22 July 2024

Archive for June, 2011

Swainson’s thrush

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Beech Nut, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 June 2011).

Beech Nut.

I have to say I was a little surprised to see sunshine this morning. A partly cloudy sky turned mostly sunny, even. Nice. Also nice were some highly active birds—a cardinal again, song and house sparrows, house finches, crows, a tufted titmouse, yellow warbler and redstart, and a gray catbird. All singing within the few minutes I took Jack out first thing.

Yellow warbler, Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 June 2011).

Yellow warbler.

The day got busy then, and I got to thinking about a bike ride. Ultimately the day clouded over and I didn’t take one (tomorrow!), but Jack and I did make it to Beech Hill a little earlier than in recent days. And the hill did not disappoint.

I usually pay pretty close attention to my surroundings, but I have to confess to being a little extra-alert this late afternoon after hearing from my friend Kristen that a black bear has apparently been robbing some of the beehives on the hill. I’d love to see a bear up there (and a moose, and a bobcat), but I wonder what my dog would think. Never mind, though: no bear today.

But there were plenty of good birds. I heard the young raven again. I heard the voices of most of the usual residents. I also had several hairy woodpecker sightings, a blue jay sighting, a cedar waxwing sighting, and a good look at a fledgling phoebe begging in some berry tangles up toward the summit. I suspect it’s one of the young birds from the nest in the eaves of Beech Nut, but maybe not. Still, one of the coolest things was to be sneaking down toward its voice on our return and hearing the adult emit a sharp chip! and then noticing that the young bird go completely silent. Makes a lot of sense, though.

Eastern phoebe (fledgling), Beech Hill, Rockport, 30 June 2011).

Eastern phoebe (fledgling).

The savannah sparrow as chipping from the roof of Beech Nut again. Heard the song of the parula down in the lower woods again—a fairly regular occurrence. I’ve noticed it comes from a small stand of tall pines. Clearly, it has a claim on that territory.

Oddly, I didn’t hear a veery until we were about half-way down. (They’ve been among the most vocal birds lately.) And I heard no hermit thrush at all. But another thrush would soon make up for that omission.

Back home, right at dusk, I stepped out onto the deck briefly as several species were singing their evening songs: finch, catbird, yellow warbler, ovenbird. And suddenly there came, from not far up the back hill, the resounding notes of a Swainson’s thrush. I’m not sure I’d ever heard that song before (though I’d seen the thrushes here once), but I knew what it was immediately. I.e., it wasn’t a veery, it wasn’t a hermit thrush, it wasn’t a wood thrush—not a robin, surely. It was a thrilling, remarkable call. I checked its voice online immediately after hearing it. Quick confirmation.

It’s nice to see some stars tonight. I have a feeling tomorrow will be a decent day.

house finch (female), Glen Cove, Rockport, 30 June 2011).

house finch (female).

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

1. American goldfinch (voice)
2. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
3. Ovenbird (voice)
4. American redstart (voice)
5. Common yellowthroat
6. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
7. Common raven (voice)
8. Gray catbird
9. Eastern towhee
10. Black-capped chickadee
11. Hairy woodpecker
12. Song sparrow
13. Blue jay
14. Yellow warbler
15. Cedar waxwing
16. Eastern phoebe
17. Savannah sparrow
18. American robin
19. Northern parula
20. Black-throated green warbler
21. American crow
22. Veery


23. House finch
24. Northern cardinal
25. Tufted titmouse
26. Herring gull
27. Mourning dove
28. Turkey vulture
29. Swainson’s thrush

A foggy kind of day

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 June 2011.

Savannah sparrow.

This was a foggy kind of day. Foggy enough to coat the lush greenery with water and cause a rush of tires on pavement. One of the first birds I saw was a bright male cardinal perched on the utility line out my kitchen window as I prepared breakfast. Others in evidence: house sparrow, song sparrow, house finch, catbird, yellow warbler, redstart.

Savannah sparrow (Beech Hill, Rockport, 29 June 2011).

Savannah sparrow.

The foggy day progressed. Gulls and crows in the sky, mourning doves about, chipmunks skittering across the roads. The fog would lift for a while then descend again. By the time dog and I began our daily Beech Hill hike, it had descended heavily, and I hadn’t much hope of any great bird activity. As I often am, I was wrong.

Not that birds were flitting about like crazy. But I heard most of the usual species right away—ovenbird, veery, catbird, vireo—as well as the eerily human-sounding voice of a young raven. And I even caught sight of a veery. Surely I wouldn’t see many more.

