Saturday, June 27, 2009

Block Busting in Lunenburg - Saturday 6/27

We had a great morning in the Lunenburg area busting atlas block Ayer 1 on Saturday. There were just six of us (Mark Lynch, Dan Berard, Deb Berard, Pat White, Marci Driscoll and me). Since Mark & I had spent about 5 hours already checking out the area, we broke into 3 teams and spent 5 hours finishing up the block. One of the highlights in our area was this rather large penguin sitting on someone's stone wall. When I got home and enlarged the photo I realized that there must be a story here, since the bird's chest is signed by several people. I just love life's little mysteries!
Unfortunately, this whole area has been rapidly built up and the shot of Mark walking up some brand-new powerlines was really disturbing. And I'm not just talking about the couch that was dumped there.
It seems these new powerlines were built on a wetland -- a northern bog judging from the numerous Sundews throughout the area. Sundews are insectivorous plants, and we usually find them in places like the Hawley Bog along with Pitcher Plants. This area was obviously very boggy and I can't imagine what the plant and birdlife was like before they cut it down for the powerlines.
We did still have some good birds in the area, including breeding Chestnut-sided, Prairie, Yellow-rumped, Pine, Common Yellowthroat and Black-throated Green Warblers.
One of our nicer surprises was to find recently-fledged Red-breasted Nuthatches! They really look like washed-out versions of the adults with a little downy fuzz leftover.
There were wonderful little pockets of forest left, and we hoped we would hear Louisiana Waterthrush along some of the more isolated streams....but we didn't.
One of the more bizarre photos Mark had me take was this one of two slugs on a discarded cigarette butt. It actually looked like the slugs had eaten away some of the orange paper on the filter....YUK!
We came across this pair of catbirds who looked like they were getting ready for a second nesting. They really are quite entertaining birds.

And in the marsh behind North Cemetery we confirmed Belted Kingfisher, plus a very healthy population of Virginia Rail. Earlier in the week when we checked this marsh we had a Black Duck land in front of us and swim into the reeds.....could they be breeding here too?
No birds in this photo -- I just really liked the back of the gravestones in the older part of the cemetery.
And this year it seems everywhere I look I find another Eastern Kingbird sitting on a nest. This one wasn't very camouflaged, and she was sitting about 2 feet above the water.
We ended the morning with a total of 80 species and everyone added at least one or two unique sightings to the list. All in all a very productive block-busting effort.

It was interesting to note that when we got home Saturday afternoon and watched The Weather Channel, it appears that Lunenburg and Townsend were smack dab right in the middle of some very severe thunderstorms, wind and hail. Whew, we never saw a drop of that weather when we were there.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Birds and Blocks....Snip-its of Several Trips

I feel like I haven't posted any bird trips for a little while, and I've been trying to figure out why? I think I'm realizing that when I'm doing atlas work (especially block busting) that I'm less inclined to take the time to photograph birds.....therefore, less blogging. So I've put together some shots that I've taken while I've been atlasing over the last 2 weeks. Since my camera went into the shop for a cleaning the earlier part of this week, most of these shots are at least 2 weeks old. Also, since it's not raining in any of them, you know they've got to be a week or two old!Although with the mist coming up from the overlook at Dresser Hill, you might think it's one of the rainy, misty days from this week.
The Belted Kingfisher was taken at Howe Pond in Spencer (our atlas block of Warren 10). We heard a Common Moorhen from this same spot; however, two subsequent trips back tell me that it may have been a migrant, since we haven't seen or heard it again.

In our Warren 8 block (along Long Hill Road in Brookfield) we had a nesting Eastern Kingbird perched right on the road.
And while we've been seeing kingbirds on the nest in several blocks, we were delighted to find fledgling Baltimore Orioles at several stops in our Southbridge 11 atlas block. This little fellow wasn't able to fly yet -- and he was tailless and still begging for food.
And you can see some of his feathers aren't quite in yet. In fact, he looked like he had a little mohawk. These photos were taken almost 2 weeks ago (6/14). So something tells me that the "safe dates" for this species is way too conservative at 5/25. And since we've seen the same thing over and over, I'm hopeful that the powers that be in Lincoln will consider revisiting some of the safe dates going forward.
Also in Southbridge at our favorite abandoned golf course there are lots of tree swallows nesting in natural cavities (and we even had a pair of Bluebirds nesting in tree holes rather than boxes.
We also had a nice family of Hooded Mergs loafing on mossy log.....
until mom decided that she didn't like my pointing my camera at her little ones!
We also had Yellow-throated Vireos right down on the CT border in Southbridge. This is very close to the Opacum Land Trust property we've visited right off of Rt. 169.
And while some birds are still busily tending nests and noisy young, the Starlings are out in droves. It's always nice to compare the various plumages at this time of year. The young birds are really quite handsome looking.
The same field was also visited by this Red-tailed Hawk who, undoubtedly, is out gathering food for it's hungry family back on the nest.
And, of course, you can also count on finding something unusual....this little ornament was stuck in an old stone wall on a dead-end road. Not as good as that "herd" of carousel horses, but still creepy enough to make it to my blog.
We also visited Wells State Park again. Both to look for the Black Rat Snakes (dipped again!) and to see if the Acadian Flycatcher was still hanging around. We did have it calling in the same area, but we also came across this Broad-winged Hawk out hunting the forest edges.
My guess is that this is an adult heavily-streaked light phase, but if anyone wants to challenge me on it, I could be convinced differently. Anyway you slice a very nice bird!
I'm totally attracted to hawks -- always have been -- so I'm always gonna stop for a perched Red-tail when there's a chance I can photograph it.
This was one of 2 birds perched in the marsh behind the Spencer water department building. This particular tree gets used by everybody -- Belted Kingfisher, hawks, both Alder and Willow Flycatchers....a very popular hang-out.

