Upcoming Events including Info on Noah Stryker's Talk

 


The Ocean State Bird Club has a few events in the upcoming couple of weeks that we are really excited about. The highlight is Noah Strycker coming to Rhode Island in September. More on that below. Our upcoming events are the following...


Birds And Beer-

   This is a get together at a local brewery that we do a few times a year. A bunch of us will get together and talk about birds over a pint or two. We usually spend a couple of hours talking about what we have seen and where we will be going. These events are for members only. They are very well attended as they usually have more people show up than do our walks. Members have received an email with the date and time of the next one. If this is of interest to you, consider joining the club.


Ocean State Bird Club Pelagic-

   We are planning on chartering one of the Francis Fleet boats this fall for a dedicated pelagic. Unlike the above event it will be open to non-members, however, members will get a discounted price. We are tentatively looking at the last week of September for this. Payment will have to be in advance because chartering a whale watch boat (with crazy fuel costs) is not cheap. Once we get a date set in stone, I/we will post the information as soon as possible. Stay tuned. I love pelagics and am very excited we are doing this.

Noah Strycker- 

   Bird Club President Tom Younkin worked really hard to get Noah Strycker to come to Rhode Island to do a talk and a walk. Other board members worked just as hard to help find a venue to host the seminar. I personally have seen Noah's talk when the Brookline Bird Club had him as a guest speaker. I can tell you honestly his talk is great. He is funny and he is well spoken. He details his trip around the world eloquently. I really enjoyed it. When Tom said there was the possibility of booking Noah, I was one hundred percent all for it from the get-go. The event is FREE to members. As a board, we are really excited to give this presentation to our members as a thank you for sticking with us through Covid. 

   Below is Tom's write up about the upcoming event. Since I cannot improve on the information I copied and pasted it from his email. The Key Date to Remember is September 10!

 


  In 2015 Noah Strycker recorded 6,042 bird species in a single year across the planet! At the time he established a new record for the number of species seen around the globe in one year!  He is widely regarded as one of the foremost birders in the world.  In 2017 he published a best-selling book entitled “Birding without Borders” detailing his adventures on this epic quest.  


   The Ocean State Bird Club is proud to announce that we are hosting a special event with Noah Strycker! On September 10th, he will be recounting his incredible journey in his "Birding without Borders" presentation.  We are very excited that he has agreed to come in from the West Coast to speak with our Club and additional guests. OSBC members can attend the event at no cost. Please spread the word to your friends and family, they may attend this event by simply joining the OSBC for $15 or they may purchase a ticket at the door for $20. This event will take place at 2pm at Gaige Hall on the campus of Rhode Island College in Providence.  Bring your copy of "Birding without Borders" and he will gladly sign it!  You can learn more and register on our website, www.oceanstatebirdclub.org.  We hope to see you there!


Filling the Gap between Spring Migration and Shorebirds coming back

   

My lifer Black Racer

   Before I even start, I need to address two things. The first, this post isn't about birds. Secondly, if I would have thought about it, I should have wrote this post a month ago. The thought came to last night so I am writing it today. Everything that I am writing is still relevant but could have been useful for over a month now. I truly apologize. Now that is out of the way...

   I will be the first to admit that after migration is over I can get into a funk. I get such a high from seeing all of the warblers that June can be a letdown for me. I get "seasonal depression" worse after migration than I do when it gets dark at 4:30 in December. Despite glorious weather the first couple of weeks of the month I find myself inside the house feeling like there's nothing "worth the drive". To combat this annual phenomenon for the last few years I have taken my vacation in June. This year and last I went to the Outer Banks. 

   However, once I get back from vaca, there was still a lot of time before shorebirds show up on their way back home. This year, I have had no problem keeping busy.  

  Herping...

 

Northern Water Snake devouring 
a bass twice its width

    For the past month I have been looking for reptiles and amphibians. I really haven't been birding but have spent a lot of time in the woods, fields and by freshwater ponds. I think I caught the bug when I was in Florida and saw Cottonmouths last November. Then in March I actively looked for Spring Peepers. Since then, every chance I get I've been looking at the ground for herps as much as I've looked in trees for birds. 

   All summer (from June 1 on) I've been looking for snakes and rarer turtles and frogs. My first big find was seeing a Northern Water Snake eating an eight inch Largemouth Bass. Along with Sue Palmer, we watched the snake take forty five minutes to turn the bass and swallow it. Later that day I came across my lifer Black Racer.  

