30 November 2022

Archive for April, 2010

Rain day

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Rainy landscape, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 April 2010.

Rainy landscape.

Dawn lit a wet, chilly, drizzly landscape this morning—albeit not very brightly. The dog, however, was bright and persuasive, so we headed up the drippy hill first thing. I doubted the yearling moose had hung around but nonetheless couldn’t help wondering. Only finches sang as we hopped in the pickup.

Wild violets, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 April 2010.

Wild violets.

Saw Chuck’s truck in the parking lot, so we took the upper trail, the one I’ve noticed he and Greta usually use to ascend. All was pretty quiet. For the first few hundred yards, in fact, I heard only the voices of chickadees and the faint cries of herring gulls at the farm on Rockville Street. Then I heard a crow. Then a raven. Didn’t figure I’d be getting any decent bird photos this day, so I concentrated on the flora.

I don’t know plants and trees and such anywhere near as well as I’d like to. It’s nice to have something yet to learn. I couldn’t help noticing, for instance, all the little white-flowering trees on the hill just now. I’d just learned from my friend Kristen’s blog that these were some form of shadbush—I’ve since decided they must be Amelanchier laevis. Also apparent trailside, along with the fiddleheads and trout lilies, were what looked to be tiny wild violets. And fungi are bustin’ out all over the trunks of dead trees.

Nearing the top of the upper trail, I finally heard some calling towhees. And then a pair of them exploded from some undergrowth chasing and making strange razzing sounds. The territorial imperative. Turned out the towhees were the only birds I actually saw on the hill this day.

Turkey tail, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 April 2010.

Turkey tail.

I heard others, though: robin, song sparrow, cardinal, titmouse—and, unexpectedly, the urgent screams of a killdeer off in one of the summit fields.

Descending the lower wooded trail (no doubt Chuck and Greta’s route also), we came upon no moose. But we did come upon a tall dead trunk positively cloaked in turkey tail fungus. From somewhere came the high-pitched chatterings of a downy woodpecker—one of only eleven birds on today’s Beech Hill List.

Beech Hill List
At 7:45 a.m., I walked both wooded trails.

Black-capped chickadee (voice)
Herring gull (voice)
American crow (voice)
Common raven (voice)
American robin (voice)
Song sparrow (voice)
Eastern towhee
Killdeer (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)
Downy woodpecker (voice)
Northern cardinal (voice)

Elsewhere

Rock pigeon
Mourning dove
House finch
American goldfinch
Blue jay

Amelanchier laevis, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 April 2010.

Amelanchier laevis.

Moose in the popple

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Double-crested cormorant, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 26 April 2010.

Double-crested cormorant.

A yearling moose made an appearance at Beech Hill this morning. I didn’t see the moose.

Up early, headed with dog to the wooded trail. In the parking lot, I ran into two friends with dogs that had the same idea: Roger, with Zeke (just getting finished with their hike) and Chuck, with Greta (just getting started). Turns out Greta—a sweetheart to people (and a German shepherd dog, a breed I have a soft spot for)—isn’t especially dog friendly, so she and Chuck headed up before Jack and me.

American goldfinch, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 April 2010.

American goldfinch.

Right away, I realized the towhees had returned. Well, maybe not the same individual birds, but at least a dozen eastern towhees singing “drink your tea”—or “please eat your cheese” or other variations on the theme—serenaded us up the trail. Also chickadees, goldfinches, a downy woodpecker, robins, herring gulls in the distance. We saw nor heard hawks; no tree swallows today, either. But at the summit there were phoebes, savannah sparrows, a titmouse, a field sparrow, mourning dove, a crow, and a raven. We also came upon a recently killed mouse directly in the middle of ht trail. Head chewed on. Body uneaten. Not sure what might’ve been responsible for that, but I moved its little corpse off into the trail-side vegetation.

Dead mouse, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 April 2010.

Dead mouse on the trail.

Descending, I thought for a moment about taking the longer, lower wooded trail—but changed my mind at the last minute, and we retraced our steps along the upper trail. And about half-way down, I heard a solitary singing catbird. That’s right: first-of-year gray catbird, first of many to nest on the hill this year, I’m sure.

I was feeling pretty good about the catbird when Chuck and Greta arrived back at the parking lot just as we were about to leave. “Guess what we just saw?” asked Chuck. Turns out those two had returned via the lower trail and ran into a good-sized yearling moose, which hung around a little while before taking off through the leafing popple toward the northeast. Inside, I cursed my bad decision—we took the wrong trail down. But later I realized: I wasn’t meant to see that particular moose. It’s likely long gone now anyway.

Herring gull, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 26 April 2010.

Herring gull.

I was meant to hear a catbird.

Rode 16 miles on my bike today. In Rockport village, I heard grackles, a blue jay, a cardinal. Later, Jack and I walked the breakwater again. Thought I saw a male common merganser in flight—but I’m not quite ready to count it. Did see great black-backed gulls, loons in winter and summer plumage, plenty of eiders, a number of double-crested cormorants.

Beech Hill List
At 7:30 a.m., I walked the wooded trail.

Eastern towhee (voice)
American goldfinch
Black-capped chickadee
Song sparrow (voice)
American robin (voice)
Herring gull (voice)
American crow
Savannah sparrow
Tufted titmouse (voice)
Field sparrow (voice)
Eastern phoebe
Gray catbird (voice)
Northern flicker (voice)

Pair of common eiders, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 26 April 2010.

Pair of eiders.

Also notable: dead mouse in trail, yearling moose (second-hand info).

Elsewhere

House finch
Downy woodpecker
Northern cardinal
Pileated woodpecker
Mourning dove
Rock pigeon
Common grackle
Blue jay
Great black-backed gull
Common eider
Osprey
Common loon
Double-crested cormorant

Barnacles, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 26 April 2010.

Barnacles.

Noticing things

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Yellow-rumped warbler, Beech Hill, Rocpkport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

I was nearly wrong. I declared yesterday that towhees would be singing from now until fall at Beech Hill, thinking the four or five (or more) birds giving forth yesterday would hang around and nest. Well, on today’s morning walk up the hill, I heard no towhee songs at all. In fact, it was a very different hike.

Eastern phoebe, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Eastern phoebe.

At the trailhead, I heard only goldfinches and chickadees. The sky was clear and blue. The morning sun bathed the greening landscape. A brisk north wind had kicked up. Not sure if yesterday’s activity came from the dramatic swing in the weather or what—but today’s walk began about as uneventfully as yesterday’s was notable. I did finally hear a crow’s voice from up the hill and a herring gull’s from (no doubt) the little cow farm. Then about half-way up, I heard the subtle chip of a warbler.

I notice things like that. After thirty years of listing birds, my brain is attuned to their voices—whether a cardinal singing its incessant string of sweet, loud notes or an osprey’s scream from 200 yards up or the tiny two-note tee-deet of a nesting female hummingbird. Many (if not most) cultured folk don’t notice their native birds at all; they have other distractions involving family or the office or that strange new sound coming from under the hood of the car. The chip made my ears perk up. I had an idea of what it was.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Savannah sparrow.

I might’ve been wrong about the towhees, but I was right about this: a yellow-rumped warbler, hunting for insects amid new yellow-green poplar leaves. They come through early, the yellow-rumps, but will eventually be outnumbered by chestnut-sideds and yellowthroats—up Beech Hill, at least. A tilted planet turns, the photoperiod lengthens, yellow-green leaves unfurl, insects return. And with them come wood-warblers.

(It’s another thing I notice: the returns of insects. Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices the return of black flies and mosquitoes, but to me they mean not annoyance and bug spray but the return of insectivorous birds.)

Common eider, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Common eider.

Finally, at the summit, I heard the call note of a towhee coming from somewhere down the eastern slope. I suppose next year I might notice all the singing first arrivals of this species and realize they’re likely simply moving through, stopping off to check out the habitat—certainly wonderful towhee habitat, that’s for sure.

This late-afternoon, dog and I took a brisk walk along the breakwater. The highlight: a female common merganser diving near a low-tide rock on which were perched three double-crested cormorants. And (I noticed from their gentle peeps) more purple sandpipers moving through.

Beech Hill List
At 9:30 a.m., I walked both trails.

American goldfinch
Black-capped chickadee
American crow
Herring gull (voice)
Mourning dove
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Yellow-rumped warbler
Tree swallow
Eastern phoebe
Savannah sparrow
Eastern towhee (voice)
Common raven (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Tufted titmouse (voice)

Purple sandpipers, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Purple sandpipers at the Rockland Breakwater.

Elsewhere

House finch
Song sparrow
Northern cardinal
House sparrow
Common grackle
Double-crested cormorant
Common merganser
Common eider
Common loon
Purple sandpiper
Mallard

Looking northwest from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 25 April 2010.

Looking northwest from Beech Hill.

 
Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson



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