14 April 2024

Archive for October, 2010

The antic air

Sunday, October 31st, 2010
Eastern slope, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 October 2010.

Beech Hill, eastern slope.

My, my—such a damp, nippy morning. Dog and I stuck around the house all forenoon, getting a little work done, and only after the chill drizzle ended did we take a drive up to Beech Hill.

Chickawaukie Lake, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 October 2010.

Chickawaukie Lake.

One nice thing about crappy days: we’re the only ones crazy enough to head up there, Jack and I. Again we pulled into an empty parking lot. A brisk wind was sweeping in from the northwest, and the temperature was (I’m guessing) barely 40 (F). In the first couple minutes of our walk, I saw no birds at all and heard only the voice of a crow. But then a gang of juncos flitted away into some yellow-leafed brush, and I heard the tsee! of a white-throat and the tut-tut of a robin.

The antic air was cold enough that I was glad to have remembered to bring gloves. But the cloud cover had holes in it now, and the sun kept trying to peek through. At one point, sunlight struck Chickawaukie Lake alone, creating an unusual landscape. I learned today even more of what the combination of sun and cloud can do.

Ascending, I heard more crows—and then became aware of a score or so that’d been stalking the southeastern hillside. Most flapped up and away upon sensing our approach, but one stuck around long enough for me to get a photo of just its head poking up through the grass.

American crow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 October 2010.

American crow.

The sun lit the eastern slope—and one of the two islands I like to photograph. I heard the strident note of a flicker, and a flock of larks flew over.

We didn’t stay at the windblown summit for very long. As we came back down, a sparrow flitted into the trail ahead of us. This is savannah sparrow behavior—at least at high season—and this little bird resembled one, but I’m pretty sure it was a song sparrow dining on the fall weed seed that the wind had sprinkled along the gravelly trail.

The last species: a blue jay. Its windblown jeers reminded me of a college football game yesterday I’d just as soon forget.

Back home tonight, in gloaming, a pair of cardinals chipped about out back. I could just make out the male perched in the open on a leafless branch. I thought about grabbing a flash photo of it, but my camera was uploading photos. Ah, well—another time.

This evening I heard reports that snow fell today up in Northport and Lincolnville. But tonight the clouds have moved away, and Jupiter hangs brightly overhead.

Gray squirrel, Glen Cove, Rockport, Maine, 31 October 2010.

Gray squirrel.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 1:45 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. American crow
2. Dark-eyed junco
3. White-throated sparrow (voice)
4. American robin (voice)
5. Northern flicker (voice)
6. Horned lark
7. Song sparrow
8. Blue jay (voice)


9. Herring gull
10. Northern cardinal

Two islands, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 October 2010.

Two islands.


Saturday, October 30th, 2010
Dark-eyed junco, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 October 2010.

Dark-eyed junco.

The day dawned brilliantly sunny and cold. I made a quick playdate for Jack with my friend D’s dog, Boone, since the two of them hadn’t seen each other for many months. Also, seeing as how we’d be headed to Birch Point Beach State Park, it meant Jack could run around without a leash for a while. Woo-hoo!

Horned grebe, Birch Point Beach State Park, Owls Head, Maine, 30 October 2010.

Horned grebe.

As the four of us headed to shore, a cloak of clouds moved over, and I heard several golden-crowned kinglets up in the boughs of the spruces. Also chickadees. And juncos—ever-present this time of year, it seems. As we approached the beach, right away I saw a lone grebe diving not too far offshore: a horned grebe in half-molt such that it very much resembled a red-necked (which I’ve seen in these parts before), but its bill was pretty small. Beyond the grebe, a loon dove. And in the periphery were herring gulls and eiders.

It was a lovely, brisk, carefree hike—right until we got talking with a neighbor who confirmed that today was, in fact, the first day of deer season. With rifles. That explained the gunfire we’d heard shortly before and also convinced us to change our route from a wooded one to a return trip along the road. Jack got appropriately tuckered out and enjoyed his time with Boone immensely.