  This new hobby has had many moments of discovery so far. I've seen Fowler's Toads on three separate occasions. I found a second Black Racer and many more Northern Water Snakes. Yesterday I was walking along the water's edge and came across no less than nine Pickerel Frogs. 

   Seeing Bullfrogs, Green Frogs, Painted Turles, and Snapping Turtles is easy. All four of those species are very common. I've been concentrating on finding the harder species. This includes all species of snakes. Even common Garter Snakes are a challenge. When I find a snake of any species, I consider it a great day. This is also true of any frog or toad that isn't a Bullfrog or Green Frog. When I saw the Pickerel Frogs, I watched them for over a half hour. 

Northern Red Bellied Cooter and an unfortunate
branch
    I've made special trips to find herps. Just like we do for rare birds, I "chased" a turtle last week. While I was in Virginia, on my way to NC, I took photos of what ended up being Northern Red Bellied Cooters. I had to ask someone the ID. Later on when I was researching them I found out there is a population of Northern Red Bellied Cooters in Plymouth County, MA. There are no other Red Bellied Cooters for 200 miles. The next closest population is in New Jersey. They are an endangered species in Massachusetts. There happens to be a national wildlife refuge in Plymouth specifically to protect the Cooters. However, it off limits to the public. I looked at a map of the area and saw multiple ponds just outside the refuge border. I took a trip to scout for public access. It turns out those ponds were very private, but I did end up seeing the cooters on state property in Plymouth. Needless to say, I felt very accomplished. 

   I'm pretty much addicted to chasing herps now. I'm keeping a list of species I've seen and where I saw them. Even if I only have an afternoon after work, I'll go look for a roadside lily pad filled pond or look for snakes along a wooded trail. Finding herps is challenging. I think it is much harder than finding birds. Finding snakes can feel like work. It took me almost four hours of walking through the woods and along a canal before I found my one and only snake yesterday (Northern Water Snake) but what a treat when I saw it.

Two photos of
Baltimore Checkerspots


Butterflies

   Okay, now that I bored you with herps, let me bore you some more with butterflies. That's right, when I haven't been herping ( and even when I have) I've been looking for butterflies. I enjoy seeing butterflies and trying to ID them. As far as I know, the best place to see butterflies in RI is Francis Carter. A walk through the field will get you multiple species. I went there a couple of days ago and it was loaded with Eastern Wood Nymph, American Coppers, and I saw my first Monarch of the season. 

   Last month I "chased" a butterfly species. Yes, I have a sad life. Anyway, I drove to Crane Wildlife Management Area in Falmouth, MA and looked for Baltimore Checkerspots. This is a species I've wanted to see for a long time. When I was there in May, there were Checkerspot caterpillars everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they morphed. My friend Mike Tucker lives close by and he sent me a text that the butterflies were everywhere. That afternoon I took a ride down with my friend Laurie. It was awesome to see so many of such a beautiful butterfly. 

   Knowing myself, I can feel myself getting more interested in butterflies, so I invested in an adult butterfly net. It got delivered today. I can only imagine all of the ways it is going to change my life. 

   I have friends that catch dragonflies and damselflies. They are very good at IDing them. As of now, I still have so much to learn about herps and butterflies that I just don't have the time to try to add dragonflies as a hobby. However, if it something that interests you, there is another option to keep you busy over the summer. 

   I really do apologize for not writing this sooner. However, even though shorebirds will be here soon, the snakes and butterflies will still be around all summer. If you go out herping, you may fall in love with it like I did. If you are grossed out by snakes, maybe it isn't for you. But there are still plenty of species of butterflies to discover.

    As for the shorebirds, The day I went to Carter, Saturday, I also went to the mudflats behind the Breachway. There were very few birds. Maybe twenty peeps, ten Least Terns, and three Common Terns. I have friends that went to Napatree this morning and they said it was very slow. The shorebirds aren't really here yet, but they will be soon enough, until then, you can find me chasing snakes, frogs, and butterflies channeling my inner Tom Swayer.

More photos below

Lifer Fowler's Toad

Pickerel Frog from yesterday

Northern Water Snake 

The cutest thing I have ever seen...
A baby Diamondback Terrapin yawning
minutes after being born.


