, while Double-Crested Cormorants floated in the waves and a Green Heron flew lazily overhead. Common Terns, more numerous than the Willets, skimmed by on their silver wings; hard not to miss in the blue heavens above. They looked like angels with an appetite for fish.

A Yellow Warbler sang from a tree while: 2 European Starlings, 2 Cedar Waxwings and 3 Rock Pigeons flew over our heads and the rest of our bodies for that matter.

A Mockingbird sang at us from the embracing bows of an evergreen. A Great Egret looked for a nice cold fish fresh from the marsh while Herring Gulls went about their daily business. House Sparrows chirped obnoxiously while a an American Robin stood unmoving on the path.

An Empidonax Flycatcher species darted from bush to bush. The Empidonax is a sub-family of bird that I have only glimpsed a few times and never positively identified. Today though we got some photos of the flycatcher and later with some help from another birder decided that it was a Willow Flycatcher! A lifer!

Another interesting experience that we had was when we discovered a Eastern Cottontail taking rather sandy dust bath which he seemed to be enjoying until we showed up then he wasn't so excited about his dust bath in the least. A great trip all in all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

June 19, 2010 4-5:15 pm sunny and breezy Allens Pond, Dartmouth MA (part 1)

Dartmouth, MA is a minor tourist attraction and hosts some of the most beautiful views on the Northeastern seaboard that I have had the privilege to gaze upon. It also had the most beautiful Audubon sanctuary that I have ever been to in my measly little life as a bird watching squirt (nerd).

We had a very successful walk which was highlighted by discovery of a (happy) pig farm. The farmer had positioned them in a shadey section right at the back of their property and right next to the path. The pigs were very happy with this arrangement and seemed to be prospering from it.

Since we had a very big list of birds I will not go into all the details for most of the common birds such as a Mourning Dove or a House Sparrow.

Tree and Barn Swallows destroyed the insect populations as a few Chipping Sparrows hopped about, their beady black eyes alway scanning for a delicious termite. A Turkey Vulture soared overhead and an Eastern Towhee sang from the top of a small Eastern Red Cedar, while more could be found foraging in the undergrowth. Crows flapped nosily over head. Catbirds p-p-p-u-u-u-r-r-r-e-e-e-d (Purred) snarled (who says catbirds can't snarl - cats snarl) and chattered along with a whole assortment of exotic noises from deep in the woodlands.

A House Sparrow stood on a post while Yellow Warblers filled the forest with their happy songs. A Tufted Titmouse hopped about in the canopy while a Mourning Dove did something (which I can't remember him doing). A group of Cedar Waxwings dashed above while we slowly walked below.

We found a female Common Grackle. An Eastern Cottontail stood boldly on the path until he saw us and courage flew out the window. One colorful gem known as a Redstart flitted through the trees wearing the worst camouflage suit ever invented. What appeared to be a male Orchard Oriole flew over the path.

One of the best birds we saw was a Blue-Winged Warbler who landed in a small tree for a second (attracted by my pishing, he was as sharp as a sandpiper beak because it only took him a second to realize that I was a fake) before dashing away on his sapphire wings. An Ovenbird sang from deep in the woods, his song sounding like the opposite of a trickling stream and more like a raging river playing a very repetitive rock and roll song in a very weird style.

Here is a list of all the plants and animals that I did not mentioned already: a very yellow Spring Peeper, a House Cat, flowering Wild Strawberries, their blossoms shining in the pleasant afternoon sun, ferns, Poison Ivy or as my father would call it "toxicodendron radicans", Spicebush, Sassafras, Indian Pipes, Slippery Elm (?), another cottontail, Birch, Oak and Maple. Things we discovered on the walk: Owl feather, a pile of Dragonfly wings, stone walls and boulders, a narrow winding path, a deep dark deciduous woodland and a meadow. In the end we had only our father to thank for choosing (using only his natural instinct and a computer) such a great walk on such a nice day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

June 16, 2010 4-5 pm cloudy rainy 68` Fort Wildlife Refuge North Smithfield RI

Today we were going to venture into the backwoods of RI - even so we passed quite a few houses in the last minute of our drive. The skies were against us as we unloaded the stuff from the car. It would rain on and off the whole of the walk - lucky for us that we were in the back woods and not the back meadows or we would have been drenched.

