Monthly Archives: October 2016

Song sparrows on the move


Song sparrow in the grass.

Lots and lots of these little brown birds yesterday, spread out over the field and in the vegetation at the edge of the pond and woods, pecking and poking around.


You couldn’t really call it a flock since they were not very close together. Not a flock, just fellow travelers.

They were by far the most numerous bird out back yesterday.


A rich, russet-and-gray bird with bold streaks down its white chest, the Song Sparrow is one of the most familiar North American sparrows. Don’t let the bewildering variety of regional differences this bird shows across North America deter you: it’s one of the first species you should suspect if you see a streaky sparrow in an open, shrubby, or wet area.

Little king


Tiny bird flitting around the edge of the pond and woods today. It was new to me so I wanted a photo or two to identify it. It did not hold still for long!


I thought it was a warbler at first. I had a hard time identifying it.

Finally, I looked on eBird at other birders’ lists from local birding hotspots in the last couple of days. One included a photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and I said, AHA!


A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eyering and a white bar on the wing.


Kinglets are tiny songbirds with relatively large heads, almost no neck, and thin tails. They have very small, thin, straight bills.


Ruby-crowned Kinglets are fast-moving but quiet little birds that you might overlook at first. If you’re scanning roadside bushes or watching a flock of warblers, you might see one dart into view and keep moving through the foliage, almost too fast for you to keep up. Keep an eye out for their characteristic habit of wing-flicking. Don’t rely on seeing this bird’s ruby crown—it’s often kept completely hidden.

Backyard Bird #61!

Late October morning


Maple leaf by the pond.


Frosty raspberries in the garden.


These raspberries fruit in June too.


American Robin in the winterberry.




This winterberry grew wild here by the garden.


White-throated sparrow.


I saw a flock of these sparrows mixed with lots of juncos yesterday on a walk along the old rail line in town.



Radar carries a small log across the frosted grass, back field.


A bit of color left by the pond house.


Today is the day the ginkgo out front will start dropping all its leaves, dramatically. We can stand at the window now and watch them fall. Nothing gold can stay, right?



Backyard bird #60 is a Great Blue Heron! This one took off from the pond’s edge just as we walked out back.


I see them pretty often at the pond, but never have my camera with me when I do. When they take off, it looks like they might not clear the treeline.


Such a big bird. Lots of them migrating through the nearby coastal marshes now. Apparently a pond in a red maple swamp will also do for hunting up some dinner.

Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.


Bye, big bird.

Reaching the peak


Maple on fire!

What a morning. We are reaching the peak of color out back by the pond, field and red maple swamp.


White-throated sparrow, a bird we see in winter.


Sun coming up, moon going down. Pretty sure this tree had leaves yesterday!


Must remember these colors. They go so fast. And we go soon. House closing date is Nov. 29.




A nice place for a dog walk.


Yellow-rumped warblers are still here.

The chosen pond


Solitary Sandpiper is not alone.


Bird is here.

The garage beyond is affectionately known as the Pondhouse. Photos were taken yesterday. We are reaching peak color here at the edge of the red maple swamp.

First year I’ve ever seen a Solitary Sandpiper. Also the first year we’ve ever had a significant muddy clay beach rimming the pond due to extreme drought and low water levels.

The rock in the photo below was underwater and invisible to us for the 18 years we’ve lived here. The streams around here have completely dried up. At least it’s been a pretty mosquito-free summer and fall!


There was one SS stopping over at the end of September. I assume this is a different one, also on its way south.


Pretty markings.



Food is small invertebrates, sometimes small frogs, picked off the mud as the bird works steadily around the edges of its chosen pond.

NYT: Scenes from New England’s Drought

Some private wells have dried up. Farmers face millions of dollars in lost crops, and federal agricultural officials have declared much of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut a natural disaster area. Parts of rivers have withered into a series of ponds or wide stretches of stone, harming the ecosystems that depend on them. Bears and other wild animals are venturing into human habitats in search of food because there is little in their own.


Hunter’s Moon and… wood storks?


You can’t see any birds in this photo but they are there, finding their secret night time roosting spots. Almost-full Hunter’s Moon was rising over the pond last night as I took the dog for one last walk.

Our contingent buyers got their house under contract and we now have a closing date of November 30. Hard to think of saying good-bye at the most crazy beautiful time of year. I will close my eyes and think of the wretched cold, gray, months-long winter plus mud season instead. And of new adventures.

We are making an offer on a house in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Soon I will be learning some strange new birds…


Like the Wood Stork.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States.

I took these photos on our vacation last April. A spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon in Stuart, FL has been adopted by nesting birds of all sorts. It is a very short boat or kayak ride from the neighborhood we hope to live in.

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Arrow points to Bird Island. The town/peninsula of Sewall’s Point is our hoped-for new location.


In April, we went on a pontoon boat nature tour and had lunch next to this island, watching storks, brown pelicans, white ibis, spoonbills, snowy egrets, cormorants, night herons, osprey, and even a few magnificent frigatebirds!

Will this be in my new “backyard”? …


A bizarre wading bird of the southern coasts, the Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many Florida tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

Flamingo? We will not make that mistake, oh no.



At the edge of the swamp


Where’s Waldo?


Swamp Sparrow in the alder bushes.



Temps in the 40s this morning, but standing still in sunshine trying to photograph some birds I was hot in my jacket. The light is SO great for photography now.


I did not edit these photos at all, just slapped ’em up on the blog. These light conditions are good for my point-and-shoot bird camera, the Canon Powershot SX60, almost always on auto setting. Someday I will upgrade my skills and equipment. Meanwhile this camera has served me well for watching and learning.