Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Peepers under the moon and a trip to Plum Island

This past week I had my best friend from high school visit for a couple of days. Actually our friendship goes way, way back to elementary school.  It was warm that evening and we sat outside on the deck in the moon shine, listening to the chorus of spring peepers in the wetland next to the house.

We could hardly hear ourselves over the din. Faintly in the distance we could also pick up the intermittent peenting of the woodcock. I made a recording to remind myself in the dark days of next winter what spring sounds like.

On Thursday April 22 we drove to Plum Island to give my friend a taste of the Atlantic Coast - she'd been on the Pacific side before. The weather was beautiful; rain was forecast for the afternoon, but all we saw were dramatic dark clouds in the distance whereas the sun was still shining where we were. Since she isn't a birder and in order not to bore her I reigned myself in, just taking cursory looks at the various stations along the route.

A Northern Mockingbird was singing from the top of  high pine trees at various stops.

At the North Pool we saw a bunch of ducks, all of them Mallards and most of them with their heads under water and tails up in the air. The water was very quiet, blank like mirror and featureless.

We walked out to the beach on Sandy Point. There were very few people when we arrived before noon.  The ocean was calm. No birds except a lone Ring-billed Gull overhead.

We sat on the rocks and ate the sandwiches we had brought from home. I noticed a little straggly shrub with red leaves and light pink flowers growing in the shade of a dune close to the board walk. I wasn't able to find out its name, but if anybody recognizes it please let me know. (*see Comment) We didn't see any Piping Plovers.

On the way back at Bill Forward Pool I made out the shapes of a male Gadwall in breeding plumage and a Green-winged Teal feeding in the water.

At our final stop at Ocean Lot #1; there were a couple people at the town side of the beach; the refuge side was empty except for a lone Greater Black-backed Gull ....

 .....and in the distance one lone walker first carrying then walking his little dog on the refuge beach on the wrong side of the fence that closed the beach off to protect nesting Piping Plovers. 

We drove to the northern tip of Plum Island to look out into the open water. No gulls. Near the opposite shore, the Salisbury Beach State Reservation, seals were lounging on the rocks warming themselves in the sun.

On our way back we were going to stop at my favorite restaurant on the island where I used to have lunch, the Plum Island Grill, but were disappointed that it wasn't open until 5 PM, too long for us to wait. Happy with our day though we drove home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eurasian Common Teal: patience rewarded.

Another beautiful day. So I headed out to Herrick's Cove again to see whether I'd have more luck today and could locate the Eurasian Teal or Common Teal.  There were several birders already there, a couple with scopes, and after some wait our target bird emerged from behind a dead log on a sandbank. Don Clark let me take a view through his telescope which gave a brilliant image of the duck. The bird vanished shortly after behind the log. There were several GW Teals resting in that area - too far for my lens  - but one if not two (I can't be sure, sorry for the lousy photos) had ventured into the water:

Left alone after a while I observed a pair of Northern Shovelers emerge into the open water:

Then I saw a small lone duck in a stretch of water to the right of where we had been looking:

What a thrill! I realized it was the Eurasian Common Teal. Shortly after it took to the air:

I followed it with my camera.

It landed some distance away in the reeds and disappeared from sight.

Happy Birding!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Migrating Teals come and gone?

It's been a weird spring. Migrating ducks seemed to have skipped their usual stopovers in SE VT and just flown right through. Perhaps prompted by the unusually early warm weather they were in a hurry to make it to their breeding grounds in Canada. Migrating at night, they rested maybe for a day and then were gone again. Reports of an Eurasian Green-winged Teal had lured many birders out to a local birding hot spot this morning, but the teals were far from the observation area, partially hidden by banks of grass and weeds and even with a scope the Eurasian GW Teal remained elusive.

Blue-winged Teal pair

Male preening, showing green speculum

Green-winged Teal showing bold white bar down the side of the breast.

Eurasian GW Teals lack such a bar but look similar otherwise.

A Song Sparrow was singing loudly from his perch on a  tree.

The Red-winged Blackbirds seemed more interested in food than in territorial display.

Of course no dearth of Canada Geese, both in the water and flying over:

They often become a  nuisance in local parks and on golf courses, but with their prim white kerchiefs wrapped around the jaw they are still one of the handsomest birds around.

When I came home a rather imperious looking Common Grackle had taken possession of the crab apple tree and feeder. But he couldn't keep the Goldfinches, White-throated Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Titmice and Chckadees away for long.

A White-throated Sparrow is checking out the scene.

Good Birding!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Romance

Winner take all!

 Get lost!

She's mine!

Good Bye!

Don't go!  Let me hold you in my wings!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FOY Brown Thrasher (Revised Post*)

I was right on time this morning. I  first heard the Brown Thrasher singing his beautiful melodious and varied song  yesterday at about 7:30 AM behind a shopping center where I do my grocery shopping. I didn't have my camera with me. So this morning I brought it along. As soon as I arrived at the appointed time I heard him singing from his perch on a big pine tree,  and giving me a chance to get a picture before he flew off 10 minutes later.

He arrived about 2 weeks early for our region, the earliest on record for the past 5 years. But then spring arrived early too with lots of warm weather. This morning the air is filled with a joyful noise from a large flock of American Goldfinches by the feeder and the trees around our yard. They are changing into summer plumage.

The goldfinches occupied most of the ports on the feeder but then a female Purple Finch took possession of  a perch and wouldn't budge until she had had her fill. (* I had initially misidentified this as a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak)

A female Yellow-breasted Sapsucker settled down on our Ash tree, a favorite with the sapsuckers. They always look like they are having a bad hair day, but I guess it's good camouflage making them blend in with the tree bark.....

 except when they cling to a telephone pole.

.....but of course she didn't stay very long

A Hairy Woodpecker had been working in upper reaches of one of the large trees. Her drumming rang through the yard for much of the morning. She finally flew down to inspect the activity around the feeder.

She must have had something orangey to eat, maybe ingesting some of  the wood from the crab apple tree, much ravaged by woodpecker activity?

I'd been hearing a Red-bellied Woodpecker calling in the neighboring trees and was waiting for him to show himself. They are occasional visitors to my feeder but are usually quite shy. They take flight upon the slightest unfamiliar movement in their periphery. Finally - it was a female - she came down briefly to investigate the feeder, but did not stay very long.

The yard has accumulated much flotsam over the winter, fallen branches, old leaves, and the mess  dogs make.  Here is my husband doing some raking ....

...and our dog Chance  is trying to help by breaking twigs into smaller pieces :-)

It's in the mid 70's, a perfect day to sit on the deck with a glass of iced tea and watch  all the activity in the yard.

Monday, April 5, 2010

At last, some pictures of the American Woodcock on his singing ground

I had been trekking down to the woodcock's display stage in a nearby clearing almost every evening hoping to get a picture while the light was still adequate, thus giving me a window of about 7 minutes. I was lucky last night as he landed just a few feet from me....

......but then walked away rapidly and stopped about 6 feet off where he began turning slowly sending his  peents in every direction. 

I used an ISO setting of 3200 and an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/5.6 for the first picture with flash. The subsequent pictures where taken at 1/5 - 1/13  sec. without flash. I am surprised I didn't get more movement artifact for which I credit the image stabilization provided by my lens.