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Friday, February 24, 2012

New camera and some AMAZING birding at Hampshire College

I want to start with an apology for having not posted for such a long time and now that I have said that let me dive into the first of todays to topics.

As some of you may know (especially the people that helped me save up the money) I have been counting quarters for a little over half an arduous year, saving for a DSLR camera. My brother was also saving and, I must admit was ahead of me moneywise. He has just created a photography blog. Click the link if you dare!

I finally had enough money with the recent arrival of the long awaited family tax return. Just a few weeks after my old Sony point-and-shoot had finally, after years of bumps and bruises, given out. I am now strutting, with my chest puffed out proudly, in full optical regalia with a Canon Rebel T3 swinging from my shoulder. The quality of the images taken by this new camera is more than I could have dreamed for.

A few of my favorite shots are shown below:

I'm actually pretty proud of myself for only taking about 200 photos of this Sanderling on Conimicut Point in Warwick.

This Turkey Vulture delighted us with his daredevil swoops which breezed him mere inches over the treetops of Chase Farm in Lincoln.

This one of the many Ring-billed Gulls at chilling at Conimicut Point.

A Black-capped Chickadee scolds me for standing so close to the bird feeders in our grandparent's backyard.

And this is Chase Farms very own resident white Red-tailed Hawk. I am unsure if this white coloring is natural or derives from some government experiment gone terribly wrong. Probably NOT the latter now that I think of it.

I admit that the last photo isn't that good but it's not every day that you see a pure white hawk!

Now we come to todays second topic which is equally exciting. Seeing that you've probably already read the title of this post I need not tell you where I was birding on the sunny afternoon of February 18th. Just in case you didn't read the title, we were birding Hampshire College. Hampshire College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts where it is surrounded by small dome shaped mountains and the usual prized attraction of our family's attention Atkins Farm, a small bakery and exclusive food market. Yet today Atkins pastries didn't even excite me as I was so worked up, the reason of this so called "working up" I will relate to you now. In early November of last year a Dickcissel was found sharing the twigs with House Sparrows in the bushes surrounding the Yiddish Book Center which is located across the street from Atkins Farm and on the outskirts of the college campus. Amherst Massachusetts is clearly not an Ohio meadow where it can typically be found residing. This small House Sparrow-like species amazingly is still lingering here and delighting the local birder population. After MONTHS of begging I finally convinced my parents to take us across the street from Atkins (which we visit fairly regularly I might add: they obviously aren't always totally obliging to my countless birding demands).

When I hippity-hopped out of the car I was fairly twitching with excitement. Thought ran though my head: what if it didn't show?, what if it showed but not well enough for us to confirm that it wasn't just a House Sparrow?, what get the idea. We gave the area a quick but fairly thorough search and came up with a few House Sparrows and a flock of Dark-eyed Junco. Sorrowfully plodding back to the car with tears rolling down my face in a never ending stream resembling Niagra Falls in their intensity, I was surprised to come face to face with a young teenaged birder. He kindly guided us to where he had last seen the Dickcissel. It was instantaneous; one second there was nothing there, the next second the flock of Dark-eyed Juncos flew up from the ground chittering their snappy little calls and with them the larger yellow chested form of the Dickcissel appeared. I was delighted for this was life bird number 262.

The young birder who had helped us find the Dickcissel kindly pointed us in the right direction to the roosting site of a Long-eared Owl which is extremely valued information in the birding world. Better yet this roost was literally on the Hampshire campus. What could be better? Not finding this bird was just not a considerable option!

At first we had trouble finding the scent but we soon located it (I'm sorry but I am not supposed to tell you where exactly this roost was located so as not to drive the owl from its home). Soon after we discovered the trail we were silently and carefully scanning the thick stand of pines in which the owl roosted. Not a mottled feather was seen though I knew quite well that this medium sized owl was watching our every move with it's keen yellow eyes bearing a shocking resemblance to the cartoon character Coach McGuirk after days with no sleep.

Disappointed we started back towards the car, heads drooped in sorrow once again. I was interested however to find a small spattering of whitewash (owl droppings) this must have come from the vent of the previously mentioned Long-eared Owl. I scanned the trees above this white splotch but saw no hunched form. Raising the camera I took two shots of the whitewash in quick succession with my new Canon.

I haven't yet figured out how to turn the shutter on mute and currently it creates the most annoying noise, one that every person who has ever heard camera knows well. It is a noise which sounds quite similar to the scoldings of a chickadee, at least this is what a pair of nearby chickadees thought. We followed these two chickadees who started calling excitedly and moving quickly towards the stand of pines which we had just vacated. We followed them hopeful and praying that the owl was in these little birds sites. Entering the stand of pines I was still unable to see anything other than twigs and of course the chickadees who seemed to be scolding nothing. Then Ben's hoarse whispered exclamation came from my right and at the same moment the sought after owl took flight from where he had carefully tucked himself away and shot smoothly into the soon to be dark woodlands of Hampshire College.


  1. Congratulations on getting your new camera John, I have a canon PowerShot but would love a DSLR, my brothers have one from my late grandfather but they won't let me use it.

    Your photos are very good, I can't wait to see more.

  2. Such power in my hands!!! I love it but it's quite heavy.

  3. Congrats on the cool camera and the great birding!

    --Katie Boord

  4. Cool shot of the elusive white hawk in flight - he's on my wish list