   

A Look back at May

 

King Rail found by Sue Palmer

   May is undoubtably the best month of the year if you are a birder. Having colorful migrants fly through on their way to their breeding grounds is always amazing to me. This May had a lot of rare birds and I think it is fun to look back while the memories are fresh. In the below post I am trying to credit the finders as much as I can. Some of the birds I heard about I do not know who found them so please don't beat me up. Also, I'm sure a lot of "good warblers and flycatchers" were found and not reported, below are birds I know about. With that said here is a look back

   The beginning of the month was cold. Many of my birder friends said "things are a week ahead of schedule this year", but I did not see it. Many years I'll have Black and White Warblers, Redstarts, and Yellow Warblers in late April, but not this year. I didn't get those birds until a few days into May. We did have very persistent NW winds and until they turned to a southernly quadrant things were slow.

   The best bird found the first week of May was a Yellow Throated Warbler at Swan Point by Sue Talbot. The bird was there a couple of days and I did end up seeing it with the help of Dick and Marge Bradley as I only had a few minutes to be there. 

   May 5 Barbara Seith had a Least Bittern at Trustom.  The bird has been calling on and off most of the month along with a report at Mud Pond. Also on May 5 was the first report of the year of our lonely Chuck Will's Widow at Tillinghast by Melissa Alexander

   May 6 Barbara Sherman reported the first Blackburnian of the year at Trustom. A day later Paul L'Etoile had one in his yard. Louise Ruggeri had one in at Mia as I was standing right next to her but she saw it first. Incidentally the one at Mia was a life bird for Ian and Jen Krider. That day at Mia was pretty good. We also had Black Throated Blues and many warblers to look at.

 

Canada Warbler found by Chris Veale

 Chris Veale found a Canada Warbler about this time, but I don't remember the exact date. I got to see it and got my best photo of a Canada to date thanks to his find.

   May 8 Drew Wheelan had a Boat Tailed Grackle on the Block

  There were three Kentucky Warblers found during May. Alan Kneidel had one at Swan Point, Steve Dziadosz had one in Foster. There was one found at Mia that was very accommodating for photos. 

   May 13 brought one of the craziest events ever in RI. Arctic Terns were everywhere over freshwater lakes and way up into the bay. Arctic Terns, which never visit RI were seen from Long Island Sound, up to the East Bay, Diamond Hill Reservoir, and into Mass at Quabbin and Wachusetts. Thanks to Peter Capobianco I saw them in Cumberland ( I was on my way home from two days at Plum Island).

   May 16 was probably the day to be at Mia or out birding in general. The Kentucky Warbler and a Cerulean, found by P Carl, were bathing together in a little pool.  Louise Ruggeri also found a Mourning Warbler that put on quite a show for photographers. 

Also on the 16th, Mississippi Kites were showing up everywhere. They were reported here and there throughout the month but the 16th they were in multiple places. 

 On back to back days Jess Bishop had great birds. On the 17th she found  a Mourning Warbler on Snuff Hill Rd. On the 18th she had a Prothonotary at the Bonnet Shores Community Center.

   May 20 Sue Talbot struck again with a Yellow Bellied Flycatcher at Swan Point. Also at Swan Point, Tim Metcalf found a  Lincoln's Sparrow.

    BJ Whitehouse had a White Faced Ibis at Ft. Getty.

May 21 Alan Kneidel crushed it again with a Cerulean on Ponagansett Rd.

Bird Club president Tom Younkin found a large flock of Red Knots at Napatree on May 22

Norther Fulmar

   On May 26 thirty two birders went out on a dedicated pelagic on a Francis Fleet Boat. The boat went out to Cox Ledge. One person saw a South Polar Skua ( Paul L'Etoile with photos), a few birders did see a Red Necked Phalarope. The highlight for most of us was a Northern Fulmar that put on quite a show behind the boat for thirty minutes. We also had Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm Petrels in very good numbers. It was a perfect day to be on the water

May 28 Sue Palmer found a King Rail at Trustom Pond. Once found, this bird has been super cooperative staying right out in the open unphased by lurking birders and photographers for a couple days.

 The following day, Sue found a Cattle Egret in Matunack  hanging out with some Herefords.

Later in the month Francis Carter was the place to be Grasshopper Sparrows came back as did the Indigo Buntings, Prairie Warblers and Eastern Kingbirds. There have been two flyover Sandhill Cranes. Flyover Missisissippi Kites were seen and photographed by Tom Younkin There is a Dickcissel (found by Tim Metcalf) pair that has been seen mating. The Blue Grossbeaks have been seen but not regularly. Jess Bishop and Bill Thompson have recordings of an Alder Flycatcher from over the weekend.  