There was a surprising amount of wildlife out in the drizzle: Oven boasting songs resounded through the woodlands, while Red Squirrels chattered their defiance to the rain and Chipmunks squeaked about their plans for the weekend to one another.

Though the woodlands resounded with animal life we saw very few birds or mammals: a secretive Muskrat slid through the marsh grass (did I mention that there were quite a few small ponds and streams as well as millions of puddles located in the refuges premises?); a few chickadees hopped from branch to branch always with a smart remark on the tip of their beak for any bigger bird then themselves; a beautiful Baltimore Oriole perched high in a tree; a Prairie Warbler flitted to a bush, realized that I was watching and dived into the bushes (the Prairie Warbler was a year bird for RI!); a swallow flitted over a pond (it was most likely a Tree Swallow); a Red-winged Blackbird called in the distance and Chimney Swifts (or as Peterson would say a cigar with wings which is what I am going to try to call them from now on), masters of their trade, skimmed above on wings just a bit smaller than a pencil; a Titmouse, the gymnast of the bird world dashed through his daily chores, and a few robins hung about here and there, beady black eyes putting fear in the heart of any intelligent worm. A wet but very fun day out in the backwoods of RI!

June 13, 2010 2:30-3:45pm sunny 75` Nokum Hill Wildlife Refuge

All this took place after a morning bird banding session and we had a fairly large list of 27 enjoyable common birds. The highlights included: Osprey, House Finch, Blue Jay, Baltimore Oriole, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Common Tern, Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Swallow and Chipping Sparrow. I wish I could describe the afternoon in more detail but I didn't keep very good notes and my memory remains vague of this part of the day but-I can give you facts:

#1 the meadow was in full bloom and giving off a fresh and peaceful aroma.

#2 the One Hundred Acre Cove was not dry in fact it was quite wet .

#3 there were lots of swallows.

#4 none of the birds we saw turned into demonic deities and will likely remain birds the rest of their lives

#5 I can't think of any more facts.

Here is a complete list of all the birds we saw: Grey Catbird, American Robin, Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Osprey, House Finch, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, Mallard, House Sparrow, Mute Swan, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Great Black-Backed Gull, Common Tern, American Crow, Double-Crested Cormorant, Yellow Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Swallow, Chipping Sparrow and a Song Sparrow. At a farm down the road we had Tufted Titmice and Starlings.

All in all: a very enjoyable day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

June 13, 2010 Bristol Audubon, Bristol RI Misty 70` 9-11 am

Me releasing an American Robin



Steve removing a Grey Catbird from a mist net






Today was the day! The day we were going to see our first bird banding!

We arrived slightly late or maybe every one else arrived slightly early because when we stepped out of the car they were bringing up the first group of birds in small cloth bags. One by one the bander leading the program, Steve Reinert, noted their wing length and body length. He weighed them by stuffing them head first into a clear plastic cone shaped instrument and attached a vertical scale. He checked if they had an incubation patch by gently blowing their feathers up on their bellies where a belly button would be on a mammal. The small bare patch of skin which would mean they were females or if they had no incubation patch which would mean that they were males (or a non-nesting female).

He banded them with a metal bird bracelet using a pair of pliers made especially for bird banders. Of course the birds hated the whole ordeal but they lived to tell the tale. He banded and released 8 birds: 5 catbirds and 3 robins by the end of the program. I got to hold and release an American Robin. Seeing them up close was really different then seeing them in the field; the birds seemed so much smaller and frailer. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Mist nets are nets that are used for bird banding. You spread them out in a clearing not unlike a badminton net and hope that something gets caught. It is called a mist net because when you look at it its practically invisible. Steve had set up two this day. It was really horrible watching the birds be extracted from the tangled up mess of legs, wings, beaks and net. My mother really wants to redesign the system so that the birds are not as stressed out. Her plan is to use a funnel of non-shiny, soft plastic material that the birds will fly into and practically bag themselves with bags that will automatically close from their minor weight.

In addition to the banded birds we had a fairly large list of birds that were not caught in the nets including: Song Sparrows, an Osprey, a Blue Jay and 4-5 Northern Flickers!

Thanks Steve for memorable experience!

Friday, July 30, 2010

June 8, 2010 2:10-2:30 pm sunny 64` Ten Mile River Bike Path, East Providence RI

Our mother took us on a walk to collect some wildflowers for our garden. We had some nice birds including three Indigo Buntings, two females and a male. At the end of our short walk I had seen seven bird species, all common except for the buntings (I am pretty sure that this was the first time that I have seen buntings in RI), along with having collected and seen some beautiful insects and wildflowers.

