Bird Watching: Granite Point

Granite Point, Maine

This mornings [tag]bird watching[/tag] trip to Granite Point was spectacular! Many flocks of birds were in the air, including Canada Geese, Double-Crested Cormorants, Tree Swallows, Snowy Egrets, Blue Heron and many unidentifiable ducks.

The weather was cool, with a light breeze and crystal blue skies. I seemed to be the only one [tag]birding[/tag] the area, although a few residents of the point were out and about for their morning walk.

At the end of the Granite Point Road, it was peaceful. A unknown woodpecker could be heard rapping a tree in the distance. Eiders were feeding in the low tide. Chickadees and Song Sparrows sang and flitted around. Snowy Egrets and Cormorants fed in the river, occasionally taking flight for better feeding grounds.

A huge flock of Canada Geese soared into the marsh to feed, numbering perhaps in the hundreds. Noisily they drifted to a landing, as more and more continued to fly overhead.

Quite a few Cedar Waxwings were feeding in the berry bushes along the road, as others preened in the early morning sun. A battle ensued and the acrobatic maneuvers of these beautiful birds had me in awe. Neither of the birds seemed to be the winner of the battle, although one seemed to favor a wing while sitting on a power line. I watched him for several minutes, and then he took flight and seemed to be just fine.

The following pictures are some of the sights I have seen this morning in the tranquility of Granite Point.

Cormorants take flight from a river.

Double_Crested Cormorants and Snowy Egrets

 

A flock of Canada Geese arrives at Granite Point.

Flock of Geese over Granite Point, Maine

 

Close-up of Canada Geese in flight over Granite Point.

Canadian Geese

 

Canada Geese come in for a landing to feed at Granite Point.

Canadian Geese landing

 

A Butterfly warms itself in the early morning sun.

Butterfly

 

A [tag]bird feeder[/tag] has activity on Granite Point.

Bird feeder with Gold Finches and a House Finch

 

European Starlings preening on a power line.

European Starlings

That’s it for now. Happy birding!

Big Night For Migration

With a cold front sweeping through the [tag]northeast[/tag] US yesterday and a north wind to help birds along, last night was a big night for [tag]migrating birds[/tag].

Woodcreeper.com has a great article along with radar images of last nights [tag]migration[/tag]. According to David A. La Puma, last nights migration broke-up just south of [tag]New Jersey[/tag] because of thunderstorms and precipitation from approaching [tag]Tropical Storm Ernesto[/tag].

Derek Lovitch reports a large passerine migration over Sandy Point, Maine early this morning, many of which were various species of warbler. You may read his article and bird count at Outdoors MaineToday.com.

Locally, I witnessed approx. 20 Hawks of unknown type fly over our home early this morning. Tuesday afternoon, 11 Bluebirds stopped over in my yard here in Biddeford. Four of them had a drink from the birdbath, and the others rested in a tree.

BluebirdI was suprised the bluebirds stopped here in [tag]Biddeford[/tag], although I do live towards the edge of town. I managed to [tag]photograph[/tag] one of the bluebirds, before they fled the scene.

 

Maybe I am wrong, but I would assume at this time of year the Bluebird would be beginning to molt, losing some of the vivid blue of its feathers. But not this fella! I did do some post-processing in Photoshop CS2 for sharpening and cropping.

 

The time of the year for migration is here and has been for a few weeks. This mornings low here in Biddeford was a very cool 45 F. with inland areas reporting even lower temps. Sanford and Fryburg reported a low of 39 F. this morning!

 

This morning, I am venturing to Granite Point for a little [tag]birding[/tag]. Will report on the trip when I get back.

Happy birding!

Raiding the feeder

Since moving to Biddeford, [tag]Maine[/tag] nearly seven months ago, we have been blessed with not having squirrels raid our feeders. Well that changed this morning when one came through and decided to try our [tag]bird[/tag] offerings for half an hour.

We have gotten a little loose on our [tag]squirrel[/tag] protection apparatus since none seemed to be raiding our feeders. While living in [tag]Pennsylvania[/tag], it was a constant battle with the bushy tail. Keeping these critters out of the bird feeders, even when offering them their own feeder, is nearly impossible.

Baffles, guards, hot pepper… you name it, it was tried in the Keystone State. And being on the doorstep of the cold howling winds and snow of [tag]winter[/tag], these squirrels will hide mouthfuls of bird seed to use later on.

Sometimes you just have to live with it. I have to admit that some of the shenanigans and the acrobatic finese of these creatures are a joy to watch.

The following is a [tag]video[/tag] I took of the squirrel this morning. I shot hand-held, so some of it is a little jumpy.

 

Video clip of a Squirrel raiding the feeder

 

Happy birding!

