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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jan 6, 2011 11-1pm 30`sunny Trustom Pond NWR, South Kingstown, RI

The feeders (and the ground below the feeders) were covered with birds large and small, dull and colorful but all hungry, all the common feeder birds were there and even some less common ones like some Purple Finch. We noted Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, a White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays along with the Purple Finches. We were getting good birds and we barely had started our walk yet.

We were rounding the meadow when a huge and apparently unending flock of American Robins burst from the trees on the right side of the path. We were far off, but these Robins weren't going to trust anyone or anything for that matter - well at least a few had the sense to stay in or to return to the trees next to the path to let us watch them. They presumably were feeding off the countless Bittersweet berries, which clung to the vines which in their turn clung to the trees. After the initial wild rush of robins from the trees many realized that we were not a threat and returned to the feeding frenzy.

We walked on, passing by two Red Squirrels who dashed away instantly when they noticed Ben (next walk we do I am going to make Ben where a mask). A little further on I saw Red Squirrel eating nuts from a hole in the snow. Actually the hole went into the ground - this was one of the holes where the squirrel had a cash of nuts.

As I had expected I heard a kinglet call from somewhere in the trees to our left. I stopped seconds after. I had my binoculars trained on the small fragile form of a kinglet (from the call I would presume that it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet). Bernard Heinrich wrote some very nice words about the habits of the Golden-crowned Kinglet:

Lucky for a kinglet, it does not know the odds stacked against its individual survival. Presumably it could not contemplate its fate, regret about mistakes, or fret over injustice or lost opportunities. It does not worry about the future, or about life and death. Why can we presume this? Because these mental capacities could only compromise, not aid survival. They could not activate the bird to effective action, because there is so little, if anything, it could do to change things in its world where the relevant things—ice storms, a subzero night, winds, food scarcity—are ruled by chance. Undampened enthusiasm and raw drive would matter. I do not and cannot ever know the combination of happiness, hunger, or emotions that energize a bird. But whenever I've watched kinglets in their nonstop hopping, hovering, and searching, seen their intimate expressions, and heard their constant chatter of tsees, songs, and various calls, I've felt an infectious hyperenthusiasm flow from them, and sensed a grand, boundless zest for life. They could not survive without that in their harsh world. Like us, they are programmed for optimism.

I almost jumped in surprise when I noticed a Red Fox out on the ice of the basically frozen Trustom Pond. It was so majestic sitting there on the ice. It stayed there coolly watching us for at most a minute and then as I attempted to get close for a better photo it rose and trotted away. It was apparently in no hurry to leave (even with Ben's smell). It paused a few times in its retreat from the ice watching us wildly snap photos. Finally it entered the woods and we lost sight of its agile red form. What a beautiful animal and one I have never seen before (although I have seen quite a few Gray Fox and a Coyote - once I even saw a Fisher although it was not canine it was much rarer than any fox - the Red Fox has eluded me until now).

A majestic Red Fox

As we walked onto the lookout platform we came upon an ecstatic couple who had discovered a Bald Eagle feeding on something in an Osprey nest. Although not all that uncommon at this time of year, it was a good bird. Soon we had found another one perched in a tree nearby. Presumably these two eagles were a mated pair or had some other close relationship.

On the distant strip of water which was not frozen over the birds were more than numerous. They turned the water black in some places. Here is a list of birds seen on the water: Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneye, Scaup species, Red-breasted Mergansers, Gadwalls, Bufflehead, Redhead(s), American Wigeons, Ruddy Duck (?), Canvasback(s), American Black Ducks, Mallards, Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls. The Redhead was a lifer! We also saw a female Northern Harrier flying over the pond.

"Woodcock!" my family shrieked. I hurriedly dashed to the spot (well more speed-walked - dashing would have scared the bird). It had flown into the woods before I had a chance to see it. But considering the land we stood on was a 20 foot wide strip of wooded dirt which pertruded way into the middle of the pond it was not hard to flush the Woodcock out a couple of times for a positive identification. Once it exploded from the leaves a feet from my feet. American Woodcocks aren't that hard to find in mid-summer, but in mid-winter they are very unusual!

Down the path a ways we saw the pair of harsh looking Bald Eagles soar overhead! Back at the bird feeders we saw a Grey Squirrel and heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

We returned to the car and drove to Moonstone Beach. We hadn't taken 15 steps when I saw a small form vanish into a miniature mud cave which was gouged into the side of a mudbank which usually would be flooded over but today the pond was almost dry (due to the tide being out on a vacation in the deep blue sea) except for two small streams. I focused my binoculars on the spot where the dirt covered thing had vanished into the seven inch tall cave. A small head with two big black eyes and a big yellow bill peered back at me then vanished back into the cave. It poked its head out again and quickly took a glance at us and then it vanished back into its hiding spot. It was a Pied-billed Grebe! We walked along the bank a little way to where we could get a nice view of him/her. He/she watched us suspiciously trying not to look conspicuous. We took some photos of the adorable little bird and then moved on.

Can you find a Pied-billed Grebe in this photo?

Another photo of the Pied-billed Grebe

At Moonstone Beach we found: two Common Loons, a Pied-billed Grebe, Common Eiders, two Mallards, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Ring-billed Gull, two Black-capped Chickadees and a few mystery sparrows!

It was quite an interesting day. We saw one of the ugliest birds in America (the woodcock), one of the handsomest birds (the Northern Harrier), the most impressive bird (Bald Eagle) and one of the cutest birds (the Pied-bill Grebe).

What a great day!!!!!!!!!!!

Unusually disgusting guts


  1. I enjoyed reading your account almost as much as if I had been there, particularly the bit about the grebe hiding in the hole. I have never heard of that behavior! I don't think I agree that the woodcock is an ugly bird, however, I have always thought it rather handsome with its bold markings. Unusual perhaps, but surely not ugly?

    You are very lucky to have a family who supports and encourages your interest in birds and wildlife and you are particularly lucky to have a brother who shares your passion and is also so knowledgeable. Birding is much more fun when you have someone to share it with.

    Keep writing!


  2. Da
    When I said that the woodcock is an ugly bird I mean it a light way I think it has lovely markings but the bill and eye give it a rather unappealing look.