24 June 2024

Archive for May, 2010

Crow vs raven

Friday, May 28th, 2010
American redstart, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

American redstart.

A cool, active, birdy spring day.

I rose before 5 for another Friday bike ride with Shannon and James. This one was half the distance as last Friday’s but every bit as fun. And likewise it, too, passed through interesting populations of our native avian wildlife. Beginning with a noisy raven at Barrett’s Cove, commencing with many singing woodland birds, then a handful of water birds at Norton’s Pond, then field birds at the higher rural elevations, and ending 18 miles later with a small but thrilling group of blackburnian warblers at the shores of Lake Megunticook.

Chestnut-sided warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

Chestnut-sided warbler.

I could do that every day.

Again I’d promised Jack a walk up Beech Hill afterward, and so we set out on one. A quick one, as I had appointments, but nonetheless fruitful. Not only did I list thirty species—oddly, not including a few common ones like black-capped chickadee and savannah sparrow—but we flushed another woodcock. And I watched a pair of crows dive-bomb a raven. And a redstart nearly landed on my head.

The woodcock burst out of undergrowth toward the top of the upper wooded trail. (Again I looked for chicks; again I found none.) I heard the crows at the summit, then saw them flying high and bringing in their wings for a straight-down dive on something. I heard the voice of a raven also and at first figured maybe both big black birds were after a hawk or owl—but it turned out it was crow vs. raven. Or more accurately, two crows, one raven. This was confirmed by a mad chase low over the crowns of nearby trees and then right over us, dog and me. It was dramatic. At some points the raven would in a flash invert itself so its wings were below and its talons thrust above, in the direction of the crows. None of these birds were happy. They chased off to the south and out of sight—and, after a while, out of earshot.

Crow vs raven, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

Crow vs raven.

Returning through the little stretch of wood-side meadow, I asked Jack to stop so I could check out a bird. While I was sizing it up (a yellowthroat), another flitted over the trail in front of us and into a small but dense-leafed hardwood. Looked like a redstart, to me. As I worked to figure out a way to take its photo, the bird suddenly fluttered out like a butterfly and then made a beeline for me. I got a great look at the little guy from up close (more intimate than photos) as i very nearly lit on my head.

Anyway. What a day. I even got another glimpse of the northern mockingbird at the busy Route 1 intersection.


Eighteen-Mile Bicycle Ride List
Beginning at 5:30 a.m., I rode through Knox and Waldo counties (not in order of listing).

Alder flycatcher, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

Alder flycatcher.

1. Canada goose
2. Mallard
3. Ovenbird (voice)
4. Black-and-white warbler (voice)
5. Common yellowthroat (voice)
6. Yellow warbler (voice)
7. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
8. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
9. Black-throated blue warbler (voice)
10. American redstart (voice)
11. Nashville warbler (voice)
12. Northern parula (voice)
13. Blackburnian warbler (voice)
14. Song sparrow (voice)
15. White-throated sparrow (voice)
16. Chipping sparrow
17. Eastern towhee
18. Mourning dove
19. Black-capped chickadee
20. Tufted titmouse
21. Alder flycatcher
22. Great crested flycatcher
23. Eastern phoebe
24. Eastern wood-pewee
25. Eastern kingbird
26. Red-winged blackbird
27. Common grackle
28. Brown-headed cowbird
29. European starling
30. Bobolink
31. Gray catbird
32. Blue jay
33. American crow
34. Common raven
35. American robin
36. Veery
37. Wood thrush
38. American goldfinch
39. Rose-breasted grosbeak
40. House finch
41. Northern cardinal
42. Cedar waxwing
43. Red-eyed vireo

American robin, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

American robin.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 8 a.m., I walked the wooded trails.

