I traveled a lot last week. From my current home in New York to my childhood home in Rhode Island to vacation in Maine to my in-laws' in RI and back to Brooklyn. I had a great time with my family, revisiting last year's hotel at Old Orchard Beach. We spent time at the seashore, a lot of time at a huge and gorgeous salt marsh, and a little time in the woods. I didn't see a whole lot of birds, but I got to share some good birding time with my youngest sister. The first morning we woke up there, my dad called me from the next room at 4:45 a.m. My youngest sister Katherine, my dad, and I pulled our clothes on for some early fishing (and for me, birding). I've never gotten up with or before the sun to see the birds, because generally I'd be alone in the park in the dark if I did so, and that's a pretty early wake-time for me. So it was a great opportunity. We drove around looking for bait shops, got eaten alive by mosquitoes, and watched the sunrise. Dad didn't catch anything that morning, but I did see a semipalmated plover running up and down the slope of the beach. Here's a nice shot of my dad and the sunrise:
When Dad got tired of being bitten by mosquitoes, we drove to a small bird observation platform by the side of the road. Katherine came with me and I got to show her some really neat birds - belted kingfishers, American goldfinches, cedar waxwings, great egrets. What amazed me about early birding is the ease with which we found birds; a good number of species that would take me about an hour or two to match in the afternoon we were able to find in about fifteen minutes. Also, I think Katherine is slowly becoming interested in birds, so I may have a pretty reliable bird-friend when we're together. Here's a shot of the new morning sky reflected on still marshwater; it looks almost exactly the same if you turn it upside down.
Later that day, we went to the Scarborough Wildlife Management Area for fishing, birding, and a walk on part of the extensive East Coast Greenway. The colors of the landscape here were simple and vibrant. Blue, green, white.
I could see no osprey nests and that seemed strange to me. Here I saw crows, cormorants, egrets, herons, goldfinches, and a few small flocks of some kind of sandpiper. Here are my notes: flocking birds, white under, beautiful patterned brown + rust on wings and back. Lighter face and throat, resuming pattern on head. Light eye stripe, dark eye. Dark beak as long as head. Yellow legs. Buffy speckled breast. > Sandpiper! What kind?? It was hard to get a good photo; I just wanted something to look back on when I consulted my field guide. Now I know that the differences between some sandpiper species are very subtle.
We visited that marsh again later on the trip for the beauty and the fishing. My dad didn't catch anything for the whole vacation. Well, a crab, once. All the Maine fishermen he chatted with told him the best fishing they ever did was in Rhode Island, where he lives! My dad came to the conclusion that there are no fish in Maine, because all the stories the Maine fishermen told were about their grandfathers' big catches and nothing more recent than that. I was starting to believe him when I spotted what I at first thought was a gull over the marsh, but upon closer inspection realized was an osprey. I thought, "Well, there must be fish after all!" The bird flew quickly out of sight and I didn't see another osprey the whole trip.
We also did some letterboxing on this adventure, which took us to Fuller Farm. As we came down a hill close to the entrance, a biker coming up the hill motioned us to slow down. My first thought was speed trap, but imagine my delight and amazement when this showed up in the road:
Katherine, who has no fears about animals, wanted to just pick it up and move it to the other side. My mom, who is practical and wise, forbade her. I imagine that turtle would be a lot heavier than it looks. Also, animals can move fast when scared, and that guy had some pretty serious claws. We stuck around to make sure it didn't get squashed by cars as it crossed the road.
Fuller Farm is a big tract of land encompassing several types of habitat, including open fields, wildflower meadows, and forests. It was a scenic hike to get the letterbox, and here are some things Chrissy and I saw along the way.
This awesome butterfly, which looks like it belongs in the fritillary subfamily:
A tiny toad I found in a big forest:
At the carnival at Old Orchard Beach, a lot of these guys hang around, looking for junk food handouts...herring gulls?
We spent our last day at Two Lights State Park, searching the tide pools, climbing the rocks, eating various berries. I saw a raft of brown sea ducks with barred plumage -- common eiders, I think. Cormorants and gulls flew by, a solitary crow perched on a dead limb. A few sandpipers hopped and ran on the rocks. Not much bird activity otherwise. But it's a gorgeous landscape.
By Saturday we were back in Rhode Island, gearing up for my grandmother's homemade clamcakes and Manhattan clam chowder. What a treat! We played bocce and jai alai and sat and visited outside for several hours, over the course of which we saw several red-tailed hawks and a turkey vulture. The hawks gave us a good show, flying directly over the house and seeming to pause for our admiration.
That about wraps it up. I did promise you more freckles, and here they are in a "serious-face" photo taken by my sister Bethy: