24 June 2024

Ghost harrier

Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Morning sun, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2010.

Morning sun.

What a day. Although we lay around in bed a while first, dog and I managed to drag ourselves up, grab some clothes and a leash, and head for Beech Hill at a fairly reasonable hour. Here at the shore—despite a forecast of sun—a thick fog cloaked everything. Still air, though, and a warm temperature. Maybe 55 or 60 degrees (F).

Ghost of northern harrier, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2010.

Ghost of northern harrier.

Nearing the hill, I spied blue sky and some patches of sunlight against the ruddy landscape of the inland hills. A wet, damp, luscious trail. A dozen juncos greeted us at the entrance to the parking lot. A jay cried. Two or three golden-crowned kinglets flitted about in some young conifers there, but I couldn’t nab a photo. Chickadees and several robins calling. Also a crow.

Twenty or thirty juncos, at least, dotted the trail as we made the first turn, pecking about for grass seed or somesuch, a couple white-throated and song sparrows among them. A handful of yellow-rump chipped in the branches of trailside trees, along with a solitary palm warbler, flicking its tail.

It was an odd atmosphere: seemed like the sun would emerge, but then a blanket of fog moved across the sun. Puddles, red undergrowth, golden-brown trees. I thought I might catch sight of a harrier, but the fog thickened. Then I heard three woodpeckers in a row—flicker, hairy, and pilated. Juncos at the summit, as well, flitting and tittering about the fringes of Beech Nut.

White-throated sparrow, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 28 October 2010.

White-throated sparrow.

Coming back down, I was photographing a tiny red-leafed plant in the grass when I saw movement in the periphery. Sure enough, a harrier had passed in the fog, looking ghostly. Then I heard the distinctive calls of a titmouse from somewhere nearby.

I learned even more about the behavior of juncos today—and to identify the chip note of palm warblers.

In early afternoon, I rode my bicycle fourteen miles, which brough my year’s total to 2,006. A record. During the course of the ride, I twice heard the voices of starlings.

Right at 5 p.m., I decided to walk with Jack out the breakwater for the first time since, I think, last spring. The prospect excited him, and we had a brisk walk to the end and back. Saw cormorants, eiders, gulls, and a lovely sunset. Crazily, the harbor had a chop in it, and the island side seemed smooth and pink and clean.

Double-crested cormorant, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 28 October 2010.

Double-crested cormorant.

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

1. Dark-eyed junco
2. Blue Jay
3. Golden-crowned kinglet
4. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
5. American robin
6. American crow
7. White-throated sparrow
8. Song sparrow
9. Yellow-rumped warbler
10. Palm warbler
11. Northern flicker (voice)
12. Hairy woodpecker (voice)
13. Pileated woodpecker (voice)
14. Northern harrier
15. Tufted titmouse (voice)


16. Herring gull
17. European starling
18. Double-crested cormorant
19. Common eider
20. Northern cardinal

Sunset, Rockland Breakwater, Rockland, Maine, 28 October 2010.

Sunset over Rockland Harbor.

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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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