  For me personally, I saw many but not all of these birds. I was working through the Kentucky, Cerulean, and Mourning Warblers that were posing like runway models at Mia. I did hear the Cerulean on Ponagansett Rd, but was hoping for a photo. I did get photos of the King Rail which was probably my RI highlight besides the pelagic. My best bird that I found by myself was a Solitary Sandpiper that stuck around the Cumberland Monastery for a couple of days. 

Up north I went to Plum Island three days. I went Thursday and Friday May 13, 14. Thursday was tough and I had to work for every bird. Friday brought in a few more birds. I saw a Nashville, Blackpoll, and the common species. 

Blackburnian at Plum Island
   The following week was spectacular at Parker River. I was told that Monday (the 16th which was the best day of the month in RI also) was the best birding day on the island in fifty years.  The winds were just right to drop thousands of migrating birds out of the sky. I looked at some ebird reports and they were insane. One report had 102 species while another had 18 Blackburnians! The whole week was supposedly very good.

  I went Friday the 20th. I can't imagine the Monday being any better. Birding was so good at Plum I birded for eleven straight hours. My tally is absolutely ridiculous. 


18 species of warbler, 3 Blackburnians, 3 Northern Waterthrushes, 8 Wilson's, 6 Canadas, 15+ Bay Breasted, 10+ Chestnut Sided, Over 25 each Black and Whites, Mags, Black Throated Blue and Black Throated Greens. Over 100 Redstarts and Common Yellowthroats. One Scarlet Tanager and a pair of Cape Mays, and a Lincoln Sparrow. It was one of the best birding days of my life. I got six photo upgrades and one life photo (Wilson's Warbler). 



This amazing bird is a Kirtland's Warbler
Seen by the RI Audubon group at Magee Marsh, OH.
Photo credit goes to Dian Kriz
   Out of New England, a group of RI Audubon birders took a trip to Magee Marsh in Ohio and they saw a Kirkland's Warbler among other things!  Among those other things were Trumpeter Swans, Black Necked Stilt, Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Whip-poor-will, a Red Bat, not to mention all of the warblers!

   All in all May birding was very good in RI this year. There weren't two many days where birds were dripping from the trees, but almost all of the rare warblers showed up. In my opinion, it took a while to get going but from the middle of the month on there was usually something I wanted to see. Here's to hoping some June rarities show up!

 




Wilson's Warbler,
Plum Island,
May 20, 2022
Life Photo



 

A How to Guide to Plum Island in May

Cape May Warbler
photographed on Plum Island May 13

   Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is probably the premier birding destination in New England. During any season it can be spectacular. However, it is safe to say Parker River is most colorful during the spring when the warblers are coming through. I try to get to Parker twice during May every year. Some years I succeed some years I fail. Hopefully, I can give you some advice on how to bird there. 

   Though I would consider Parker River an "exotic" destination it really isn't intimidating.  The birding can be fantastic. Though it is far for a typical Rhode Islander, it is possible to do as a daytrip if you so choose.

   Parker River NWR is on Plum Island. It is in the town of Newburyport. From the MA/RI border it is about an hour forty. I ALWAYS leave the house very early. I take I-495 instead of I-95 to avoid Boston traffic. However, Lowell traffic around the Rt 3 interchange can be bad, so I try to be safely past that before 6:30 am. I assume everyone has GPS so it is pointless to give you directions. Choose I-95 if you want, but I think I-495 is the safer bet.

   Once at the refuge, there is a pay station. It is staffed during the day. If you get there before a ranger is there, there are self pay envelopes that you fill out and drop your five dollars. The refuge has one seven mile road that goes south down the island to Sandy Point. You can't get lost. Just past the gate is Lot 1. There is a nice bathroom here. There is a Purple Martin colony that you have to walk within feet of to get to the restroom. PRO TIP come back at noon to photograph the Martins. The sun will be at your back. If it is a sunny day, you will have a blue sky behind them and the sunlight will catch the eyes of this very dark bird.

Purple Martin

   After my bathroom break I take a left out of the lot. The first stop will be the Salt Pannes. Here you could find a variety of shorebirds and herons. You will hear and see Willets for sure. I'm after warblers in May, so I don't spend much time here.

