These past few weeks, Yang and I have had some wonderful bird sightings, sometimes, literally, in our own back yard. Case in point, one Friday, Natasha was meowing at the door all day. Then Rosalind was in the pantry window bird-chattering away, while I worked on my novel in the dining room. I stopped and suddenly became aware that I’d been hearing a high-pitched hawkish call. I got up and looked out the window in the dining room, and what did I see in the patch of sea roses, but two Merlins! One flew away, while the other hung out for some time – before attacking a sparrow who out-smarted him. I got these pictures through the window because I was afraid going outside would drive my visitor off. Hence, it’s much blurrier than I’d like. What do you think of this new guy? I haven’t seen him since, but I did find an ominous splash of tiny white bird feathers on the nearby back porch.
Our bird feeders have returned to us the usual suspects. Lots of Titmice and some Chickadees battle four pushy Blue Jays. We also have two male and one female Cardinal visiting. One of the males is pretty aggressive. While he’s fine with the little birds, he’ll go after the Blue Jays and drive them off! We also have Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches wearing their winter buff, and even a Yellow-bellied Woodpecker. One day, a Carolina Wren gave me such a scolding when I came too near the juniper bush!
On a visit with friends on the Cape, we came across one of my favorite, but rarely seen, birds. At first, seeing the creature head on, I perceived a bird with a brownish head and chest with a white belly forming a “v” into the brown chest. I claimed I’d never seen such a bird before, until he took flight and I saw the luscious blue. Bluebirds! A good-sized flock of them! I noted in my Peterson’s that Bluebirds are usually found year round in New England mainly on the Cape. How appropriate! The Bluebird was one of my “must see” birds for the year. I still need to see an Indigo Bunting, a Piliated Woodpecker, and a Scarlet Tanager. It’s probably too late in the year for the first and last, but I’m holding onto hope for that Pterodactyl-sized woodpecker. The Bluebird photos are courtesy of Andrea Krammer.
Today, when we took a morning walk (about 7:00) on the Blackstone River Trail, we saw some interesting birds. A Great Blue Heron and a black Cormorant were fishing in the same part of the river. Then, atop a tall dead tree, we saw a bald eagle. We watched as he sat there majestically for some time before he soared off away from us and the river. We didn’t have the means to get a picture, so I’m borrowing this one below.
I can’t wait to see what the remainder of the year brings!
Source eagle image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eagle_on_roots_-_crop_3_(430008061).jpg
In the midst of all that God-awful rain last week, we had a day full of sun and warmth on Tuesday. So we hopped in our car and headed for the Connecticut shoreline and some of our old haunts! First, we stopped at Bill’s seafood for our annual (and more often if we can!) fix of lobster rolls! Mmm, Bill’s has the best, with a handy helping of crisp and hearty french fries and cole slaw with a nice tang. You can see Yang enjoys his repast!
As usual, we sat on the deck, which is next to a river and salt marsh flowing to the sea. We especially love to do that because you always see loads of seabirds there. This time, we could espy teenage ospreys in their platform next out in the marsh, while wild cries overhead alerted us to their hunting parents flying overhead. We couldn’t take pictures because the platform was too far out, but we’d remembered to bring binoculars. so, we got a good look at the young osprey.
We also had the pleasure of seeing some less fierce feathered critters. We got a few pictures of some American Black Ducks, as you can see here.
There was also a mamma Mallard with her three babies scooting around. It was cute to watch her leisurely paddling while her kiddos worked those webbed feet furiously to keep up! Someone commented that this must be her second clutch, since they were so little so late in the season.
After Bill’s, it was off to Old Lyme to visit Joan Bennett at the Pleasant View Cemetery. there used to be a riding academy and horse-boarding farm across the street, so I used to think that Joan, who was a rider, would have found that view pleasant, indeed. Today, the grass wasn’t too bad in the cemetery, and it was filled with butterflies. I saw a Monarch, the Black Swallow Tail in this picture (thanks to Charmaine Kinton for the i.d.) and a beautiful bright yellow butterfly (no, not a Tiger Swallow Tail). I know Joan loved yellow and butterflies are symbols of the soul. Do you think she was saying “hi” to me? I also noticed that there was a sign for a house for sale on the street. should we all chip and buy it so that we visit our friend more easily – and keep the grass trimmed? I also noticed that Joan had a cousin, Patricia Morrison (not the actress), who died very young. Does anyone know the story there?
