Tuesday, September 27, 2016

9.27.16 - TUESDAY TWEETS CANCELLED DUE TO RAIN

Before we know it...we'll start seeing Hooded Mergansers...

Next Opportunity: 10.4.16 9:30 $2Members/$4Non-members
Happy Birding!

Friday, September 23, 2016

9.23.16  Bird Nerd Moment - Scorton Creek
Sandwich, MA

Learning with the senses...  I really feel this is the best method of understanding a new concept.  I know sometimes it's not wise, sometimes not even safe, to employ every sense when presenting ideas and information to others.  When it IS safe to do so, well, then you can have some of those moments... a magical moment to maybe last a lifetime.

Green Briar Nature Center in Sandwich is a gem of a place, nestled near a cranberry bog and the Smiling Pool, as Thornton Burgess so beautifully named it, just off of Route 6A in East Sandwich, MA.  Years ago I was hired there as a part-time naturalist and I thought that I'd just won the job lottery!  Seriously!  It's not like you're out there in the woods, at the bog, on the salt marsh, sifting through silt looking for gold.  Funny how it shows up though.  What the HECK am I talking about?   I was working for Green Briar on this perfect weather morning, the second day of autumn, with 10 second graders I'd never met. They'd previously had classroom presentations of their field trip to Scorton Creek, and lucky kiddos... here they were in Nature's classroom.  We walked on the dirt road together, toward the marsh and the creek.  We talked about plants, got interrupted by a few birds (Well I did. I always do.) we discussed why the salt marsh is such a vital and fragile ecosystem that deserves reverence.  For some of these kids, it's their backyard.  When you grow up with something so special just there all the time, it's easy to understand why such a place might become taken for granted.  

We had a check list of plants and animals and birds and isopods... we were doing well on the list, especially once we got to the creek and the kids could wade in if they wanted and use nets and buckets to get a closer look at whatever they discovered.  I'm not used to kids who are dirt shy.  When I'm at the Museum of Natural History, KidSummer kids expect and want to trash up their brand new white museum logo T-shirt with mud and sand and dirt. These kiddos were on a field trip from school - way to start the year Forestdale second graders!  Some of them were less than enthused about the clay-like sand & mud in the creek bed though.  No biggie.  I'm not there to make anyone do anything they really don't want to do.  The kids that did jump right in, literally, discovered some sea lettuce and some empty clam shells and 1 little green crab.  So we got right up close and I held the crab and we talked about how it felt when the crab walked over our hands... could he bite us, yes, but his claws were tiny.
Mostly - we all agreed, it tickled as he crept across the palms of our hands.  Then, a bit of magic happened, though not everyone noticed.  One of the more shy kids, who was not comfortable getting her feet muddy, who didn't want to wade or even step near the creek, who hung back so far until this moment... asked, "Can I hold the crab?"
"OF COURSE!", said I!  I was SO delighted and PROUD OF HER!  I'd just met this youngster not an hour before, and here she was, growing right in front of me!  This photo below is her, bravely & happily holding a young green crab in her hands.  Don't miss the fading blue nail polish...

It was a magical nature moment.  When the crab was in her hands, man-o-man did she break out into the most beautiful missing a few baby teeth smile!  It was wonderful.  Then another girl, who had also hung back away from the messy fun we'd been having, stepped up and asked the very same question.  I was blown away!  This is what the heck I'm talking about.  Teaching with the senses.  There is NOTHING like it.  They could see the landscape, they could hear the breeze and the birds, they could smell the stinky sulfur of the healthy marsh, they could taste the salt from the brackish water on their hands, and they could feel the crab creeping gently across their hands...

All sorts of discovery going on

Pointing out Glasswort "sea pickle"

Courageously holding a skate egg case "mermaid's purse"
This student stepped WAY out of his comfort zone to hold this for my photo.
That's my hand next to his, letting him know that he would be fine.

Found feathers


Deer tracks!

Oak branches that dip into the water at high tide
Note the salt hay and grasses that dangle from the lower branches

I realize, this particular entry was not about birds, though we did see and hear: American Crow, Herring Gull, Song Sparrow & Belted Kingfisher;  I felt like sharing this experience I had with these students.  The 90 minutes I spent on the salt marsh with these 7 year olds, who I'll probably never see again (though I sure hope I do!) made my morning.  I hope they visit Scorton Creek with their families, while walking the family dog and show them all they learned, in such a short time, in such a special spot, with Cape Cod magic all around them.

Happy Birding, and crabbing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

9.14.16 Birdwalk for Cotuit Bird & Garden Club - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA

Today, I got to lead the Cotuit Bird & Garden Club along the John Wing Trail, north of the museum.  I was surprised to discover that MOST of these club members had NEVER been on this particular trail!  I was so happy to introduce them to it and to answer their questions and to see and hear some birds with them along the way.  Determined to make it to the shore, especially because yesterday we had seen the large flock of Tree Swallows,  I was really hoping we'd get to experience the same sight two days in a row... you just never know...

I also felt that I should at least point out the plant species that I am familiar with along the trail.  Much of it I've learned not only through my own curiosity, but also from both observing and asking questions of Nancy Wigley, my go-to Botanist.  I tell you, I could listen to Nancy speak about poison ivy for 15 minutes and hang on every word.  Her book, Trailside Treasures Plants of Cape Cod, is a tribute to this very trail we're walking.  It includes photography by Susan W. Carr and gives a narrative about where exactly you can find particular species of plants and ALL ABOUT THEM, right here in Brewster.  We were fortunate to run into Nancy after our walk, after I'd been raving about her!  You can purchase the book at the fabulous gift shop inside the museum.

What a perfect beach day, which can be a tease... I mean, we were there for the birds...and the plants, and the view, and the sun, and the sand and this amazing Cape we all live on, in, around... it's hard not to jump on in!  It was such a nice bunch of curious caring bird and plant lovers.  I do hope we get to spend time together again, surrounded by bird and/or leaves of some of their favorite plants.  I have been known to say, "If it doesn't poop... I'm not always sure..."  I do so respect the plant life we have here on the Cape especially.   We are surrounded by a lot of blue...but the green makes it an extra healthy place to call home. (double click photos to enlarge)  

Our List:
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
White-breasted Nuthatch
Gray Catbird
Tree Swallow
Red-tailed Hawk
American Crow
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Egret
Mourning Dove
Double-crested Cormorant
Common Tern
Semi-palmated Plover


Salt Reed Grass/Big Cord Grass "GOOD" (native)

Phragmites/Common Reed "BAD" (invasive/introduced)

Cotuit Bird & Garden Club on their bird walk

Glasswort AKA: Sea Pickle

Solar Calendar

Poison Ivy

Leaves covered in galls, produced by mites

Asters


Looking Northwest toward Cape Cod Bay...
with Crowes Pasture, Dennis in the distance on the left

Ring-billed Gulls resting on the mudflats

Great Black-backed Gull

Cotuit Bird & Garden Club

Great Black-backed Gull, Double-crested Cormorants



Herring Gull, juvenile & Least Sandpipers

Thanks Cotuit Bird & Garden Club!
Happy Birding!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

9.13.16 Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA

September seems perfect in almost every way when considering the beautiful world surrounding us on our bird walk this morning!  We had a sea breeze to cool us at just the right moments and we had some new-comers who'd never been to Tuesday Tweets before. I do thoroughly enjoy visiting with the bird-lovers who return each week.  Even though we hike the same trail, there is always something new to see and birds to hear and vistas to gaze upon.  I was explaining to the folks who came along that I have daily bird walks with the KidSummer Birding 101 Kids, and how they sometimes will complain about the heat, or the sun, or the walk... blah blah blah.  I do my best not to complain (unless someone's WHINING!) about the weather, and I will then also add, "Would you prefer to take a math test?"  That will sometimes put things into perspective for them.  Not everyone gets to set foot on the oh-so-wonderful John Wing Trail in Brewster, Massachusetts.  Lucky me... I get to do it all the time, and I love to share it with nature-loving, bird-appreciating folks of all ages.  We were pleasantly surprised by a flocking Tree Swallow air ballet for a few time standing still moments...what a SIGHT!  They flew RIGHT over us, about 30-40 birds.

We had a brief gull lesson by the time we got to the ocean.  The 4 most common gulls were conveniently resting on the mudflats, all right next to each other.  This is a great opportunity to compare field marks, though it can be tricky when you throw juvenile birds of each species into the mix.  The fun part is realizing you're seeing a juvenile gull (or whatever bird you're observing) rather than a whole new species.  Believe me - I get VERY excited when I see a "lifer" (what my bird nerd mentor Peter Trull calls a species you've never laid eyes on in the field before ), but I also find it fun to point out the field marks so birdwatchers perhaps less familiar with them can take that information with them.  It's fun to know what species you're looking at.  Birdwatching is obsessive.  It's INCREDIBLE to do it in a locale such as this... if you haven't been on a Tuesday Tweets, well you gotta do it SOMEDAY!  (double click on photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Northern Cardinal
Gray Catbird
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Double-crested Cormorants
Semi-palmated Plover
Lesser Yellowlegs
Great Blue Heron
Gray Catbird (looks like a juvenile to me, fluffy feathers)

