24 June 2024

Archive for May, 2011

Porcupine, etc.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
North American porcupine, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2011.

North American porcupine.

A sweet, lovely, cool, sunny morning. I’d thought about getting a jump on the day with an early Beech Hill hike, but it didn’t happen. Instead, I listened to the bird activity while working with my windows open: house finch, redstart, laughing gull, cardinal, crow. As the sun rose higher in the sky, I began to get a hankering for a bike ride—and in mid-afternoon, that happened.

Yellow warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2011.

Yellow warbler.

Herring gulls for a change. Warblers singing along the roadside. Starling, song sparrow, cardinal. Considering the temperature, the light wind, the dry air, it was just about a perfect cycling day.

Then, after work, dog and I set off for the woods. En route, I couldn’t help but notice that lilacs are in bloom.

Right away I noticed some work had happened in the sugarbush earlier today—piles of small trees and heaps of logs, one fair-sized maple felled and still lying, green and leafy, near the big mama maple. Didn’t hear many birds around, which I suppose shouldn’t be surprising. Chestnut-sided warbler, hairy woodpecker, and ovenbird.

But coming up the hill, the other resident species began to make themselves known—including a teed-up waxwing that I just missed taking a portrait of. Plenty of veeries and alder flycatchers, many species of wood warbler. We stood for quite a while at the summit, just soaking up the fresh, perfect air and listening. Heard a savannah sparrow’s song, spotted one of the Beech Nut phoebes.

Jack and ferns, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2011.

Jack and ferns.

Descending again through the thicker woods, I noticed Jack paying sudden attention to something off to our left a ways. I think he must’ve heard the porcupine scraping around in the leaves. We stopped and—while enduring swarms of mosquitos and black flies—I grabbed a photo and a quick video. We couldn’t have been more than forty feet apart, but I don’t think the rodent knew we were there.

This early evening, as I was wrapping up some work with my door open, a bird flew in my office and lit on my purple spider web neon sign. A female house sparrow, I’m pretty sure (although originally I thought it a finch). I managed to coax it out again without much trouble.

At gloaming, the redstart was still singing out there. And the house finch, and a cardinal. And—suddenly—a yellow warbler, just a few feet from my back door.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:15 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
2. Hairy woodpecker (voice)
3. Ovenbird (voice)
4. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
5. Veery
6. Eastern towhee
7. Alder flycatcher (voice)
8. Gray catbird
9. Common yellowthroat
10. Cedar waxwing
11. Black-and-white warbler (voice)
12. American crow (voice)
13. Yellow warbler
14. Song sparrow
15. Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)
16. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
17. Savannah sparrow (voice)
18. Eastern phoebe
19. Blue jay (voice)
20. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
21. Northern parula (voice)
22. Herring gull (voice)
23. Eastern wood-pewee (voice)
24. American robin (voice)
25. American redstart (voice)


26. House finch
27. Northern cardinal
28. Laughing gull
29. House sparrow
30. Herring gull
31. European starling
32. Mourning dove
33. White-breasted nuthatch

Summery day

Monday, May 30th, 2011
Yellow warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2011.

Yellow warbler.

They said it would be a warm one, and the morning sure enough felt a little steamy. The pavement was still wet from the lively thundershower that moved through sometime overnight. The randy redstart continues his incessant singing, accompanied by the talkative house finch and the intermittent declarations of crows. Figuring it’d get wicked steamy as the day progressed, I decided a morning hike up Beech Hill was in the cards for dog and me.

Eastern towhee, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2011.

Eastern towhee.

That the parking lot was empty on our arrival proved a mild surprise—but not the warm, humid air. I’d worn jeans and hiking boots to ward off the tick hordes, but a short-sleeved shirt was the only protection I had from black flies and mosquitos. It all worked out.

The great crested flycatcher was calling again beyond the sugarbush, and I thought it might be nice to get a photo and/or video of this typically hard-to-see species, so we started off through the maples. A few yards in I happened to notice we were standing in a bed of small poison ivy plants, though, and we high-tailed it out of there.

