Songo Blue Skies

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering September 11th

I lived just across the water from the Twin Towers on 9/11 in Brooklyn. I was in the subway going into Manhattan when the train stopped. We smelled smoke. Within 3 minutes men walked through the train telling us that the fire was above ground; we were not in danger. We are turning all the trains back to Brooklyn. With that they were gone. Very shortly afterwards the train began moving. I couldn't believe they had moved the trains back to Brooklyn so fast. When I entered the subway system the Twin Towers, though on fire, still stood. When I came above ground both towers were gone.

As I drove my daughter back and forth from Brooklyn to Long Island often; she was going to school out there. I remember crying each time the smoke or spotlights they were using came into sight. I wrote the first two lines of this poem during one of those trips.

Twin Towers

                                         A hole was punched in the sky today
                                         Two thousand voices screamed out in silence
                                         Now they've tried to plug the hole
                                         With ethereal blue lights
                                         They are as temporary
                                         As the buildings and our lives
                                         Pretty and eerie though they are
                                         They are not lasting
                                         Reminding me of how temporary and fragile
                                         Life really is
                                         It was and remains too easy to turn them off

                                                   by Cynthia J. Cage  (written between 11 Sept 2001 - 21 June 2002)

Pictures taken with camera phone tonight. As we remember our stories let's remember those lives that were lost and their families who must live with it.


We will never forget.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Birding Wharton Point, Brunswick, ME (Part 1 of birding the Maine Coast)

     So in honor of Shorebird Day I finally finished the first part of this post.

I left the western mountains of Maine at 0 dark 30 in anticipation of some shore birding with my friend Kathie from Kathiesbirds -
Albany Township Community building at sunrise (A mile from Songo Pond)
Lake Pennesseewassee/ Norway Lake at first light
Our first spot for the day was Wharton Point on Maquoit Bay. I know Kathie birds here and writes about it often. It was our most prolific spot as birds go. We kept trying to leave and move on but each time we saw another bird species. After almost 2 hours we'd seen about 30+ species.
Marsh around the bay

Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (I think - what do others think?)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (I think- as I remember we identified by their call of two notes)
A least sandpiper fresh from a bath
Least Sandpiper - they are the smallest of the sandpipers with yellowish-green legs.
The most surprising species was the Bobolinks. We both started hearing a tinkling  sound and at the same time we said "Bobolinks." We thought they would be long gone by now. In fact I had already seen some migrating Bobolinks in CT before I came up to Maine.
This picture is a Bobolink in CT (I thought I'd gotten pictures)
The birds we saw included:

1 American BL Duck                                                          1 Ring-Billed Gull
20 common eiders                                                              14 Herring Gulls
50 other duck species (too far away to id with accuracy)     10 other gull species
3 Double-crested Cormorants                                             1 Common Tern
2 Great Herons                                                                   10 Mourning Dove
2 Great Egret                                                                      3 Blue Jays
2 Snowy Egrets                                                                  3 American Crows
1 glossy Ibis                                                                       12 Tree Swallows
2 Osprey                                                                            1 Barn Swallow
1 Bald Eagle                                                                       3 Gray Catbirds
1 Greater Yellowlegs                                                          1 Cedar Waxwing
3 Lesser Yellowlegs                                                            4 Common Yellowthroats
5 Least Sandpipers                                                             2 Yellow Warblers
20 other peep species                                                         1 Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
1 Bonaparte's Gull                                                              6 Song Sparrows
4 Bobolinks                                                                        1 sparrow species
5 House Finch                                                                    1 Black Bird species
1 Wild Turkey just before I got to Kathies place.                15 Goldfinch 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Ways to Eat Blueberries

 Okay, so maybe it should read "Three Creatures That Delight in Eating Blueberries" or "A Maine Breakfast of Champions."

American Robin

Now that's a mouthful
I love the way this little chipmunk ate the blueberry. He got an awful lot of bites out of just one blueberry.

And for the final creature or way to eat blueberries.. drum roll please.......

 It's tradition that we eat blueberry muffins on one of the first days we arrive in Maine. A yummy tradition. These were baked in the same kitchen that I use to visit from next door and eat home made "Scotchies" when I was a very little girl. No wonder I love this kitchen so much... In fact the muffins are sitting on a Duchess Atlantic, wood burning stove, out of Portland Maine. The very stove that the cookies were baked in.

