Thursday, June 18, 2009

If It Ever Stops Raining

Hello from Connecticut! Yes, I am here, and if it ever stops raining I'll be able to go out and see more birds. I flew in yesterday at 1:00 a.m. My brother, Stephen, picked me up at the airport. We drove to his cottage on Lake Hayward in the dark and fell into bed exhausted but glad to be here. After a few hours of sleep I was awakened by the dawn chorus of birds and the eastern sun rising in my window. I could hear the cardinals and wood thrushes calling me, but I snuggled into my warm bed and slept for another hour or two. By 7:15 a.m. I couldn't stand it any longer and got up. By 8:00 I was sitting outside on the deck watching all the woodland birds in my brother's yard.

It's been raining and cold here in New England. My sister asked me to bring the sunshine and warmth with me, and for today it looks like I did, for the chilly dawn warmed with the sun and by afternoon I could actually take my long-sleeved shirt off. I walked down to the lake shore and on my way I spotted a worm-eating warbler in the understory of vegetation that covers the Connecticut hillsides. Cardinals and titmice are everywhere, but chickadees seem a bit scare this year.

As I cross the sand of one of the beaches I am drawn to a downy woodpecker clinging to the boards of a picket fence. Then I notice the feeders and suet basket. Then I notice the people standing there watching me. I walk closer and politely introduce myself. I ask if it is okay for me to look at birds in their yard. They graciously respond yes and we strike up a conversation. That is how I met Paul and Carol, fellow bird watchers from Massachusetts. Their lovely little cottage has a nice view of the lake and while we chatted we were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Downy woodpecker, along with numerous house sparrows, a song sparrow, a chipping sparrow, and a hummingbird. Over the lake the barn swallows were diving and capturing insects in mid-flight. A Baltimore oriole flew across the open expanse and landed in one of the tall trees on the shore. Carol and Paul were fun to talk to and share a common interest with. After awhile we parted ways and I headed back to the cottage.

I spent the rest of this sunny day counting birds wherever we went. Whether eating fried clams with bellies at Harry's Place in Colchester (where I saw a Northern Flicker of all things) or up at the Bacon Academy track where I counted birds while my siblings and nephew practiced for the upcoming Adams Family Road Race. I saw a hairy woodpecker in the woods there, as well as an Eastern Phoebe. Birds are everywhere and everywhere I go, I count the birds.

Yes, I am taking pictures and I might be able to upload them to my Mom's computer if I knew how to use this stupid Vista software! Grrrrr! Well, at least I can write. After a sunny day yesterday today dawned cold and gray. I thought I might go out for another walk around town and count birds, but as soon as I was done with my shower the sky started its own. Its been pouring ever since, and thus I am confined to the indoors. My thin Arizona blood is trying to stay warm. I had to shut all my Mom's windows and turn up the heat just a tad so my feet wouldn't turn to ice!

Around noontime my nephew, Bernie showed up and I started to teach him to watch birds. He will be 14 next week but he has a brain and curiosity beyond his years. He is already writing his first novel and he wants to live in the White House someday! From my mother's house we counted birds on the front lawn. Then, we went to the computer where he signed up for eBird and we entered his very first bird count! He is much more adept at the computer and his fingers just fly across that keyboard. Soon he will be a better eBirder than I am. Next, I taught him about binoculars and how to adjust the diopter to get the best focus.

If you have never done this before, click here: Binocular Tune-up.

