Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bird Count 2009

Yesterday, Mark and I participated in the 110th Christmas Bird Count (CBC). We spent the morning in our sector of the Newburyport count circle (Salisbury) and tried to see as many birds as possible despite the wind, rain, and poor visibility.

As we were driving around the Salisbury Beach State Reservation campground, we came across this very wet Merlin perched on an abandoned dock. I was so excited to see this bird and wanted to get a photo but, as I pulled my camera out of my bag, I realized that I left the photo-chip in my computer! I was so disappointed that I would miss getting a photo of the Merlin until Mark pulled a chip out of his GPS for me to use. How lucky was I!

We continued driving around looking for birds and found this small flock of Horned Larks feeding on grasses growing in-between cracks in the parking lot pavement. They too were soaking wet.

Waves crashing in on the jetty combined with a wind-swept rain made it very difficult for us to scan for seabirds ... we did manage to find a small flock of Purple Sandpipers hunkered down among the rocks.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Backyard Winter Wonderland

To a winter wonderland I did awake.
Makes me want to go and bake.
Cookies that is for you and me.
And a few to string on the Christmas tree!

First, I think I should go shovel.
And refill feeders on the double.
The birds are hungry and the seeds dropped low.
As they forage beneath the snow!

Looks like the snow is not letting up.
So now I’ll go refill my cup.
With coffee that it is to keep me warm.
As I head out into the storm.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Close Encounter of a Kestrel Kind!

A couple of weeks ago I took a walk on the beach during my lunch break. It was one of those perfect fall days with a crystal-clear blue sky, brilliant sunshine, and a gentle ocean breeze. Halfway through my walk, I noticed a bird perched on sign about hundred yards away. I knew immediately that it was an American kestrel and I hoped that it would remain perched, as I got closer. I walked very quietly and slowly towards the bird and was able to get within about 25 feet of it. I could see every detail of its beautiful plumage and I was kicking myself for not having my camera with me! The photographs I could have taken would have been amazing!! I remembered that I had my cell phone with me so I took it out of my pocket and was able to take these photos.

You bet the next time I take this walk, I will have my camera with me and maybe I will be as lucky as I was a couple of weeks ago - to be within 25 feet of an American kestrel, perched on a sign, in the brilliant sunshine.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Every Halloween I put up a few decorations to celebrate the holiday. Back in 2004, Mark bought a battery operated flying bat to put outside our doorway. It is 6-inches long with an 18-inch wing span and when turned on it flies around in circles with flashing red eyes!

As we put out the flying bat tonight to greet our trick-or-treaters I am reminded of trick I played on a couple of friends when we first got the bat. I took the photos below and e-mailed them to my friends with a message that said we have this unusual bat flying around our yard!

We e-mailed each other for about an hour and I relayed field-marking descriptions and behavior observations. At one point, I realized that my friend Mike was pouring through his field guides to try to identify the bat. Yikes - he fell for the trick! I egged him on for a little while more and then finally told him that it was not a real bat but a battery operated flying bat. We had a good laugh and it is a fond Halloween memory for me to reflect on as I decorate the homestead.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 28, 2009


This past Saturday was a perfect early fall day with a bright blue sky, light breeze, cool temperatures with a definite nip in the air, and warm sunshine. I went for a walk on the beach early Saturday morning to drink in the perfect weather and the sound of waves crashing in on the shore; the smell of a clean, cold ocean; and the sight of the last few peeps making their way south from their northern breeding grounds.

I brought my digital camera along and spent a good amount of time behind the lens taking photos of the peeps as they foraged on an array of intertidal invertebrates. You can easily lose all track of time in this type of environment and forget about everything else except the peeps, the waves, and the sunlight. I am still learning how to use my digital camera so I took the opportunity to play around with different settings and the light, and snapped a whole lot of photos.