June 11, 2010 backyard

A banded Rock Pigeon has been visiting our yard recently. The band is light blue "147 AU 2010 FRBB". It probably is a racing pigeon because very few people band Rock Pigeons like they do to chickadees. The bird is very tame and I can come within five feet of it which points towards my racing pigeon theory. Does anyone know where it could have come from?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

May 29, 2010 3-4pm sunny 80' Fisherville Audubon, Exeter, RI

After an extensive detour and spending twenty minutes behind a crowd of happy (and very noisy) vehicles slowly celebrating Memorial Day we decided to turn around and try a different route to Fisherville - ten minutes later we were there.

There were many backyard birds around: Chickadees, a Mourning Dove, 2 catbirds, Tree Swallows, a Downy Woodpecker, a Towhee, a Wood Thrush, a Kingbird and maybe a House Wren. We did have some interesting species like a female Hooded Merganser. We heard a Prairie Warbler singing somewhere off in the distance and an Ovenbird serenaded us from deep in the woods with his rollicking song. He is rock and roller of the bird world.

Dragonflies skitter by on their four paper thin wings. Frogs and toads hopped about the forest floor. Wood Frogs (the cheetahs of the amphibian realm) and American Toads (toads are thick and heavy animals that are comparable to a woodland Hippopotomas. Though they're notably slower than the 30 miles an hour that the African Hippo can run, they can really move when they feel like it!).

An odd male Mallard which seemed to be part albino (or maybe just a domestic) stood on a rock in the middle of the pond watching the wildlife come and go while we watched him stay. The only species we missed out on were the Eastern Bluebirds that were almost always here.

It was an enjoyable walk all in all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

May 28th 2010, Caratunk Audubon, Seekonk, MA 11-12:30pm overcast 74'

Today we had a small but interesting list of birds including a Blue-Winged Warbler and a Wood Duck. But by far the most amusing behavior came when we spotted an Eastern Phoebe hunting for insects in the long grass but instead of eating them the bird was bringing it to a begging Brown-Headed Cowbird! It was quite obvious what had happened, a female cowbird had followed the time honored ritual of being a nest parasite. The poor phoebe (the cowbird female had chosen) believed that this was her or his only chick which had survived.

Here is a part of a post I wrote earlier this year. "The Brown-Headed Cowbird, like the Common Cuckoo, is famous for being a nest parasite which means that they go around removing an egg from a nest (mostly Warblers I think) laying their eggs in the other eggs place. But that is not the worst of it. They lay their eggs just at the right time so that their chick will hatch a little while before the nest owner's eggs (at least I think that is the case) so that the mother bird will feed it first making the Cowbird bigger and stronger than his newly hatched nest mates. The mother's instincts tell her to feed the strongest nestling which ends up being the Cowbird. The other birds won't get enough to survive and will slowly starve to death. This is one of the main threats to the Kirtlands Warbler, one of the most endangered warblers in America. Some people kill Cowbirds for this reason. Luckily some birds will remove the strange egg from the nest while others will build a nest on top of the Cowbird's egg. Some birds will even desert the nest. What a harsh world birds live in".

We also saw a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, an American Robin, an Eastern Towhee singing his distinctive "TOW-o-EEEEEEE" (trill on the eeeee), a Yellow Warbler, a Grey Catbird, and many Barn and Tree Swallows. Carolina and House Wrens were fighting but I couldn't exactly see what they were doing so they could have been mobbing something in the trees. A Great-Blue Heron went flying over head, he had his bill open maybe he was catching flies or calling quietly as he lazily flew above.

Friday, July 9, 2010

May 27 2010, Douglas Raynor Sanctuary at Nockum Hill, Barrington, RI 11:30 to 1:30pm sunny, 75'



We watched this turtle lay her eggs from 20 feet away and then it walked right past us on its way back to the bay!











