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Preview: The Brownstone Birding Blog

The Brownstone Birding Blog

A Connecticut native with an interest in birding shares his outdoor adventures

Updated: 2018-01-17T16:18:59.235-05:00


Gift Birds On The Day Before Christmas


 On this busy holiday weekend I somehow managed to steal an hour to go down to the shore. Marinas can be a great place during the winter to get a close-up look at certain birds.
 One of these geese is definitely not like the other!
It was a nice surprise to come across a snow goose which aren't all that common around here.
 Birds like this American Coot like to hang around marinas in Old Saybrook.
I was especially excited to get such a close look at a Surf Scoter which are usually much further out on the water. I'm glad I squeezed in this little birding excursion. It turned out to be like an early Christmas gift. Merry Christmas and happy holiday to all!

Return Of The Traditional Christmas Count


On Christmas day in 1900 a new tradition started. Instead of shooting birds on Christmas Day people started counting them instead. Here's the whole story.Many birders,including me, look forward to the Christmas each year. It helps motivate me to get out in the colder weather with a purpose; to look for birds.It's all about watching birds,the camaraderie of birders, and enjoying the beauty of nature. Part of our territory was around the Great Hill area. Unfortunately, all lakes were frozen during the count so we missed out on some of the water birds. Our search led us along snowy paths out in the country........ along side little streams deep in the middle of the forest.... .....and along the old rail trails which provide a nice walking trail.We were too busy to take pictures of birds but we made an exception for this Golden-crowned Kinglet who briefly flashed his crown before flying off. After that our group was off to lunch at a local restaurant. Another Christmas count tradition that we all enjoy![...]

Boardwalk Built By Reform School Kids In 1978


This sign at the entrance of the Helen Carlson sanctuary caught my attention today. Long Lane started in the 1800's as a school set on farmland for troubled girls. In the 1970's it became a high security reform school for boys. The boardwalk and nature trail were built by some of those students as seen listed on the sign.I wonder how those former students are doing today, almost 40 years after this project was completed? Did their lives turn around for the better? Maybe some went into the building/construction trade?  As more land is developed for commercial projects and housing nature preserves become all the more valuable.This is not some birding hotspot but does provide valuable habitat for a variety of birds throughout the year..........including birds like this Eastern Bluebird (older photo)................[...]

In The Scraggly Brush Of An Old Tobacco field


 I visited an old tobacco field in town. It's hard to believe I worked here as a teen almost 40 years ago.It looks like the old shed needs a touch of paint and maybe a wee bit of duct tape.
This scraggly looking brush pile caught my attention as well as the attention of a few birds.
 I had a nice look at some Savannah Sparrows.
 This one was not as colorful but noticed it had a distinct eye ring. It is a Vesper Sparrow which was a nice find because I don't see many around here.
Of course, I wouldn't want to ignore this male cardinal that was hanging out in the same patch. I wonder if his beak would be shinier had he used his crest?

Birding On The Rocks


 There's a parking space in Old Saybrook at Cornfield park where you are allowed to park for 30 minutes and take in the view. Scoter and loons are among the birds commonly seen on the water here during the winter.
 I followed the shoreline and found a few shorebirds like this Black-bellied plover.
I know that starlings are unpopular among birders since they aren't a native species. I like their markings which remind me of snowflakes.

Pectoral Sandpiper At Frozen Fairgrounds


I can never pass by the fairgrounds without having a quick look to see what's around. This morning started out with temperatures in the 20's. That kind of put the kibosh on finding ducks as the shallow skating pond was already frozen over. In fact, there wasn't any birds to be seen except for a brown blob that lloked like a morning dove in the distance.
Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a Pectoral Sandpiper! I didn't see that one coming. A nice surprise for a cold November morning to be sure!

Just Passing Through The Shoreline At Sunrise


 I was traveling along the shoreline early in the morning and hoping to make a quick search at Meig's Point at Hammonasset. I was disappointed to find the road closed but not disappointed by the sunrise.
 It was a little difficult to make out these Cedar Waxings this early in the morning.
A littler down the road the hawks have come out to play hide and seek with the little birdies. 

