21 August 2017 Rockport, Maine, USA 

Archive for April, 2010

Wind and warmth

Friday, April 30th, 2010
Spring wood, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2010.

Spring wood, Beech Hill.

When I first looked out at the sky this morning, I saw that it was cloudless. Wholly cloudless. Not a cloud in the sky. This seemed somehow promising—if somewhat scary—so we took only a few minutes, dog and I, before heading up to Beech Hill. (Although I did take time to make coffee.)

Mourning dove, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2010.

Mourning dove.

No cars in the lot. At first, again, I heard only the commoner birds: chickadee, goldfinch, robin, herring gull down the road. But soon (again) came the voices of towhees. And then, ascending the upper woodland trail, I heard what at first sounded like the song of the catbird I heard the other day. And in just the same place. But again—as the other day—I thought I detected double-phrasing. Like a thrasher. I couldn’t see the bird beyond the tangles along the trail edge, but after passing I couldn’t help asking the dog to accompany back down a ways to take another look.

There it was: brown thrasher. Thus, I’ve gone back and changed my listing of a catbird on 26 April (Monday). None of those just yet. Oh, they’ll be here—but they’ve been beaten by a thrasher.

We came upon a red squirrel hiding just a few feet off the trail. Then just a few paces farther along, I heard the quay note of a hermit thrush—and the bird itself hopped up to a hidden twig (but not that hidden) not twenty feet from us. Good look, no possible photo.

Chipping sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2010.

Chipping sparrow.

The air warmed quickly in the sun as we climbed the greening hill. But at the summit a quick wind howled in the little huddle of spruces. A huge wind, racing in from the west or northwest or southwest. I couldn’t listen well for all the wind. But I did hear savannah sparrows. Saw a couple, too, flitting about on the trail in front of us as they are wont to do. Not much else, though, until we reached the base of the open trail on the other side of the hill. The chipping sparrow that’s claimed one particular spruce down there was calling loudly from one of its branches. I caught sight of the bird for a change.

On the trail we met a mother with a young son. She also carried a baby. And a kite. On our return ascent we came upon the little family in a place of sailing wind. Sure enough, she’d managed to get the kite airborne, and the little guy was flying it like a pro. I snapped a couple photos.

There, off in the wind, the field sparrow. Coming back down the wooded trail: a titmouse. And a downy woodpecker. And, rather thrillingly, a blue-headed vireo. As we stopped to listen to the vireo, dog and I were suddenly cloaked in a cloud of black flies. A chickadee flitted in some hardwood branches above us, picking off flies.

I thought I’d be ending up with 17 species today—until I heard the voice of a crow from the parking. Looked up. The crow was chasing a raven.

Great black-backed gull, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 30 April 2010.

Great black-backed gull.

I went cycling this afternoon. I spent much of that time working at not getting blown over—but I also came upon a pair of ospreys soaring over a stretch of Route 1 near the Rockville Street farm. Such handsome birds. I’m glad I live among them.

And in late afternoon, dog and I hit the breakwater. Lots of birds today—and still-warm temperatures, and lighter winds. Black-backed gull, eiders, about a half-dozen red-breasted mergansers, a couple guillemots, one in mixed plumage and one in its full summer outfit. From the harbor side, I heard the yodel of a loon.

Yesterday we had sun and drizzle and, in some places, snow and sleet—even what some have called “hail.” Today we had sun and blue sky and wind and warmth. And flies. And an expectancy of warblers.

Beech Hill List
At 7:30 a.m., I walked all trails.

American robin (voice)
Black-capped chickadee
American goldfinch
Herring gull (voice)
Eastern towhee
Brown thrasher
Hermit thrush
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Mourning dove
Eastern phoebe
Common raven
Savannah sparrow
Chipping sparrow
Northern harrier
Field sparrow (voice)
Blue-headed vireo (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)
American crow

Elsewhere
House finch
Rock pigeon
Downy woodpecker
Osprey
Common grackle
Great black-backed gull
Common eider
Red-breasted merganser
Black guillemot
Common loon

Afternoon sky, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 30 April 2010.

Afternoon sky, Rockland Harbor.

Hawk and raven

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Aerial duel of harrier and raven, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2010.

Aerial duel of harrier and raven.

The light of a haze-veiled sun squeezed its way between my blinds this morning, awakening me with a purpose: to get up Beech Hill right away. By the time dog and I arrived at the Rockville Street parking lot, it was 7 o’clock. The temperature was cool—low- to mid-40s (F)—and already a breeze had kicked up. I wore insulated upperwear.

Leaf and lichen, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2010.

Leaf and lichen.

At first I didn’t hear much—robin, chickadee, goldfinch, the common birds—but singing towhees made an appearance soon enough. Also, there were jays. A number of jays, calling from various points along the trails. Not a rare sound up there, but not all that common, either.

A drumming partridge, the song of a white-throated sparrow. By the time we reached the summit, I’d seen or heard fourteen or fifteen species.