Today was one of those days when you know you are going to get an amazing bird but you don't and get depressed. Luckily for me I didn't expect to get anything great and was just going to be depressed — nah, I'm just kidding about I expected we would get something great but not anything to do with birds. As I had foreseen, we didn't see anything out of the ordinary for birds at Nockum Hill. But the real excitement lay in and on the ground: dozens of Diamondback Terrapins (endangered) drag their bodies out of the Narragensett Bay every year to nest on the sandy earth of this refugee. Volunteers mark the turtles and protect the eggs with cages and boxes or else the gnashing teeth of Raccoons and other nighttime predators would gobble them down in a wink. Sadly the volunteers cannot locate every nest and each and every year eggshells litter the ground telling the sad story of the hunters and the hunted. Most animals in peril can move themselves away from the area as a defense but these poor buried egg-bound creatures can't do much other than hope that they wouldn't be a skunks next dinner.

We didn't see much more wildlife other then terrapins though I did pish in a Common Yellowthroat.

Here is a good link to information about the terrapins and the volunteers.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Petersham MA May 31, 2010 All day Sunny 80`

List of birds:
- American Robins,
- Veerys (heard not seen)
- Black-Capped Chickadees,
- White-Breasted Nuthatch(es?),
- Ovenbird (singing),
- Chestnut-Sided Warbler (most common bird!),
- American Redstart (female),
- Common Yellowthroat (a pair, they were flitting about with the Chestnut-Sided Warblers),
- Blue Jay (1 with 2 Red-Eyed Vireos),
- American Crow,
- Mourning Dove (1-2),
- Red-Eyed Vireo (2-3),
- Warbling Vireo (?),
- Indigo Bunting (3 to 6. Saw one beautiful male singing from the top a pine - I got a few photos through my scope! It was a lifer for Claire),
- Chipping Sparrow (1),
- American Goldfinches,
- Bobolinks (nesting in the field),
- Red-Winged Blackbird,
- Common Grackles,
- Cedar Waxwings,
- European Starling(s?) (I can't remember exactly if I saw this),
- Downy Woodpecker (1-2-3?),
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers (2 but I'm not positive about the second one. Ben said it was, but who can trust him? I got the first one in the scope),
- Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (1-2 we saw a male sucking nectar from some Wild Blue Flags which were growing in the field (across the street from the house). It was on the banks of the pond),
- Eastern Kingbird (1-2 hunting by the top of the meadow),
- Tree Swallows,
- Grey Catbird (1),
- Rock Dove (1 eating at the next door bird feeder),
- Red-Tailed Hawk (1),
- Turkey Vulture (1)
(There were probably more birds that I forgot about.)
- American Toads (I got a nice photo of one),
- Grey Tree Frogs (There were hundreds calling. We thought they were woodpeckers but they called late into the night. Often we knew they were right in front of us but we couldn't see them. One time we kept hearing a Woodpecker-like call coming from a fresh looking hole every once and a while. We would check it out but we never saw any birds. We only later realized that the small grey thing that magically appeared in the hole was not a piece of wood but a Grey Tree Frog!),
- Green Frog (stuck in the pool - no matter how hard we tried we could never catch it),
- Bullfrog (?) (It's a funny story how I saw this guy. I was walking along when something went "huumph huumph" kind of like what you a imagine a Moose saying and the scary thing was that it was coming from right next to me (I was at the pond across the street from the house with Ben. At the moment I was rounding the corner and about to walk up the hill. I thought the Moose was like 16 feet away). I froze, my nose felt like it was being pinched, my heart started beating double time, I slowly looked over ... it was a ... frog! Phew!).


We saw a really cool Crab Spider devouring a Honey Bee. The spider was pure white with some light pink spots down the sides. A pity Ben and I didn't have any cameras. There were lots of Coppers species and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails about (in fact more Tiger Swallowtails than I have ever encountered in one day). We saw some mating Little Wood Satyrs, a Black or Spicebush Swallowtail and a Red Admiral in the Japanese Knot Weed.

I think I saw a bat but I am not sure as I only had a brief glimpse. On our way back home we saw a Grey Fox crossing the road.

There were lots of Eastern Chipmunks and Eastern Grey Squirrels. There were a few dead mice floating in the pool along with a young Grey Squirrel.

We found a baby Northern Water Snake on the side of the road. It was odd seeing that the snake was a good distance from the nearest pond. It moved sort of like a Sidewinder, writhing sideways instead of straight (it seemed to be trying to swim on the tarmac!). I wonder if a raptor dropped it there or if he is really good at swimming on a solid substance know locally as "the ground"?

