Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Gymnastic Routine - Feeding Nestlings

As I promised yesterday, I have some more photos from yesterday's walk. When I went to Ballard Park after the "official" bird walk up at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, the first place i headed was to the spot where you can best see the Great Crested Flycatcher nest. I took a good 20 pictures and then moved on. When I got home I noticed that I'd captured a particular sequence - an adult Flycatcher diving into the nest to feed the young'uns! I figured that was worth a post all on its own.

Launch from the rim of the nest cavity...

... dive in head first, waving the tail feathers...

... and come back up to go fly off to find more bugs!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Bird Walk

Today was the biweekly Sunday bird walk out of the Norman Bird Sanctuary, and we had a good one! We went down to Third Beach and the salt marsh behind it, and then over to Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. We got some good sightings.

In the Third Beach salt marsh there was a lot of activity - Killdeer, Great Egrets, a Glossy Ibis, a mixed bag of Gulls including about 4 Laughing Gulls, and a Greater Yellowlegs Sandpiper. I only really got good shots of the Killdeer (top left) and the Great Egrets (top right and bottom).

Over in the Sachuest Point NWR there was a lot of activity as well - lots of Gray Catbirds, Robins, Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, and Goldfinches. We found a baby Mocker (top) hopping on the trail with Mama on a branch overhead fretting away. And not much farther along the trail we found this Goldfinch willing to pose (bottom).

On the way out of Sachuest Point on the way back to town we found this young male Red-tailed Hawk perching on a telephone pole keeping an eye out for lunch. Naturally we stopped the car, and my buddy Bob and I got out to get some shots of him. I posted two here so you can get a view of those gorgeous red tail feathers!

And back to town! Naturally I made a beeline for my favorite spot. I got more shots of the adult Great Crested Flycatchers feeding the nestlings, but you'll have to wait for tomorrow for that; the shots I got today have a theme to them and deserve a post of their own. Meantime, I got a shot of one of the Flycatchers' food sources, a Calico Pennant dragonfly in the Quarry Meadow.

And I'll leave you with this shot of a male Redwinged Blackbird chip, chip, chipping away at me from his perch on a reed stem along Hazard Rd. in the Gooseneck Cove salt marsh, not at all pleased that I was so close to his young'uns just learning to fly.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow to see some uniquely Flycatcher acrobatics!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, June 25, 2010

Feeding the Babies in Ballard Park

On Monday two fellow birders found a great treasure in Ballard Park - a Great Crested Flycatcher pair ferrying tasty, buggy munchies to their babies in a nest in a hole high up in an old Black Cherry tree. Credit where credit is due - Dan Cinotti (who I don't know) noticed the activity and discovered the nest, and my old friend Bob Weaver has been taking pictures and sending them to the daily RI birding newsletter ever since. So today I decided I really needed to get down there and get some pictures of my own.

I knew exactly which tree I was looking for; Bob's pictures and his description of the location of the tree pretty much told me which one I was looking for. I needn't have worried about not finding it, though; I got down to the spot and there was Bob, cigarette perched in the corner of his mouth and his camera set up on his tripod and aimed at the tree in question, the image of the complete professional. He'd been there for hours snapping away, and we were both there together for a good hour more before he had to move along. I stayed another half hour, snapping away. The whole time the adult birds were flying to the nest, one coming in as the other was leaving, with beaks full of crunchy goodies. Those have to be some seriously chubby chicks!

In any case, I got about 97 shots of the Great Crested Flycatchers. These are the best of the lot.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Theme Thursday - Triangle

Newport offers all kinds of architectural and sculptural triangles.

On to this week's videos... Most sails are triangular, so I went and found a version of Tab Hunter singing "Red Sails in the Sunset" with lots of gorgeous triangular sails. Ah, paradise!