But I did. Saw both male and female yellowthroats chipping about in the undergrowth, no doubt feeding nestlings. Then as we came around one upper wooded turn in the trail, we startled a catbird, which flapped silently away and disappeared. At the summit, I heard song sparrows and a yellow warbler and towhees and, while rounding Beech Nut, the alarm notes of savannah sparrows. And then the birds themselves appeared. There were three of them today—two adults and a fledgling. They chipped from the tops of the staked around the fields and the edge of the roof of the hut. Then I had revelation: the savannahs had a nest on the sod roof this year, I’m sure of it.

I might’ve held off declaring this belief had I not seen the fledgling. Not that anyone would bother to climb up on the roof to pester the birds. But folks—young folks, no doubt—have climbed up there before, I know. The tip-off is how frequently I’ve seen them perched up there this year. As well as the persistent appearance of at least one bird about the hut. As well as the fact of the fledgling that fluttered down from there in the fog today.

I even got some decent photos of one of the adults. Implausibly.

Then, coming down the lower wooded trail, I spotted a hairy woodpecker. Within seconds, a robin flapped up out of nowhere and startled the woodpecker. And on the other side of the trail, a flicker suddenly rose, flashing its white rump. And in the flicker’s wake, an alder flycatcher leapt up onto a low perch. Four birds within a minute. And I actually caught sight of them all.

Common yellowthroat (Beech Hill, Rockport, 29 June 2011).

Common yellowthroat.

The rest I only heard: hermit thrush, parula, jay, and rose-breasted grosbeak. But my total of twenty-one was the highest in several days. And driving home I heard the song of a chipping sparrow.

I rather like a foggy kind of day.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. Ovenbird (voice)
2. Veery
3. Gray catbird
4. Common yellowthroat
5. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
6. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
7. Common raven (voice)
8. American redstart (voice)
9. American robin
10. American goldfinch (voice)
11. Eastern towhee (voice)
12. Yellow warbler (voice)
13. Song sparrow
14. Savannah sparrow
15. Hairy woodpecker
16. Alder flycatcher
17. Northern flicker
18. Hermit thrush (voice)
19. Northern parula (voice)
20. Blue jay (voice)
21. Rose-breasted grosbeak (voice)


22. House finch
23. American crow
24. Northern cardinal
25. House sparrow
26. Herring gull
27. Mourning dove
28. Chipping sparrow

Fog (Beech Hill, Rockport, 29 June 2011).


Oh, well

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Common yellowthroat (female), Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 June 2011.

Common yellowthroat (female).

So, I’d just begun hiking the wooded Beech Hill trail with Jack, and we’d come around the little ferny trail to the brook, when an American redstart flitted up into a small branch maybe thirty feet away. It was an adult male, black with red highlights. A lovely bird. I raised my camera and was quickly focusing in—it was right there in my viewfinder—when it vanished. Damn.

Oh, well.

Common yellowthroat (male, Beech Hill, Rockport, 28 June 2011).

Common yellowthroat (male).

Not long after, as we came through a brushy area just below the upper fields, I heard the sudden song of a black-and-white warbler just ahead of us. We stopped, and I began walking very slowly (as is my instinct) until I saw the bird fly across into the trunks of some small trees. I readied my camera. And then I saw the bird zip away—and then, a few moments later, sing again from the thick greenery downhill from us.

Oh, well.

Then a little bird appeared just above us in the crown of a diminutive tree—a yellow warbler. I aimed, focused… nothing there.

That’s just the way it goes.

As one with a slight obsession with photographing wild birds, I’ve learned to live with little disappointments. And today was full of ’em. But when I look back to past losses in my life—the broken hearts, the missed opportunities—I can finally simply smile and shake my head. It’s taken a while. But loss and disappointment is a part of life. Everyone’s life. I suppose those of us who live long enough learn to accept the little pangs and move on. You get that familiar sinking feeling. And then you turn around and get on with it.

I have a feeling these will be my famous last words: “Oh, well.”

Not a bad day, weather-wise. A little sun, a lot of hazy overcast. Mild, with not a lot of wind. I got a lot of good work done. I had a wonderful bicycle ride (warblers, sparrows, gulls). And dog and I had a good hike up Beech Hill—where I got a couple pictures of yellowthroats, despite the missed chances.

And this cool night offers gifts of fireflies in the trees.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. American goldfinch
2. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
3. Chestnut-sided warbler (voice)
4. Veery
5. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
6. American redstart
7. Ovenbird (voice)
8. Gray catbird (voice)
9. Common yellowthroat
10. Eastern towhee (voice)
11. American crow (voice)
12. Yellow warbler
13. Black-and-white warbler
14. Purple finch (voice)
15. Song sparrow
16. Cedar waxwing
17. American robin
18. Hermit thrush (voice)
19. Common raven (voice)


20. House finch
21. House sparrow
22. Laughing gull
23. Herring gull
24. Mourning dove
25. Chipping sparrow
26. 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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