Monday, October 17, 2011

A Lesson Learned: Backup! Backup!

It was an expensive lesson.  It's been several months since I last backed up my small external Seagate 500 GB drive, which contained all my photos,  and it was high time that I did it again. But when I tried, the drive would not register  on my computer no matter what. It was only 20 months old and had never given me any problems before. It's still under the 5 year replacement warranty but Seagate takes no responsibility for lost data. Instead it offers a data recovery software for $99, a pretty steep price I thought and it took me a while to convince myself that I really really wanted those photos back.  

The software worked and I got everything back. I don't mean to let it happen again. From now on regular backups and always to two separate locations in case one of them fails. What a hassle! 

A balancing act

The mallards are enjoying their new wetland pool on a cornfield

A bright wind-swept day at the nuclear power station in Vernon. i looked for A. Pipits on the adjacent cornfield but found none.

Not far from our house is the Scott Farm which grows and sells heritage apples.

It was the location for the movie "Ciderhouse Rules" based on John Irving's novel of the same name. The is the apple pickers' bunk house where much of the action takes place.

A Great Blue Heron enjoying a tranquil moment at the farm pond.

I am flying back to Germany tomorrow to see my sister and brother with their families, and my mother who will be celebrating her 100th birthday. So no posts for the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for your visit to my blog. I always love to read your comments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three Lifers in a Mud Puddle

Yes, three life birds, all locally rare species, congregating in a puddle in a cornfield: JoAnne Russo of Vermont Green Threads alerted me to it with a message on Facebook  (Thanks, JoAnne)  It took me three days and  three different trips though to get a good set of pictures. Lucky for me the birds stayed around. The third was my lucky day because this time the  American Golden Plover, that I had missed on the first two days, showed up.

He was the star of the show, a juvenile American Golden Plover, still showing the gold speckling on his rump. He is a transient visitor migrating from the northern tundra to his wintering grounds in South America. Most migrate through the Great Plains but a a few show up in the Northeast.

Also present that day were two Black-bellied Plovers which are much more common here

The other star of the show was a Stilt Sandpiper. It too was a life bird for me; I  had just missed it at Sterling Peats during fall migration last year. It was an adult in non-breeding plumage, mostly gray on top. The species breeds in subarctic areas and migrates to the interior of South America. It prefers pools or lagunes to tidal mudflats, and therefore the bird must have felt quite at home in this mud puddle.

From a distance, with their long yellowish legs, they are easily confused with  Lesser Yellowlegs but for their long drooping bill.

The Dunlin was my third lifer. Here in this photo the Dunlin is on the left and Stilt Sandpiper on the right. They are very similar in size, but the Dunlin is much stockier with a thicker bill. 

I had seen White-rumped Sandpipers on the coast on Plum Island before but they are not often seen inland during their long-distance migration from the Canadian Arctic to Patagonia. 

Three White-rumps preening, showing their white rumps

There were several Pectoral Sandpipers in the crowd. The following two photos show the sharp pectoral demarcation that gives the sandpiper its name.

And lastly  there were several Killdeer. They are so ubiquitous that it's easy to overlook them.

We have been having beautiful summer-like weather.The mud puddle is drying up, getting smaller by the day. In the morning it's been quite foggy, but it burns off by 10 AM. On a foggy field Canada Geese are fattening up before migration. Actually they don't migrate very far, flying just a little south of here to the lush golf courses in Connecticut.

Farm stores are busy selling local produce.


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Palm Warblers arrivals and departures

Back in the spring I witnessed a Palm Warbler fallout -- a brief stop-over on their migration north to their breeding grounds. 

Palm Warblers nest in remote nearly inaccessible northern bogs. They are much more easily seen during migration, particularly since unlike most other warblers they feed on the ground and are not hidden by foliage.
BNA Online: Distribution of Palm Warblers

A couple of days ago, on their return trip to their wintering grounds, I witnessed another fallout. I was walking along the West River trail with the river on one side and  a corn stubble field on the other. Except for a lone Great Egret on a sandbank there wasn't much to see on the river. I decided to check the cornfield for American Pipits. I didn't see any Pipits but instead saw tiny birds rapidly moving about and foraging between the corn stalks, and the more I looked the more I saw. Taking photos was made difficult by their fast movements often obscured by dips in the ground, small plants and and a jumble of corn stalks. It was windstill. So watching for anything moving on the field was the easiest way to find them.

Sometimes a small flock would lift into the air and settle back down farther away. There was also a steady back and forth between the field and the bordering shrubs. I counted about 22 birds which was a respectable number considering that according to eBird the all time highest count in all of Vermont was 10 back in 1973. However 22 pales against neighboring NH and MA with 100 and 78 respectively.

Find Waldo - there are actually two on this picture; although one is out of focus.

What shows up here is the Eastern or Yellow race. They retain the yellow supraorbital stripe, whereas in the Western race it turns white. They have changed from their summer  plumage into their winter drabs. Gone is the rusty cap, the yellow on the chest is paler and the markings less distinct.

They had left by next morning. I wish them safe journey to their wintering grounds in the southeastern and gulf coast states. 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I always appreciate your comments. 

Many in Vermont are still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Fellow  Vermont birder Chris Petrak of Tails of Birding lost his entire backyard including leach field to a creek which turned into a raging river overnight.  Worse yet for the Vermont economy a hard fall and winter lie ahead. Foliage season is about to start and ski season is soon to follow, but without the passable roads 'leafpeepers' and skiiers will stay away. Houses have washed away, crops are spoiled and grass for farm animals made toxic by contaminated flood waters. It's a dire situation all around for the hard-working people of Vermont.