We finished our shore hike in late morning and headed directly to Beech Hill. The day had become partly sunny by then, and the landscape is now a deep rich, rust color.

Northern harrier, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 October 2010.

Northern harrier.

Not many birds right off. I heard a white-throated sparrow. As we made the first turn, a small flock of robins flapped above us, southwest-bound. Then I saw a big bird—a harrier—floating up toward the summit. Then another. A pair of harriers. They dipped below the ridgeline, so I ran with Jack up the steep trail in hopes of photos. (I have a secret wish to grab a decent photo of a harrier.) Fired off a few pictures, but none turned out that great. Still, at the summit, one of the birds had apparently circled around, so I fired off a couple more. And then I thought I saw it again high in the southeast sky—but this bird was hovering, hanging motionless in the air, flapping only occasionally. I saw through my binoculars that this one was a red-tailed hawk. And there, beyond it, a second. So I fired off a few distant photos of red-tails.

Returning, we heard—then saw—a raven. And a solitary (odd) junco pecking about the edge of the trail. And coming back down the steep slope, I caught sight of a huge bird soaring over to the north, its giant wings pulled in for speed: an immature bald eagle.

Only eight species on the hill today, and three of them were raptors.

Red-tailed hawk, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 October 2010.

Red-tailed hawk.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 11:45 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. White-throated sparrow (voice)
2. American robin
3. Northern harrier
4. American crow
5. Red-tailed hawk
6. Common raven
7. Dark-eyed junco
8. Bald eagle


9. Golden-crowned kinglet
10. Black-capped chickadee
11. Horned grebe
12. Common loon
13. Herring gull
14. Common eider
15. Mourning dove

Inland hills, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 October 2010.

Inland hills.

Blanket of clouds

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Penobscot Bay, from Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 October 2010.

Penobscot Bay.

Sun streamed through the windows first thing, but by the time Jack and I pulled into the Beech Hill Road parking lot, a blanket of clouds had moved in, and all the world seemed muted. Much cooler—at least 15 degrees (F) colder than yesterday morning. Still very damp, with puddles still covering sections of trail. Still many juncos flitting and tittering in nervous bunches.

Dark-eyed junco, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 October 2010.

Dark-eyed junco.

Kinglets again in the little spruces. The tseet! of a white-throat somewhere nearby. By the time we left the parking lot, I’d seen and/or heard seven species. Robins around, also yellow-rumps. Still low on the hill, a small cluster of sparrows—maybe three or four—flitted up into one of the trailside birches. I got a pretty good look that, combined with the sound of their notes, told me these were savannahs. Which surprised me. I’m still learning the migration patterns of savannahs. Surely these were far-northern birds, because the many resident savannahs are long gone.

While taking another picture of the photogenic birch, I heard a sound and looked up to see a flicker flying over. Later, I heard what must’ve been a second flicker. Chickadees and song sparrows were also hanging around.

At the summit, I saw a gang of song sparrows and heard a jay.

Descending, I heard a peculiar, sliding, two-note call and watched a small bird flutter over, westbound. I didn’t recognize the call. I couldn’t get a good look at the bird. I have no idea what it was.

On the way home, many small plain passerines flitted about the roadsides, and I spotted a mourning dove on a power line. Later, out riding my bike, I heard the chips of cardinals in two separate neighborhoods. I also learned that two out of three crows will flee a fast bicycle (this happened twice, as I passed three roadside crows).

This evening, at about sunset, the sky grew lowery and some rain came. It didn’t last long, though, and now I’m seeing stars.

Song sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 October 2010.

Song sparrow at Beech Nut.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 8:15 a.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Dark-eyed junco
2. Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)
3. White-throated sparrow
4. American robin
5. American crow
6. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
7. Yellow-rumped warbler
8. Savannah sparrow
9. Northern flicker
10. Song sparrow
11. Blue jay (voice)


12. Herring gull
13. Mourning dove
14. Northern cardinal

Young maple, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 October 2010.

Young maple.

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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