Monday, December 15, 2014

December is for the birds! 12-13 & 14, 2014

Damn, it has been cold. I hate December. It is decidedly not the most wonderful time of the year. I am of the mind that the first snake of the year is the hap-hap-happiest time of the year. But that is a long way off so we must make do with what we have here in New England. So, we bundled up on Saturday the 13th and hit Allendale in search of Two-Lines!

We flipped plenty for possible Redbacks but came up dry. Not that anything else was very dry... we've been pelted with rain and snow of late. But flipping was fruitless. Andrea took a rest on an old, rusted something-or-nother and almost tipped backwards.
I looks like most or all of my boards in this spot have been turned to kindling. Oh well... Spotted Sals and Redbacks all seem to like charred wood. May this spot next year be a healthy Caudata hot-spot.

Two-Lined Spot #1 was a deep creek this time. Often, it is a damp creek bed that is easy pickings. This day, it was deep and cold and made me look bad! So, we carried on and got to Two-Line Spot #2, which looks like this:

The sunlight was going fast and the one larvae I saw squiggled away easily. I was starting to panic. I was soaked and muddy and it was getting very hard to see. I flipped a log that was half in the water and a cloud of mud swirled up, obscuring my vision even more. Damn it! I dipped the dip-net in and blindly gave a pass. Much to my surprise, an adult Two-Lined Salamander was in it when I pulled it up!
As this might be our only December herp (Gawd, I hope not!) we were pretty happy that we had accomplished this small but rewarding feat. We went home, dried up and warmed our bones.

On Sunday, the 14th, we had made plans with our fried Matt S. to go to Plum Island and look at birds. He is heading home for the holidays so we relished our last chance (for a while) to taint him with our elderly ways. We got up there a bit after 10 AM and were disappointed that the beach areas were temporarily closed, but our birding adventure was not to be stopped.

A pond that was good for us last time out was good again. Matt is a knowledgeable chap and he grabbed the binoculars and scanned the pond, which was full of ducks!

Intent on helping with our Big Year, he asked, "do you have Gadwalls?" Nope... but now I do! Thank you! Big Year #108, Gadwalls! A matched set!
#108 Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Andrea got a group of shots of more ducks arriving to this spot...
Coming in for a landing

Matt pointed out a Pintail but every time I looked, it was just a pointy butt in the air. Finally, I got Big Year #109... Northern Pintail!
#109 Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)

We hit #110 with a couple of Northern Shovelers, both females.
#110 Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
There was a group of 5 or 6 of these, all gals.

So, that was cool!

We went to another area and it was cold! The sun was up and it was supposedly 40° but it felt sub-zero! Andrea saw these weird water flowers.
In an amazing turn of events, three Mallard males swam up and must have eaten those flowers!! Weird!
We suggested that if Mallards weren't so common, they would be a huge birder target... they sure are beautiful!

We headed over to another spot and I got a crappy shot but it is our official #111, the Red-breasted Nuthatch!
#111 Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

By this point, the beach wasn't yet open so we went out and got some massive, messy subs and ate greedily. Then we went back and hit the far side of the park, the only spot with beach access. (We didn't know at the time, but human bones had washed up on the beach, thus the closing!)

There wasn't a shit-ton of birds present but it was beautiful. The waves were crashing in... high tide was a'comin'!

There was some other life present... like a Sand Worm!

A hobo!

A Hermit Crab!

We also saw a few Sand Dollars, whatever they are, really.

So, we called it a day... not many water fowl were out and about and no shorebirds were present. On the road out, however, there was an interesting sight... a raptor was hovering over a marshy area.
#112 Rough-legged Hawk ( Buteo lagopus)
He never turned around, so we never saw his face. Is it sad that it reminded me of Birdemic: Shock and Terror? All of a sudden, it swooped down and out of sight. There was no explosion. We quickly drove to the next sighting area to see if we could see where it went. I did one of my patented Dutch parking jobs. The bird came back up and I got an IDable shot...
#112 Rough-legged Hawk ( Buteo lagopus)
#112, a Rough-legged Hawk!

So, five new birds ain't too shabby! While driving home, Wee Matt and Andrea fell asleep (Andrea with needles in her hands and yarn on her fingers, her knitting project jiggling with the motion of the car) while I responsibly carried on. Rest, kids. Old man Mike will see that you arrive home safely. And I did. Then I napped.

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