May is a momentous month: at its beginning, the hardwoods have barely begun to bud; at its end, we’ve got full foliage. The trails seemed lush, the ferns tall. And the birds that sing are the ones that live here. Eight resident warblers today, three resident thrushes, four (of six) resident sparrows. Alder flycatchers were singing all over the place, and I had multiple waxwing sightings—one of them being a small flock hurrying through the trees. Towhees, of course. Crows. (But, oddly, this was the second straight day I had no herring gulls on my list.)

Plenty of humans on the trails, too, taking advantage of the summery weather. The Beech Hill Road lot was full, in fact, and the trails were crowded with people (and dogs) of all ages (and breeds).

Flowering, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2011.


Back home, the nesting phoebes were particularly active. The nesting nuthatches were zipping about secretively. And I spotted a small flock of grackles in a treetop across the road.

Tonight is starry and cool and quiet, with wood frogs singing in the periphery.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 10:30 a.m., I hiked all trails.

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


31. House finch
32. Laughing gull
33. House sparrow
34. White-breasted nuthatch
35. Northern cardinal
36. Common grackle

Here comes the sun

Sunday, May 29th, 2011
Gray catbird, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2011.

Gray catbird.

This day began a little soggy still, which was not exactly surprising. The air felt warmer, though. A house finch and a redstart sang.

Got more desk work done this morning, then about midday—perhaps a little after—I looked out to see a partly blue sky, and sun, and shadows. I managed to resist the urge until mid-afternoon or so when, with the sun still fading in and out, Jack and I jumped in the pickup with our daily Beech Hill hike in mind.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2011.

Savannah sparrow.

It must’ve been 70 degrees (F). A benign breeze blew. Ours was the only vehicle in the parking lot when we arrived. Not a lot of birds right away—although one of them was a great crested flycatcher. But we walked slowly along the upper trail, and they began to sing. Goldfinch, vireo, veery, towhee. Heard ovenbirds, yellowthroats, a black-and-white warbler. At the fields, catbirds, song sparrows, yellow warblers. At two points along the trails, I heard cedar waxwings—only the second time I’ve heard them up there this year (I’m pretty sure), whereas in past years they’ve been on my list nearly ever day in season. (Maybe they’re just late.)

Climbing through the little wooded area before the summit, I thought sure I heard a red-bellied woodpecker, but in two or three other places I heard the calls of gray treefrogs and began to second-guess my woodpecker “sighting.” Just in case, I decided not to include it on today’s list.

By the time we’d reached Beech Nut, the day had mostly cleared. If not for ticks, I could’ve worn shorts and a T-shirt. Tree swallows sailed gracefully over the reddening blueberry barrens, and I heard alder flycatchers here and there. Also got close to a singing savannah sparrow for a change. (They haven’t had many of the kind of sunny days they seem to prefer.) Met several people on the trails—birding friends, old acquaintances—and had some nice conversations. A rare lovely afternoon seems to put everyone in a good mood.

Eastern phoebe, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2011.

Eastern phoebe.

Coming back down along the lower wooded trail, where mosquitos rivaled black flies in the bloodsucking department, I heard—then saw—an osprey in overflight. The twenty-sixth and last species of the day. Not bad for siesta time.

Later, back home, I watched the nuthatches tend there cavity nest and got a distant photo of the redstart. A cardinal chipped from the shrubbery. And after sunset, I heard the peent! of a nighthawk flying by.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 3:45 p.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Black-capped chickadee
2. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
3. Great crested flycatcher (voice)
4. American goldfinch (voice)
5. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
6. Veery
7. Eastern towhee (voice)
8. Ovenbird (voice)
9. Common yellowthroat
10. Gray catbird
11. Cedar waxwing (voice)
12. Black-and-white warbler (voice)
13. Yellow warbler (voice)
14. Alder flycatcher (voice)
15. American crow
16. Song sparrow
17. Eastern phoebe
18. Savannah sparrow
19. Tree swallow
20. American redstart (voice)
21. Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)
22. Chipping sparrow (voice)
23. American robin (voice)
24. Northern parula (voice)
25. Hermit thrush
26. Osprey


27. House finch
28. Mourning dove
29. White-breasted nuthatch
30. Black-throated green warbler
31. Northern cardinal
32. Common nighthawk

Eastern chipmunk, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2011.

Eastern chipmunk.

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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