Monthly Archives: November 2016

Owl good-bye

No photos because I packed the cameras. Moving day is today, closing is tomorrow. We will be migratory until we buy our next house on Dec. 6.

Yesterday at twilight my eldest daughter and I saw an owl fly across the pond from a tree near the pondhouse toward the red maple swamp. Not sure what kind, but around here we most often hear the “who cooks for you?” of the barred owl.

I remember the first summer we lived here, 1998, hearing that owl on warm nights with the windows open and feeling close to the woods, close to wild things.

It has been a very special place to live. We will miss it.

Sojourns in the Parallel World Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it “Nature”; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be “Nature” too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we’ve been, when we’re caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.

Bluebirds are back


Surprise visit from my old friends the bluebirds yesterday. A small flock of 5 or 6 flew into the backyard and flitted around for about 20 minutes.


They perched in a birch tree. We planted these birches a year after we moved in, 18 years ago. They grew up fast!.. so did our daughters who were entering kindergarten and 4th grade when we got here. Now they are 27 and 23, one working, the other in college in Boston. Time flies.


The bluebirds inspected an old nest box.


Pretty bird.


They also inspected the old bluebird nest box, while a titmouse kept an eye on them. Wonder if the bluebirds started their lives in that nest box.


Are bluebirds nostalgic? Do they like to visit their old digs now and then? Or are they simply scoping out some good roosting places to spend the nights this winter?

Model sparrow


White-throated Sparrow snapped on a walk yesterday.

Crisp facial markings make the White-throated Sparrow an attractive bird as well as a hopping, flying anatomy lesson. There’s the black eyestripe, the white crown and supercilium, the yellow lores, the white throat bordered by a black whisker, or malar stripe. They’re also a great entrée into the world of birdsong, with their pretty, wavering whistle of Oh-sweet-canada. These forest sparrows breed mostly across Canada, but they’re familiar winter birds across most of eastern and southern North America and California.

Packing proceeds apace. We move out on November 28, close on November 29 and start heading south (with the birds).

Mockingbird in bittersweet


Northern Mockingbird in bittersweet.

I saw this bird near the intersection of Willow Ave and Ocean Blvd in the Little Boars Head area of North Hampton. I walked there yesterday afternoon after searching for the Prothonotary Warbler again, with no luck.

Here’s a photo from near the end of the walk, as I returned along Ocean Blvd.


Yes, it appears to be getting dark at 3:24 p.m.

Just down around the bend in the road was where I saw the rare warbler. I can’t imagine why it would hang around, but I will probably go look for it again today.

Prothonotary warbler in NH in November


This little lost bird is a Prothonotary Warbler, according to better birders than I.

I spotted it Tuesday around 1:40 p.m. in the rocks by the ocean, while walking on the sidewalk along Route 1A/ Ocean Boulevard, north of the fish houses in North Hampton, New Hampshire.


I thought it was a warbler, migrating south a bit late, and I could ID it when I got home. But I had trouble figuring out what it was and so I posted photos on Flickr and asked for help.

A NH birder helpfully IDed it yesterday evening and suggested I post it to the NH Birds Google group, which I did.


Apparently this bird is rarely sighted in New Hampshire, even in summer. It should be down in Central or South America in November.


A brilliant yellow-orange bird of southeastern wooded swamps, the Prothonotary Warbler is a striking sight.


Little bird, big rocks. Wonder if a storm brought this bird to us?

I went back to look for this bird again this morning and did not find it. Not surprised. Didn’t look like the best habitat for a warbler.


Why the strange long name, I wondered.

From an article on The Swamp Songster, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center…

Once dubbed the “Golden Swamp Warbler” because of its partiality to flooded forests, this striking warbler acquired its current name from 18th century Louisiana Creoles who thought the bird’s plumage resembled the golden robes of the protonotarius, a Catholic church official who advised the Pope.


Prothonotaries spend the nonbreeding season in southern Central America and northern South America, with their highest numbers in Costa Rica, Panama, and northern Colombia. There the prothonotary inhabits another watery realm, mangrove swamps. In the mangroves of Panama, the warbler can reach such high population density that early ornithologists described “swarms” of prothonotary warblers.

Wish I could pick up that little bird and put her on a plane to Panama!


From the NH Birds Google group on Nov. 12


Understory glows


Female Northern Cardinal on an alder branch.


Male Northern Cardinal on the garden fence.


Hello, bird.


Eating winterberries.


The one time a male cardinal is sort of camouflaged.


Such color!


View of the pondhouse from across the pond.

Leaves are mostly gone from the treetops. Now the understory glows.


Radar carries a small log on the leafy path back up to the house.

New England autumn beauty persists well into November. Time change last weekend and now it starts to get dark around 4 p.m.

Moving date is set for Nov. 28, closing Nov. 29.

Election day. I will be doing my civic duty and working as a ballot clerk in our small town for the last time. I stay to tally the write ins too.

Birds at Ragged Neck


Cormorants flying by the jetty on the north side of the entrance to Rye Harbor.


I finally got a good look at Snow Buntings for the first time last Wednesday, when I took a trip along the coast with my point-and-shoot Canon SX60. One stop was at Ragged Neck, Rye Harbor State Park.


Had trouble IDing this bird because I was looking in the sandpiper family when it’s in the plover family. Plus it’s not in breeding plumage. It’s a Black-bellied Plover.


Audubon Guide…

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.


Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia.


Black-bellied Plover on a rock, Ragged Neck.


There were three of these plovers. They walked across the lawn then down onto the rocks and tidepools.


Black-bellied Plovers.


There were seven Snow Buntings. Their legs are so short it looks like they are flopped down on their bellies while dining on seeds in the grass.


Appropriately named, the Snow Bunting is a bird of the high Arctic and snowy winter fields. Even on a warm day, the mostly white plumage of a bunting flock evokes the image of a snowstorm.

Or snow melting from brown fields in spring.

Around here, birders seem to spot them in open grassy areas very near the ocean.