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Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 13, 2010 11 am-1 pm Sunny 60` Bristol State Park, Bristol RI

Today we saw all the common backyard birds plus a few extra, such as the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, a long tailed and extremely elegant bird that I have had the pleasure of observing only once or twice in my life.

The Common Cuckoo of Europe is a famed brood parasite but it's cousins the American Cuckoos only occasionally lay in the nests of other birds. When they do it is usually in the nests of other Cuckoos says the American Birding Association ("ABA"). Here is a link to the article in their "Birding" magazine (it's at the very bottom of the page). They intend to lay in other cuckoo nests and when they lay in the nests of other birds not in their genus it is probably because they mistook it for another cuckoo's nest!

Other highlights for the walk included: a few American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Eastern Towhee and a Raccoon that we saw scurrying up from the Narragansett Bay into the dense bushes next to the shore.

Friday, May 28, 2010

May 3, 2010 10:30-11:30am Sunny 80` Caratunk Audubon, Seekonk MA

Caratunk Audubon is technically part Massachusetts but is considered an RI Audubon. Caratunk (run by one of the best birders in RI, Mike Tucker) is an amazing and inspiring place. Huge rolling meadows and dark woodlands, resounding with bird song and the trickling of streams, makes it one of the most beautiful Audubon sanctuaries in our area.

Today was one of the better days for birding with the usual swarm of Tree Swallows rolling through the meadows on their sapphire wings and always a Bluebird or two hanging about on the nesting boxes.

The two best birds for the day were a possible Blue-Winged Warbler (one of my favorite warbler species). My brother is certain that it was a blue winged but I like to have MY eyes have a positive view on the bird before I count it. And I saw a House Wren, a year bird!

We also saw: one male Yellow Warbler (a shocking bird pure yellow from head to toe with a chestnut streaked breast), two soaring Red-Tailed Hawks and a Cottontail.

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 2, 2010. 7 am - 8 am. overcast. Swan Point Cemetery 60'

Today was not as successful as May 1 but we did come up with some very fine birds most of which came from the warbler family. As usual Robins were everywhere as we walked into the gate (it should be Robin Point instead of Swan Point). Their beaks were stuffed with tiny light green caterpillars which the Robins were flying back to their nestlings.

There were large numbers of the common birds made up the body of the bird list for the day they included: a Blue Jay, 10 Mourning Doves, a flock of Common Grackles, 3 Downy Woodpeckers, 3 American Crows, 1 Northern Cardinal, 6 White-Throated Sparrows, 2 Northern Flickers, 5 Baltimore Orioles, 5 Chipping Sparrows, 2 European Starlings, a Black-Capped Chickadee, an American Goldfinch, a Grey Catbird, 2 House Finches and a pair of Canada Geese.

And now for the warblers, the small brightly collard birds with thin, insect eating bills and the bad habit of staying at the tops of tall trees which can infuriate the most patient of birders. There were not many warblers today but we were lucky to find some of the most brightly colored birds in the family. Exploring the woods in search of warblers didn't come with much in fact most of cemetery we explored did not have anything except an American Redstart. We were lucky enough to come across the hotspot for the day which was the small ornamental pond. The pond was positioned in the center of the cemetery and was one of the few sources of fresh water on the property. As we hopped out of the car we almost instantly spotted 3 Northern Parulas hanging around the bushes which surrounded the pond. There were many other warblers relaxing in the bushes after a hard and long night of migrating including: 3 Palm, 2 Yellow-Rumped, 2 Black and Whites and a Black-Throated Blue Warbler.

Maybe the reason we had fewer warblers than the day before was due to the lack of the sunshine. They were most active in the sunny areas and we couldn't locate a single sunny area on this cloudy grey day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 1, 2010 7-8:15 pm Sunny 65` Swan Point Cemetery, East Providence RI

The whole point of the expedition today was to add some warblers to my life list. Happily we were successful. As we headed for the woods we spotted a rich blue male Black-Throated Blue Warbler, one my favorite warbler species, flitting from branch to branch through some young maples. There was not much other activity in the woods today.

By far the best section of the walk was when we came upon a large bunch of birders all brandishing thousand dollar optics and taking photos non-stop. They reminded me of a hilarious clip from the Red Green Show about the absurdities of bird watching (you can watch it here). They pointed out two Warblers to us that had eluded us so far. One was a Nashville Warbler, a small yellow bird with a light grey head and rufus stripe on the crown. I managed to get a few photos of it. The other species was a pair of Blue-Winged Warblers, a fairly common wood warbler with a bright yellow body and navy blue wings. They are by far one of the most colorful birds in America.

There were many other species of passerines today including; Palm (a yearbird) and Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Black-Capped Chickadee, Brown-Headed Cowbird, White-Throated Sparrow, American Robin, Grey Catbird, Chipping Sparrow and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet as well as Mourning Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, mating Northern Flickers and some gulls. In the end we had seventeen species.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 2, 2010 1-3pm Sunny, partly cloud 80` very humid Fisherville Audubon, Exeter RI