Weekend birding on Granite Point

Migration continues full swing in Southern [tag]Maine[/tag]. My wife and I birded Granite Point Saturday and Sunday morning and witnessed hundreds of [tag]birds[/tag] of all types making their way to their wintering grounds.

Hundreds of Egrets, both Great and Snowy, were in large groups flying over the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on Granite Point Road near Biddeford Pool, Maine. Also seen were Great Blue Herons, Double-Crested Cormorants, and unidentifiable ducks in large flocks making way to milder climates.

 

Downy WoodpeckerSaturday morning was foggy with visibility fair. Noted was the absence of Tree and Barn Swallows.

A bush with many berries along Granite Point Road held many birds eating their breakfast. Noted was Cedar Waxwings, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Black Capped Chickadees and this Downy Woodpecker, having a snack of ants.

A few Snowy Egrets flew to and fro, along with the sighting of a Great Blue Heron.

Double-Breasted Cormorants and Eiders were numerous along the small bay at Granite Point.

Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet Saturday morning, which may be due to the fog and our late arrival to the area.

 

 

 

Sunday morning brought much more activity. The weather was cool and mostly cloudy, but without the fog. We arrived just after sunrise.

Belted Kingfisher

Our first sighting was this Belted Kingfisher, who sat on a power line just outside of good photography range, next to the grassy parking area along Granite Point Road.

The [tag]bird[/tag] watched one of the pannes below, and suddenly, dove into the water for food but came back up empty handed. (or should I say empty billed!)

When the Kingfisher hit the water, it sounded as if someone had dropped a large rock into it. Graceful this fella was not.

He flew back upon the wire, watching and waiting, but soon decided to check elsewhere as he took flight. These [tag]birds[/tag] never fail to amaze me. How, while in flight, they will hover above a prospective feeding area and then dive straight into the water for a fish. Not as graceful as say a Least Tern, but fun to watch never-the-less.

My wife and I met a fellow [tag]birder[/tag] named Bob. (visit his site, he has spectacular pictures!)We talked for an hour about our birding adventures at Granite Point. My wife spied several [tag]deer[/tag] near the pumping station, so out came the spotting scope.

A doe and 3 young ones were feeding. After several minutes, 2 more young ones came from across the marsh to join the buffet. As the newcomers approached, the others began a game of tag. Running around chasing each other, it reminded me of puppies playing. At one point, a Great Blue Heron was among the activity, although he did not participate. After playing for awhile, dogs began to bark, and the deer retreated to the relative safety of the woods.

Many flocks of birds, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, were in flight over the marsh. A large flock of Tree Swallows were present, more than likely stopping over from Downeast Maine, feeding to gain strength for their long [tag]migration[/tag].

Just before leaving the area, we sat in our car looking sea-ward at the end of Granite Point Road.

A Catbird landed on a rock within 20 feet of us. I began talking to him, taking pictures as I did so. It was comical as the Catbird would cock his head and look at me like, “What is this guy saying to me”? He would then disappear, only to return again. I was thinking that just like a feline cat, curiosity was in this bird also. Here are a few pictures of this beautiful bird.

Catbird

Catbird

We saw several American Goldfinches, who were molting, loosing their bright yellow plumage to be replaced with their much duller winter plumage.

All in all, it was a decent birding weekend. This Cedar Waxwing was in the berry bushed mentioned earlier in this article.

Cedar Waxwing

As a side note, I have ordered the Cannon Rebel XT DSLR camera. Although it is on backorder, I expect it to be shipped around the beginning of the month. I am anxious to put it to use, as with the zoom lenses that I already have along with the [tag]spotting scope[/tag], I should be able to post some spectacular pictures.

Happy birding!

Western Reef Heron still hanging around

Received an email from the Maine Bird List and the [tag]Western Reef Heron[/tag] was still off Kittery Point, [tag]Maine[/tag] as of 6:35 a.m. this morning. The reported sighting was on Fishing Island.

The news of the Western Reef Heron sightings has hit news stations and newspapers across the country. Here is an article from a newspaper in Corsicana, TX.

It is reported that the sighting drew Don and Lillian Stokes, authors of bird field guides and hosts of a Public Broadcasting Station show on bird watching

Any of you who has seen the Western Reef Heron and want to share with us about the experience, please respond by clicking “Leave a passing comment” at the end of this article. We would love to hear from you!

Happy [tag]birding[/tag]!

Plum Island, Massachusetts: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Finally a little time to post about our trip to Plum Island, [tag]Massachusetts[/tag] on August 12th. Have been very busy at work as of late, working 12-13 hour days.

