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Monday, September 06, 2004

A Week in the Catskills

Driving up to Windham

(Photo credit - Rob J)

While this blog is primarily focused on New York City's nature my wife and I visited family in upstate New York this week and I thought I'd share some of my backyard observations from there.

We didn't really plan on doing any formal birding, it was mostly a time to relax and catch up with family that we hadn't seen in a long time. I always had my binoculars close at hand and was frequently distracted by the wildlife activity in my mother's backyard. The weather was cool and clear and an assortment of fall wildflowers ringed the small pond in their backyard. The pale blue Common Wood Aster were abundant all along the edges of the roadways and forests. Delicate orange Jewelweed seemed to be flourishing anywhere that there was a little moisture. It's also the season of allergies and stalks of goldenrod dotted every meadow and field.

Common Blue Wood Aster (Aster cordifolius)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

One flowering plant that seemed to be everywhere was the Japanese Knotweed. Its clusters of fragrant white flowers are lovely but the adverse effect this invasive species is having on the local environment is pretty ugly.

Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

I was hoping to see some lingering warblers or other songbirds that hadn't yet begun their trip south. Outside of a small number of local breeders it appeared that most had already departed. I was surprised to see that a few hummingbirds (probably my mother's backyard breeders) were still present. While they occasionally fed on the abundant Jewelweed flowers they mostly fought over drinking rights at my mother's feeders. They all appeared to be either females or juvenile male birds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Other regulars to the backyard were a family of chickadees, numerous goldfinches, both species of nuthatch and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. While watching the sapsucker, we noticed a hummingbird perched nearby. Suddenly, the hummingbird charged the woodpecker and chased him from his freshly excavated sap holes. I would never have imagined that a three gram bird could intimidate a fifty gram bird. I guess it's like the elephant and the mouse.

Black-capped Chickadee

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I thought I spotted another hummingbird feeding at an extensive section of purple phlox. When I got closer I realized that the bird was actually an insect masquerading as a hummingbird.

A necter-sipping imposter (Hemaris thysbe)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Every day at dusk a lone Eastern Phoebe would visit the backyard. He would perch, tail bobbing, on one of the now vacant Tree Swallow houses. Periodically he would swoop down across the pond, grab an insect then return to his perch.

Eastern Phoebe at dusk

(Photo credit - Rob J)

While on a short walk around the neighborhood we came across a small flock of juvenile Eastern Bluebirds. They were voraciously feeding on elderberries. As we approached they all flew to the telephone lines above the shrubs and wouldn't return to feeding until we had moved on.

Young bluebird

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Since purchasing a digital camera I've found that it is very useful as a learning tool. I frequently come across plants, insects or animals that I am unfamiliar with. I snap a few photos and research them when I get home. It's a lot easier than trying to sketch them. Two new items for me this past week were the Yellow Slug and Silky Dogwood (at least I think it's dogwood). Please post a comment if my plant identification is incorrect.

Yellow Slug

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Before returning home we spent a couple of days with my youngest sister and her family.

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This past spring they had the opportunity to watch the daily activities of a cardinal family. The cardinals had built their nest in a shrub right outside their livingroom window. They eagerly awaited the hatching of the eggs, observed regular feedings and, finally, the fledging of the offspring. They were so touched by the experience that the family joined a local chapter of the Audubon Society. Since Uncle Rob is the nature "expert" we took a nice hike at a local refuge. My four year old nephew is very excited about seeing birds and pointed out all sorts of discoveries. I hope he never loses that excitement.

A very young birder

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We always send the kids nature and birding related gifts. When we arrived my niece presented me with an excellent drawing of a bird at its nest. It's displayed on our refrigerator but I also decided to share it with the world.

Bird at its nest

(Sketch by Leila Thomas)

- - - - -

Windham, NY and Barrington, RI, 8/31 to 9/5
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Osprey (Near Cooperstown)
Cooper's Hawk (Near Cooperstown)
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern (Barrington)
Forster's Tern (Barrington)
Chimney Swift (Barrington)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch

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


Aleah Sato said...

I love your blog -- the photos are great. It's refreshing to know their are other city bird watchers out there. Cheers.

Marguerite said...

What beautiful pictures!

Hummingbirds leave SW Michigan the middle of September. Right now they're tanking up at the feeder to get ready for their big trip.

Soon the juncos will be here to replace them. Always a sign that it's almost time for the first snowfall.

Keep teaching those kids about nature. It will bring them pleasure for the rest of their lives. But you know that.