Beautiful weather, many birds

by John Briggs on April 26, 2009

in Bird Photographs, Blog, Weekend Birding

After being couped up most of the winter, Mainers took to the woods, beaches and shops to celebrate a very fine Spring day. Here along the midcoast, temperatures reached 65° F. Further south and inland, the mercury soared into the 80’s. Blue skies and light winds made for a day that we have longed for all winter long. I can see large buds finally forming on our trees!

Tufted Titmouse clinging to a nestbox

Tufted Titmouse clinging to a nestbox

Yard wise, there’s plenty of activity. Two of our nest boxes have Tufted Titmice going back and forth with nesting material. A pair of White-breasted Nuthatches are doing the same with another nest box. Today, Tree Sparrows began bringing material to one of our nest boxes we have set up along the cove.

Eastern Phoebes have begun setting up shop somewhere in the vicinity, we just aren’t sure where yet. Everyday now we see them hawking insects throughout the yard. A pair of Blue Jays have taken over our old crab apple tree near the edge of the cove. The heavy growth in the top of the tree assures a great place for a nest.

White-throated Sparrows and a few Palm Warblers have shown up recently, along with a pair of Roufus-sided Towhees. Chipping and Song Sparrows are everywhere and the dreaded Brown-headed Cowbird has made its presence known. Four Pine Siskins and three Dark-eyed Juncos are still hanging around the feeders, and the male American Goldfinches have transformed into their bright yellow plumage.

Up close and personal: Osprey

Up close and personal: Osprey

Yesterday, Sharon and I had a full day of birdwatching. Our journey began mid morning at Small Point and Popham Beach. The highlight of the morning was a feeding frenzy that included Osprey, Double-crested Cormorants and Harbor Seals.

Along a private road that we have permission to enter, we came across the spectacle as the tide was nearing dead low and Alewives were being concentrated in an area approximately half the size of a football field. Osprey dove into the water and came out with their catch (see yesterday’s post), Cormorants seemed to have big smiles on their faces as they surfaced with fish in their bills. Four Harbor Seals were added to the mix, one nearly beaching itself going after the Alewives.

The “best of the best” was soon to happen. We have heard of this happening but have never witnessed it. An Osprey had just snatched a fish and began to fly off with it. Out of nowhere comes an adult Bald Eagle, hot on the Osprey’s tail. Passing within 20 yards of where we stood the Eagle slams into the Osprey, forcing it to drop the fish. The Eagle banks hard to the right and dives toward the waters surface, grabbing the fish and flying to a nearby spruce to eat its bounty.

I snapped photos of the action, but being toward the sun they are all washed out. I will try to work on some of the photos in Photoshop to make them half decent and will post them in a few days. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that we got to see this happen, but disappointed that the photos turned out awful.

But as I always say, one missed opportunity leads to another opportunity that hopefully won’t be missed. Later in the afternoon, Sharon and I headed across the cove from our home to watch a pair of Bald Eagles that have a nest in the area. On the way to the location, we came across four Red Fox kits and an adult.

As our car rounded a curve, the adult took off with two of the kits behind her. The other two kits stayed behind. One layed down near an old shed and fell asleep. The other gave us the opportunity to photograph it from the car. Remember folks, please do not approach wild animals. The photos below were taken from our car and then we left, all of this taking less than 30 seconds.

Bald Eagle pair

Bald Eagle pair

Reaching our destination, we spied a pair of adult Bald Eagles on a islet just off Arrowsic Island. The area is basically off our backyard and we see the pair nearly everyday.

It was not long until the pair flew toward us and to their nest which was not more than 50 yards away. We had no idea were the nest was until the Eagles landed. We stayed away and did not disturb the pair.

The action was not over. Another pair and a first year Bald Eagle came from over Arrowsic Island and landed in the marsh on a high spot. That brought the total to five Bald Eagles in the area we stood. The other pair did not like the proximately of these new arrivals and the chase was on.

Screaming just over our heads, the nesting pair gave chase to the three Eagles. Calls and screeches were exchanged and was not long until the invaders were well out of sight. Sharon and I just stood there in awe, our eyes wide in excitement and our jaws to the ground. I did get an exquisite photo!

The photo showcases an adult Bald Eagle (which I believe to be male), mouth agape screaming at the invaders. It is one of the best shots of an in-flight Bald Eagle I have ever taken. You will have to wait until tomorrow to see it. It will be my submission for the April 27th edition of  Bird Photography Weekly.

We soon ran out of light and had to call it quits. I don’t know about you, but I considered this day of in your face Bald Eagles and Ospreys a truly breath-taking experience that we won’t soon forget.

Enjoy the photos from our day in the field. Some of these images are “tall”. Please press f11 on your keyboard to make your browser window larger. Then click the image for a larger view.

Happy birding!




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