I walked across the living room toward the large window that offers a view of the bird-feeding station and birdbath. I stopped dead in my tracks as a bird much larger than I expected to see was perched on the side of the birdbath.
Wisely, all of the other birds were nowhere to be seen.
It was a Copper’s hawk, one of the hawks in New England that commonly preys on small feeder birds. The large bird of prey had no interest in the birdbath’s water — either for drinking or cleaning. It was simply using the structure as a perch to get a better look at the feeders and nearby bushes. It hopped off the birdbath and onto a hemlock branch I had discarded to give the feeder birds a place to hide. After peering through the underbrush and finding nothing, the hawk flew off.
My destination was the northern part of Maine. I’m talking way north. Get to Baxter State Park and keep going for several more hours.
I drove pretty much through the night to get there. I took a few half-hour breaks to sleep and then continued on my way. I have been to northern New Hampshire dozens of times, and I have been to the middle of Maine many times. I’ve always wanted to see what Aroostook County was all about so I took the opportunity to head up there and finally see for myself.
I settled at the border town of Fort Kent where only the St. John River separates the U.S. from Canada.
Wildlife, of course, was the driving force behind the decision to drive up there. The boreal forest, to me anyway, is a magical place filled with so many interesting creatures. Moose are my favorite creatures, but things like lynx, loons, eagles, grouse, boreal chickadees, Canada jays, and other specialty species unique through the habitat are also a draw.
This has been the first spring/summer since I can remember in which I have not seen a scarlet tanager. I was hot on the trail of a few in the spring, but I never did spot the birds.
Granted, my birding this year has been hampered by foot ailments, but I have still spent enough time out there that I feel I should have seen one or two of these beauties.
The scarlet tanager is one of the most sought-after species in New England in the spring. Their electric red bodies with contrasting black wings make it one of our most unique and beautiful birds. The problem with tanagers is that they mostly hang around the tops of tall trees. Even a bird as bright as a teenager can remain hidden in a full canopy of oak or maple leaves.
The chirping was coming from the small tree right next to me. That much was clear. What wasn’t clear was where the bird was exactly or what type of bird it was.
I looked among the leaves for a minute or two to no avail. Then the bird jumped down to a dead branch just above eye level. It was a chipping sparrow. If it had been singing instead of chirping/calling I would have recognized it without having to see it. I can recognize many calls or chips but apparently not the chipping sparrow’s.
I was glad the bird hopped down to offer a good look. Too many times to count I’ve zeroed in on a bird following its song or call only to have the bird eventually fly off with me never having seen it or identified it. It’s one of the more frustrating things when it comes to birdwatching.
Here’s a shot of a male common yellowthroat. They are a common warbler that nests throughout most of the U.S. and into Canada. They migrate south in the fall, but in my observations, stick with us a little longer than many of the warblers.
I’m not going to try to emulate Dr. Seuss, but I think he would have drawn plenty of inspiration from a walk in the woods in New England in May.
His classic “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” comes to mind, but only altered to “Oh, the Colors You Can See.”
A recent walk made me think of this. The majority of the walk was along a wide dirt path with shrubby habitat on both sides. Beyond the thickets on one side was a large field and beyond the thickets on the other side were deep woods. It is perfect habitat for a bird walk.
The first bird I saw was a male eastern towhee. It was once called rufous-sided towhee because of the unique dark orange color of its sides that complement the otherwise white and black plumage of the bird. The bird’s red eyes are visible when it approaches among the shrubs closely enough. I did not see a female towhee on this particular day, but they are lighter brownish-orange where the male is black.
One of the highlights of the post-spring migration rush in New England is to visit a field in New England where bobolinks nest. Luckily, I have one fairly close to where I live — Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut. The bobolinks’ bubbly song (which reminds me of R2-D2) fills the air as red-winged blackbirds and yellow warblers provide an apt auditory background. Here are a few shots of a recent walk in the field.
Late March and early April can be a tough time for birdwatchers as we are in the slow build up to spring migration.
The spring migration actually starts sometime in February when the first male red-winged blackbirds arrive. It’s a nice sight (and sound) when they return to our swamps, but it’s pretty much just a tease as we know winter will continue, and it will be several weeks until other birds start to show up.
American woodcocks and eastern phoebes return to New England around the middle of March. A few weeks later, ospreys arrive. The build up can be excruciatingly