    As I drive down the road I keep my window open listening for birds. Any vegetation can hold migrants. If you see a few cars bunched together it is probably a good idea to ask what they are seeing/hearing. Sometimes there can be a false bird jam when a few cars are together others assume there is something special so they pull over...etc..., but in reality there isn't anything there. "Monkey see, monkey do". Still, it is worth the risk to check. I saw a Cape May on Friday thanks to a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road.

   The first major stop are the famous S curves. You'll know you reached them because you'll see people walking up and down the road. Also, the first bend is an indication you reached them. There are trees on both sides of the road for a couple miles. Birds can be anywhere. Walk as far as you dare then walk back to your car and repeat a couple tenths of a mile down the road. The S curves can be very good.

   However, here is your dilemma and it is real. You have to make sure you leave the S curves in time to get a spot at Hellcat. Hellcat parking area is big, it holds at least 50 cars, but it can fill up fast. When I was there on Thursday I didn't get to Hellcat until almost 8 am. But it was foggy and drizzly. Friday (and I believe Wednesdays) Audubon runs guided walks there. The participants used to carpool but (say it with me) Covid. So giant Audubon groups of twenty or more people take up a lot of spaces. I arrived at Hellcat before 7 am and there was only two spots left in the lot. Before I got out of my car, other cars were pulling in and turning around in the full lot. 

   Once parked at Hellcat you walk on boardwalks through the woods. There are a couple of very long paths but you really can't get lost. There are maps at every trail junction. Take your time here. There will be a lot of birders so don't expect solitude. It is my experience that the birds will be flocked together. You may not see anything for six hundred feet then come across a loose group of ten different species. Once you find the birds it is best to stay with them until they pass through. Just because you just saw five Yellow Rumped Warblers in a row does not mean the next one won't be a Nashville. Once the birds pass through, find some more. I usually walk these boardwalks at least twice spending a couple of hours here. These woods are referred to as Goodno Woods

 

Northern Parula

     Included in this area is the road itself. From the parking lot back to the pedestrian crossings can be just as good as in the woods. I make sure to walk this part of the road multiple times. The pine trees just a few feet north of the parking lot can be excellent. I've seen everything from Purple Finch to my lifers Chestnut Sided and Bay-Breasted Warblers in those trees. 

   Taking a right out of Hellcat. The road turns to dirt just past the parking lot. The next stop is the Bill Forward blind. This is another shorebird spot. I've seen nice birds on the fifty yard trail to the wooden blind. My life highlight here wasn't bird but a coyote that was very active one morning.

   Going further south you come to the Pines Trail. Pull down the bumpy dirt road. Before you walk into the little trail look into the field. Bobolink are common as are turkeys. I've seen teal in the pool to the left and Kingbirds on the tops of brush.

   In the woods you never know what you will see. Half the time you won't see any good birds and you'll wonder why I wasted your time. But if you hit it right this short circular path can be fantastic. I've seen Canada and Wilson's Warbler in here. I've had Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler and an uncountable number of Redstarts. This trail is a crap shoot. If there aren't any birds you can be in and out in ten minutes so you have nothing to loose. There is an observation platform where you look over the marsh. There are usually some Black Bellied Plovers, Gadwall, and Osprey around. You can see the Osprey nest from here. 

   I don't spend much time south of the Pines. If I have two days I'll squeeze in a trip to Sandy Point State Reservation at the tip of the island. Sandy Point is owned by Massachusetts (state parks/beaches) and not by USFW. Therefore it has different rules. If you are keeping a list of how many species you are seeing, a trip to Sandy Point is a good idea. You have a very good chance of seeing Piping Plovers, Least Terns, BB Plovers, gulls, and even sea ducks ( I had a White Winged Scoter fly by me on Friday). You will pick up a few species you can't find in the woods. 

Sandy Point has two parking areas. The one just left of the entrance will bring you to the beach. The right side will bring you to bigger area that is on the bayside. If you are shooting for as many species as you can find, doing both sides is a good idea. If you only want to see warblers, I wouldn't bother going this far.

Another good place to add to your day list was Lot1 at the beginning of the refuge. You can scope the ocean from the top of the stairs. You will pick up sea ducks, loons, and gulls. 

   The last place I'll mention is "The Warden's". Heading south from the Salt Pannes it is on your right. You will see a maintenance building and a bathroom building. If you park her and walk between the buildings to the trees in the back you will see Barn and Tree Swallows. This area is very good for sparrows. If a Clay-Colored, by far the cutest sparrow, shows up on the refuge, chances are it will be here. 