Friday, July 2, 2010

May 23, 2010 Cloudy with a sprinkle of rain, Reeds Beach NJ














The noise hit us hard as we stepped out of the car, feasting birds were everywhere: on the beach, feasting on the mudflats, skittering about on the sandbars and standing ankle high in the water. Hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers darted about in what you could call herds but that doesn't really work on birds. Laughing Gulls were laughing from each and every direction. Red Knots paced about like birds with very hard decisions on their minds (they were probably contemplating if they should stay here at this beach, the second best restaurant in town or move on to be squished and shoved at one of the biggest planned events of the year (which we would be going to in a few minutes but first let me finish my list)). A Great Egret stood like a statue in the amazingly calm waters of the North Atlantic Ocean while Snowy Egrets darted after fish with their long swan-like necks and a Short-Billed Dowitcher landed for a short time, just long enough for me to get some nice shots.

Now we were off to Reeds Beach which wasn't that far from where we were birding. Reeds Beach was not much of a walk really - it only had thirty feet of trail which stretched from the gravel parking lot to the beach. We stood atop the viewing platform and watched in amazement as hundreds of knots fed on Horseshoe Crab eggs. The birds had specially planned this spot on their migration to their Arctic nesting grounds and were reaping their just rewards for a well timed vacation. Though most of the beach was empty of birds, the vast majority of them had decided on feeding right below the place where we and the other birders were standing. There were a dozen birders or so with us including a very high tech photographer who had covered his head and most of his camera with a black cloth. Birds were in some places so packed that the sand looked like it had turned red and learned how to move. There were a few knots with bands on their feet. The band rested on what would be our knees but on birds are considered their ankle. Birds walk on their toes, their ankles are where their knees should be and their knees are up by their hips which can be very confusing at times.

Red Knots were lifers for me. What a great way to end a vacation!

Ahead of us was a long six hour drive though torrential rain home.

(Thanks Lala and Da!)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

May 22, 2010 Cloudy with a sprinkling of rain Cape May Point State Park, Cape May NJ





A view from the lighthouse






A view from the lighthouse





A male Purple Martin






A Mute Swan with young









As we pulled into the parking lot of the Cape May Point State Park, I was instantly enthralled by the flitting shadows known as Purple Martins. Both fast and agile, Martins have caught the eye of humanity for a millennium. Martins used to live in trees and cliff cavities, but we Homo sapiens changed that by setting up martin houses. It was successful and pretty soon everyone was setting up houses-finally this structure is the preferred nesting habit for all Purple Martins. An excerpt from the National Geographic Society Song and Garden Birds of North America claims that Purple Martins have been nesting in nest boxes since the time of the Native Americans. They were useful for protecting their chickens and crops by driving crows and hawks away. This is what it says

In colonial days Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians used to attract
martins to their village by hanging up hollowed out gourds and
Calabashes for the birds to nest in. They welcomed these birds
because the martins fearlessly drove hawks and crows away
from their crops and chickens. The custom spread to southern plantations,
and before long people everywhere were erecting all kinds of
Martin houses in their backyards. The birds are not fussy.
They'll accept structures with accommodations for one pair or
two hundred. One company makes a 90-room martin hotel
trimmed in green and white with ventilated attic and adjustable
height. Many towns are proud of their martins and put up boxes
for them in their parks or even in their business areas.
Martins have been nesting in boxes in Greencastle, Pennsylvania
since 1840 except for one mysterious gap of 15 years after
The Civil War, when they did not return.


But most of our walk was not made up of martin watching, though they were with us for most of the time. Cape May Point State Park is one of the premier hawk watching spots on the East coast - but seeing that the hawk migration was not yet underway, there was not much point in keeping your eyes to the sky when birding marshes, ponds and beaches. There were tons of Red-Winged Blackbirds about and many robins foraging on the marsh. We found a Great-Crested Flycatcher or two along with an Orchard Oriole, which was spotted by one of the birding groups from the Cape May Bird Observatory. We saw a few warblers that I can't think of right now, though I think it was Magnolia and Common Yellowthroat. A man and a woman pointed out a few goldfinches feeding on the thistles close to the path.

A majestic pair of Mute Swans lumbered off of their nest with a group of cygnets in tow. They were beautiful in the water but on land they were clumsy and slow. We saw a Great and probably a Snowy Egret on the pond next to the parking lot, and a Great Blue on the pond with the Mute Swans. Further down the path we came across some Mallards and a Gadwall. One of the Mallards looked suspiciously similar to a duck I had seen a couple of years ago in a pond in MA, but that one was a domestic duck and this one was undoubtedly wild - but both were white with a light brown wash over most of the head.

There were many Semipalmated Sandpipers about, along with many other small shorebirds such as Piping Plover, for which the ponds were constructed for (these were the other two plover ponds, the first was at The Meadows). We could see both a Belted and an Unbelted Piping Plover. We turned the last corner and were back in the parking lot. Luckily our grandmother insisted that we climb the light house which towered above us - we had some amazing views from the top.

We were going to stop at the famous Cape May Bird Observatory before we went back to the hotel. The Cape May Bird Observatory had the most birder friendly store that I have been to. They had: hundreds of books, stacks of clothes with birds on them, a case full of binoculars, and a bunch of scopes for you try out through the windows. They also had a view of a pond across the road, a few bird feeders and a tiny pond (my grandparents got me a nice shirt with a Cape May Warbler on it).

The night before we had gone to see Pete Dunne, one of the most famous birders in the US, talk about the art of pishing. Using what he told us I pished in a beautiful female Black-Throated Blue Warbler! Dunne is a very funny man and it was hilarious listening to the audience practicing pishing in unison. He showed us a variety of calls including a Screech Owl whinney, the classic "Shhhhp -shhhhhp - shhhhhp", and the kissing call of the oven bird. He uses kiss one when all the birds have lost interest and it brings them back because the birds just want to see what he is pishing about now. The pishing attracts the birds and the owl call gives them something to pish at. After their daily feeding frenzy is complete they don't have much to do and so irritating the owls passes the time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

May 22, 2010 some time in the afternoon Stone Harbor Beach Cape May, NJ

"There's an immature Common Eider out there!" called my grandfather - it was floating by the end of a rock jetty bobbing up and down in the swells. We didn't realize it at the time but Common Eiders are rare birds in Cape May at this time of year! We are used to seeing the last eiders depart around this time, but in Cape May they are scarce the year through. So instead of freaking-out, we took a quick look and walked on in search of new species.

We had already gotten all the usual species: House Finch, Red-Winged Blackbirds and more in the Phragmites, sand dunes, bushes and a pond that greeted the visitors warmly (and in winter coldly) with the bird species that swarmed here: Red-Winged Blackbirds in the Phragmites, Robins on the dunes, finches and sparrows flitting through the bushes and Spotted Sandpipers (along with many other shorebirds) teetering around the pond.

We strolled down the beach watching gannets way out in the distance soaring over the waves in small flocks of five or so birds. Semipalmated Sandpipers scuttled about like two legged crabs always playing tag with the rollicking waters of the mighty Atlantic. Hundreds of birds stood like statues on the sand dunes that looked out to sea - they were mostly peeps (probably Semipalmateds taking a break from their frenzied game of dodge the waves and digesting their tasty meal of worms) but there were a few plovers mixed in. Both Semipalmated and Piping Plovers were visible from our perspective. In the distance hundreds of shorebirds swarmed through the air - were they Red knots or Dunlin? I cannot say, but our adventure was not even close to finishing yet.

We turned back towards the car. As we walked by the pond previously, we had noticed a path that went away from our side of the beach and instead went toward the massive flock of birds which were hanging about on the other side of the peninsula, so we decided to take a look - maybe we might identify them. As I scanned the pond a dowitcher landed and then a second later flew off - nobody else had seen it. The dowitcher was probably a Short-Billed, the commoner species on the eastern seaboard and the only dowitcher that I have seen. An Eastern Wood-Pewee perched on a bush and an alarmed Willet flew overhead displaying its species' main field mark, the long white streak running down the center of the wing, but the distant shorebirds remained unidentified.

We spotted a grackle on a bush not that far from where we saw the pewee but this time we couldn't identify the species. (Unlike Rhode Island, Cape May has two species of Grackle: the Boat-Tailed Grackle and the Common Grackle. We have seen both species before but never together, which would have helped in are identification considerably.) We stopped to scan the pond one last time: Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Piping Plover(s?) and maybe a Semipalmated Plover (I can't remember exactly but we probably did). I lagged behind for a moment, just enough time for a beautiful Dunlin to fly in! "Dunlin, dunlin!" I cried. The Dunlin stayed long enough for everyone to get great views of its black chest, rufous back, and everything in between. It was a lifer for me and my brother!