Those of you who live in Massachusetts and [tag]New Hampshire[/tag] should be on the look-out along [tag]coastal[/tag] waters for a very rare visitor to the USA. A Western Reef Heron has been hanging around the islands just off Kittery Point, [tag]Maine[/tag] (in Maine waters) this weekend. The above link also has some great [tag]pictures[/tag]! It is only a matter of time before this rare visitor moves along on his migration. This sighting is only the second or third time this species has been sighted in the USA!

Now on to the Plum Island trip…

Tree Swallows Just after sunrise on Saturday August 12th, we arrived at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, Massachusetts.

The [tag]weather[/tag] was spectacular! Clear skies, light winds and cool temperatures greeted us.

After passing through the gate to the refuge, imagine our surprise when we encountered hundreds of Tree Swallows on the road. What they were doing or why they were there is still a mystery to us, but I surmise that maybe they were warming themselves in the early morning sunlight, as the morning was very cool. I estimated that between 500 and 600 Tree Swallows were on the ground and in the air in this area.

Tree SwallowAll throughout the day, Tree Swallows were everywhere, hundreds of them flying here and there.

The tree swallow is a diurnal migrant and birds often congregate in large flocks during the early evening to share nocturnal roosts usually located in dense woody and emergent vegetation.

Flocking behavior along the outer coast of Massachusetts is a well-documented phenomenon with some flocks estimated in the hundreds of thousands as birds gather to exploit ripening bayberry and insect swarms.

Tree swallows are able to return to their breeding grounds earlier than other swallow species due to their ability to subsist on fruit. In [tag]New England[/tag], tree swallows arrive on territories in early April.

Just after the main road turns to gravels, we spotted some deer in the high grass. As I was setting up to get some pictures, we heard a commotion on the hill west of us. Three Broad-Winged Hawks were flying around at each other. As one would land in the field, the other two would dive-bomb it. We watched this activity for quite some time before they settled down, after which they sat in the field to preen.

I tried to get some footage with my camcorder, but the action was just a little to far away. Watching through the binoculars was excellent! (If only I had my scope!)

Fledgling Mockingbird Our next stop was the Hellcat Wildlife Observation Area.

As we were walking the trail to the observation tower, we spied a fledgling Mockingbird.

He allowed a few photos to be taken along with some [tag]video[/tag], and then we were on our way.

 

 

Video clip of a Fledgling Mockingbird

When we arrived at the observation tower, the pond below the tower was a flurry of activity. Canadian Geese, Cormorants, Egrets and Herons were feeding. We even watched as a Snowy Egret tried to chase away a Double-Crested Cormorant as seen in this next video.

Video clip of a Geese, Cormorants and Snowy Egrets Feeding

Many ducks were seen throughout the refuge, including Blue and Green Winged Teals, Pintails, Mallards and Black ducks. Most were feeding in the many pannes of the marsh, others were busy preening. This next video clip shows a few ducks in one of the pannes, cruising around looking for food.

Video clip of a Ducks cruising and feeding in a pond

Adult MockingbirdAs we were leaving the Hellcat area, another mockingbird, this time an adult, posed long enough for a few [tag]photos[/tag].

The songs of 36 other species were recognized from the recording of one mockingbird in Massachusetts.Birds in the western part of the species’ range have less musical songs and are less imitative. Mockingbirds are strongly territorial and, like a number of other birds, will attack their reflection in a window, hubcap, or mirror, at times with such vigor that they injure or kill themselves. At mating time, the male Northern Mockingbird becomes increasingly exuberant, flashing his wings as he flies up in an aerial display, or singing while flying from one song post to another.Adult Mockingbird Flying

Many Mockingbirds were seen on this journey, including this one who flew straight at the camera!

It is not a pin sharp picture, but you get the idea. Surprised me when I viewed the photo the first time!

When my wife and I visited Wild Birds Unlimited in [tag]Portland[/tag], Maine a few weeks ago, we witnessed first hand the many sounds a mockingbird can imitate.

The [tag]bird[/tag] we saw did every bird sound my wife did, and then countinued with a car alarm sound. It was simply amazing to watch this Mockingbird imitate the sounds my wife made. I love watching them in-flight, flashing the tell-tale white bullseye patches under their wings. At times they can be friendly, allowing you to appraoch within a reasonable distance.

Semipalmated Sandpiper Our trip ended with a stroll along the beach on Plum Island. We saw many Plovers and Sandpipers. Black-Backed Gulls were also plentiful. My wife found a few sand dollars while roaming the [tag]beach[/tag].

The time had come to leave with the rewards of watching many species of birds doing what they do best. Leaving us in awe at the amazing beauty and complexity of [tag]nature[/tag].

[tag]Birding[/tag] is what we do, what we live for, it is never a dull moment! What some may think as a day wasted birding when only a few common species are seen, we take it in stride when this happens to us. We are grateful to be able to get out and about, seeing, feeling and experiencing nature in all her glory!

Happy birding!