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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!