Tag Archive 'birding'

Mar 26 2022

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Birding with a Passion

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Despite the fact that most of the lakes and ponds here in northern Vermont are still full of ice, Judy and I have done a lot of birding lately. We took a trip down to Dead Creek in Addison County ten days ago and have gone out locally three times during the past week. Judy has bird fever, and I’m reveling in early spring.

At Dead Creek we celebrated the return of the Canada geese. They were there by the hundreds, filling up narrow leads of open water. Before heading home, we stopped by South Slang Creek to see if we could catch the bald eagle nesting there. We did. Judy took some good pictures of it, but what we really wanted was to catch the migrating birds. We got into more of them earlier this week. We found common and hooded mergansers floating in slender patches of open water along the shores of Lake Champlain. We also spotted on land robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds that have arrived recently, along with the cardinals that have wintered over. The cardinals are calling out loudly from the treetops now. Ah, yes… it’s that time of year.

All this is great, but biggest surprise so far this year happened right in our back yard. A sharp-shinned hawk swooped down on the many goldfinches at our feeders, scattering them everywhere. We’re pretty sure we’ve seen this same bird before. It showed up here last fall, and I spotted it in the neighborhood once before that. Judy got some excellent shots of it right through the sliding glass door leading out to the patio. It wasn’t more than twenty feet away! She called up the stairs, so I was able to see the hawk out the window of my study before it bolted. I was writing at the time and usually don’t want to be disturbed while I’m doing so. But this was an exception to that rule.

Judy is on a roll. She has taken some great photos of all the birds mentioned. She has taken bird photography to the next level after learning the best settings for her camera. She has a passion for it that is a delight for me to witness. I assist her however I can. Mostly I drive the car, spot the birds with my binoculars, and identify them whenever possible. We’re a good team, I think.

All this said, my passion for birding doesn’t match Judy’s. I’m into wild nature in all its manifestations, and thoroughly enjoy a raw, early spring day even if there are no birds around. I got all excited the other day when I saw a red fox out the kitchen window, chasing a squirrel up a tree. Judy managed to photograph that fox, but I would have been just as happy if she hadn’t. Judy’s an artist with her camera, while I simply enjoy the moment. It’s all good.

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May 23 2021

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On the Coast

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Once again Judy and I headed for the Maine coast, right before the busy summer tourist season began. This time we stayed in a quaint little cottage in Cape Porpoise only a few minutes from the ocean. We took the place for a week and were glad we did. Our leisurely days there slipped by fast.

Judy is still big into photographing birds so we spent much of our time on the coast tracking them down. First we went to Scarborough Marsh where we saw egrets, a lone sandpiper, and the surprisingly colorful glossy ibis busy feeding. A short walk in the Scarborough River Preserve later that day and another at Wells Reserve the following day educated us in the curious ways of catbirds. We encountered brown thrashers, an eastern towhee and a mockingbird, as well, along with numerous warblers flitting about. The forested spots along the coast are busy this time of year.

Judy and I visited Goose Rocks Beach a little past low tide in the middle of the week. That was the highlight of our visit, per usual. We had the place to ourselves for the most part – one of the advantages of going to Maine off season. I watched the tide roll in while Judy walked the beach, reflecting upon her first visit there 35 years ago. The place hasn’t changed much since then.

In Wells Harbor towards the end of the week, we got into the shorebirds. I found willets immensely entertaining while Judy worked hard to capture least terns dive bombing for small fish. She got a good shot of a male tern offering a minnow to a female along the shore’s edge. Ah, the mating ritual! Cormorants, eiders, and the ubiquitous gulls were hanging out there as well. The more one looks for shorebirds, it seems, the more one finds.

On the last day, I drove up to Portland and caught a ferry to Peaks Island to visit my old buddy Steve. He took a day off from his mapmaking business to walk and talk with me around the island. His wife Angela joined us for lunch, then the three of us lounged on the deck of their house for a while before I caught the ferry back to the mainland. Judy and I watched common terns feeding at Mother Beach at dusk later that day. It all happened so quickly.

I’m a woods wanderer at heart, most comfortable in mountainous wildlands far removed from the heavily developed coast. But I find the rocky coastline, sprawling beaches and the green spaces down east alluring all the same. And the ocean stretching to the distant horizon as it does certainly puts things in perspective. After all, we live on a water planet. Even as sunlight washes across the landscape for days on end, it’s good to remember that.

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Jan 16 2021

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Midwinter Sunshine

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We waited several days for it. When finally the sky broke open as promised by the weather forecasters, Judy and I went to Colchester Pond. Judy is still passionate about photographing birds, and a few interesting ones had been spotted there recently. But the main thing was to get out and enjoy the sunshine. That’s not an easy thing to do in the middle of winter – not this year, anyhow.

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones looking to get out of the house. Half a dozen ice fishermen were camped out on the pond. Mostly gray-haired folks like us were walking the trail around it – on a Friday at noon, of course.

I glassed a few cardinals and blue jays with my binoculars but Judy didn’t even raise her camera. She can see those at home. No matter. We soaked in the relative warmth as we meandered slowly along the beaten path. With temps above freezing, Judy actually broke a sweat. I was quite comfortable.

After the walk, we sat on a bench along the edge of the pond, not far from the parking lot. That’s when Judy’s cousin Rick hailed us. We met him halfway between the bench and the parking lot and chatted with him for half an hour or so, keeping our distance because of the pandemic. Then Judy spotted a bird landing in a tree not far away. I glassed it, telling Judy she’d better get a shot because it was a raptor of some sort – one I couldn’t identify. It turned out to be a merlin. A rare sighting. What a fluke! A nice finish to a very pleasant day.

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Dec 22 2020

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Mac’s Bend

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Judy found out from her online birding group that bald eagles have been seen recently at Mac’s Bend near the mouth of the Missisquoi River, so we went there yesterday afternoon. Sure enough, we spotted a pair of them perched atop a tree on the other side of the river, not more than ten minutes into our walk. Unfortunately, they were too far away for Judy to get a good photo of them. So it goes with birding during the winter, more often than not.

We kept walking, following the gated, gravel access road to the Jeep trail ahead. We kept our eyes peeled for whatever else might come along. A woodpecker and a few nuthatches appeared. That’s all. Still it was good getting out of the house, getting some fresh air and stretching our legs. With the pandemic raging these days, we’ve been homebound for the most part.

The river was iced over and covered with a thin layer of fresh snow that also covered the access road. With temps above freezing and no wind, we were comfortable enough as we walked. Sunlight seeped through fissures in the grey clouds overhead. Animal tracks crisscrossed the river. All was quiet as the landscape settled into its winter dormancy.

After checking the time on my cell phone, I realized that there was only another hour and a half of daylight left. No surprise there, this being the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice. The official beginning of winter. The good news is that the days will be getting longer from here on out.

Judy and I linked arms as we strolled back to the car. We chatted a bit but kept things light. There is enough darkness this time of year – especially this year. Upon reaching the car, we decided to drive around a bit on back roads and continue looking for eagles and other raptors. We spotted a hawk perched on a pole in the middle of a field and saw another one devouring a field mouse she had just caught. We enjoyed seeing houses adorned with colorful lights during our drive back home – Christmas being only four days away. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year.

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