Last Bird Stop In October Was Parmelee Farm


 My last birding stop of the month was at the 132 acre Parmelee Farm preserve in Killingworth. The area has a nice historic country feel to it.They have community gardens which can be a good place to look for fall sparrows.
I've found that pumpkin fields are a good place to look for interesting bird species like pipits, once the remaining pumpkins start to rot.
 There was plenty of bird activity including Cedar Waxings, Field Sparrows, and Song Sparrows like this one.
The month seemed to go so quickly. Halloween is on Tuesday and then we're in November already!(photo is at Colchester town green)

In Search Of Fall Color


 The Fall foliage has been a little slow to develop this year but I started seeing a little more color to the leaves this weekend. I visited the reservoir on Saturday and was pleased to see my first White-throated Sparrows and Juncos of the season.
This is also the time of year that I like to check big flocks in the farm fields to see if their are any rare geese mixed in with the Canada Geese. No luck today but their was still several Killdeer flying around.
I didn't have much luck getting bird photos but this Red-bellied Woodpecker was kind enough to stick his neck out for me and show off its red head.
The skies at night have become clear and crisp with lots of color at sundown. I hope there is more color on the way for the next upcoming weekend!

Wild Turkey And Pumpkin Pie?


Why are they in such a hurry? Let's at least get past Halloween first!

Grey Skies, Un-listable Birds, And The Town Fair


The sky stayed mostly grey this weekend but not all the leaves were brown. They are just starting to take on some fall color. I didn't have much luck finding wild birds before the rain started coming down but this one caught the corner of my eye before I realized what I was looking at. Plastic pink flamingos seem to be popular these days but wouldn't count on most birding lists. I'm sure that someone keeps a list of artificial birds they see though. Looks like the animals have it good in this town, even the goats have their own sports cars. Domestic geese like these look similar to Snow Geese. The fair had some musical entertainment with the first act being the Tony Rome band. He changed his outfit after almost every song and did a lot of stones-type classics.And of course we don't want to forget to mention the horn section![...]

The Comfort Of Routines


I took a walk along the Connecticut River this morning. The twists and turns of life we all experience have kept me away from my  weekend birding routine. Today was the first day I was able to get back to the birding basics. Routines can become mundane and make us feel like robots, traveling though life on autopilot. Breaking away from the usual way of doing things is an opportunity to make some changes and approach things differently.I know for myself, that I sometimes look but don't really see. It's sort of like when you drive in a trance but don't remember the journey.  Today, was one of those days I was able to slow down and look at one, or in this case, two birds at a time. I got back to the habit of writing down what I saw and seeing, not just looking. Today I was following a familiar path but I found it comforting, not boring because I missed my routine birding. (birds in photos 2 and 3 are Savannah Sparrows).I was also able to view things from a different perspective.[...]

September Just Blew Right Past Me


It's hard to believe that September is almost over. The weather in Connecticut this month was as a perfect mix of warm days and cool nights with very few extremes. I came across 37 Bobolinks at the local meadows. They were in heavy cover so I only managed to get glimpses of them. I wasn't able to do much birding but carried my camera during some travels. This is an American Goldfinch taking in a puddle at a ball field. The colorful yellow male birds probably didn't want to get their feathers dirty. Many of the days were dry with clean, cool air and vivid blue skies.September seemed to blow right past me along with the Black Vultures and Broad-winged Hawks. I Plan to take time to take in the fall foliage while I'm out searching for sparrows.[...]

Taking It From The Top In Middlefield


 We've had some refreshing fall-like weather this week. Connecticut is not known for mountains but the the trap rock ridge does provide great views from the top. The trap rock ridge was formed by volcanic activity long ago. 
 I had better luck finding birds at ground level. I caught a sneaky Green Heron hiding at the edge of a pond.
The Mute Swans don't feel the need to be sneaky. They boldly hold their ground or in this case, their water.