Red-eyed vireo
Black-and-white warbler (voice)
Eastern towhee
American robin
Chestnut-sided warbler
Gray catbird
Common yellowthroat
Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)
Alder flycatcher
44. Ruffed grouse (booming)
American redstart
Veery (voice)
Blue jay (voice)
45. American woodcock
Cedar waxwing
46. Hairy woodpecker
Song sparrow
Common raven
American crow
47. Northern flicker (voice)
American goldfinch
Nashville warbler (voice)
Yellow warbler
Mourning dove
Eastern phoebe
48. Field sparrow (voice)
49. White-breasted nuthatch (voice)
Black-throated blue warbler (voice)
Black-throated green warbler (voice)


50. Herring gull
51. Laughing gull
52. House sparrow
53. Northern cardinal (voice)
54. Rock pigeon
55. Northern mockingbird

House sparrow, Glen Cove, Rockport, Maine, 28 May 2010.

House sparrow.

Glorious May

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Eastern towhee, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 May 2010.

Eastern towhee.

It’s been a good month. I used to like October best—but lately, it’s been May.

Chestnut-sided warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 May 2010.

Chestnut-sided warbler.

On our way up Route 1 toward our usual Beech Hill hike, Jack and I, a good-sized bird soared over the road in front of us. I thought it was a crow at first—but then I saw it was a hawk. An accipiter. A cooper’s hawk. First-of-year bird for me.

Seems the first bird I identify in the trailhead parking lot nearly every morning is an ovenbird. Just about everywhere on the hill you can hear one—certainly in the lower wooded section. Right away I’ll also hear a red-eyed vireo. A chestnut-sided warbler (the comments bird on the hill, I’m convinced). Then either a black-throated green, a crow, a black-and-white warbler, a goldfinch, or a robin.

I listed all those birds this morning, of course, along with the usual five sparrows, redstarts, alder flycatchers, veery, and phoebe. The phoebe was sitting on the nest under the Beech Nut porch roof, warming eggs against the chill.

American redstart (first-year male), Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 May 2010.

American redstart (first-year male).

And it was. Chilly. Fifty-something (F) when we embarked at about 6:30 a.m. That didn’t deter the mosquitos, though.

No least flycatchers or black-billed cuckoos today. Still only one day this year with a hummingbird sighting (actually, two that day). Still many birds singing, though, it being the musical month of May.

Tonight, the rising moon is full. The sky past 9 p.m. still holds the memory of daylight.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6:30 a.m., I walked all trails.

1. Ovenbird (voice)
2. Black-and-white warbler (voice)
3. Red-eyed vireo
4. American robin
5. Eastern towhee
6. Chestnut-sided warbler
7. Tufted titmouse (voice)
8. Gray catbird
9. American redstart
10. Alder flycatcher
11. Veery (voice)
12. American crow (voice)
13. Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)
14. Mourning dove
15. Black-capped chickadee
16. White-throated sparrow (voice)
17. Common yellowthroat
18. Yellow warbler
19. Song sparrow
20. Nashville warbler (voice)
21. Field sparrow
22. Eastern phoebe
23. Savannah sparrow
24. Blue jay
25. Chipping sparrow (voice)
26. Cedar waxwing
27. American goldfinch
28. Hermit thrush (voice)
29. Black-throated blue warbler (voice)
30. Black-throated green warbler (voice)


31. Cooper’s hawk*
32. House sparrow
33. Herring gull
34. Laughing gull
35. Northern cardinal
36. House finch
37. European starling
38. Common grackle
39. Rock pigeon

*First-of-year bird.

Cedar waxwing, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 27 May 2010.

Cedar waxwing.


Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Black-billed cuckoo, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 May 2010.

Black-billed cuckoo.

The time was about 6:45 a.m. The temperature was about 72 degrees (F). Dog and I began our daily walk up Beech Hill.

We climbed the upper wooded trail, as is our habit. The usual warblers called. Mosquitos buzzed around us. The day seemed humid, hazy. We had no expectations—simply a wish to be moving, to be turning the next corner, to be smelling things, to be listening. We had a wish to move.