Speaking of things maritime, and especially since I live in a place that's been a maritime center since its founding in 1638, the following song was the first thing I thought of when I learned that this week's theme was "triangle". It's the song "Molasses to Rum" from the musical 1776, and it describes the Triangle Trade, which traveled between New England, the West Coast of Africa, and the New World, trading slaves from Africa in the Caribbean for sugar cane and molasses, which was then taken to New England to be distilled into rum, which in turn was taken back to Africa to trade for slaves. The scene portrayed here recalls Edward Rutledge, one of South Carolina's delegates to the Continental Congress, objecting to one of Thomas Jefferson's phrases in the Declaration of Independence putting slavery in a negative light and paving the way for the institution's end. Rutledge points out that the most vociferous objectors - the delegates from New England - were the ones who benefited most, economically speaking, from the Triangle Trade. [Historical note: Rutledge was a slimy, rabidly racist scumbag who also tried to fight against independence; he was in favor of a more friendly and cooperative arrangement with Great Britain. He was a wealthy planter with aristocratic aspirations whose schemes would work better as a citizen of the British Empire than as a citizen of an independent America. He spent much of his time at the Continental Congress holding up the proceedings with trivialities and trying to drive a spike into the progress toward declaring independence. On the racial scene, he tried to have all African-Americans banned from joining the Continental Army. For all his physical charm (he was said to be handsome and was a real, foppish dandy) he was a truly ugly personality.] Anyhow, here's the scene from the movies version of 1776.

And finally, I found this gem, juggler Michael Moschen making use of a triangular frame to create a truly unique sight and sound experience. This is juggling taken to the next level. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Napatree Point

I got waylaid by my friend Bob Weaver yesterday afternoon and was invited to go along with him and Rey Larsen on a shore bird census trip to Napatree Point in Westerly, RI this morning; Rey was doing the counting while Bob and I would be along to photograph everything in sight. Napatree is a barrier beach that stretches out from the Watch Hill area of Westerly and shelters the Little Narragansett Bay from the Long Island Sound. It's typically lovely barrier beach country - beaches, dunes, and some great birds.

After parking in the lot by Watch Hill Cove, we walked west along the bay-side beach.

While walking this stretch we noticed an Osprey pretty much flying right at us, followed by a Tern who looked as if it was chasing the Osprey out of its territory. There are two Osprey platforms on Napatree Point, but only one is occupied this year. You can see it from this point on the bay-side shore, but we were able to get closer to the nest on the ocean side, so you'll have to wait until we round the point and get over there.

Along this stretch we also ran into lots of little Sanderlings scurrying about their business, as well as a Mama Spotted Sandpiper herding her chick. Unfortunately this side of the point is mostly covered in pebbles and gravel rather than sand, and the birds were blending in too well. But as luck would have it, at one point we had to leave the water's edge and follow a path through dunes and grass and salt marsh, and at one point we ran across another Spotted Sandpiper on an old bit of dock apparently washed way inland by a storm. It seemed to want to hang out on this little stage and pose for us; Bob thought there was probably a nest nearby and this one was making sure we made no threatening moves.

Nearing the end of the Point we came across a flock of 7 American Oystercatchers who seemed to want to move along with us, giving us ample occasions for photo sessions. These are the two best shots I got.

Rounding the rough and rocky point we come to the ocean-side beach, which is dominated by nesting Osprey, Piping Plovers, and Least Terns. The Plovers and Terns are endangered species and their nesting areas are roped off and signs posted to stay out. Osprey, like Bald Eagles and other raptors, were once endangered but have benefited from the effort made to save them; they're back up to a healthy population these days. The nest here on Napatree has three chicks, but I wasn't able to get a shot with all of them; at least I got a shot with proud parent (without the other adult present for comparison I can't tell if this is Mama or Papa; both share parenting duties), one full shot of a baby, and the very top of the head of another there in the lower left of the shot.