  It usually takes me about five hours to bird Parker River. I won't leave birds or rush. I'm there to enjoy them. I usually stay overnight. I camp at Salisbury Beach (about $40 after fees). There are motels in the area too.

 

Black Throated Green 
Warbler

  When I make it an overnight I go to other places around the area. I usually go to Mill Pond Recreation Area in West Newbury. I have been to Martin Burns (nesting and easy to find Indigo Buntings), and I've gone to Rough Meadows in Rowley (I didn't see much). I usually stop at the observation deck on Scotland Road (ebird hotspot). One place I'd like to check out is Cherry Hill Reservoir. 

   Of all of the advice I can give you, try to get there before Boston traffic and before Hellcat fills up. Enjoy the Purple Martins after noon with the sun at your back. And try to make it an overnight trip so you can do the island twice and explore other great spots in the afternoon.


    ENJOY!

   


Upcoming walks

   If you are a member of the bird club, you may have noticed we have started up walks again.  This past spring Dan Berard has ran multiple walks. Last Saturday he did a five hour marathon walk at Great Swamp where I can assume participants not only saw birds but learned about trees, insects, and anything else that came their way. 
  
   I ran my first walk (ever) on Friday April 8 at Great Swamp. I was hoping we would see all of the early migrants such as Tree Swallows, Great Egrets, and Eastern Phoebe. The real goal were Wilson's Snipe and Blue Winged Teal. The night before my walk it rained. The rain was scheduled to end at 8 am. My walk started at 7:30. I considered cancelling it, however, I had to work the weekend so there wasn't a rain date. I figured if anyone showed up we could just suck it up if we got rained on. I had a forty five minute drive to the parking lot it rained the whole time. As I was pulling down the dirt road to the parking area, the rain stopped.

  When I got to the parking area there were eight participants that showed up. My friend Tim Metcalf co-led the walk with me. He was also kind enough to keep an ebird list and shared it with the group when we were done.  As we started our journey, my target changed from teal and snipe to just being happy we weren't being rained on. As you can imagine, on a wet dreary morning, birding was slow. We did not see any Blue Winged Teal or many ducks at all. However, we did have one Wilson's Snipe. It spooked as we walked around the shoreline. It flew in a circle then out of sight. Some participants got on it while others did not. 

 Both Tim and I had fun leading a walk and plan on doing another later in  the month. Upcoming, we have two other scheduled walks. One is at Great Swamp (it seems many of us love that place) that Patrick Felker is going to lead. Another is at Miantonomi that Jan StJean will be leading. Lastly, we will be doing a Birds and Beer at the Tilted Barn one day in May. I suspect, we will all have a lot of bird stories to talk about. 

  If you are a member you will receive the specifics on the date and time for these events in the next few days. 

   If you are a member and would like to lead a walk please let me know. You do not have to be an expert to lead a walk. There are plenty of experts on any walk and there will be lots of eyes and ears. I know many people would prefer to bird with others especially at an unfamiliar location. Bird walks are a great way to introduce people to new locations and to meet other birders. So if you are a member and interested in leading a walk please let me know. My email address is canalrat74@aol.com. 

   You will have to sign a waiver that you won't do anything stupid and have participants sign a waiver also. However, you can choose the date, place and time. My goal is to get as many events and walks out to our members as we reasonably can.  

   If you are not a member and would like to become one click here https://www.oceanstatebirdclub.org/become-a-member.html
The cost to join the club is $15 for a household. Walks are free. Many of our walks are limited to fifteen registered participants. 

Sitting Quietly

Blue Winged Teal pair

  I consider myself a fairly patient birder. I have friends that bird much faster than me and some much slower. If there is something I want to see I'll stay on a stake out until it shows, I'm hypothermic, or its dark. That said, I also have friends that will stare at a Robin to make sure its a Robin and I find myself far ahead of them, especially if I have a target bird to find. However, the last couple of weeks I have had a couple of productive sessions in nature where I neither walked too fast nor too slow. I just sat.  

   It started a couple of weeks ago. There was a pond where I could hear hundreds of Spring Peepers. I can not tell you how badly I had always wanted to see one. Seeing a Spring Peeper has been on my bucket list for a couple of years now. When I pulled up to this pond I knew there had to be so many, the odds were in my favor. However, if you've ever tried to spy a Peeper, you know they stop croaking when you get close to the water and they disappear.