Monday, June 28, 2010

May 21, 2010 late afternoon some time between 1:30 to 4 pm Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge Cape May, NJ

Our last stop was Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (also known as The Meadows). The large salt marsh and beach, where Piping Plovers nest, make up most of the refuge but there is also a scrubby meadow and pond made for feeding the nesting pairs of Piping Plovers.

As we drove down the road that would lead us to the refuge we spotted a Black Vulture soaring high in the sky with a group of TVs (Turkey Vultures) - this was a first for the year! As we drove into the parking lot of the refuge it was hard not to see the massive flock of birds hawking insects. Laughing Gulls made up most of the group - there were hundreds of them feasting on the tiny insects swarming in the sky above. There were many TVs and even a few Blacks gulping down insects by the gallon. There was even a Bald Eagle soaring majestically over head!

The two leaders of the walk also pointed out a Mississippi Kite catching Dragonflies high above and then eating them still on the wing (one of our leaders was Louis Zematis a famous bird artist and a judge for the two thousand and nine young birder of the year contest illustration module!). The Mississippi Kite was both scarce in Cape May and a lifer for all of my family!

There were tons of Forsters Terns hanging out on the marsh (lifers!). They were very elegant terns with beautiful silver grey and white bodies and long slender forked tails. Every once in a while a male tern would fly in and feed a female. The female have the males feed them as a test to see who would be the best parent. She will mate with the one that brings the most and biggest fish-it was very interesting to watch this amazing behavior.

There were some Gadwalls lazing around on the marsh along with some other waterfowl: Red-Winged Blackbirds cried from the cattails, a Bobolink flew by, a flock of shorebirds flew over head which contained some Dunlin (Dunlin would be a lifer but I was going to wait for a better view to count them), a yellowlegs waded in the water, Semipalmated Sandpipers scuttled about, life went on as it should. There were a few Piping Plovers along the beach - one even had a group of four or so chicks in its wake. Oystercatchers lazed about while terns and Gannets flew over the rolling waves and plummeted for fish in the water. An immature Bonaparte's Gull swam on the water and a few seconds later a Laughing Gull landed next to Mr (or Ms) B. We turned around and headed back for the car. We didn't see much more after that. (I left out a bunch of common birds like egrets and geese).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"John Adams" bird era error

We were watching a movie called John Adams last night. We were almost finished the first disc when in the middle of an important meeting they started playing chirping House Sparrows in the background. The movie was supposed to be in 1775 but they were playing the calls of House Sparrows which were only introduced in 1840! I fear that they are not ornithologists.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

May 21, 2010 all day sunny Rea Farm and Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ


Black Racer


Orchard Oriole


baby Downy Woodpecker in hole


a bad photo of a Prothonotary Warbler


Box Turtle

It is hard to believe after such a great day yesterday that it could get any better but it was going to get a lot better today!

Our first stop would be Rea Farm locally known as the Beanery. It was a hot spot for Spring and Fall songbird migration. Our goal bird was the Prothonotary Warbler a large brightly colored bird with big black eyes, blue gray wings and a bright yellow body. We got out of the car and walked over to the bunch of birders watching something through their numerous scopes and binoculars. One birder was kind enough to let us take a peak through his scope at a singing male Indigo Bunting shining like a star in the early morning light. We were very lucky to see so many good birds in the two hours we spent there from a Green Heron to a Red-Eyed Vireo! Here is a list of the birds I can recall seeing at Rea:
Green Heron,
Canada Geese,
Mallards,
Wood Ducks,
Greater Yellowlegs (three flying over head just as we were leaving),
Red-Bellied Woodpecker,
Downy Woodpeckers (nesting - I got a photo of one of the babies),
Great-Crested Flycatcher pair which were presumably nesting in the woods close to the path,
Carolina Chickadees, a lifer! I have been to Florida before but never saw one probably because most of our birding was done around the house we were staying at which seemed not to have any local chickadees,
Magnolia Warbler (I am pretty sure I saw this here),
(tons of) Blackpoll Warblers,
American Redstart(s?),
Prothonotary Warbler a lifer! After long hard wait the bird finally showed himself to us! He had been singing for ten minutes or so. I would have been so frustrated if it didn't show,
Black-And-White Warbler(s?)
Common Yellowthroats,
Indigo Bunting and many other birds that I can't think of right now. Why didn't I keep my notebook up to date instead of checking them down on a weekend checklist?

