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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Catskills and Rhode Island

Spider web with dew

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I just returned from a trip outside of the city. My wife and I spent the week visiting family members first near Windham mountain, in the northern Catskills, then in Barrington on Rhode Island.

Shed snake skin

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I didn’t spend much time birding but it’s almost impossible for me to ignore my natural surroundings. In Windham it seemed as if the land bird migration hadn’t even started. The Tree Swallows that nest around my mother’s property had departed a week earlier but many other locally nesting species were still present. My mother’s two families of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were regularly chasing each other away from each other’s feeders. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings fed on juicy Black Cherries and a few phoebes hawked for dragonflies over the backyard pond. Across the road, in the grassland surrounding the Batavia Kill Reservoir, my wife and I flushed about fifty Bobolinks.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I was also surprised by the number of juvenile birds still present. They were likely second brood birds but we regularly saw young White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, goldfinches, Purple Finches and waxwings being fed by adults.

Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The biggest surprise of our visit upstate was seeing a mink bounding across the backyard. It disappeared into the blackberry brambles that border a small stream.

On Rhode Island we stayed a few days in Barrington but also took a drive south to Tiverton Four Corners to visit some friends on the Skakonnet River. At low tide we walked the beach to Fogland Point. We spotted a small number of migrating shorebirds along the rocky point. Observed species included Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. At the edge of a saltmarsh just east of the point there was a huge gathering of Tree Swallows. The vast majority of the swallows were brown juveniles with only a small percentage of the glossy blue adults present. They reminded me of a school of herrings as the close knit flock alternately soared above then perched within a tangle of beach rose shrubs and pokeweed plants. When they weren’t exercising their wings they perched wing-to-wing on a short stretch of telephone line.

Juvenile Tree Swallows

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Our friend’s house is adjacent to a farmer’s hay field. Late in the afternoon we were relaxing on their deck watching a flock of cowbirds feeding at the edge of the field. Suddenly a Sharp-shinned Hawk appeared out of nowhere and struck at the center of the flock. The birds all scattered and he sat in the grass for a moment before flying off, empty taloned.

- - - - -

Windham, NY & Barrington, RI, 8/15 to 8/21
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Black-and-yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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