24 June 2024

Archive for April, 2013

Fresh territory

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Hermit thrush, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2013.

Hermit thrush.

Spring on the 44th parallel, for the returning birds, means laying claim, hammering stakes, establishing possession of territory. And it’s oh-so-evident these days.

Brown-headed cowbirds, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2013.

Brown-headed cowbirds.

Chickadees singing fee-bee! Titmice with peter-peter-peter! The songs of hermit thrushes, towhees, Savannah sparrows, field sparrows, chipping sparrows. The quality of the birdsong is relatively soft and fluty just now, before the arrival of wood-warblers. Thrushes, sparrows, finches. Crows’ voices are jarring, of course. Towhees can be kind of shrill. But the general feel of the ambient sound on a sunny early morning is soft, gently insistent.

Coming down the open Beech Hill trail with dog today, I got a look at a pair of male brown-headed cowbirds—that parasitic species—perched in the same small treetop, challenging each other to a duel. Or just plain dueling, I don’t know. I’d never seen the behavior before: each raising its head, puffing up, spreading wings, emitting a grating squee! Back and forth they went. I’m not sure if it was so much a challenge as a competition. Who had the most drive, the most insistence in puffing up and hollering squee! over and over.

I especially admire the soft trill of the Savannah sparrows just now, ending in their little patented hiccup. I could lie in the grass and nap to that lovely sound.

Savannah sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 30 April 2013.

Savannah sparrow.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 7 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Black-capped chickadee**
2. Hairy woodpecker (v)
3. Tufted titmouse** (v)
4. Northern cardinal** (v)
5. Herring gull*
6. Eastern phoebe**
7. American crow*
8. Blue-headed vireo (v)
9. American robin*
10. Eastern towhee**
11. Yellow-rumped warbler
12. Blue jay (v)
13. American goldfinch (v)
14. Song sparrow**
15. Savannah sparrow
16. Field sparrow
17. House finch**
18. Brown-headed cowbird**
19. Chipping sparrow**
20. Tree swallow (v)
21. Mourning dove (v)
22. Northern flicker (v)
23. Downy woodpecker
24. Osprey**


25. House sparrow (v)

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere


Monday, April 29th, 2013
White-throated sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2013.

White-throated sparrow.

They must’ve showed up sometime overnight last night, the white-throated sparrows. All I really know is that there they were this early morning, on either side of the wooded trail, at the summit, down near the Beech Hill Road parking lot. A few early singers—possibly even hardy year-round birds—have been singing “Old Sam Peabody” for a week or ten days, but these birds were new. At least two or three dozen of them, emitting their distinctive tseet! notes, browsing in the understory.

Eastern phoebe, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 29 April 2013.

Eastern phoebe.

Other sparrows, too: songs, Savannahs, fields—and, today, the first chipping sparrows I’ve heard so far this year. (Towhees, too, of course.) I got so distracted at one point that, obsessed with photographing one of the shy field sparrows, I saw a bird perched in a little birch in the direction of the field’s bouncy song and fired off a few shots, stepped closer, fired off a few more, closer, more… and realized I was photographing a song sparrow. The field sparrow was singing from a branch two trees up. It flew long before I got near enough for a photo.

No fox sparrows this year, though, and I haven’t seen a swamp sparrow in a while. An osprey circled, screaming. And I spotted a mating pair of brown-headed cowbirds, the worst of parents, soon to raid some unsuspecting warbler’s nest. But I saw no kestrels up there this morning for the first time in a week at least, maybe more.

Fittingly, somehow: my best photo of the day was my first—a portrait of a comely phoebe near the wooded trail head.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 7:15 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. American robin*
2. Eastern phoebe**
3. Hairy woodpecker (v)
4. House finch**
5. American goldfinch**
6. Black-capped chickadee**
7. Herring gull*
8. Tufted titmouse** (v)
9. Broad-winged hawk (v)
10. Eastern towhee
11. American crow*
12. Yellow-rumped warbler
13. Osprey*
14. Northern flicker (v)
15. Wild turkey (v)
16. Hermit thrush
17. Song sparrow**
18. Savannah sparrow
19. Brown-headed cowbird**
20. Field sparrow
21. Northern cardinal* (v)
22. Double-crested cormorant
23. White-throated sparrow*
24. Chipping sparrow** (v)
25. Blue jay (v)
26. Red-winged blackbird
27. Mourning dove* (v)


28. Mallard
29. European starling
30. Rock pigeon

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere
†First-of-year bird

Eagles and vireos

Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Bald eagle, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2013.

Bald eagle.

On their own, my waking hours seem to adjust to this season: I hit the sack earlier, awaken with the sun, can hardly wait to get out in the woods with the birds. This morning, one of the first birds I heard singing on the wooded Beech Hill trail was a blue-headed vireo—which species I first heard yesterday—bouncing around in the branches of the barely leafing-out maples. If you want to photograph this antic species, you have to do it before the foliage busts out. I got an OK photo today.

Blue-headed vireo (Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 April 2013).

Blue-headed vireo.

Up top, in the open fields, I found a few kestrels still, towhees (of course), and a whole slew of singing Savannah sparrows. This is unquestionably their territorial time of year. (I mean, wow.) I also heard (then saw, high above) a broad-winged hawk, and looked up to see an adult bald eagle fly over. Handsome birds, eagles. It flapped a few times as it passed, then just held out its wings and soared for hundreds of yards out toward the bay.

Heard my first pine warbler this morning, too—but it was only the second wood-warbler of the year for me. This will change within a few days. Which is one of the reasons I can’t seem to sleep later than 6:30 or 7 a.m.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 7:30 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Black-capped chickadee*
2. White-breasted nuthatch
3. Blue-headed vireo
4. Eastern phoebe*
5. American crow*
6. Hermit thrush (v)
7. Hairy woodpecker** (v)
8. Mourning dove* (v)
9. Blue jay
10. White-throated sparrow (v)
11. Northern cardinal** (v)
12. Tufted titmouse**
13. American robin* (v)
14. Eastern towhee
15. Yellow-rumped warbler
16. Northern flicker (v)
17. American goldfinch**
18. Red-winged blackbird**
19. House finch** (v)
20. American kestrel
21. Song sparrow**
22. Pine warbler† (v)
23. Field sparrow
24. Savannah sparrow
25. Common raven (v)
26. Canada goose* (v)
27. Bald eagle
28. Broad-winged hawk
29. Ruffed grouse (booming)
30. Tree swallow
31. Canada goose* (v)
32. Ruby-crowned kinglet
33. Herring gull*


34. Brown-headed cowbird
35. Chipping sparrow (v)
36. Golden-crowned kinglet (v)
37. European starling
38. Rock pigeon
39. Common grackle

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere
†First-of-year bird

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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