Monday, July 29, 2013

Birding a New Park

I had the pleasure today of birding a new park.  I don't mean that it was a new park for me, but a new park.  The land had once been a private airport, a developer's future project, and finally, a couple of soccer fields, a coastal forest, 2 ponds, and a few trails.  The park also benefits from being right against Hammonasset State Park which is an extremely important IBA in Connecticut and Southern New England.  This makes this new park a vital habitat.  I went to visit the park after a quick walk around Hammonasset.  At Hammo, I was able to grab a few great shots of Terns, Butterflies, and other birds.  But then I moved on to another park.

The opening of the new park was not the easiest process.  As I walked the park and heard from several people, many mentioned how difficult it was to secure the land.  The land was along Route 1, a major state route along the CT shore, and definitely was prime real estate.  When the land first became available, people wanted to make it a park, but then it was bought by a developer.  After zoning commissions and issues with the developer, it was the recession of 2008 that killed the prospects of the developer turning the land into condos.  While the Recession made developing less desirable, it took an alliance of Parks people, Conservationists, and towns people to make the park a reality.  Along with the natural spaces, there are plenty of people spaces as well.  While some will complain about the balance, I do appreciate any effort to get people outside as a good effort.  This is proof that good environments can be made to be friendly to all sorts of life.  I am also excited to visit this park to see how it develops and how the people and animals use.  So far, its been a success, 1 visit and 1 life bird, a solitary sandpiper!  Definitely enough to keep me going back for more!

Common Tern Adult and Juvenile at Hammonasset State Park
Eastern Black Swallowtail
Two Glossy Ibises and a Little Blue Heron
A Female Seaside Dragonlet
Spice Bush Swallowtail
A Solitary Sandpiper, Can you find it?

2013 Year List: 236
Solitary Sandpiper, latest Life Bird

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Refuge

(C) Terry Tempest Williams and Random House

I recently finished Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams.  What a wonderful book from beginning to end.  Tempest Williams seamlessly combines the struggles of her daily life with those of the natural world around her.  Tempest Williams begins the book by talking about the the Salt Lake and the Great Basin.  The book clearly outlines what makes that ecosystem so unique, the fact that it is a closed water cycle.  The Great Basin's biodiversity has impacted Tempest Williams in her writing and her life.

The intersections of life struggles and environmental struggles are woven together in incredible fashion.  Without giving too much away, the life around the Great Basin and home life faced different but related struggles.  The slow but constant rise of the Great Salt Lake threatens the many different habitats that so many birds and animals depend on.  I don't want to give too much away, but Tempest Williams work does an excellent job portraying the frailness of life and the balance of the ecosystem with a tremendous use of words and tone. This is a must read!

Terry Tempest Williams - The Coyote Clan

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Birding a State Park

Can you spot the Scarlet Tanager?

How about the Green Heron?

Can you spot the peep?

Where's the Northern Water Snake?

A Beaver in CT

In search of a Mississippi Kite in Connecticut took me and my wife to Great Pond State Park in northern Connecticut.  We weren't expecting much to be honest.  The Park was off the beaten path and we had only heard about it due to the sighting of a Mississippi Kite in the Region.  While we always enjoy a walk in the woods, we weren't expecting to find such a vibrant park.  Within minutes of parking the car, we found a Veery and some Black Capped Chickadees.  As we walked towards the pond, a kettle pond created by a glacier, we noticed a real abundance of life and biodiversity.  There were tons of mosquitoes, dragonflies, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals around along with a great diversity of plant life.

While we dipped on the Mississippi Kite, we discovered a superb state park.  Connecticut is lucky to have a great number of state parks.  I am lucky to enjoy them and use them as I go hunt for the Kite and other birds throughout the summer!  So get out there and go birding!

2013 List: 234
Louisiana Waterthrush

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why I am a fan of extinction


As much as I want to see one of these...

File:Conuropsis carolinensisAWP026AA2.jpg
...Or one of these....
(also, neither of the above pictures are mine)

I understand that I cannot.  They are extinct.  Extinction is an interesting occurrence in nature.  There have been massive extinctions and small ones.  Extinctions have played a role in opening niches and spaces for new species and adaptations to occur in our environment.  Recently, there's been a lot of news about the idea and prospect of bringing back certain species to the planet.  This news strikes me as odd and rather unusual.  The idea is certainly attractive and amazing.  Seeing rare animals is exciting enough, heck, seeing common animals is exciting!  Can you imagine seeing Tasmanian Tigers, Passenger Pigeons, Carolina Parakeets?  That would be a thrill beyond thrills.

But here's my problem.  What does extinction teach us?  Why should we become fans of extinction?  To put it simply, if we can reverse extinction, what's to push us to value the world we have now?  I think the idea that can "undo" the damage we've done to our world is good in principle but if it means that we just ignore efforts to preserve the world we have, then it becomes a dangerous one indeed.  We need to value the world we have, we also need to value the world's we lost.  It is for this reason that I question the potential effects of bringing back extinct species to life.  I don't want us to use the natural world like a playground to benefit our own curiosities.

Washington Post Article - Click here - Passenger Pigeon & Click Here- General Article

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Birding on a Whale Watching Trip

This past weekend we went to the fine city of Gloucester for a Whale Watch.  It wasn't the most productive trip in terms of both whales and birds.  I did manage to get 2 life birds.  A single Sooty Shearwater and a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels flying around.  There were a great number of Great Black-Backed Gulls flying around and one immature Northern Gannet.

Despite the Birds, there were a few causes for concern.  First, was that it took a while to find birds and whales.  We had to go out about 25 miles out to see some whales.  There were only 2 whales out and about.  I imagine that we were out there with half whale watching boats in northern Mass.  We were out there with easily 5 boats, including 2 from the New England Aquarium.  It is a little troubling that there were so few whales and birds out there.  I will be doing another trip towards the end of the month so I will write an update then!   Go Birding!

A Molting Common Eider
Gloucester, MA skyline
The Humpback Whale called Nile (Look at her Left Fin)
Everyone was really excited to see her
I was real excited to see this Wilson's Storm Petrel... No one else cared (besides my wife who snapped the photo)

2013 Year List: 233
Life List: 310
Recent Additions:
Wilson's Storm Petrel
Sooty Shearwater

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Day in a Saltmarsh

Salt marshes are amazing habitats.  I am lucky to live in state with some great Salt Marshes.  Salt marshes are among the most diverse and unique ecosystems on the planet.  In fact, in terms of biodiversity, they are second only to rain forests.  I often visit some of my local salt marshes to get a good perspective on the life that exists there and the limited geographic space they inhabit.  Seeing a Salt Marsh is a wonderful ecosystem to see.  Obviously there are countless books on the subject and there are some very serious concerns for this ecosystem.  Over 70% of Earth's population lives near the coast, this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on our shorelines and we need to be conscious of this as these are some of the most productive and valuable ecosystems our planet has.

The other day I took a hike through a salt marsh and while I found many birds, I was most excited by the Saltmarsh Sparrows and Seaside Sparrows that I found.  They live in these environments among the reeds.  Birding in these environments is such a joy to behold and witness as thousands of different niches are being filled and exploited by thousands of different animals and species.  Besides the Saltmarsh Sparrow, the other highlight was seeing a young Willet, Willetlet(?), bouncing around the marsh.  I hope to go back soon and check in on these birds and their habitat.  Meanwhile, there are lots of salt marshes to check out and I insist you go out and see some!

A Willet
A Juvenile Willet
Saltmarsh Sparrow
2013 Year List: 231
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Boat-Tailed Grackle