Anyway, we checked ourselves for ticks before we got in the car – we were in Lyme- then went off to Rocky Neck State Park. This park is a wonderful place to hit the beach or take hikes along trails. Once more, we saw several nesting platforms for ospreys with young ospreys in them. There was one that had a nest not as thick as the others, so we thought it was unfinished or abandoned. We found out later we were wrong. Once again, thank God for binoculars! We also saw many Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets, as well as a Kildeer! Yang even managed to get this shot of a Green Heron! So, in case you’re still wondering, what was the deal with the underdeveloped platform nest? Well, we were checking it out with the binoculars when a red-tailed hawk came sailing in. The hawk kept looking at something in the nest that we couldn’t see, but we suspect it was his/her family. Thanks to the binoculars, we got a great closeup of the bird’s enormous eyes, powerful hooked beak, and beautiful feather patterns. A formidable creature, indeed!
Finally, we moved on to the beach and then up to the huge, field stone pavilion that had been built in the 1930s as a WPA project. The building was one of the reasons Yang had wanted to come here. He’d been reading the draft of my third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse, and its description of the setting whetted his appetite to return to one of our favorite places to go walking. The pavilion is a long building with beautiful hard wood floors inside. Couldn’t you just picture a big band playing there, and people dancing on a summer’s eve with a tangy salt breeze cooling off all those hot cats and kittens? It turns out you can rent it for $3,750 for a gathering of under 200 people. A larger number is less expensive. Any one want to GoFund a swing night there – and I mean swing dancing!
There are also some beautiful views of the ocean from the pavilion.
Then we closed out the day with dinner at The Main Street Grille in Niantic – well, not exactly. We also went for a 30 minute walk on the boardwalk in town as well. No wonder I was limping on Wednesday and Thursday. Nevertheless, I was recovered enough to jitterbug, cha-cha, rhumba, and fox trot to Dan Gabel and the Abletones at Moseley on the Charles on Friday. Good bless heating pads and Advil!
So, our first bicycle ride on the Harlem River Valley Trail, starting in Millerton, NY, was a wonderful trip! We started off after a delightful lunch at Harney and Sons tea outlet – and my buying out most of the store! Must have my Keemun and Breakfast Supreme!
The day was absolutely perfect for a bicycle ride: not too hot but sunny and clear. We saw a plethora of the most wonderful critters! I increased my count of birds seen this year with some unique additions. Unfortunately, they moved too fast for me to get any good pictures, so I’ll have to rely on other sources for illustration. When riding past the big pond in the cattle pasture along the trail, I saw this heron flash by over the water. He was too small for a Great Blue Heron –– and didn’t have a crest. But he wasn’t the right color for a Green Heron; he was a dark, slatey blue. He reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Little Blue Heron, and when I checked several sites on line I discovered that’s exactly what I’d seen. Here’s a picture courtesy of Dario Sanches via Wikkipedia. Interestingly, these birds usually aren’t seen this far north. However, some have been sighted in New York and New Jersey. So, my conjecture as to his identity seems to be right on the money.
(Photo from Wikkipedia: By Dario Sanches from São Paulo, Brazil – GARÇA-AZUL (Egretta caerulea; uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12106836)
Yang and I also noted two almost Robin-sized birds cruising over and through the underbrush by the side of the trail. But they flashed white feathers on the backs of their tails –– definitely not a Robin trait. Still, I did see rusty red and black on them, but not really in a Robin-design. My guess was either Redstarts or Rufous-sided Towhees. We dismounted our bikes; approached cautiously for a good look; and, yep, they definitely seemed to be Towhees. These guys aggressively hopped around in and kicked up the mat of dead leaves looking for insect-type treats. There was a male and female. The male had contrasting black and rusty-red coloring, with a white tummy, while the female was mostly all a lovely rusty reddish brown. I tried to get some shots, but I don’t think they came out very good. Here are the photographs by Bill Thompson and Ken Thomas, respectively, on Wikkipedia
(1)Male By Bill Thompson of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region – Photo of the Week – Male eastern towhee at the Quabbin Reservoir (MA)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15297291 (2) female (Photo from Wikkipedia, By Ken Thomas – KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3423294; 2.
I may also have seen a Red-eyed Vireo. I’m not sure what color his eyes were; he was too far away, and he was wearing shades. We also saw tons of red-winged Blackbirds, Catbirds, Grackles, and Robins. We were treated to some lovely bird song from all these feathered critters.
Vireo image: On Wikkipedia, by Dario Sanches – originally posted to Flickr as JURUVIARA (Vireo olivaceus), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8792302)
What four legged beasts did we come across? Lots of rabbits, a garter snake, and chipmunks. We even saw baby chipmunks that were really tiny. Only gray squirrels showed this day, though I have seen red ones here in the past. And the funniest thing was to see a groundhog galloping through the woods below us. Those suckers may be plump but they move fast. Better here than anywhere near my garden –– or my friend Amber’s, if they know what’s good for them!