As the rain continues to pour we decide to take a short drive to the local Dukin' Donuts shop for coffee and a doughnut. Bernie is graduating from the 8th grade today, so it's my treat. With coffee and donuts obtained, we drive up Halls Hill road to the local Lions Pond. When I was young we ice skated here. Now I come here to watch birds. Usually I walk here from my mother's house, but with today's rain we need the protection from the car. I do not know if we will see anything, but even as I am pulling in to the parking lot I spot a great blue heron on the far shore. With the car in park we watch through blurry windows as the heron hides in the foliage. Munching on donuts and sipping coffee we watch common grackles and house sparrows landing and feeding on the shore. Undeterred by the downpour, they feed away on God knows what. Then, I roll the window down for Bernie to get a better look through the binoculars, for the heron has actually flown closer to us. We watch as the heron stealthily raises his head searching the shallow water for a fish or a frog. Just when he looks as if he is going to strike with that javelin shaped bill of his, he freezes. Suddenly his eyes are focused someplace else. I turn towards his gaze and see that in spite of the downpour another person has wandered over to the benches at the edge of the pond. Totally unaware of the heron or the fact that we are bird watching, the unknown person comes closer and the heron takes flight. As it circles the pond it scares up another heron and we watch in wonder as the two birds fly right over our heads, long legs dangling, wide wings spread. We are both smiling now, but it is time to go. My sister will be coming by my mother's house soon to pick her son up for his graduation.

I am at home now thinking of my plans for tomorrow when I will meet up with my youngest brother, Chris. He is taking me to New York City where I will go birding in Central Park for the first time ever! I am hoping this rain will stop, but if not, I have come prepared. The green camouflaged rain poncho I bought to use in West Virginia is with me and will be put to use once again. It may well be two weeks before I get to upload photos, but I should be able to blog at least.

In a little over 24 hours I have already counted 37 species of birds. Most of them were counted yesterday. The Great Blue heron is the only new species I've added today.

Here is what I've seen so far:
  1. great blue heron
  2. turkey vulture
  3. red-tailed hawk
  4. mourning dove
  5. chimney swift
  6. ruby-throated hummingbird
  7. downy woodpecker
  8. hairy woodpecker
  9. northern flicker
  10. eastern phoebe
  11. red-eyed vireo (heard only)
  12. blue jay
  13. American crow
  14. tree swallow
  15. northern rough-winged Swallow
  16. barn swallow
  17. black-capped chickadeee
  18. tufted titmouse
  19. white-breasted nuthatch
  20. blue-gray gnatcatcher
  21. wood thrush
  22. American robin
  23. catbird
  24. European starling
  25. cedar waxwing
  26. worm eating warbler
  27. chipping sparrow
  28. song sparrow
  29. Northern cardinal
  30. rose-breasted grosbeak
  31. common grackle
  32. brown-headed cowbird
  33. Baltimore oriole
  34. purple finch
  35. house finch
  36. American goldfinch
  37. house sparrow


bobbie said...

I'll bet you really miss the sunshine! Here in NJ we have had just 4 days this month without any rain. What is so rare as a day in June? Yeah, sure.

Mary said...

Have a wonderful time, Kathie. You are the most organized lister I've ever known! :o)

Ruth said...

It has been very wet here and the mosquito population has benefitted greatly. Enjoy NYC. I was there last June but never managed to get much birding done in Central Park. I discovered that Manhattan cannot be covered in 4 days.

Kathie Brown said...

bobbie, a little rain is a nice change but this is a bit much!

Mary, I'm obsessed! (but I'm having fun!)

Ruth, thankfully it has been too cold for the mosquitoes! I've only seen 2 since I've been here! And no, Manhattan can't be covered in 4 days but I will have fun trying!

Kim said...

So sad to hear of the weather you are having here in NE. It has been brutal the past week or so here w/ all of this rain. Have fun while you are here and you already have quite the impressive list!

Kathryn said...

Kathie, I am glad you continue to blog even without pictures. Enjoy your trip to NYC, one of my favorite places, and the rest of your trip in CT and Maine. K

denapple said...

You'll have to start counting the mileage on your camo rain poncho. It's very well travelled and should get a post of its own someday!

Deborah Godin said...

You have such great birding mojo, you have wonderful sightings wherever you go! Now, Cnetral Park, that's a list I looking forward too! Enjoy!!

Celeste said...

Fried clams, Dunkin' Donuts - I am starving after reading this post ;) Isn't it wonderful how you can make new friends through birding? I am sorry the weather isn't being more cooperative for you Kathie.