Saturday, 31 May 2014

The White Mountains of New Hampshire

It is Saturday 31st May & we slept in! A mad scramble & we are off, burning up the tarmac, heading north into New Hampshire. Our destination was the beautiful White Mountains, but my secret (or maybe not so secret) agenda, was Bicknell's Thrush, which is endemic to this area.
The monstrosity in the foreground is the
Mount Washington Resort.
The Caps Ridge Trail may be seen behind
the left hand turret of the building.
The start of it all!
Mount Washington. 

We decide to explore the newly opened Jefferson Notch Road & to hike up the Caps Ridge Trail. The trail is well marked but quite narrow, birding is difficult. I had made the decision earlier to leave my big lens in the car, as the trail was steep & one mis-placed foot & an expensive lens is no more! The weather was low cloud & a little drizzle at first, so photography inside the forest would have been very difficult anyway. We made good progress & I was leading and saw a Bicknell's Thrush briefly perched on a horizontal log just above the ground. It was a brief sighting, but enough to confirm the identification & I was very pleased with myself!
 On the way up, the weather was very mixed.
The correct elevation & habitat for my main quarry!
Here we are at 3,700 feet above sea level.
 The Caps Ridge Trail above the lookout,
 to the summit.
Looking back down the valley,
the way we had walked.
Me, on the lookout rock.

We climbed as far as a lookout rock, which would have given magnificent view of both mountain & valley if only the low cloud hadn't been present. Barbara decided to climb higher, while I stalked the stunted forest looking for more Bicknell's Thrushes! Barbara discovered the higher rocky section was very wet & slippery & with two other climbers turned around. One slip & you could be in trouble.
It's in here! Honest!
It's in the bag! Bicknell's Thrush, at last!

 I was haunting the forest & the conditions were getting slowly better i.e. I could see further than 20 metres! We descended very slowly. I had worked out the contact call of Bicknell's Thrush & I stopped as I heard a pair calling to each other, but I couldn't see them. Barbara's sharp eyes saw one perched on a log & I enjoyed quite prolonged views of this much anticipated species. Thanks Barbara! The Bicknell's Thrush finder extraordinaire!  I knew there was a reason I let you follow me around! I was absolutely elated by this sighting & by the end of our hike, we had recorded six Bicknell's Thrush, three of which, were sightings.
The Bicknell's Thrush finder!

Best birds: Winter Wren; 5+ Golden-crowned Kinglet; 6 Bicknell's Thrush; 2 Magnolia Warbler; 3 Black-throated Green Warbler; 4 Yellow-rumped Warbler; 6 Blackpoll Warbler; Canada Warbler & 8 Dark-eyed Junco.
The view from a much lower elevation
 of Barbara's father's veranda.
Apparently, both BeyoncĂ© & Marvin Hagler
 have summer homes on that ridge!

We then checked into our accommodation for the night, (which turned out to be excellent) & visited Barbara's father in Bartlett.
Live music in the bar.
This is what people around here
 get up to in the winter!
A bit chilly for me!

After this we frequented a nice Irish pub in nearby Jackson & whiled away the evening listening to local live music, eating & drinking. It was a lovely evening but we got to bed much later than anticipated & this had its consequences the next morning, as we once again slept in!
1st June & breakfast in the garden of the Motel. A beautiful morning, but we couldn't linger too long, as we had set ourselves an ambitious hike for the rest of the day.
The beautiful river, at the start of the trail.
 At one with nature!

 Some great fungi were seen on the trail.
A little further along the trail.

We were to hike the Nancy Pond Trail. The trail head is just off the 302 road & at first it is a pleasant walk through deciduous woodland. But it gets progressively more difficult as one ascends. Six river crossings take time & a bit of care! And the switchbacks from the cascade (waterfall) to the top are quite strenuous as well as being a little scary for those who do not have a head for heights! ie me!
 Nancy Pond.
It is 1st June & still there are small patches
 of snow around.


Once you are on the plateau, you reach Nancy Pond very quickly & it is in a lovely setting. After lingering here some time, we slowly walked on to Norcross Pond, which is even more scenic & at the head of the pond, is a fantastic view into the wilderness area. Well worth the hike up there.
 The wonderfully scenic, Norcross Pond.
Barbara, at Norcross Pond.
Looking into the P

At this point we turned around & slowly made our way down back to the car. Birding was difficult in the enclosed forest & with the trail being quite hard, not suitable for carrying my large lens up there. I also missed all of my target species: Spruce Grouse; Grey Jay; Black-backed Woodpecker & Rusty Blackbird. We heard Grey Jay & the woodpecker but just couldn't get a glimpse in the thick forest. However, I did get two further sightings of Bicknell's Thrush. A lovely day in fantastic surroundings.
Our adventures were not quite over, as we pulled into Twin Mountain for a quick meal before our long drive home. The quick meal turned into a bit of a vigil, as all the staff were drunk! They had been celebrating the owner of the restaurant daughters graduation. Barbara did all of the driving (& found the best sighting of Bicknell's Thrush)! It was after 1.30am before we tumbled into bed & oblivion! It had been a good weekend though.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Monhegan Island & southern Maine.