Up Up And Away!


 I took a ride out to Plainville this morning to catch the morning to catcch the 6am morning launch at the annual hot air balloon festival. There is some dispute as to when hot air balloons were invented. History indicates that the Chinese were experimenting with a simple form of hot air balloon technology back around 220 AD.  The first recorded manned flight took place in Paris France in 1783 in a hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers.I was surprised by the size of the crowd at 6am and almost couldn't find a spot to park in time.  I arrived just as the first balloons were taking flight. I liked the elephant design on this balloon.It looks as though it could have come from a land far away. Don't worry, this balloon got past the trees without a problem.I wonder what this red-tail would say about all the excitement if it could speak English? allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">Here's a video of one of the balloons taking flight.[...]

Easy Birding Along Your Daily Driving Route


 Sometimes it's a struggle trying to find the perfect spot to find birds. The funny thing about it is that birds are everywhere we go. The tiny nature park above is right along my daily driving route. It is called Middletown nature gardens and is loaded with natural food for young summer birds.This one looks like a young Indigo BuntingOn the same tree was a young House Wren.As I drove back through town I passed by an old industrial pond that used to sit beside Wilcox Crittenden, a well known factory in it's day. I remember hearing the pounding of the machines from miles away. It provided jobs for a lot of people though.The remains of the factory have been converted to apartments. This morning I spotted a Great Blue Heron there.Sometimes the best birding are the places that are the ones that are most available.[...]

Always Look A Gift Bird In The Eye 100x's


 I had a chance to get down to the shoreline this morning with a full agenda planned of where to go and what I hoped to see. I'm always interested in seeing new birds and hope to get some bird photos along the way. My first stop was behind the Clinton town Hall at a spot they call McCusker Landing.  I was pleased to see a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron. I only had an hour or so to spare so instead of rushing around I decided to just stay and watch this one bird and any others in the immediate area.Juvenile birds will sometimes let you get closer. I've learned that when you can get close to a bird without  it taking off it is best to take advantage of the opportunity. I've also learned that just being close doesn't always mean your going to get a good picture. I'm not satisfied until I take at least 100 pictures in these situations but must admit that I get tired of sorting though all of the photos when I get home. It's a tedious process of deleting the bad ones and tweaking the good ones. Usually there are only a handful of good ones out of the 100 if I'm lucky.I still use a point and shoot and only use settings like auto or sports mode. Since I don't know how to manually set the camera i have to rely on getting closer and getting the right lighting angle but once in a while even amateurs get lucky.[...]

Sitting Quietly On A Deck In The Forest


I spent 30 minutes relaxing on a deck in Highlawn Forest in Middlefield Connecticut. It was a very comfortable August morning with cool,dry air. Sitting still never comes easy for me but it paid off with a couple of interesting sightings.

I was expecting to see something on the smaller side like a warbler or chickadee but it was a Black Vulture, aka known as the Carcass Warbler, that came crashing in to the trees above me. I did a little math and figured it would take roughly 250 American Redstarts to equal the weight of one Black Vulture.
And on the other side of the deck was a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. 

Just An Easy Summer Stroll Around A Field


Once we get into the heart of the  summer I like to find easy and relaxing ways to get a bit of birding in. This past weekend I went to Haddam Meadows and slowly circled around the field with my windows down. 
I had some nice views of a family of Eastern Kingbirds working out their daily food rations.
I also had a 10 second view of an Indigo Bunting but you can see a lot in 10 seconds.
No field is complete without a butterfly. 

Childhood Places That Still Exist


There's something comforting about seeing places from your childhood that still around today. Vecchitto's Italian ice has been open for business at the same location since 1930. I remember their delivery trucks circling my neighborhood in the  1960's selling their Italian ice when I was just a kid. It amazes me their business has survived all these years. I preferred the ice cream truck when I was a child but recently tried their lemon ice and it was refreshingly good on a hot day!
I used to live right down the road from Wadsworth Park. I returned there last week with my binoculars and camera. The wide paths bordered by stone walls are just as I remembered them. I was able to see pileated woodpeckers and some noisy Red-shouldered Hawks.
Back when I was a kid bird identification was simple. Birds were birds and ducks were ducks.
Seeing a deer would have been a real thrill back then! I don't think they were as plentiful. Childhood memories are bittersweet. It's nice to indulge in nostalgic recollections but sad to know that you can't go back even to visit.