I have been birding for four years or so now and have not once seen an Ovenbird. This common warbler has eluded me and my family which is odd for most birders report this species as a "common woodland species". But today this would change. The Fisherville Audubon had it's usual variety of avian noises echoing through the trees. Fisherville is a small Audubon located in the heart of the Rhode Island. The Audubon has an intimate pond, a waterfall, thick woods and a meadow with a tiny graveyard in the center. My brother and I were ahead of most of our family (thank god for that) for as we turned the bend I instantly noticed the distinct rattling noise that leaves make when a bird or mammal treads on them and like always I look for the culprit - it was not hard to find. There it was, the bird I had been hunting for all these years, the Ovenbird! Oh how elegant he was with that striking rufous crown, beautifully streaked breast and a dark brown back - what a pretty little creature. The Ovenbird was 12 or so feet from where I was standing. He was foraging through the leaf litter (with a Black-Capped Chickadee) hoping for a tasty bug to snack on. There were many species of birds and other fauna spread out through the walk including a Beautiful Eastern Bluebird perched on a nest box presumably owned by two of the many Tree Swallows nesting there. Another cool sighting happened just a few minutes after the Bluebird. This time though, it was something completely different: in this case a Snake. "Snake! Snake!" my brother called. We ran to the spot. There it was a 4 ft long black snake with a pale yellow hued throat. It shot off a few feet into the deeper bushes then it reared up and rattled its tail. It stared at us as we stared back. I have now idea what kind of snake it was - a Rat Snake is my best guess. At least I got a few out of focus photos to remember it by.

Monday, May 10, 2010

April 23, 2010 10:30 am to 1:15 pm, sunny, 63' Purgatory Chasm State Park, Sutton MA

None of us were expecting anything special today but surprisingly we got a lifer! But that is not all, this lifer came within 4ft of us at one point. The lifer was a Red-Breasted Nuthatch. I know most birders have seen one of these beauties but surprisingly I have not. There were two or three* of them hanging around the visitor center hopping high up in the pine trees and around the feet of the picnic tables (they were amazingly tame). Every once in a while calling out with a weird nasal call best described as a "yank-yank" noise. There were many other species of birds spread out through the 1/4 mile long deep rocky gorge including: 2 Palm Warblers (at least I think they were Palms - they were very far off) a FOY, 1 Eastern Phoebe perched above the canyon on a dead branch growing out the granite rock looking down at the 70ft drop below, 2 Chipping Sparrows beating each other up, 1 low soaring Turkey Vulture displaying its magnificent pair of wings and 3-4 fighting Northern Cardinals (2-3 Males 1 Female). All in all a very successful day.

*1-2 Males 1 Female

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

April 30, 2010 9:55 am Sunny 60` backyard

I viewed a Chimney Swift, a first of the year, flying over our house today. What amazing birds they are. They spend their entire life on the wing eating, sleeping, you name it.

Same day 12:30 am-1:40 pm Sunny 70`
Stony Brook Audubon, Norfolk MA
We had a small but note worthy excursion today. The bird feeders next to the gift shop were relatively quiet with a few birds but nothing spectacular. There were large numbers of Tree Swallows (so far these have been the only swallows we have seen this year) flitting through the field planted with bird houses. I noticed a pair of wood ducks but before any one else could see them they flew off. There were a few other species of waterfowl: a bunch of Canada Geese, some with their adorable goslings, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and two male Mallards. There were hundreds of Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles swarming through the marsh and all through the woods. Back at the gift shop we found an Eastern Bluebird and a Turkey Vulture which was flying high over the meadow. The only other bird to note was a lone Red-Bellied Woodpecker deep in the Pine Woods. There were many Turtles all over the Audubon - Snapping and Painted. Here are a few pictures I took that day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April 24, 2010 7:30 dark 50` Bold Point Park, East Providence, RI

A Wilson's Snipe is a large chunky shorebird with an infuriating ability of staying hidden right under your nose. Sadly for us birders the only way most of us ever see them is by wading through knee high water-grass and hoping that you will get lucky. I have recently learned from The Big Year that the best way for a birder to get a Yellow Rail is for a group of them to run through a marsh with gravel-filled plastic gallon containers strung together on a rope. As you can imagine the noise that this assault makes usually will terrify any bird into leaving the grass. I think that this method is very cruel and dangerous for the Yellow Rail. Poor Yellow Rails!

The land we were standing on was sign posted private property. According to the online bird reports lots of other birders use this spot as a reliable source for Snipe so we felt justified enough to wander around. The report said Snipe and we were going to find Snipe no matter what! It took us quite a while to realize that we had no idea where to look for the Snipe. Finally it occurred to me that the sublime Snipe habitat that we had been searching for was just to the right of the path. It did not take five minutes for us to see one fly from the grass. Unfortunately I was the only one to see it and laugh at the odd bird with its long bill, pointed wings, the chunky little body and that eccentric quirking call. It is quite the foolish figure of the family. A minute or two later another bird went up. This time my brother got a look too. A good way to end the day. The Wilson's Snipe was not the only species by a long shot as the entire industrial shipping wasteland was filled with birds: Red-Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Killdeer were all in large number, along with Canada Geese, a pair of Mallards, a Savannah Sparrow, a Mourning Dove and many Gulls and Cormorants we also heard a Song Sparrow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

April 22, 2010 1:30 pm Sunny 60`backyard

A Chipping Sparrow is a commonplace bird at any park or in the country (or wherever) but in our 30 foot wide yard in the middle of the city it is a real treat. So it was quite a surprise that I found one nibbling seed on the newly grown grass. I have never (as long as I can remember anyway) seen one here. I managed to take some photos of it as well as a picture of a Common Grackle.

Later on in the day, Waterman Ave in East Providence, RI: The first thunder storm of the year struck. Thunder boomed, lightning lit up the dark sky and tore the clouds open and started the pouring rain and hail. Nine Turkey Vultures circled high overhead (no black cats). What an ominous scene. Scary!