Saturday, April 30, 2011

Back to West Virginia

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for West Virginia to attend the New River Birding and Nature Festival for the second time. Two years ago I went and had an amazing experience. The festival was extraordinary, so many wonderful people, fabulous birds

I'll be joining some of the same birder/bloggers and meeting many more. I'm excited to re-visit the New River Gorge National River and enjoy the hospitality of this lovely festival. The guides are fabulous and of course the birds are almost heaven!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Made a Little Bird Wish

Art and I made a day trip up to Hasty Brook on Sunday to do some drywall mudding (Art) and birding (me!). It was a cloudy, overcast day but I was really wishing to see my First Of Year Turkey Vulture. When I went out on the balcony to fill the feeders, I noticed that the thistle socks were still about one fourth full. I assumed that my Redpolls had left for their northern home but later a handful of the pretty winter finches attacked the thistle.

I watched the regular visitors on the feeders and mentioned to Art that I would really love to see an Evening Grosbeak in the yard. Over the winter, our good neighbor Mark had mentioned that another neighbor had had Evening Grosbeaks visiting his feeders. I had meant to stop there for a look but never got around to it. Was it too much to wish to add Evening Grosbeaks to my Hasty Brook yardlist?

They came! I was sitting by the patio door with my bins, scanning the trees when I saw two larger birds across the creek. One flew to the maple on our side of the rushing creek and I didn't need binoculars any more to know that Evening Grosbeaks were at my Hasty Brook!

My jaw dropped and I begged Art to grab my camera. I was so close to the bird (5 feet) and didn't want to move and scare it off. Just look at those wings!

A bit later the second Grosbeak flew up the the feeder on the railing. They were chomping through the oiler shells like tin snips on butter! The last time I saw Evening Grosbeaks was a few years ago with Ruthie in the Sax-Zim bog. They used to be so common when I was a girl. I remember enormous flocks of them descending on my Dad's feeders, cleaning them out in very little time. I hope they come back again. THAT was amazing.

While the huge numbers of Redpolls were gone north, the trees were full of gorgeous Purple Finches.

At one point there were ten on the railing, ten on the feeders, and at least another forty in the trees nearby. Against the gloomy sky, these finches looked like they'd been dipped in raspberry jello. Lovely color, lovely song.

I took a walk toward the creek. The creek was running higher than we'd ever seen it. That sound was what had drawn me to the place the first time we looked at the land. I watched from the top of the hill overlooking the creek and saw the ground below was hopping with Juncos and Fox Sparrows. Movement in the treetops caught my eyes. It seemed early, but I was pretty sure it was a pair of Yellow-rumped warblers! I fired off a bunch of shots, but the sky was so gray, it was impossible to tell much about the birds in the photos. I didn't have any way to edit the photos with me. Rats.

Later, as I was trying to get a few last photos of the Redpolls in the maple, this little guy popped up, right at eye level, nicely exposed----

Yellow-rumped Warbler! How odd to see both a summer warbler and a winter bird like a Redpoll sitting in the same tree. I've always known Hasty Brook was a special place.

It was nearing time to and still no Turkey Vultures so walked up the clearing to our mound by the road and looked up and down the road. To the south- two Turkey Vultures flying right up the road toward me! They flew right over my head, tipping their wings in greeting and floated off. Coming from the north, a Bald Eagle. I stood, counting my blessings and heard the yodeling calls of Sandhill Cranes. I suspected they were gathering in the field a half mile to the west of us. Glancing up, I was thrilled to see two of them flying toward that field.

What a wonderful day, but it was time to go. bad weather was coming from the south so we packed up and left. While stopped for pop in the next town I watched 20+ Turkey Vultures riding the south wind ahead of the storm. about 20 miles later Art spotted a kettle of TUVUs tipping in the wind. I pulled the car over and we got out to watch AT LEAST another 70 Turkey Vultures float low in the bumpy wind, headed north.

People thought we were nuts.

I was happy.


I had an amazing yard list for a cold, gloomy day in April.

Common Redpoll

Pine Siskin

Black-capped Chickadee

American Goldfinch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Song Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Purple Finch

Evening Grosbeak

American Crow

Common Raven

American Robin

Ruffed Grouse

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Sandhill Crane

Bald Eagle

Turkey Vulture

American Kestrel

Wood Duck

Canada Goose


Wild Turkey

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The End of March at Hasty Brook

Our most recent visit to Hasty Brook was the last weekend of March. We arrived after dark but as always, I went upstairs and went out on the balcony to check the feeders and look about. The first thing I noticed was the sound. I could hear water. The creek was open and running! love that sound. The sound of the creek was the first thing that drew me to that land when we first visited. It was the same time of year when we drove up there with our directions, wondering what we would find in that 10 acres that we could barely afford. We had a list of properties to look at that day, but never looked at another after we saw Hasty Brook. It was the right place for us. It has always felt like the right place. I have a sense of belonging there, like it was waiting for me.

I am going to miss the Redpolls when they leave. This winter was the first that we've been able to go up for weekends and I've had a chance to fall for these little birds. I doubt they will still be there when we go back up in April.
I got to add a new mammal to our Hasty Brook yard list. I had left the balcony light on one evening while upstairs watching a movie when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a bird. It seemed to fly in, hop about, then fly off again. It had to be a flying squirrel so the next night I left the light on again and waited. Not long after dark it dropped onto the deck of the balcony. We watched as it hopped quickly up to a feeder on the railing. This time I was ready with my camera. I kept my movements to a minimum and took a few photos. after a bit I got up to turn off the light but the movement didn't seem to bother the flying squirrel so I stood at the window to watch some more. Only four feet away, the beautiful little squirrel was a marvel to watch.

The next morning brought another surprise- a pair of Wood Ducks on the creek. We've seen them up there every year but these were earlier than I expected. That water must be cold!

I'm not sure when we will get back up there as we have a visitor from Germany arriving tomorrow.


Thanks for the nudges Richard!

Spring is coming and we miss you-