Rey counted 27 Piping Plovers, 9 of which were chicks. This is a great count, and a sign that this endangered species is recovering slowly but surely. Here's one of the adults

The Least Terns were still sitting on their nests, so there was much avian consternation as we walked down this stretch of beach, especially when we discovered one actually sitting on a nest. When we stopped to take pictures the Tern world erupted and we were being dive-bombed by orange-billed harpies. The nest-sitter even left the nest to join in the festivities. Bob and I tried to get shots of the Terns in flight, but they're just too fast, at least for my reflexes. The nest-sitter eventually returned to the nest, and I managed to get decent shots of it walking back to the site and then firmly ensconced on the nest.

And finally we come to the end of this hike. I'm told this dune at the Watch Hill end of the beach is famous. I can testify that it's tough on the thighs and is excellent aerobic exercise (puff, pant, puff, pant!); my cardiologist would heartily approve of me tackling this.

And that was today's adventure. I hope you enjoyed coming along!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice!

Litha. Midsummer. Summer Solstice. The Longest Day. This is the day the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the year, at the Tropic of Cancer, 23º 27' N. The daylight hours have been gradually increasing since the Winter Solstice, and after today, the longest day, they'll begin to shorten little by little each day. At this point we're at the height of Summer. The following pictures were taken yesterday and today in my favorite area of the world.

Yesterday I went down to Ballard Park and got some pictures for this post. There are lots of flowers blooming now, both in the Quarry Meadow and back in the woods. And there are some critters, too.

You've heard the old saw about the early bird getting the worm? Well, these shots weren't actually very early, and the Gray Catbird and the caterpillar were at opposite ends of the park (the Catbird was near the puddingstone boulder on the Valley Trail and the caterpillar was climbing one of the Quaking Aspens in the grove in the Quarry), but I thought they went together nonetheless.

Flowers in the Aster family are blooming like crazy in the Quarry Meadow. From the top: Spotted Knapweed, Canada Thistle, Chicory, and Daisy Fleabane.

There are other flowers blooming elsewhere, as well. At the top below is some Black Mustard growing beside the Vernal Pond. Below that is some Japanese Honeysuckle growing along the Southwest Trail (I know, I know, it's a nasty invasive pest, but it sure smells nice!). And the bottom shot is of some Swamp Dewberry, a plant in the Rose family and a close relative of the Blackberry, growing along the Valley Trail.

There's lots of Duckweed covering the surface of the Vernal Pond these days, but unfortunately I haven't seen any ducks coming to nibble on it. But it does serve as camouflage for the large Green Frog population in the pond, and if you sit very quiet and still and keep your eyes peeled, you may just get a peek of a Green Frog's eyes poking up out of the water watching for bugs.

Down Hazard Rd. from the park Gooseneck Cove is also getting very summery. One of the surest signs that Summer is advancing is the Blue Crabs getting big enough (from a legal standpoint) to catch and eat. I was talking to the gentleman who had caught this plump fella yesterday; it's still early yet (our prime crabbing season picks up in July), but he got four keepers Friday evening and had caught this one yesterday. Hmmmmm... I need to go down in the cellar and find my bucket and my net; I'm getting a serious crab craving!

I went back down to Hazard Rd. this morning to do one of my annual Summer Solstice rituals; I keep water from Gooseneck Cove in a small antique medicine bottle on my altar to represent the element Water, and the Summer Solstice is when the old water is put back where it came from and new water refills the bottle to serve for the coming year. While there I noticed some Snowy Egrets flying in for a snack, and managed to catch this one in the midst of the Snowy Dance, flying over the water in short hops and kicking up the water to stir up the small fish to make it easier to snag them.

Finally, I leave you with this panoramic shot of Gooseneck Cove looking south from Hazard Rd., showing off the cove in all her Summer finery. Happy Solstice, all!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Odds & Ends

Just two shots taken while I was out and about on errands the last few days.

Bindweed grows all over town and is something of a pest, but this member of the Morning Glory family is still pretty.

An Orchard Orb Weaver (Leucauge venusta) in my back yard, nestled among the Hosta and the Ivy.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger