5 February 2023

Archive for April, 2010

Bump in activity

Saturday, April 24th, 2010
Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 April 2010.

Savannah sparrow.

Because I knew I’d be tied up indoors for much of this day, I decided to head early to Beech Hill with the dog. Weather prognosticators were calling for a nice day—but lots of clouds still cloaked the blue by the time we arrived. I knew the wooded trail is ticky; I hoped it’d also be birdy.

Right away, from the trailhead, I heard three calling towhees. First-of-year to be calling. And because Beech Hill offers towhees all the things they love and need, I’ll now be “drink your tea” daily for months. Also heard robin, goldfinch, song sparrow, titmouse. Coming up were chickadees and the sudden, breathy boom of a ruffed grouse—in fact, quite nearby.

American kestrel, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 April 2010.

American kestrel.

About a third of the way up the trail, the clouds trailed off to the east, the sun came out, and the temperature rose five or ten degrees (F). Up the hill I heard the killy-killy-killy of a kestrel—then saw the bird, perched in the crown of a tree. Oddly, I heard a small flock of Canada geese flying over toward the summit. I found it also odd for us to be alone on the trail on such a lovely Saturday morning.

Turning a corner in the open part of the trail, I heard and saw sudden motion: a wild turkey, in the trail perhaps 50 yards ahead of and below us, laboriously taking wing. It sailed in not altogether ungraceful flight off into the greening trees.

Toward the summit, we also flushed a phoebe and some goldfinches. Then a tree swallow swooped up from nowhere, and I tried for a while to take its picture, only to discover that tree swallows in close flight are nearly impossible to photograph.

I heard four or five calling savannah sparrows and decided to head down the open trail. Savannahs, too, will be calling for months. Quite a few were recent arrivals. After taking a few photos of one in a bush, I noticed a cluster of people with scopes and binoculars some distance down the grassy southern slope. They appeared to be focused on a singing field sparrow. Beyond them, a hermit thrush called, and beyond it a northern cardinal.

Broad-winged hawk, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 April 2010.

Broad-winged hawk.

I cast about a sky gone swiftly, wholly blue and toward the summit spotted a large raptor soaring over, east to west. From behind me I caught oohs and whispers and the confident pronouncement, “broad-winged hawk.” This person was right. Nice broadwing.

Retracing our steps shortly after, I saw a hovering kestrel and tried for a photo as it swept down to a tree on the eastern slope. Looking at the photo later—a lame and blurry one—I noticed one little fan-tailed falcon in flight and another perched in the tree. This, and all the calling I’ve heard this spring makes me think they’ll nest this year.

Addendum: I neglected to mention that, during a midday break, I heard the rollicking call of a laughing gull coming from somewhere in the blue above me. I never did catch sight of the bird, but their voices are unmistakable—and certainly warrant their name. Also, while at Beech Hill, dog and I saw a snowshoe hare, a brown one, dashing off through a patch of last fall’s leaves.

Beech Hill List
At 9:15 a.m., I walked the wooded trail.

American goldfinch
Tufted titmouse (voice)
Song sparrow
Eastern towhee (voice)
American robin (voice)
Black-capped chickadee
Ruffed grouse (booming)
American kestrel
Mourning dove
Canada goose (voice)
Herring gull (voice)
Downy woodpecker (voice)
Wild turkey
Savannah sparrow
Northern flicker (voice)
Field sparrow (voice)
Chipping sparrow (voice)
Hermit thrush (voice)
White-throated sparrow (voice)
Eastern phoebe
Tree swallow
Broad-winged hawk
American crow

Elsewhere

House finch
Chipping sparrow
Rock dove

Green, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 24 April 2010.

Green.

An April day in Maine

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 April 2010.

Beech Nut.

The day dawned dreary. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. First bird I heard was a persistent mourning dove, cooing over and over at dawn’s first light. Eventually, after scores of dove calls, I awoke for good and got out of bed.

Turkey vulture, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 23 April 2010.

Turkey vulture.

A little drizzle came early, but nothing too dramatic. I had occasion to drive to Owls Head this morning about 9, and I heard what sounded like the repeated quay of a red-eyed vireo. I could’ve sworn that was the call—but it’s early enough that I have doubts, so I won’t count it as official. Then I heard also the unmistakably lovely call of a hermit thrush* (my own, and many others’, favorite bird song). Also goldfinches, jays, chickadees, and downy woodpecker.

Heavier rain came soon enough. Seriously heavy rain for a while there. I saw no birds at all, let alone new spring arrivals. But the rain tapered off by early afternoon, so dog and I headed for Beech Hill.

Right away I heard the call of a blue-headed vireo. Also a downy woodpecker and northern flicker. But in the wake of the rain, with wind-whipped gray clouds, not many birds made themselves known. The first I saw, in fact, was a turkey vulture sailing low over the summit. Then I spotted a gang of crows swirling up there also—possibly harassing the vulture?—and a solitary song sparrow flitting amid the underbrush.

We headed down into the wooded trail, dog and I. Heard and saw some chickadees. Heard (but didn’t see) a phoebe. Heard the croak of a raven. And that’s all we heard or saw.

But on the way back, I did spot a solitary kestrel high in the crown of an oak at the base of Beech Hill. This bird is one of a nesting pair, I feel sure. Somewhere nearby is a kestrel nesting cavity.

Rain came, rain went. Rain came again. This evening before dark, a few crows landed in the limbs of the big red oaks out back. I grabbed a couple photos.

And out back tonight, finally, in the wake of the rain: a chorus of spring peepers.

*Note: I mentioned the vireo-like quay to my friend Kristen, who mentioned that hermit thrushes have a similar note. Duh. That’s what it was: the thrush.

Today’s List

Mourning dove
House finch
Black-capped chickadee
Herring gull
Rock pigeon
Northern flicker
Hermit thrush
Red-eyed vireo
Blue jay
American goldfinch
Northern cardinal
Song sparrow
Blue-headed vireo
American goldfinch
Downy woodpecker
American crow
Turkey vulture
Eastern phoebe
American kestrel
American robin
Common raven

American crows, Glen Cove, Rockport, Maine, 23 April 2010.

Two crows.

Warblers!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Palm warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Palm warbler.

If you know me well, you know my love of wood-warblers. Just something about their diminutive size, big voices, colorful plumage, and elusive nature has wholly captivated me since I began birding seriously exactly three decades ago this year. For me, May is the month of warblers. But a few early birds show up on the 44th parallel in April—and today was my first 2010 ID.

Isolated thundershower, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Isolated thundershower.

These past two-three days I’ve thought I detected warblers. But the distinctively strident, declarative notes I’ve heard have come from tiny birds in flight, migrating overhead. And I’m none too familiar with early-warbler voices anyway. Perhaps I’ve heard a few yellow-rumps in overflight. And who knows what-all else. But identification has been beyond me—until today.

In fact, as soon as dog and I jumped out of the pickup in the Beech Hill parking lot this late morning, I heard them. Two or three tiny birds flitting about the upper limbs of a conifer. I didn’t know their calls and couldn’t get a fix on ’em with my fieldglasses. But very shortly thereafter, coming up the trail’s first rise along the road, I got a good look—and a passable photo—of a palm warbler. It had a similar voice to the chipping sparrow calling from the other side of its tree, but I still don’t have it memorized. (I’ve listened to recordings, but recordings don’t register as purely as hearing a bird “in person.”) And right after I spotted the palm, I heard a field sparrow.

Sky islands, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Sky islands.

Field sparrows have been nesting on Beech Hill for only a few years. They’re not an uncommon bird, but for a not uncommon bird, they’ve been in somewhat of a decline lately, so it’s been nice to hear their bouncy, musical calls on the hill. Yesterday I heard my first savannah sparrow (a Beech Hill mainstay), and today I heard my first field sparrow. In fact, today was a five-sparrow day: field, savannah, song, chipping, and white-throated. I also saw a raven, a kettle of five turkey vultures, and a pileated woodpecker in flight. I heard phoebes, chickadees, robins, goldfinches, house finches. Low in the bay floated banks of fog. We heard, dog and I, a clap of thunder from a tall cloud to the north. Detected something of a fickle breeze. Felt warmth from the sun.

Double-crested cormorant, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Double-crested cormorant.

Elsewhere in my travels today I saw or heard: cardinal, starling, cowbird, titmouse, herring gull, ring-billed gull, rock pigeon. Then at about 6 p.m. we took a walk along the breakwater, where the tide was high and I listed eiders, d-c cormorants, r-b mergansers, a greater black-backed gull, napping spotted sandpipers, a couple loons. On the way home, in calm, brimming Clam Cove, floated a pair of buffleheads.

But what I’m remembering tonight (and hoping to see more of tomorrow) are wood-warblers—those jewel-like creatures of the woodland.

Today’s List

Purple sandpipers, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Purple sandpipers.

Northern cardinal
House sparrow
Song sparrow
House finch
Mourning dove
Eastern phoebe
American crow
Herring gull
American goldfinch
American robin
Palm warbler
Chipping sparrow
Field sparrow
White-throated sparrow
Savannah sparrow
Common raven
Black-capped chickadee
Turkey vulture
Northern flicker
European starling
Ring-billed gull
Rock pigeon
Common eider
Great black-backed gull
Red-breasted merganser
Purple sandpiper
Common loon
Bufflehead

Common eider, male, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 22 April 2010.

Common eider.

 
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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