   Since I knew so many where there, I decided to wait them out. I figured at some point they would have to get active again. So I sat, and sat, and sat. For about twenty minutes I sat as still as I could comfortably. I did watch a Youtube video on "How to see Spring Peepers". After about twenty minutes I started seeing some swimming and even a couple climbing up on mud and muck. In my binoculars I could watch them blow up their throat. They were so small and it was after sunset and I could barely see them naked eye. But my patience paid off. 

   Since this is a bird club and you are all presumably all birders, you probably don't want to hear about a frog. Fine, so while I was sitting still I had a Red Shouldered Hawk land over my head about thirty feet up. It was not bothered by me, but it was bothered by something because it was squawking away for a solid five minutes.  Though I was there for frogs, if I hawk lands above me I'm not going to look away.

   


Yesterday I decided to go to Lonsdale Marsh to find the Blue Winged Teal. I was also hoping to find the Wilson's Snipe that was there a few days ago, but I thought that was a long shot and I wasn't counting on it. As soon as I got to the Birch Island I accidentally flushed the Blue Winged Teal. They were very close to my shoreline and they saw me but I hadn't seen them. When they flew I followed their path. They only landed about thirty yards away in the same swampy oxbow.

   Knowing the teal were spooky, I knew I couldn't just walk up to them and take a photo, I had to be stealthy. I walked over the obnoxiously loud dry leaves as far as I dared and sat down. I knew my only shot at seeing them close was for them to come to me. So I sat, and sat...just kidding. The whole time I was sitting I could watch them in my bins. I did have to wait for them to come close for a long time, but I watched them in beautiful light in a pretty marsh. While I was watching them, I saw two deer, mallards, wood ducks, and a huge snapping turtle. A muskrat decided to join the party too. It was swimming through the shallow swamp looking for newly emergent vegetation. When it would find some new green shoots it would stop and eat a couple of stems then swim to others, It was oblivious to my existence. It swam past me multiple times within feet of the shoreline. 




   Finally after half an hour the teal drifted by me to their original spot. I got some okay photos of them, nothing great but still well worth the trip.  When they went back to their original swamp address I got up and repeated the process. I walked back to my left as far as I dared and sat. 

   There is no question the teal knew I was there. Every step on the dry leaves sounded like a stampede. I had no chance of getting close. However, when I sat down the teal seemed to accept where I was. They drifted extremally close to me. There were two pair. I concentrated my photos on either the males or all four together. While I was sitting in this second spot, a pair of Green Winged Teals flew in. Also, I did not see one Wilson's Snipe, I saw five different ones! The snipe were going about their business. They were flying around the marsh from spot to spot looking for food and hiding places. 


     Lastly, I decided to try my luck today at Lime Rock Preserve in Lincoln. Thee is a vernal pool there that usually has breeding Wood Frogs. Spoiler Alert, I didn't see any Wood Frogs today. I knew when I got there I wasn't going to see any. The pool was quiet. I sat anyway. I'm not going to  tell you I was rewarded with a Stellar Sea Eagle or even a Wilson's Snipe, but I did have a Brown Creeper show up. For about ten minutes the Creeper would fly to  the bottom of a tree near me climb its way up looking for something to eat. Then it would fly down to another low trunk and repeat the process. I've seen plenty of Brown Creepers, but they are such a cool little bird. Watching it for ten minutes with a wet from mud bum was much more fun than identifying it and moving on. 

Spring Peeper- the photo isn't much, but the
sense of accomplishment is huge

   Like everyone, sometimes I need to relearn things. Sitting quietly I relearned how nature will sometimes come to you. A Red Shouldered Hawk, Blue Winged Teal, Wilson's Snipe, a Brown Creeper, a Muskrat, two deer, and Spring Peepers were all seen because I was willing to sit still and wait.   

Make it Happen, Don't Wait for Others

    I was on a pelagic with my friend Scott Tsagarakis one day. in 2020. We chartered a boat that took us a hundred miles offshore to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Carlos Pedro chartered the boat and luckily for me, I was invited to go. Every year, Carlos charters a boat to go see warm water pelagic birds. The boat holds six paying customers (and the Captain and a mate). We refer to it as a six pack. When Carlos goes out, he invites the same people every year. Rarely do any of the group turn down the invitation. In the case someone can't make it, it is very easy for Carlos to fill the spot despite being a very expensive boat ride. 