We decided not to risk the Boston exodus traffic on the Friday evening (23rd May) on the long memorial weekend. Instead we stayed home & rose at 2 am on 24th! We sped through the city & on to the freeway & we found ourselves at our destination two hours early! Dawn was breaking so we visited Pemaquid Point, which was very scenic & I spotted a few birds:
 Dawn breaking at Pemaquid Point.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

4 White-winged Scoter; 10 Common Eider; 2 Black Guillemot; 4 Black throated Green Warbler;  Chestnut-sided Warbler & 2 Song Sparrow.
Male Common Eider.
Female Common Eider.
 Black Guillemot.
 Black-throated Green Warbler.
Song Sparrow.

 We then enjoyed a nice breakfast at a diner in Bristol, before catching the Hardy boat from New Haven across to Monhegan Island.
 New Haven harbour.

 Maine is of course, the home of the Lobster!
 The ferry to Monhegan Island.
 Getting ready to sail.
Our first view of Monhegan Island.
Common Loon in winter plumage.

The crossing was uneventful, with no pelagic species seen, however a few Common Loons were noted, as well as a distant Northern Gannet.

 Trailing Yew, a rather eccentric place to stay!

 The main road through the village.
One of the many pretty homes found here.

On arrival, we transferred our luggage to a waiting truck & we walked the short distance to the Trailing Yew, our home for the next two nights. On walking through the village, we noticed a lot of holiday homes, which were currently empty, as it was too early in the season. And the lack of vehicles was a definite plus factor. We were quickly shown our room & we were ready for the off!

 Burnt Head.
 Walking north, along the east coast.

 Vistas are big!

American Herring Gull

Barbara wanted to walk around the island & we set off across to Burnt Head and then north along the eastern most side of the island. It was very scenic & as we progressed the sun came our & it made for a very pleasant walk.

 The whole island is susceptible to fires,
so this is a very good idea.
 One of the main trails through the woods.
Trails, especially those close to the coast,
can be steep & hard going.

 We reached the most northerly point of the island & then cut inland along Fern Glen & down through Cathedral Woods, into the village. That was a walk of around four hours & only a few migrant birds were noted.
 Eastern Kingbird.
Yellow Warbler.
 Male Magnolia Warbler.
Female Magnolia Warbler.

Things picked up a little in the patchwork of habitats that were found in & around the most habitable area of the island: 10+ Eastern Kingbird; 2 Swainson's Thrush; 5 Yellow Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler; 3 Magnolia Warbler; 5 Black throated Green Warbler; 4 Yellow-rumped Warbler; 2 American Redstart; 12 Common Yellowthroat; Canada Warbler & Wilson's Warbler.
Dusk, on our first day on the island,
 looking from the Wharf.

Then it was time for our evening meal & bed. But before that, we climbed Lighthouse Hill & enjoyed the dusk. An American Woodcock serenaded us, as it displayed over the fields & woods behind. Both Barbara & I were exhausted. It had been a long day!
The 25th dawned grey & overcast, but quickly cleared up & turned into a very nice sunny day. Just standing outside our lodging, it became immediately apparent that there had been a fall of migrants. warblers were darting about everywhere. I decided to walk down to Lobster Cove  & then return for breakfast. I only just made it back in time, there were a lot of birds around!

The open area at Lobster Cove
which is good for migrants.
 Female Scarlet Tanager.
 Magnolia Warbler, feeding on insects in the seaweed.
Savannah Sparrow.
 After breakfast, Barbara & I walked slowly north. And I mean slowly! Migrants were abundant & our progress was painfully slow, so slow infact, that Barbara decided to go hiking alone & explore some trails she hadn't been on before. I meandered my way north, via the village & the Ice Pond.
Ice Pond.

There was one little clump of bushes with both Red-eyed & Philadelphia Vireos feeding in it. American Redstarts were common today, as were Northern Parula; Yellow Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler & Magnolia Warbler.
 Red-eyed Vireo.
 Philadelphia Vireo.
American Redstart.
Northern Parula.
Yellow Warbler.
I walked a little further on & explored the area around Ice Pond. Down one little lane, I saw a  Brewer's Sparrow. The bird was performing nicely & at close quarters. I watched it for around 15 minutes & took a lot of photographs.
 Brewer's Sparrow.

