It’s summer (unofficially anyway) and time to look for a good summer read. Here’s a recommendation for a child (or an adult to read to a youngster) from a New England author. Carol Story from Norwalk, Connecticut, used her quarantine time to write Ellie’s Day at the Shore. I wish I had used my time as wisely.
Ellie’s Day at the Shore was inspired by Story’s experience as a volunteer shorebird monitor for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, whose primary purpose is to monitor nesting activity of piping plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and other shorebirds along the coast of Long Island Sound. I was a volunteer myself several years ago and it’s a lot of work, but also fun, educational and purposeful.
Ellie’s Day at the Beach tells the story of Carol taking her great niece Ellie to the shore and discovering all sorts of natural goodies, such as horseshoe crabs, terrapins, butterflies and, of course, birds. The book is beautifully illustrated by Story’s friend Pippa J. Ellis.
There is a conservation theme to the story and a portion of the net proceeds will go to conservation charities. Ellie’s Day at the Shore is $12.95 and may be found on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and through the publisher.
Why not kick off the summer right and help support a local author and conservation organizations?
It was the type of walk you anticipate for about 11 months.
It started fairly slowly with robins and red-winged blackbirds as my only visible avian companions while a lone song sparrow sang in the distance. Soon enough, I heard a mockingbird going through its repertoire from a nearby shrubby patch. They usually belt out their songs from a fairly obvious perch and this guy was no different as I found him easily at the end of a branch.
As I watched and listened to this talented songster, a female ruby-throated hummingbird entered the scene. It hovered briefly at the honeysuckle but did not stay long as the blossoms were not quite ready to provide nectar.
A familiar song then permeated the area as dueling male yellow warblers proclaimed ownership of their respective patches. I was stuck in the middle of the rivals and enjoyed the sweet music. To us, it’s entertainment. To them, it’s a turf war with much at stake.
Only a narrow barrier of reeds separated the fairly busy road from the rain-swelled pool of water bordered by railroad tracks on the backside.
On any other day, this pool of water would be ignored and driven past without a second look. But on this day, something caught my eye and I promptly turned around at the next available safe place to do so. I drove past the water again, this time more slowly, and realized that what had caught my eye was a small group of male wood ducks.
Here are some bird feeding tips compliments of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co.
During the global pandemic, and as coronavirus restrictions persist, sales of bird feeders and bird feed continue to skyrocket as people flock to the avian world, right outside their windows where they find the safe and fascinating world of bird watching.
Interest in birding isn’t slowing down; if you haven’t yet tried attracting birds to your backyard, now is a great time to start and for those who are reaping the rewards of watching the birds from home, the experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products, Co. offer information on bird feed and feeder basics to attract more birds to your backyard this spring.
The large field is bordered by hedgerows on three sides and woods on the fourth. Additional hedgerows divide the field perpendicularly about every 100 yards with small cutouts where the trails pass through.
I emerged from the woods and spotted something large walking along the east hedgerow about 40 yards away from the trail. It was tan, but then again so was everything else around it: the grass, the weeds, the hedgerow. I stopped in my tracks to watch it.
Before my brain fully comprehended the situation, I thought it was either a deer or a mountain lion. I quickly eliminated deer as it was clearly a large cat based on its smooth, stealthy and powerful stride. Can I finally put the mountain lion (or cougar or catamount) debate to rest with solid photos documenting the sighting?
I came out of the woods and started walking through a field at Huntington State Park in Redding, Connecticut, Monday evening. I noticed something walking through the field parallel to my path about 50 yards to the east. As you can see from the photo, it was a bobcat, a photographic target of mine for years. Finally, I had found one. I can understand why some people mistakenly think they see a mountain lion when, in fact, they see a bobcat. It was much larger than I thought it would be. I’ve heard bobcats described as looking like “large house cats.” I don’t believe that does the bobcat justice. I have a fairly large house cat at home and this bobcat was much, much larger. More photos to come … of course.
I’m usually not one to chase birds. Over the years, I have made a few exceptions when the bird is not terribly far away.
By “chasing birds” I mean getting in your car and driving to where a rare bird has been spotted. Some people love chasing birds and will drive hours to see the rarity, which is perfectly fine if that is their thing. It just has never been my thing. It makes sense that chasing birds and listing birds go hand in hand. If you are a big lister, then you are probably a chaser. If you are not a big lister, which I am not, then you are probably not a big chaser. The only list I half-heartedly keep is a yard list, and there is no need for chasing with a yard list.
I do, however, like to photograph birds and it is always exciting to add a photo of a new bird. That has been the driving force behind the few times I have chased birds. Last weekend was one of those occurrences. I had been reading about a flock of relatively tame red crossbills that had been seen daily about an hour from my house.
I was up early one weekend morning, so I decided to take a little drive. I figured it was a better use of my time than lying in bed trying in vain to fall back asleep.
I arrived at the park’s parking lot to see a large group of birders standing on a boardwalk. Many had big, fancy cameras on sturdy tripods, others had smaller cameras slung around their necks, and some had only binoculars. It was obvious that they were all there to see the crossbills. At least I didn’t have to go looking for the birds, I thought.
On the way to the boardwalk I was distracted by a flock of horned larks in an open area. I stopped and grabbed a few photos of these birds before heading over to the boardwalk. As I took a few steps toward the boardwalk, I saw a flock of small birds flying out of the spruce tree near the birders. Oh no, there go the crossbills, I thought. Thankfully, they didn’t go far and settled into another evergreen about 30 yards away. I followed the crowd of birders to a spot near, but not too near, the tree in which the birds had settled.
I watched as several male and female crossbills of various ages and plumage variations moved around the tree to find cones. Crossbills get their name because their bills are crossed at the tips, which makes it easier for them to access the seeds inside tough spruce and pine cones. I could hear them scrape the cones with their bills to get to the morsels inside.
About 20 minutes later, the flock moved over to another tree, this time closer to the parking lot. Again, the crowd of birdwatchers followed these tiny celebrities and kept a respectable distance away from the birds.
The birds flew off again about 10 minutes later. This time, I did not follow the crowd but rather got back into my truck and headed home. The photos I got were rather disappointing, but I’m happy I made the trip anyway. I have always been fascinated by crossbills and was happy to get to see them. I did manage to get a few nice photos of the larks, however.
Red crossbills are a northern bird that sometimes irrupt into New England and farther south following available food sources. In this winter of irruptions, I guess it’s not surprising that crossbills are in the move.