   Because so many people were interested in going, Carlos scheduled a second trip. Tim Metcalf, Jess Bishop, Linda Gardrel, and myself got to go. I felt very fortunate to be invited. Though the trip was only "average", because I was a newbie everything was exciting to me. We saw pods of Pilot Whales, Dolphins and a couple life birds. We chartered a tuna boat and we all went home with Bigeye Tuna steaks and some Mahi-mahi also. 

   While we were sailing out, Scott was telling me a story about a pelagic that goes out every year in Georgia. A guy rents out a boat every year that holds fifteen passengers. He invites back the same fourteen people every year. As you can imagine, the people on the outside looking in are annoyed and jealous of this. They don't think it is fair that the same clique goes out every year. Many of those on the outside do not think its fair that it is a "who you know" boat trip. As you are reading this, you are probably thinking that it doesn't sound fair. He should take people that have never gone out on one of these pelagics. 

   But here is the thing, anyone of those jealous people could make the effort to charter the boat themselves. Scott pointed out this fact to me and he is right. The people that feel they were left out, hurt, or insulted they weren't invited could have made a phone call and chartered the same boat on a different day.  If it bothers them that much or if they really want to go on a pelagic they should try to set one up instead of whining about it.

   Of course, planning a pelagic is pretty difficult. It might be harder to plan a pelagic than a vacation. Very few boats will cater to birders. Even when you find one that does, you need to find an open day on their calendar. More importantly, you need to find people that are willing to pay the steep price. Those people also have to be reliable. If someone backs out last minute, the person that planned the trip is out the cost of another body. The charter that I went on had a steep price tag of $2400 for the day, divided by six (I looked at it as a once in a lifetime trip). No one wants to eat the money of an unpaid no show! This is probably the main reason that the same people get invited back year after year. Because they can be trusted to show up and pay their share.  

   So if someone was unhappy that the same clique goes every year wanted to plan a trip, it is work. You need to invite people that you trust. But, if they want it bad enough, then there is no excuse not to. The Carlos Pedro's of the world don't owe it anybody to include you (or me).

   That one conversation with Scott has had a big impact on me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right Scott is. Since that conversation, I have not relied on other people to make plans or plan trips. In fact, I am the instigator more often than not. I enjoy planning trips anyway so the planning part is not a hassle for me, it is fun. 

   I organized a whale watch a couple of years ago (pre-Covid and pre-life altering conversation). I put a message out on Groupme and we had about fifteen people participate. I had to get a rough head count and let the Francis Fleet know we were going. That wasn't difficult other than that I hate making phone calls, but it was rewarding to schedule a trip for others. I would have tried to set up a RI whale watch every year but, you know, Covid. However, a few of my friends and I do go out on a whale watch every year in July. However, because of Covid, they have not been bird club sponsored, nor have I invited everyone on Facebook or Groupme. But again, there is no reason why others can't set up a whale watch with their closest friends.  

   Over the last couple of years I have earned a reputation for planning trips.
I went to Machais  Seal Island to see the puffins and invited my friend Sue. A few months later my friend Laurie and I met Sue at Ding Darling in FL in November. 

   I got to North Carolina a few days before everyone else in May, I went to Alligator River NWR for a day. When they got to NC, we went back and I was basically a tour guide. I showed them a Pileated Woodpecker nest, where the bears were, and the trails to see Prothonotary Warblers. I'm going back to North Carolina this June and invited a few of my friends.  

  I am hoping to do a Plum Island trip for the bird club this spring. Do not hold me to this because, again, Covid. But it is something I have dreamt of doing for two years. I go to Plum Island every year and would really love to share the trails and birds with others. I know for some, it is a"mystical far away place". But it's really only about ninety minutes from the RI/MA border. There are numerous motels and Salisbury Beach has a campground. Time will tell if it can happen.

   Over the last year, because of guiding him in Alligator River and planning a few other small trips, Scott has given these trips the nickname of "Nick's Nature Tours". As you can imagine, I relish the  nickname. So much so, that I'm writing it in this closing paragraph.  However, if you take anything from this post, just go do what it is you want to do. Don't be jealous that you weren't one of the six to go on a six pack. Make it happen for yourself. If I can't plan a trip to Plum Island, go for yourself in May. You might hit a fallout. Go on that whale watch and see if you can get all the Shearwaters. Don't be mad you aren't in someone else's clique, make your own. Don't hope someone is going to plan a trip, plan your own.  If it's in your budget there really shouldn't be any excuses why didn't do something fun!