About half-way up, I heard it—the telltale ch-bek! of a least flycatcher.

“Slow,” I said to Jack.

Least flycatcher, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 May 2010.

Least flycatcher.

We turned a corner and I peered through a little window of foliage onto the tip of a hardwood where, sure enough, the diminutive flycatcher perched and called. Occasionally, I noticed, it turned its head my way. I’m sure it saw me standing there holding my camera  through that little window of foliage. Before long, it left its perch, and then I heard its ch-bek! coming from a lot farther away.

Nearing the top—the juncture of the two wooded trails—I caught sight of a wide-winged shape slipping away in some low greenery. It didn’t look familiar.

“Slow,” I said.

Black-billed cuckoo, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 May 2010.

Black-billed cuckoo.

Around the next corner, I saw the bird: a black-billed cuckoo. It perched quietly as I snapped away. I’d thought about black-bills for several weeks—ever since the tent caterpillars began emerging, among their favorite foods. I’d heard their slight, suble “cu-cu-cu-cu” on the hill several times before, but this was the first I’d seen there. (Ironically, I saw a less-common yell0w-billed cuckoo up there just last year.) Eventually, the bird flapped graceful, silently, away.

This morning was notable also for its non-avian species: amphibian (we came upon another toad hopping across the trail), mammal (we spooked a chipmunk that climbed a tree to hide), and reptile (we nearly trod on a northern brown snake near the gate at Beech Hill Road). My list-keeping friend Kristen notes the northern brown as the fourth snake species recorded on Beech Hill, the others being garter, smooth green, and red-bellied. (Coincidentally, I’ve taken photos of two of the other three.)

Eastern chipmunk, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 May 2010.

Eastern chipmunk.

Otherwise, a fairly uneventful hike. Warmth, perspiration, the usual birds. Coming back down the lower wooded trail, I heard the black-throated blue with the aberrant call. (I like knowing who that is now.) And then suddenly came an eruption of song from a blackburnian warbler somewhere high in the canopy nearly overhead—an urgent, paired-note, high-to-the-limit-of-hearing kind of song. I recognize the blackie’s song much better this year, thanks to my hikes up the Thorndike Brook trail.

Later in the day, laughing gulls called from overhead, as they’ve done for weeks now. A pair of cardinals are raising a family out back of the neighbor’s house. And then some kind of front blew in, graying up the sky and causing the temperature to dip maybe 20 degrees (F).

Tonight the world is partly starry and cool. Moonlight seeps from behind black moving clouds. Change sails along with the air.

Northern brown snake, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 26 May 2010.

Northern brown snake.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6:45 a.m., I walked all trails.

1. Yellow warbler (voice)
2. Ovenbird (voice)
3. Black-and-white warbler (voice)
4. Tufted titmouse (voice)
5. Red-eyed vireo
6. Eastern towhee (voice)
7. Chestnut-sided warbler
8. American crow (voice)
9. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
10. American redstart (voice)
11. Blue jay
12. Alder flycatcher (voice)
13. Common yellowthroat
14. Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)
15. Veery (voice)
16. Gray catbird
17. Mourning dove
18. Eastern wood-pewee
19. Least flycatcher*
20. Black-billed cuckoo*
21. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
22. Song sparrow
23. Tree swallow
24. Nashville warbler (voice)
25. Cedar waxwing
26. Eastern phoebe
27. Field sparrow
28. Savannah sparrow
29. Hermit thrush (voice)
30. American goldfinch
31. White-throated sparrow (voice)
32. American robin
33. Black-throated blue warbler (voice)
34. Chipping sparrow (voice)
35. Blue-headed vireo (voice)
36. Common grackle
37. Blackburnian warbler (voice)

*First-of-year bird


38. Herring gull
39. House sparrow
40. Laughing gull
41. European starling
42. Northern cardinal

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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