Since I've been on vacation all week (with this rain good thing I'm not a beach-goer) and I got my camera back yesterday, I'll be posting more from the upcoming weekend.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rebecca & Kevin's Wedding - 6/20/09

Okay, so you were expecting to see some birding trips or maybe some comments about block-busting the Breeding Bird Atlas....but every once in a while Mark & I do some normal things just like other people. And Saturday evening it was to attend Kevin and Rebecca's wedding at Tower Hill in Boylston. Of course, this wasn't like every other wedding we attend -- since Mark was officiating the ceremony! For those of you in Forbush or the local birding community, you've come to know Kev and Becca from lots of different venues, so I thought it would be fun to share the event with you. The biggest challenge of the day was whether or not the ceremony would be held outside. Friday evening was a rehearsal, and we call got to experience doing the outside ceremony in "showers" and knew it wouldn't be a pleasant thing. So I can only imagine how many people spent Saturday glued to the Weather Channel. In fact, Kevin did say it watched it every 10 minutes for "you Local on the 8's". Besides the weather, it's always fun to watch the groom....and Kevin was no different....looking a little like a deer in the headlights. Although I do know he started keeping a wedding bird list the night before at the rehearsal.
If you've seen some of my previous blogs you'll notice that Kevin is always putting on a pose whenever I try to take a group shot...and this was no different. I asked him for a classic pose and this is what I got.
Everyone was getting ready for the grand entrance, and we knew this was one wedding that would start on time...since we were racing against the rain clouds building to the west.
Now for those of you who expected to see Mark in his regular birding clothes, not too fear, he does clean up well! Although the story about getting a new suit and the pants hemmed are tales for another time. (But don't fear, we did go birding earlier in the day and were able to upgrade a number of species from last weekend's block-busting trip to Wells State Park and environs.)
But back to the was held outside in The Secret Garden at Tower Hill which was a wonderful spot, very secluded and several of us (mostly the birders and the kids) were excited to hear a Gray Tree Frog call from the small pond in the garden. As we were waiting for guests to arrive, the atmosphere was very casual. Note fellow birders Dan & Deb Berard (Danny managed to dodge most of my picture-taking) reviewing the wedding program.
The wedding party was quite large -- 6 bridesmaids, 6 groomsmen, maid of honor and best man and two of the cutest flower girls (Saige and Summer)...whew!

But without a doubt all eyes were on Rebecca when she entered with her dad. They always say that brides are radiant, but in this case that would be an understatement -- she was gorgeous. And even as she was crossing the lawn, you could see that she only had eyes for Kevin waiting at the top of the staircase.
And all of Kev's nervousness just melted away as he watched her walk in.
While Mark had spent some time earlier this week writing some very romantic words to say, nothing could top what Kevin and Rebecca had to say to each other.
Kevin literally had us all in tears as he talked about how they met and how awed he was by her and he brought Rebecca to tear as well as he mentioned their beloved cat, Clipsy, who recently passed away....there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Bec's vows to Kevin were equally moving, and anyone present last evening could tell just how perfect these two special people are for each other. And I'm always in awe of how magical it is that two people find each other and work at making a relationship with each other, without losing the unique qualities of each other that first brought them together. It was great when Mark brought the ceremony to a close with vows that Kevin had to repeat about protecting Rebecca from insane killer clowns and the walking dead and had Rebecca promising to be patient and not too critical of Kevin's claims that Brian Wilson IS god!
The ceremony ended, the couple kissed and exited to The Beach Boys singing "I Can Hear Music".
In fact, The Beach Boys were the featured music when Rebecca entered with "God Only Knows". So now you know the reference in Mark's vows for them -- Kevin is a total Beach Boys geek!
Not a drop of rain feel during the ceremony and we all moved to the veranda for cocktails and then into the Orangerie for dinner.
The dinner was perfect, the table decorations (hand-made by the bride) were wonderful and they even made individual buttons attached to packages of Morning Glory seeds from their garden. I chose a Vermilion Flycatcher and Mark chose a King Eider button.

But the wedding cake really topped off the occasion -- it was perfect!
And they totally had fun cutting the cake...
and feeding it to each other.
A totally fun wedding!
They're off to do a great birding trip to Costa Rica....and I know they'll have a fabulous time. I have to say it was a lot of fun to be part of such a special event.

BTW, it should be noted that a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched at the top of a small pine during the entire ceremony....and Mark's wedding bird list consisted of 44 species!