Songo Blue Skies

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Year of the Nests: Part 1

This has been quite a Spring/Summer for me. Why is that, you might ask? I have stumbled upon so many bird nests; some being built by their owners, while others were occupied already. It got ridiculous and seemed like everywhere I turned, there was another nest.

This all started on a visit to Concord, NH in May. After spending several days with a dear childhood friend, I thought I'd do a little birding around the area before I left. In a grassy habitat I sat down on a slight incline to see what was around. I soon saw a couple of Prairie Warblers and heard a Chestnut sided Warbler nearby.  Then I noticed a Prairie Warbler coming and going from a clump of tallish leafed stalks. I watched for a bit but tried not to stare at the spot and scare her off. 


I walked around and up on the hill behind, to see if I could see where she was going in the clump. With some persistence and sitting low I saw her. When she flew off in search of more nesting material, I walked a little closer and was finally able to see it. I have a long zoom lens and I took a picture and turned my attention to finding the Chestnut-Sided Warbler, which I eventually found.

Prairie Warbler Nest about 1 foot off the ground

That was amazing. 

Next, I was in West Brookfield, MA visiting my college room mate and her sister. There was a Wildlife Management Area on some former farmland about a mile from her house. It was a large expanse of fields that was cut through the middle by a winding stream. I found Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, many Yellow Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Song Sparrows, Baltimore Orioles and Warbling Vireos. The last two I watched working on their nests. Along the stream there were low thickets and one large tree. On a branch over the stream a Baltimore Oriole's nest was being built. Look at the difference in leaf-out in one weeks time.
May 19, 2016

May 26, 2016

I found another nest in this same tree but near the top; a Warbling Vireo's nest.

Here the Warbling Vireo is collecting some pussy-willow down to line its nest.

I saw two more nests at this sight but I did not see the occupants and therefore could not identify. If anyone knows which birds might own these two nests let me know. The one on the left kind of looks like an Eastern Kingbird's nest but I think it is too low for them.

I wasn't alone while I was exploring this site. As I looked into the stream below the thicket I heard this guttural 'growl' behind me. Now that scared the be-jeebers out of me! I had no idea what could be behind me. I slowly turned around and was relieved to find this fellow.

Black Australorp Rooster - His feathers were beautiful in the sun light
There were a couple of houses in the distance in either direction and I assumed he belonged to one of those. He was a faithful companion, in that every time I went to this area, he joined me and followed me on my walk. Truth be told he was probably looking for food...

Coming Up
Part 2 - Nests found at Doodletown, NY with The Brooklyn Bird Club.
Part 3 - Watching a Green Heron nest: from nest building to fledgling and after.

Hope you'll come back to read further.

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.