Coming up a post about birding the Maine Coast  with Kathie from Kathie's Birds

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Warblers at Doodletown and Sterling Forest, NY, Revisited

       Has it really been a whole year since I wrote on this blog? (I'll explain in the next post) Was is really about Doodletown as well?  Time flies! So the Brooklyn Birding Club ran their yearly trip to Doodletown May 24, 2014. It was thankfully, not as hot as last year but it was overcast and we did have some rain. Still it was an overall pleasant day weather wise. We met at Grand Army Plaza rubbing our eyes at 5:45 sharp! Tom P. was leading again and his excellent wife, JoAnn had arranged all the carpools and other assorted duties having to do with logistics. Thank you both very much.
      Folks gathered and loaded up, we headed for Bear Mountain Park.

After viewing Black Vultures near the bathrooms it was time to head for Doodletown, "An active Ghost town." Ghost town because no one lives there anymore but people who did can still be buried in one of the two cemeteries.
      We immediately began to see warblers and hear them as we walked up the trail. A total of 71 species of birds were seen along with several herpes like a Timber Rattlesnake, 2 Black Rat snakes and a Red Eft.

Timber Rattlesnake hanging out on a branch at eye level! "Hey what rattles you?"

Black Rat Snake

          Red Eft which is considered a juvenile Red Spotted-Newt that lives on land.
Later it will return to water when it becomes an adult in 1-3 years

We saw/heard Cerulean, Canada, Prairie, Hooded, Yellow, Blackburnian, Golden-winged and Blue-winged warblers and some saw several other warblers as well. There were several Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. It put on a show for us by flying around above our heads back and forth between two or three tall dead branches. The Olive-sided Flycatcher was hard to see clearly because he was so high and the lighting was horrible.
Male Mallard playing "Peek-a-boo" with us

 Olive-sided Flycatcher  (Wrongly labeled as a Great-crested Flycatcher, previously)
Male Hooded Warbler

Male Hooded Warbler

Male Indigo Bunting
After we finished at Doodletown we took the ride over to Sterling Forest. We all enjoyed lunch before heading over to Ironwood Road to look for Golden-winged warblers. Thank goodness for the exceptional hearing of Tom the leader. We all heard a loud buzzy sound but we were caravaning with the windows open and lets face it, it could have been anything. But Tom stopped and so we all got out and there were trees and marsh, I think, on both sides of the road. Here were two male Golden-winged warblers probably establishing territory. One at least if not both were taking turns flying back and forth across the road just above our heads. They landed in a tree just above eye level about 10 feet in front of us. It was amazing for about 20 minutes just to watch them.  When we got to the turn around on Ironwood Road there was some kind of construction going on along the power line cutaway and it started raining. We walked a little ways into the woods but I only saw a Phoebe feeding her nestlings - no Golden-wings, so thank goodness for Tom's great hearing and decision making.

Golden-winged Warbler

Yellow-throated Vireo

  It was another great BBC birding trip.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Few Choice Warblers and others at Doodletown and Sterling Forest, NY

Several members of the Brooklyn Bird Club went up to Doodletown, NY yesterday looking for for Hooded, Cerulean and Golden-winged warblers. Anyone of these would be a life birds for me. First it was hot..Oh, did I say it was hot. It was, but everyone persevered and sweated and one even lost the souls of their boots and started a new fashion trend of duck taped boots. The name Doodletown is said to be Dutch which means "dead valley", or Dood Dal. The English added the suffix town later.

Right out of the car we saw a pair of cuckoos (I think yellow billed but I might be wrong). We saw Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings and Great Crested Flycatchers soon after hitting the trail. We heard the calls of Cerulean, Hooded, Blue-winged and several others. The Cerulean Warblers were so hard to see even though we heard them calling all around us.

Cedar Waxwing

Male Indigo Bunting

Male Scarlet Tanager
We met a couple of people coming down one of the trails who said they saw a Hooded and Worm- eating warbler up there... Oh yes and a Timber Rattle Snake on the left side of the path. We never saw the rattlesnake but a ways up the trail we heard a Hooded calling persistently and close by. After a few looks we spotted him throwing his head back singing loudly. Mike set up his scope and we all got to see him close up. (Thanks Mike) What a beautiful warbler!