The weather on Sunday was the complete opposite of Saturday – cool, dank, rainy, and windy. It was a perfect day to be at my computer looking at my photos and deciding which ones to post on my Blog. While using Adobe Photoshop Elements I discovered the “Filter” tab and spent time playing around with the different filters and completely changing the look of my photos! What fun! Below are several of the photos I took and a corresponding Photoshopped image. I used different Filters including patchwork, watercolor, ink outline, trace contour, stain glass, and rough pastel.

I hope you enjoy my Peep-fest photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and Photoshopping them!



Ink Outline


Trace Outline


Stain Glass


Rough Pastel

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday ~ August 26th

A picture is worth a thousand words at Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari 2009

On Saturday, August 15th, Mark and I led 19 birders, all clad in Hawaiian shirt and leis, on a Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari for the Brookline Bird Club. We met the group at Morris Island at 8:30 AM, exchanged greetings, selected the perfect leis to match Hawaiian shirts, and then we were off! Rip Ryder whisked us to the southern end of South Beach in one of their high-speed, 20 passenger ferryboats. We got to the southern end of South Beach by 9 AM and debarked with anticipation of a great day.

Mark and Susan were one of the first to get off of the boat!

Bev, Pamela, Constance, Dave, Jim, Chuck, and Brian were not far behind.

I love the bright, loud, colorful, Hawaiian shirts!

We had decent weather with temperatures in the low-to-mid 80's, little-to-moderate winds, a lot of fog during the morning, and sunshine for the rest of the day. The greenheads were bothersome if you did not have long pants on or ample amounts of bug spray. As we birded our way north, we noticed the low numbers of individuals. There were times when the beach was devoid of any shorebirds and when we saw shorebirds, they were not in the numbers that I have seen in past years! Maybe we were just there on an off day.

Christopher is getting ready to photograph something. Check out his Blog to see what!

The group takes a "birding" lunch break.
Kelly took this great photo of the group from the beach - Thanks Kelly!

We arrived back on the mainland by 4:00 PM and went to Orleans to go to the Bird Watcher's General Store to browse around and The Hot Chocolate Sparrow for ice cream and cold drinks. Not wanting the day to end just yet – a few of us went for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant where we compiled the day list and shared a few good laughs! We tallied 51 species - following is our trip list:

South Beach:Wilson's Storm-Petrel – 10
Northern Gannet – 4 / Double-crested Cormorant – 350
Great Egret – 1 / Snowy Egret – 10,
Black Scoter – 1
Black-bellied Plover – 275 / Semipalmated Plover – 300 / Piping Plover – 17
American Oystercatcher – 12
Greater Yellowlegs – 20 / Lesser Yellowlegs – 1
Willet – 24 / Whimbrel – 30
Hudsonian Godwit – 45 / Marbled Godwit – 3
Ruddy Turnstone – 150 / Red Knot – 23 / Sanderling – 450
Semipalmated Sandpiper – 60 / Least Sandpiper – 14 / White-rumped Sandpiper – 4
Short-billed Dowitcher – 104
Laughing Gull – 47 / Ring-billed Gull – 20 / Herring Gull – 100 / Great Black-backed Gull – 80
Roseate Tern – 20 / Common Tern – 1,000 / Forester’s Tern – 4 / Least Tern – 4
Horned Lark – 1
Tree Swallow – 10 / Barn Swallow – 9,
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow – 1

Osprey – 1 / Northern Harrier – 1
Northern Bobwhite – 1 heard halfway between Morris Island and the Chatham Lighthouse
Mourning Dove – 62 / Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Blue Jay – 2 / American crow – 10 / Black-capped Chickadee – 8
American Robin – 3 / Northern Mockingbird – 5 / European starling – 150
Cedar Waxwing – 2 / Song Sparrow – 2 / Red-winged Blackbird – 1 / American Goldfinch - 15
Many thanks to our fellow Shorebird Safarians - you made it a great day! Aloha!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday ~ August 19th