Watching Birds From A Single Stretch Of Track


One of the things that can detract from a bird watching experience is moving around too much. Sometimes you can see more birds sitting in one spot than you can walking through miles of trail. I made a compromise this morning by confining my birdwatching to a single 100 yard stretch of railroad track.  I moved around a little bit to get different views of the marsh but was able to keep my focus on observing, not walking. There were plenty of birds to be seen in the marsh including cormorants,blackbirds, Wood Ducks, and Great Blue Herons (above).There was also several Belted Kingfishers, with this female being the noisiest of the bunch. I could hear more birds in the woods than I could see but there were plenty to be heard. I believe this mystery bird which was perched quietly in the woods is a young cowbird. I don't feel like double-checking it so correct me if I'm wrong. It's always worth looking up too. I caught an eagle and hawk in the midst of airplay. Memo to self: Make sure that you spend more time observing birds than just walking around looking for birds to observe![...]

Indecision, Procrastination, And Birdwatching


  One of the things I struggle with at times is making a quick decision. Sometimes it is necessary to analyze things carefully in order to make a decision but when you spend more time thinking than doing it can lead to missed opportunities and procrastination.
Lately I've been trying to get out early with my camera and binoculars before I have time to think about it. 

I remember a poem which I can relate to titled: "When Thomas Takes His Pen" that I found in an old book. I got a big chuckle when I first read it. I found a copy of the Poem by Elsie Hill on HistoryProfessor.Org

3 Favorite Moments 1ST Tablet Post


(image)      I still use a flip phone and have avoided touch screens up until now. My lack of familiarity with this technology has caused me to miss out on a couple of opportunities.
(image) Trying to write this is like trying to thread a needle while wearing mittens.  
I will get right to the point. My 3 favorite sightings from top to bottom are:  Black-Backed Woodpecker from Victory Vermont ,Fork-tailed Flycatcher from Hadlyme ferry, and American White Pelican which flew over my back yard. The end and Amen!

Back To The Kid-In-The-Field Mentality


 When I was a young boy I didn't know that people who called themselves birders walked around fields specifically looking for birds. Any field meant a treasure hunt for me. I was curious about everything I found whether it be a rusty old farm nail or a dragonfly. It really didn't matter. Everything was fascinating. As the years went by, I lost some of that curiosity and excitement. I became more selective about what I was willing to take the time to look at. Now I find myself walking along the predetermined paths looking mostly for birds (Bobolink above). When I as a kid there was no such thing as a path. The only path was between where I was standing and where I wanted to go.As I wandered around the Frederick White Farm in Durham my memory carried me back to what it was like being a kid out in a field. I was still there looking for bird like I do now..... (Eastern Kingbird above) but I also spent time looking at the butterflies (Cabbage White above) and damselflies (Ebony Jewelwing below).  I can never truly be a kid in a field again but maybe remembering what it was like can add a little spark. [...]

Just Enough Time For The Power Lines


 I think that many of us, including me, wish we had more time to do the things we want to do. Birding falls into that category. I had only had a little time to spare this weekend so I took a quick trip up to the local power lines. I just noticed that my car is down at the bottom of the picture.
 Another category are the things that I should do. There a lot of things that I should have done but put them on the back burner and went birding instead. The deer seems to be looking down at me in judgment.
 It was only an hour of birding but it was a valuable hour. My trip to the power lines was worth it as I had nice views of Indigo Buntings  and this Prairie Warbler hiding in the cedars. Right now I am locked me into category 3: things that have to be done. Some times you don't get a choice. Birding will have to take a back seat for now but I'm going to try to squeeze in an hour of birding each week.