 Very tame & confiding.
I believe that this is the first record for Maine & only the sixth for the eastern United States. It is a common bird of sagebrush in the far west of the US. However, it is remarkable here.
I continued my perambulations, racking up an impressive total of migrants. Totals relate to only what I saw, on my relatively small area of the island that I covered today:
Common Nighthawk; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; 2 Eastern Wood Pewee; Alder Flycatcher; 3 Alder/Willow Flycatcher; 2 Least Flycatcher; Acadian Flycatcher; 20+ Eastern Kingbird; 2 Philadelphia Vireo; 8 Red-eyed Vireo; 6 Barn Swallow; 4 Tree Swallow; Veery; 4 Cedar Waxwing; 12 Northern Parula; 15+ Yellow Warbler; 10+ Chestnut-sided Warbler; 25+ Magnolia Warbler; Blackburnian Warbler; 2 Black-throated Blue Warbler; Black-throated Green Warbler; 7 Yellow-rumped Warbler; 10+ Blackpoll Warbler; 2 Bay-breasted Warbler; 5 Black & White Warbler; 20+ American Redstart; 6 Common Yellowthroat; Northern Waterthrush; Ovenbird; 7 Canada Warbler; 15+ Wilson's Warbler; Scarlet Tanager; Summer Tanager; 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak; 2 Indigo Bunting; 6 Savannah Sparrow; Field Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; Baltimore Oriole & 3 Bobolink.

 Cedar Waxwing.
 Black-throated Green Warbler.
 Blackpoll Warbler.
 Black & White Warbler.
 Savannah Sparrow.
Baltimore Oriole.
I then met up with Barbara & we had another walk around the village, ending up at the local brewery, which was very good by the way!

Looking across the marsh,
towards the Lighthouse on the hill.
Bobolink, next to the marsh.
 The rather quaint, island library.
 Barbara goes shopping in the mall!
Not much Max Mara, Chanel or Gucci
 in there, was there?
 The local brewery, which was very good.
That is not even beer!
We enjoyed a lovely evening meal & then climbed  Lighthouse Hill, to watch the sunset over the sea.

I was up early at the crack of dawn, on the 26th.  It was another overcast early morning, but it yet again, cleared up later, & we enjoyed a fine day on the island. I birded the areas of vegetation around the village & then met up with Barbara & we hiked over to the east side of the island, via the Burnt Head Trail & back via Underhill Trail.
 Looking across to the village, from the cemetery.
 As it was memorial day we thought we would take a
 walk & pay our respects to the fallen.
View from the Lighthouse.


Migrants were still plentiful, but not in the same numbers as yesterday. 
 Brewer's Sparrow was again present,
 but had moved to the Community Gardens.
 Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
 Northern Parula.
 Black & White Warbler
 Black-throated Green Warbler.
 Blackpoll Warbler.
 Baltimore Oriole.

It was now time to pack & get on the boat to return to the mainland. Lots of people were doing the same & it was a bit of a scrum on the dock!
 Getting ready for departure.
 The really ugly gang waiting to leave!
The crossing to the mainland was uneventful, only two Atlantic Puffins were noteworthy. We then had a drive up to & around Round Pond, which is a very scenic area.
 Round Pond harbour.

 Black Guillemot in the harbour.
The only birds of note were a Black Guillemot & 7 Turkey Vultures. Conditions started to deteriorate as we drove towards Newcastle & by the time we found our lodgings, it was pouring with rain & very dismal indeed! The lodgings were excellent & we had a nice evening in the King Eider Pub.
We awoke on the morning of 27th to torrential rain! After a hearty breakfast we went into town & had a look around the local bookshop. We then drove to Damaristcota Mills to see the Alewife Restoration Project. However, by this time it really was dark & dismal, with heavy rain falling.
 The lakeside of the river.
The river on the other side of the road.

 Steps or ladders have been created to help
the Alewives swim up river, to spawn.

A small quota of fish is harvested
 for the local community each day.
This is a local community conservation project. Before, the fish were struggling to get to the river & upper lake to spawn & numbers were of course, declining. Today this species is increasing in this area & the local people are also harvesting this resource. Of course, where you get large congregations of fish, you also get the fish eaters!
 Around 150+ Double-crested Cormorants
were present.
 Immature & adult Bald Eagles.
 A fine adult Bald Eagle.

Heavily cropped - the distance was around 300m
in persistent rain.
We then drove further south in increasingly heavy rain. But by the time we arrived at Scarborough Marsh it had stopped raining but was bitterly cold & very windy. I was here to look for the saltmarsh sparrows, but it didn't look good. And so it proved! We spent around one & half hours here, but drew a blank on the sparrows. Several pairs of Eastern Willets were nesting in the saltmarsh.
 The nesting boxes are for Tree Swallows.
But the Willets love them as well!
We called in at another all American diner & then made our way home arriving around 7.30pm. It had been a great four day weekend.