Our next stop was one of the most famous migrant stops in America: Higbee Beach! The name suggests that it is solely a beach but Higbee has acres of meadow and woodland as well. This was probably the best part of our trip to Cape May. I almost instantly heard the bird the leaders were calling a Blue Grosbeak (a lifer!). The Blue Grosbeak is a large bird with a bill almost the size of its head! The male is a rich navy blue except for the wings which are a strong rufus, the female on the other hand is as drab as you can get in the bird world with a fulvous back and a brown hued breast. The first bird we saw was a Northern Cardinal in a tree in the corner of the parking lot and a nesting American Robin. The most exuberating bird for me and my family present at the time was a beautiful Yellow-Breasted Chat! A lifer! The bird was hopping about at the entrance giving amazing views a perfect opportunity for photographing this beautiful bird (I got a very nice photo). There was a Field Sparrow flying across the meadow right at the entrance and a singing Indigo Bunting.

One of the leaders (Don Freiday or is it Frieday pronounced "Friday") caught a big Black Racer, a snake species. The leaders found a nesting Great-Crested Flycatcher, one of the largest flycatchers around here. The Flycatchers kept hopping into a hole in a tree. It was very interesting to watch (though it was hard standing still and watching them when I knew there were lifers around the corner and there were!). We walked under a canopy of trees where nothing much resided, other than a few ants, and into a second meadow. We hadn't taken ten steps when one of the leaders called out "Blue Grosbeak". She set up the only scope they had bothered taking along and set it on a speck in the distance about the size of a Northern Cardinal. At last we had seen a Blue Grosbeak ("up close and personal" as James Currie host of Birding Adventures TV show would say). It was so far off and we were only allowed a three-second look through the scope - I can't say that it was either particularly up close or personal! There was a male hanging around with the female but it was harder to see.

Twenty-seconds later Don Freiday found us a second reptilian lifer, a Box Turtle, a medium sized land turtle (not a tortoise) which is able to shut himself inside his shell. We saw two Tufted Titmice flying across a field which Don Freiday called a record flight for a Titmouse. They aren't big fans of long distance flights and prefer to hop from tree to tree. Sadly I got distracted and forgot to watch if he made it all the way to the other side of the meadow or got wimpy and turned back.

The leaders got really excited (as well as the whole group) when Don Freiday heard a Mourning Warbler singing from the under-brush. We were unable to locate it (he said that in his life of bird walk leading he had only shown a few groups this secretive bird! Why weren't we one of them?). There were many common warblers where he had heard the Mourning Warbler singing such as Yellow. I spotted a brilliantly colored male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird perched in a bare tree. It was one of the few birds I personally spotted on the whole walk!

"Orchard Oriole" called Don. We looked up at a bird just a bit smaller than an American Robin as it flew over us. Great! another lifer! I was beginning to worry that we weren't going to see any more!

A bit further down the path we saw a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher flitting high in a tree. This was a far as we would go due to flooding in the path. We turned around and headed back, there were a few Magnolia Warblers hopping through the bushes by the path.

"Orchard Oriole" I called. At last I had found a good bird. It was feeding in a sumac I think 12 feet away from me. I had walked a little way a head of everyone else (though I can't remember what they were watching). I was later advised by one of the leaders who told me to walk behind them because everyone would get mad at me not the leaders of the walk if I was the one that scared a bird away by mistake which often happens if you are in the lead.

We came across a mixed warbler flock, a pair of Orchard Orioles, some Blue Grosbeak and some other of the birds we had seen already but were still very exciting just a little way down the path! There were Yellow and Blackpoll in the flock. A probable Blackburnian was flitting through the tree tops but we didn't get our bins on it for a positive identification. There were some Blue Grosbeak feeding in one of the many fields and a pair of Orchard Orioles munching on something in a tree.

The last good bird we saw was a beautiful Prairie Warbler, a yearer, singing high in a tree giving us "killer views" (another James Currie expression which he often says. Though he would actually say "killer views through my Nikon Field Scope").

As we walked into the parking lot some local birders took the time to check the rare bird alert and a man shouted "Mississippi and Swallow-Tailed Kites at the Beanery!" Ten or so birders jumped in their cars and made a long procession down the road to Rea Farm. We walked over to one of the men who had led the first walk at Rea. He told us that someone had said they saw them but no one else had. He said that the Swallow-Tailed Kite was reported to be heading in the direction of Higbee! The irony of it all!