Gray Catbird


 Lesser Yellowlegs 

Double-crested Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Black-backed Gulls, Lesser Yellowlegs

Gulls, Gulls, GULLS... and a cormorant

Great Blue Heron

Gulls, with Yellowlegs on the spit of marsh grass (top of photo)

Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, 2 Laughing Gulls (juvenile)
all coexisting quite nicely on the mudflats

Great Blue Heron


Great Blue Heron


Semi-palmated Plover


Great Blue Heron

Happy Birding!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

9.5.16 - Bird Nerd Moment - South Middle Beach
South Yarmouth, MA

There's a storm brewing... it's still off the Atlantic coast and is hundreds miles south of here, but it's coming....that's what all the weather folk are saying anyway.  When this happens on the Cape, what's cool is, often you can see a storm headed right toward you, from a distance because we can just go to Nantucket Sound and well... look southeast.  So I decided I wanted to do that.  Today has been BEAUTIFUL here in Yarmouth anyway, and I wanted to go see what the water was doing.  Curiosity got the better of me.  I took a quick drive to our resident (aren't we LUCKY?!) beach, which is about 2 miles from home....

Well... as you can see - conditions at South Middle Beach - were perfect.  It was breezy, the storm had evidently stalled out at sea as it was, pushed around by other pressure systems... meteorology is something I know nothing about.  I pretty much look outside to forecast the weather, and I rely on our gaudy, one-winged fence ornament - Placido Flamingo - to let me know about the wind.  I find him quite trustworthy.  

What was remarkable about this quick visit to the shore for me (sometimes that's all I get) was that I noticed a flocking of House Sparrows on the Rosa rugosa, AKA Beach rose.  I wondered what they knew about the storm that we didn't.  Typically you can learn a lot by observing wildlife and their habits and patterns.  When a bad storm is coming, they KNOW. They seek shelter long before most of we humans do... this amount of House Sparrows did seem slightly unusual to me though... so of course, out came the phone camera.  I know, not everyone is fond of House Sparrows (invasive species) and I've still got a beef with them from this spring.  They kicked Tufted Titmouses out of a nest box in my yard.  Stinkers.
I had to take photos of them... tough to count, due to camouflage, but I believe there were about 40 that I could see...surprisingly quite well-hidden in the roses.  See how many you can count! (double click photos to enlarge)



How many House Sparrows can you count?! (click on photo to enlarge!)
Happy Birding!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

8.28.16  Bird Nerd Moment - My backyard
Yarmouth, MA

Sipping coffee on a sunny Sunday morning on Cape Cod...I'm mentally choosing to ignore the tug of the school year, and the routines that await all of us in just a few days.  I don't drink a lot of coffee, but it is the morning ritual that I enjoy most of all, and I'm getting to enjoy every sip, outside in this weather, that just won't quit!  This summer's weather on Cape Cod has been incredible.  I know, I know, there's a drought, and we need the rain...of course we need rain.  One of my favorite Cape Codders commented on this: "We really need the rain."  He said, "Yes.  On Cape Cod, we need summer rain on Wednesday night, once a week, while everyone is sleeping.  THAT is when we need rain here."  I couldn't agree more, and Mother Nature has pretty much stuck to that plan for most of our summer here.  It has just been spectacular.  Hot Hazy Humid - perfect.  Why and how are coffee, rain & birds all coming together here... and WHEN?!  Now.

SO - I'm sipping my delicious coffee, enjoying some warm sunny peace on our back deck, which is surrounded by oaks... the trees' leaves are sparkling with sunbeams and for a few minutes, I haven't heard anyone calling me from inside the house.  All is quiet...until a small flock of Common Grackles arrives, one after the other. They fly in rather quietly and perch - about 10-12 of them, here and there all around the branches in my yard.  The photos I've posted below are less than great - but all I had to snap a few shots was my phone camera. (double click photos to enlarge)
Common Grackle

Common Grackles - dark forms here and there
in the branches 

Birds who flock, are beginning to flock again, be it for migration, shelter from an approaching storm, keeping their family groups safe & close.  So these grackles are bouncing from branch to branch, making their tell-tale calls & inspecting all that they please all over the oaks.  I believe some of them MUST be juveniles, though I can't see all of their eyes from the distance they're at. Juveniles do not sport the yellow iris the adults do.  For a beat, I think about what the heck it might feel like to be fearful of birds, because I'm surrounded. It's a grackle ambush!  I don't know why it popped into my brain, but it did.  I have heard that story over and over again and I have also heard that for many of the folks who have ornithophobia: an irrational fear of birds; that it is common that some frightful occurence involving birds has happened to them at a young impressionable age.  Perhaps they'd inadvertenly wandered too close to a nest or into a territory a bird was feeling particularly protective about.  I know people get dive-bombed by birds - I've SEEN it!  I suppose if you were the young human at a tender age and that happened to you, it would freak you out too. 