A picture is worth a thousand words at Wordless Wednesday.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What I Did on My Summer 'Rain'cation

Over the July 4th holiday, Mark and I took a week vacation to join our friend Eddie who was leading his 12th annual Brookline Bird Club birding trip to the Rangeley Lakes Region of Maine. We actually spent three days at Claybrook Mountain Lodge in Highland Plantation and four days in the Rangeley Lakes Area. The rainy weather pattern that has been all too familiar in the northeast this summer continued during our entire vacation. We had less than four hours (yes - 4 HOURS) of sunshine the entire time we were in Maine but we had a fantastic time anyway!

My favorite part of the trip was our stay at Claybrook Mountain Lodge, which is a sporting camp that welcomes anyone wishing to hunt, fish, bird, hike, canoe/kayak, bike, snowmobile, cross-country ski, or simply get away from it all and enjoy Maine’s beautiful western mountain region. The proprietors, Greg and Pat Drummond, are wonderful and make you feel completely at home in their rustic lodge. Pat is also the lodge chef and kept us all (12 birders in total) very well fed. We had full early morning breakfasts, bagged lunches meant for picnics but we ate at the lodge each day due to the rain, and delicious dinners complete with Pat’s warm, homemade bread! Greg was our guide for much of our stay and he took us to amazing places to bird. His local knowledge is impressive and his stories about life in the western mountain region of Maine are entertaining and riveting. While the rain kept us indoors for much of our stay at Claybrook that was OK by me. I enjoyed spending time at the lodge, getting to know others on the trip a bit more, kicking back a little, and relaxing. If you are ever in the area and can take some time, I would highly recommend a stay at Claybrook Mountain Lodge. Following are a few photos I took during the Claybrook portion of the trip.

A Fritillary Butterfly.

Wilson’s (Common) Snipe on Gilman Pond/Reed’s Road perched on a wooden fence posts!

Greg built this gorgeous, sturdy, classic wooden canoe several years ago.

Pam and I canoed Gilman Pond with Greg. This was Pam’s first time out on the water and she enjoyed every minute. Here she is watching Greg fly-fish.

Black Brook Flowage.

Blue Flag Iris at Black Brook Flowage.

While hiking the Black Brook Flowage path we found a tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet nest. It was made of lichen and nestled in-between Balsam Fir branches.

Several of the gang birding at a logging road bridge.

We watched this Northern Parula weave its nest along side the logging road.

Joan, a birding friend and budding Mycologist, collected several mushrooms to identify.

Sally, the Drummond’s Great Dane, loved the glow-in-the-dark Frisbee.

For the Rangeley Lakes portion of the trip we shared a cabin with seven of our friends, the trip participants nearly doubled, the birding pace seemed to quicken a bit, and the rain - well it kept on raining. We birded familiar territory including Boy Scout Road along the Kennebago River, clear-cuts along Routes 16 and 17, and ski trails on Saddleback Mountain. The rain and high/fast water prevented us from paddling the Kennebago River - it was only the second time in 12 years that Eddie had to cancel this paddle! Following are a few photos I took during the Rangeley portion of the trip.

A rose shrub along the Kennebago River.

One of four cooperative Gray Jays along Boy Scout Road.

Moonrise over Saddleback Mountain as seen from our cabin on our last evening in Maine.

Northwestern Maine is one of my favorite places to visit - rain or shine – and I Thank my dear friend Eddie for leading his birding trip there each year! He puts his heart and soul into organizing and running the trip and each year is a bit of an adventure. Mark and I usually help Eddie behind the scene and we often start thinking about next year’s trip soon after the current year trip is over. Yes - we are already talking about the 2010 Rangeley Lakes and Western Mountain Region trip! Despite the weather for 2009, we had fun, saw great birds, got out in-between raindrops to hike and paddle , and enjoyed the company of old friends and new. A fine way to spend a summer 'rain'cation!