Cape Spear: To walk or not to walk. On the not-so-nice days, this thought is always in my mind. Should I get out and walk the loop down to the water and around the back? Wind direction impacts this decision; whether there are birds on the water, too.
Yesterday morning, I pulled into the corner of the parking lot and began a scan of the water and the grounds. There was nothing on the water. I was just about to go when I saw two small birds fly near the water.
I figured they were Savannah Sparrows, but my curiosity would not rest. What if they were something else? That was it. Park the car, and make the walk.
Good choice. When I got to the first lookout below the parking lot, I spotted two American Pipits and Two Horned Lark.
Of course, they decided to fly off to the right, so I had to continue my walk if I were to get a good look.
All of a sudden, the dreariness of the day lifted, and I was focused on birds. It is funny how that happens. It's like the sun comes out, and the wind drops when a bird comes into view.
I compared the photos of the American Pipit pictured above with other shots I have of pipits and find this one to be different.
I checked field guides, and this bird doesn't really match them either. Well, it does, and it doesn't. How often does that happen. I checked online and found a lot of variation in the American Pipit. I think this is the breeding plumage of this species. The longer I "bird" the more I see. I think it is because the excitement of seeing a bird for the first few times has evolved into another level of appreciation.
While I seem to be really slow in tallying up a year list, I have been fortunate to see some really good birds and to have close looks at them.
On Thursday, I checked some of my favorite spots on Power's Road. Once again, I got a quick look at two Rusty Blackbirds flying overhead and speedily disappearing over the treetops. Twice, I missed getting shots of those birds in the same area. I must be losing my touch.
A little put out, I drove up the road to check to see if the Hermit Thrush or the Magnolia Warbler might be back.
Hearing lots of chatter along the roadside, I was driving very slowly. Then, about a kilometer away from my first sighting of Rusty Blackbirds, three flew out of the woods in front of me. One crossed the road and sat perched high in a distant tree. Two chose to land in the ditch right in front of me.
I carefully got out of the car to try to see them better. They were calm and nonchalant about my being there.
I watched them in the ditch for a long time, but there was never a ditch-moment when they weren't blocked by twigs. Not wanting to send them scurrying, I just watched.
In time, they began to move about. Still in close proximity, I did get a few clear views of them and made sure to maximize the opportunity.
While watching these two, the one on the opposite side of the road came a little closer allowing for these two shots. These birds were clearly on a feeding mission and nothing was going to impede that. (I am thoroughly convinced that I saw 5 Rusty Blackbirds on that day.)
The three, then, reunited and flew down into a marshy area where they stayed for additional time - at least 20 minutes all told.
I watched and loved every minute of it. A Common Grackle joined them in the marsh (not pictured here.) I left them all happy as Rusty Blackbirds in a Marsh. Check out: www.rustyblackbirds.org.
With yesterday's warmth and sunshine, I decided to spend the morning strolling around Bidgood's Park to listen to the bird song. The oddest song of all came from the American Bittern.
I heard it several times and could tell it was close to the first bridge from the parking lot. But where? I listened and listened, mostly to the silence in between pumps.
Finally, I heard the odd sound, and got a bead on the general area. Soon, I spotted it trying to hide among the twigs as shown in the first image above.
I had it. Now, all I had to do was hide away, be quiet and wait. Success! It felt safe enough to move about. Then, as soon as this one came out in the open, I heard the unique sound of another American Bittern nearby. Both had come into the area where viewing was possible. Perhaps, it was the significant rainfall of the previous day that prompted them to move into this more vulnerable area.
I had a great opportunity to study this bittern. It was without doubt the best views I have ever had of this species.
Interestingly, several times it opened its mouth. I was half expecting some noise, but nothing came out. During the 15 minutes of watching it, he did this mouth opening at least seven times. I wonder why.
All good things must come to an end, and gradually, the American Bittern began to inch its way back into the thicket.
During my viewing, I was surprised by the size of the American Bittern. It is large. I was also taken by the boldness of the breast stripes. Every inch of this bird was made for total camouflage. Look away and look back. It is very easy to lose sight of an American Bittern. Of course, this is also true of so many birds such as a Wilson's Snipe or the many shorebirds on the beach. Getting an opportunity to really see this bird for the first time was pretty sweet!
Very large bird seen at Bidgood's Park. Wingspan looks like a heron?
It seems to be carrying something. It came up out of the marsh and lifted off from there. Hoping someone can shed a light on this bird.
Think like a crane. That was my plan B this morning. When I arrived in the area where the Sandhill Crane had been seen, I ran into another birder who had checked the field twice but seen nothing.
Plan B originated from the pattern of this bird over the last couple of days. Birds are often creatures of habit. It seems to get moving around 9:15 to 10:30. Yesterday, when the bird could not be seen in the field, it was obviously still there since it flew from that area across the road in front of Ed H. and Alison M. The bird was not seen again until in the evening.
As soon as I knew it wasn't being seen in the field, I rerouted my hunt to the road where it had flown over yesterday.
I used my time well birding the sides of the road, all the while keeping my eye on the path of yesterday's flight. As it got closer to 9:15, I moved into the zone.
After about ten minutes, I heard the crane behind the treeline in the field, then nothing.
A man walked up the road and asked me what was the bird he had just heard. He walks that road daily and has heard the bird for about a week. Now, I was so sure I had really heard the crane.
Sitting in my car and being patient, I was rewarded. All of a sudden, I heard the ruckus. It was coming! I jumped out and had such amazing views I was stunned.
After it passed by and headed over the treetops, I thought I had seen the last of it. Not so... this Sandhill Crane turned around and headed back toward me and did a full circle in front of me.
Not once, but three times this bird circled back around for me before heading off in the direction of Power's Road. It pays sometimes to just follow your instincts.
I wasn't the only one out there hunting for birds on this weekend. This stout little guy was also keeping his eyes peeled.
There are some birds one expects to see, and then there are the scattered surprises that really make a day. This American Tree Sparrow was that bird for Saturday. Reported by Mike P. as visiting his feeder, I rushed to Cuckhold's Cove Trail to get a look. I was rewarded!
This is my first Swamp Sparrow of the year and may be the first one around. So far, I've heard of no other reports. This one was at Bidgood's Park.
While at Bidgood's, I thought I saw a Barn Swallow, but couldn't be sure as the bird zoomed by quickly. I wondered if there might be swallows at Third Pond. They were not obvious, but they were there. After about 20 minutes of watching the Black-tailed Godwit, I spotted this Tree Swallow in the distance. Then, it disappeared, only to reappear a short time later with a Barn Swallow.
On Sunday morning, I went out in the warmer-than-usual weather to search specifically for a Palm Warbler. I checked several potential areas and then....jackpot. This one nearly got away without identification. Just as I spotted the bright yellow in the thicket, a walker came along and actually nudged me out of the way. I couldn't see it any more. She assured me it was yellow, and oh, it was a goldfinch. My stress level was rising, and then, she moved on. I struggled to see the bird again and finally, got this record shot. "Oh, me nerves!" Hmm...this must be similar to the feeling related to someone climbing all over you in your car to get a look through your scope.
It's always nice to see the warblers returning. They bring such joy to the woods.
Greater Yellowlegs are showing up at numerous watering holes.
Of course, I had to have a few more good looks at the Eastern Phoebe. Who knows when I might see one again.
The little Ruby-crowned Kinglets are adding their big voice to the chorus of songs that is just now "ramping" up. Happy Days are here again...