I think of it at that moment I guess, because I feel surrounded...surrounded by grackles and watching their behavior and feeling like I'm in a sort of heaven.  I also understand that my comfort level with essentially every living creature ( save arachnids ) does not translate into euphoria for most everyone.  This moment below, from Ace Ventura - Pet Detective sums up MY happy place essentially... I would sing too if that were me...

I'm at home with them.  I'm in my glory.  I'm loving being exactly where I am, surrounded by Common Grackles and watching them, and listening to them as the summer breeze sways the branches and rustles the leaves.  All I'm doing is having a coffee on my back deck, and I'm transported by the birds.  They really are magical in that way... I know not for everyone, but for so SO many.  It's such a special gift... the existence of birds.  I hope you've been able to enjoy their company recently too.

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

8.16.16 Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA

Birds, birds...BIRDS!  We saw perhaps the most amount of species of different birds on this particular Tuesday Tweets, and it was an added bonus, that the weather was Cape Cod Perfection.  It was hot, but there was a gentle breeze, lots of sunshine... a time to be outdoors, binoculars around your neck, comfy shoes on sandy feet and a smile on your face.

We don't always make it to Cape Cod Bay, because the birds we see and hear along the way are so often wonderfully distracting and detaining... we simply (well I simply) cannot make it all the way to the water in a mere hour.  This morning was a slightly extended Tuesday Tweets.  I could not tear myself away from the shore, with the terns flying just above our heads, singing their beachy song - at least that's what it means to my ears. When I hear terns screeching and calling and creating the sound that is all their own, it makes me want to stretch out on the sand and take a leisurely beach nap.  It's that peaceful for me.  I realize sights and sounds of the shore have different meanings to different people, but I was mesmerized this morning.  We were overrun with TERNS!  It was gorgeous.

The bird nerds seemed so pleased and I have to make mention that a former Birding 101 KidSummer Kid and her mom, joined in on this particular Tuesday Tweets.  I am so PROUD of her!  I loved birding with her!  She was taking it all very seriously and seemed to be enjoying each moment, identifying species and taking in the moment that we all so fortunately were able to share together.  Thanks Bird Nerds!  What a morning! (double click photos to enlarge & don't miss Rick's photo contributions!)

Our List:
Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
American Robin
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Osprey
American Crow
Barn Swallow
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Eastern Towhee
Prairie Warbler
Mourning Dove
Laughing Gull
Cedar Waxwing
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Baltimore Oriole
Great Black-backed Gull
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Ruddy Turnstone
Black-bellied Plover
Short-billed Dowitcher (???)
Least Terns
Common Tern


Bumble Bees with legs COVERED 
in pollen!
Photo Credit: RICK


Osprey - by the next Tuesday Tweets
we probably will not be seeing any Osprey for 2016

European Starlings - flocking on the power lines

American Goldfinch - male

Bird Nerds on the saltmarsh

Song Sparrow

Eastern Chipmunk

Prairie Warbler - Photo Credit: RICK

Prairie Warbler - Photo Credit:RICK

Mourning Dove

Cedar Waxwing...couldn't see the mate

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird - Photo Credit: RICK



Gray Catbird - looks like juvenile, kinda scruffy looking

Baltimore Oriole


Sometimes photos look blurry and more painting-like
(never will claim to be a professional photographer)

Laughing Gulls with breeding plumage filling in 
in varying stages

Laughing Gull - Photo Credit: RICK
Double-crested Cormorant - Photo Credit: RICK
Sure wish I could...

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone - Photo Credit: RICK


Ruddy Turnstone...on a mission, which
did not phase the Laughing Gull in the least

Common Terns - Photo Credit: RICK

Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher (???) Common Tern
Photo Credit: RICK

So very strange to observe so many different species
of birds, mingling so happily & in such proximity!
Everyone's happier on the shore!

Herring Gull - juvenile - Photo Credit: RICK

Common Tern - juvenile - Photo Credit: RICK

Ring-billed Gull - Photo Credit: RICK



Laughing Gull - juvenile

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phobe silhouette
It's COOL to be a BIRD NERD!

Happy Birding!