As soon as we headed down the open trail, I heard the voice of a raven and looked up to see the bird harassing a northern harrier, a ghostly male. The raven dwarfed the marsh hawk, but the hawk seemed relatively undaunted. I fired off a series of long-distance photos as they came together once or twice. Before long the hawk soared nonchalantly down the western slope before us, and the raven turned and sailed over toward the trees to the north. You don’t see that every day.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2010.

Savannah sparrow.

Savannah sparrows flitted around in the shrubbery, calling from the tops of stones or the bushy upper branches. A field sparrow’s clear, bouncy notes came wind-blown from the western slope, and a chippy called from a conifer along Beech Hill Road. Hearing a song sparrow’s trill and chime as we arrived back at the parking lot made this a five-sparrow day.

The phoebe family made an appearance near their nest up under the Beech Nut porch roof. The landscape has suddenly gone a bright, sunlit yellow-green. In a couple days May will be here—and with it’ll come wood-warblers.

The wind had calmed by clear twilight, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen—from the indescribably pure blend of blue in the western sky to the evening star hanging motionless above Benner Hill. And not long ago I heard a woodcock’s peent and eerie, thrilling flight song.

Green, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2010.

Green.

Beech Hill List
At 7 a.m., I walked all trails.

American robin
Black-capped chickadee
American goldfinch
Eastern towhee (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)
Blue jay (voice)
Ruffed grouse (booming)
Herring gull
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Mourning dove (voice)
American crow
Common raven
Eastern phoebe
Savannah sparrow
Northern harrier
Field sparrow (voice)
Hermit thrush (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Northern flicker (voice)
Song sparrow (voice)
Downy woodpecker (voice)

Elsewhere

House finch
American woodcock

Islands, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2010.

Islands.

Finding things

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
American robin, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2010.

American robin.

Life is a series of searching for things and finding other things instead.

Before I awoke I knew it was raining from the distant rushing traffic sounds. Gentle rain and a gray sky and temperatures in the 40s (F). Out the window, a titmouse was singing its love song in the rain.

Eastern towhee, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2010.

Eastern towhee.

In mid-morning I happened to look out and see a double-crested cormorant flying across the drizzly sky. The rain stopped sometime later, and I saw some scraps of blue sky, and things began to dry. We hit the wooded Beech Hill trail at just about exactly noon. Overhead the sky remained vague and gray; over the bay, the sky was blue. Not too much mud on the trail. Not many birds either—chickadee, goldfinch, gulls at the Rockville Street farm. Midday’s not the best birding hour.

But after a while, I heard towhees. And a hermit thrush—whose ethereal call seems perfect for a day that’s gray or misty. And the sudden gobble of a wild turkey not very far away. Heard a raven fly over. A downy woodpecker. Got a photo of a towhee near the summit.

I checked the phoebe’s nest up under the Beech Nut porch. I didn’t see a phoebe. But coming down the open trail, I spotted a solitary turkey up ahead, and the turkey spotted dog and me, and it took wing and sailed down the slope. I kept my gaze on that section of the hill in hopes of spotting the bird, but what I saw rise from the area instead was a single female harrier.

Northern harrier, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2010.

Northern harrier.

The song of a field sparrow rang from a group of low trees. Through my binoculars I spotted the bird about fifty yards away. Then heard a percussive call overhead, looked up, and saw a chase of three mallards in swift flight. On our return to the summit, the savannah sparrows were shy—I saw only two, and these flitted furtively off into the brush. A turkey vulture soared out toward the islands. And as we neared the wooded trail, I looked back to see a pair of harriers—male and female—circling the sod-roofed hut.

Down the lower wooded trail, when we passed the turkey-tail-covered trunk, I decided to walk on over and take a nearer photo. We saw no moose, but there were plenty of chickadees. While watching one group, I caught sight of a white-breasted nuthatch and followed that bird’s trip up a big oak trunk. Just then I heard the yodel of a loon—and actually saw the bird, flying high in the sky, at least a hundred yards overhead.

I sure didn’t expect to count twenty species on my walk up Beech Hill today.

Matinicus, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2010.

View of Matinicus from Beech Hill

Beech Hill List
At 12:00 p.m., I walked all trails.

Black-capped chickadee
Herring gull (voice)
American goldfinch
American crow
Eastern towhee
Hermit thrush (voice)
Wild turkey
Downy woodpecker (voice)
Common raven
Northern harrier
Savannah sparrow
Field sparrow
Mallard
Northern flicker (voice)
Song sparrow (voice)
American robin
Turkey vulture
White-breasted nuthatch
Common loon
Mourning dove

Elsewhere

Tufted titmouse
Double-crested cormorant
Red-winged blackbird
European starling
Ring-billed gull

Turkeytail fungus, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2010.

Turkeytail fungus.

 
Bird Report is an intermittent record of what's outside my window in Rockport, Maine, USA (44°08'N latitude, 69°06'W longitude), and vicinity. —Brian Willson



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