Male Hooded Warbler
Male Hooded Warbler preening
Nearby Peter who had been to Doodletown 2 weeks prior showed us the nest cavity that a Pileated Woodpecker had carved; very impressive. But alas no woodpeckers to be seen or heard. It remains a nemesis for me.
The trunk was at least 8-10 inches thick and the hole was so perfectly round! (They must have excelled in geometry)
When we turned around and were heading back down we heard a Cerulean calling persistently also. All eyes were on the trees and he was finally located. Again thanks to Mike's scope we had good looks at him. These pictures are not the clearest but he was pretty high in a tree.

We had close looks at some 17 year-old cicadas.
Next we headed to Sterling Forest State Park and a lunch break. We all stocked up for water and off we went to find the coveted Golden-winged Warbler. Now I said it was hot in the morning but it was nothing like the exposed, shrubbery covered, open hillside with the sun bearing down on you even with a breeze. However the quest for the Golden-winged was worth it. We heard Cerulean, Blue-winged and Prairie Warblers and saw the Prairie but no Golden-winged. We headed down the hill but a few stayed a little further up the hill. A man we had met earlier motioned us closer. The Golden-winged had been spotted. Before long we found him on a mid-level branch at the edge of the woods. It was easily spotted with the binoculars but I could not find him in my camera lens. Finally, I held my camera in the area where the warbler was and to see what would happen. So did I get him...

Six pictures later he was in three, and two were clear enough to blow up and post here. He is a pretty boy. Unfortunately a few of our group missed him. So these are for you. I know it is not the same but I hope you enjoy a look.

Thank you Tom for leading, Dennis for organizing and all the drivers; the trip it was great.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rusty Blackbird

Prospect Park, Brooklyn has been reporting a rusty blackbird for a week or so. A Saturday walk in the park allowed me to see this unrusty looking black bird. I missed it earlier in the morning at the Lilly pond. But I saw a report on Peter Dorosh's blog: Prospect Park Sightings & North Brooklyn that it had been sighted at the other end of the park in the Vale of Cashmere. Since my car was up that way I leisurely walked there. I saw lots of sunning turtles and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, the first warbler for the season for me. Yes, spring is coming.

I sat on one of the benches and watched the chickadees, titmice and other small song birds feed on some seed that someone had put out. I saw a grackle first and for a moment thought that was the black bird before realizing it was too big. Then I saw a black bird in the swampy pool digging through the leaves. It wasn't until another birder came and confirmed for me that yes, that is the rusty blackbird. Unlike most birds the male is more rusty in the non breeding season. If you caught his back in the right light you could see rows/stripes of rust on his back. Well I'll be. Sure enough there was the rust. His female counterpart is a slate color during breeding season.

"Its mine don't even think about it"

You can see the rust on the back, side and flecks in the face


"Three sunning turtles and a mallard on a log" (to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas) somtimes I get too carried away...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Finding a Timberdoodle

During a week off I spent time sleeping and birding. I had briefly seen an American Woodcock at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn but I really wanted a closer look and a picture if possible. After an hour of looking in an area where I had briefly seen one the week before, I found none. My daughter and I were tired at this point and headed home. However, I was not ready to give up. I later drove back into the cemetery and parked in another area where woodcocks had been sighted. Well, after another hour of checking under every pine and low bush in the area, no Timberdoodle to be found. BUT as I was driving, just a very short distance away I looked over... Could it be a woodcock just sitting under a tree? Sure enough. I used a few headstones as blinds as I moved closer trying not to upset it too much.

"I do see you with my 360 degree vision"

Doesn't it look like a bunny rabbit without the ears?
Actually it's large eyes being so far back on its head has a purpose. It gives the woodcock a 360 degree field of vision.

It's long bill is also interesting. It uses it's bill to probe in the ground for earthworms and other invertebrates. Its made of bone and muscle. In fact the bird can actually open its beak while its in the ground allowing it to grab juicy earthworms to eat. It's rough tongue helps it with this.

Later in the week there was a woodcock walk out at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at dusk. We arrived at their singing grounds, an open grassy area near the edge of brush and woods. We hoped to see the males perform their mating dance. We heard lots of buzzy "preents." and even saw 6-7 males but no dance. Apparently there were too many males and they had not worked out their pecking order so they did not dance.

If you are lucky enough to see their mating dance you would have to be there at dusk or dawn when the male woodcock preents and then takes off into the air making another sound; sounded like radio static. Then is descends in a zig zag pattern making a chirping sound. (which we didn't see).

Looking for woodcocks, timberdoodles or whatever else you want to call them was fun. Another sign that spring is coming slowly and so are the birds.