Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Return to Rocky Narrows

Rocky Narrows, Sherborn, MA

Hungry for veery song, I spent the afternoon at Rocky Narrows, my first visit in a couple of years. The field edge right near the lefthand trailhead might be the birdiest spot on the property (bluebird, phoebe, pewee, chipping sparrow, blue-gray gnatcatcher, and the red-eyed vireo below, in the first moments of my walk).

Then I was in the woods, eyes wide open to anything that might be interesting. This sad worn red-spotted purple fluttered down in front of me, too tired to fly away.

And over there--carrion beetles were feeding on an old dead toad.

While this toad hopped across the path, very much alive.

Wood thrush, scarlet tanager, black-throated green warbler, yes. Veery, no. Then I heard something that I've been hearing a lot in the last couple of weeks--the soft but penetrating voice of a hermit thrush. This time I would track it down and watch it as it sang.

Unlike, let's say, a yellow warbler, which rears back its head, opens its beak wide, and pours out its notes, this hermit thrush barely opened its mouth.

But you could see the notes generated in its throat as it sang. And occasionally it would fly down and hawk a bug.

The red-eyed vireo and the hermit thrush were kind enough to allow me to videotape them. The vireo clip is short and the thrush clip is somewhat longer.

And as I was leaving the woods on my way home, a veery.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Return to Kennebunk Plains

Kennebunk Plains, Kennebunk, ME

An overnight in Ogunquit allowed an early morning visit to one of my favorite places, Kennebunk Plains. The 6 a.m. soundscape was amazing. Low light, though, made for documentary quality photos.

Here's a vesper sparrow (lots of them--easy to ID through their white tail-feathers)

And here's an upland plover in a pine tree.

Unlike last year, when I explored the center of the plains, this year I traveled along the wooded edges. My reward? Hermit thrushes and upland plovers (and irritatingly loud towhees) in the same chorus. [Probably the clearest hermit thrush recording I've managed up to this point]. Add prairie warblers, field sparrows, meadowlarks, savannah sparrows, and bobolinks(!) and it's ear heaven.

I wasn't so surprised to hear (and see) a chestnut-sided warbler.

But I was kind of shocked to see a palm warbler. Visiting from a nearby boreal bog(?) perhaps....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ogunquit Hawkmoth

Five-spotted Hawkmoth on my arm, Marginal Way, Ogunquit, ME

A walk at dusk along the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, I notice people pointing at something on the ground. A good sign! "What is it?" they ask. "A bird?"

No, it was a hawkmoth, of the five-spotted variety, I believe. It was struggling, desperately searching for something. It looked newborn, wings still a little curled. I bet it had just emerged from its cocoon under the ground. I let it crawl on my finger, got a few blurry photos/video (attracting a few curious passers-by), and placed it on a bush where it stopped struggling and assumed its rest position.

Here's the video

Here's the photo (which can be seen in full detail if you click the image).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Steele Hill

Eastern Phoebe on cell tower enclosure, Steele Hill Resorts, Sanbornton, NH

The woods of New Hampshire are bursting with indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers. Two steps out of the door of our Steele Hill Resort lodge and I had a bunting.

The next morning, five minutes into my walk I had a pair of tanagers two feet away (along with myriad counter-singing black-throated blue warblers, pine warblers, and other interesting songsters). [Here's my low light photo of the tanager]

I was planning more extensive bird hikes elsewhere in the Lakes Region but it quickly became clear that the red dot trail at Steele Hill would suffice. [Note: the trail map provided by the resort is not to scale and a bit inaccurate in places. It would be useful to note, for example, that the red dot trail is accessed via a utility road and that the trail-head is behind a cell tower facility (perch of phoebe above); the photo below is taken from what is effectively a dead-end, but not indicated as such on the map.]

The red dot trail goes right through wood thrush and hermit thrush territory. In fact, in spots you may have the uncommon privilege of hearing a chorus of
hermit and wood thrushes at once (along with ovenbirds, red-eyed vireos, and black-throated green warblers) [low light odd pose photo below].

And frogs, many frogs. Some accompanying chorusing
hermit thrushes, but some providing an astonishingly musical experience themselves.

The most memorable experience, though, was a brief encounter with a barred owl. My first.

Not this one--from Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

This one, caught on low light video.

That red squirrel in the background is not happy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crane WMA

Crane WMA, North Falmouth, MA

Enticed by the prospect of seeing a blue grosbeak, I drove down to Crane WMA (off 151 in Falmouth, entrance between the Regal Nickelodeon and a softball field). This, I've decided, is my favorite kind of place [minus the noisy model aircraft], the closest Massachusetts match I've found to Maine's Kennebunk Plains (no upland plover, though).

Field sparrows and common yellowthroat are abundant

as are grasshopper sparrows

and, of course, savannah sparrows.

This one was following me around. I couldn't quite figure out why, though I had a similar experience last year at Kennebunk.

Today there was an oriole explosion, orchard and Baltimore. Here's four at once.

And more to come. This mother has a nice size moth to feed her noisy nestlings.

Here's another Baltimore: a Checkerspot butterfly (lots of them out on the field today).

And like Kennebunk (and Hancock Hill, for that matter) the mysterious sounds of prairie warblers fill the air. This time I spent a little time and got some decent shots.

A couple of hours and it was time to go. Where might that blue grosbeak be? I examined every tree in the field on the way back.

There! A glimpse, a distant photo, and it was gone.

Good birding.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hancock Hill

View of Boston Harbor Islands from Hancock Hill, Blue Hills Reservation

A couple of hours at the top of Hancock Hill, a most magical place. From the loud trilling of the pine warbler, chipping sparrow, and worm-eating warbler (!) on the way up, the large new chickadee, titmouse, and chippie families along the way, to the awesome prairie warbler/field sparrow/eastern towhee sound-scape at the top. A glorious morning.

Towhees dominated, less skulky than usual (of course, there are fewer places to hide).

A favorite scene: a towhee and a prairie warbler stake out the tops of adjacent trees and pretty much counter-sing. Video below captures the scene.

A lot of counter-singing/chasing among the numerous prairie warblers themselves. One chase brought two blindingly yellow males about ten feet from where I was sitting. No photos, but I did capture a sound recording (which also features an irritated towhee that the warblers also chase away).

I don't get to see and hear enough field sparrows normally. Up on Hancock Hill they are abundant and are now raising children. I saw the chick below being fed a large ripe blueberry by a parent.

The trip up the hill from the designated Hancock Hill parking area is a bit arduous and is tricky on the way down, but today it was very quiet (except for the pile-driving construction crew nearby and normal car/airplane noise). I was surprised not to see more birders given the glowing reviews of the hill on MASSBIRD yesterday. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Late Spring at Plymouth Beach

Common terns, Laughing Gull and Black Skimmer, Plymouth Beach, Plymouth, MA

Last year I didn't make it to Plymouth Beach until mid-summer. This year, I thought I'd get a head start. A gorgeous day, tide just beginning to go out. Highlight: a black skimmer (kindly pointed out to me by a fellow observer of wildlife). Quite a looker...

A little more elegant in flight.

The least terns continue to hate me. (I don't hate you, least terns. You don't need to dive bomb me).

Other highlight, see if you can tell below.

Here's a clue.

Yes, piping plover chicks. I counted six on my walk, without looking very carefully.

The semi-palm plovers don't seem to have arrived yet in larger numbers. I thought this one struck a particularly elegant pose.