David & Neva Trail near Little Long Pond, Maine, 27 Sept 2022
Great Head seen from Ocean Path, Acadia, 26 Sept 2022
View of the sea from Ocean Path, Acadia, 26 Sept 2022
Striped gray and rose pink granite, Little Long Pond, Maine, 27 Sept 2022
Monarch butterfly migrating, Acadia, 26 Sept 2022
Somes Sound from Northeast Harbor, Maine, 25 Sept 2022
1 October 2022
Last week, after a four-year hiatus, my husband and I enjoyed revisiting Acadia National Park. The scenery was beautiful and even the fog was gorgeous, as shown in the slideshow above. Jordan Stream was in full flow after a long day of rain.
We also learned a few things about Acadia and ourselves in 2022.
The park is jam-packed with visitors even in late September. Labor Day used to be the the last big weekend — which is why we visited in mid/late September — but the number of people and cars on 23 September rivaled anything we’d seen in the past.
Four years ago we still climbed the mountains. This year we climbed a low one — less than 300 feet above sea level — and did not enjoy the challenging bits. Perhaps we are out of shape … but I think four years makes a difference at our age. Alas.
Seven days were too short for a vacation to Acadia because it takes so long to get there, even by air.
Acadia will be busy through Columbus Day weekend and perhaps beyond. Fall color still hasn’t peaked yet.
In September large, dark brown sea ducks swim in rafts off the coast of Maine. When they aren’t resting on the water they dive for mussels and crustaceans or walk up on the rocks to stand among the seaweed.
They vaguely resemble the lead field guide pictures for common eider (Somateria mollissima) but their current plumage is motley and variable. Right now common eiders are in eclipse.
Like many ducks and geese, eiders completely molt their tail and wing feathers after the breeding season, rendering them flightless for 3-4 weeks. Flight is restored in time for fall migration, but then they molt their body feathers. All told the process takes 4+ months.
To see eiders in all their glory watch them in breeding plumage from January to early June.
And you’ll see them fly.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
Today we’re in Maine for a week-long return to a favorite place.
For 36 years starting in 1983 we visited Acadia National Park every September, only missing two years in all that time. But now it’s 2022 and we haven’t been back since 2018.
The ocean, mountains and lakes will be the same.
But some things will be different.
We’ll be surprised by the changes to businesses, buildings and people we haven’t seen for four years though my husband and I have changed, too. We’ll notice our own changes when we pass by difficult trails we won’t climb anymore. Fortunately there are plenty of easy trails we’ve never walked because we thought they were “too easy” 30 years ago.
Tomorrow we’ll re-experience a hurricane passing offshore when Hurricane Fiona generates high surf and high winds on its way to Nova Scotia. Many things are memorable.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and by Kate St. John)
Imagine having wild parrots visit your bird feeder.
Australia is home to 56 parrot species including the Australian king-parrot (Alisterus scapularis) and the crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) of eastern and southeastern Australia. Though they nest in the woods they often visit urban parks and backyards.
Sometimes they scuffle over rights to the feeder, as captured by this feedercam. (The constant loud hooting in the video is a wonga pigeon.)
Occasionally an individual learns how to be hand-fed like a black-capped chickadee.
How cool it would be to have wild parrots in the backyard!
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
Storks avoid crossing open water that lacks thermals and are rare in the British Isles. Until 2020 they had not nested in the UK since 1416 when the last pair used the top of St Giles High Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. That changed in 2016 when the White Stork Project decided to reintroduce them to Britain. Since then they have released 166 juvenile storks brought in from Poland.
In 2020, for the first time in over 600 years, a pair of white storks nested successfully in the UK. This pair, which are part of the reintroduction program, nest at Knepp Castle in Horsham.
In this video they build the nest and pair bond by bill-clacking.
Right now the storks are gathering sticks and preparing to nest. Watch as they raise a family, live at the White Stork Project. (Note: Britain is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. This is a good site to watch in the morning.)
Instead of bringing human babies these storks will bring their own.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock; click on the captions to see the originals)
Take a visual trip to Florida and watch at least 10 species of birds feeding in a marsh. Notice that some stab at underwater prey, others nibble below the surface, some pick at the shore and some (the pink ones!) swipe their bills side-to-side.
How many of them can you identify? Leave a comment with your answer.
(Note: The embedded video is limited it to the first two minutes. Click here to see the entire 13.5 minute video.)
Back in Pittsburgh since Monday night, I’m getting reacquainted with the Eastern Time Zone and sorting through the few cellphone photos I took during the San Diego Bird Festival.
The festival lived up to its rating as one of the Top 10 Bird Festivals in the US. It is very well run with convenient accommodations, excellent bird guides and great birds! By the end of the festival I’d seen 155 species and 6 Life Birds (more to come when all the eBird lists get in). My Life Birds were:
Allen’s hummingbird (can’t believe I missed this bird nine years ago),
I also saw some bird behavior I didn’t expect. The black-crowned night-herons at Lindo Lake stayed awake during the day in order to feast on food thrown down for the ducks. Above, two waited on the chain link fence for the handouts to arrive. When the food came the night-herons walked among the pigeons.
How many black-crowned night-herons can you count in this photo?
Our next stop brought us to scrubland within sight of El Cajon Mountain(*) where we heard California gnatcathers and watched a peregrine pump past us on its way west.
At El Monte County Park at the base of El Cajon(*) our guides showed us a great-horned owl roosting (digiscoped below) and a golden eagle near its nest on the mountain more than a mile away. (*If I have misnamed this mountain, please let me know.)
While in the Tijuana River Valley on Saturday some flowers and fruits caught my eye. I didn’t know what they were until Janet Campagna and Dianne Machesney helped out.
The first two plants can only be found in southern California and Baja California. The first is lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia), a member of the sumac genus native to coastal chaparral from Santa Barbara County to northern Baja California. Most sumacs have compound leaves. This one is odd for having simple leaves.
The golden-spined cereus (Bergerocactus emoryi), below, has such a limited range in Baja California, Santa Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, and San Diego that is listed “at risk” of disappearing due to habitat loss and climate change.
On 16 February I took a quick walk on the beach and discovered that only one gull in this group can be found in western Pennsylvania. The black-backed gulls are western gulls. The gray-backed are California gulls. There is a Heerman’s gull in there and one ring-billed gull. Our bird guides explained that ring-billed gulls prefer to stay inland in San Diego.
On Monday I said goodbye to sunny San Diego. During my trip to California there was not enough time for an outing to the pine forest mountains. I’ll have to go back!
In more than a decade of choosing an annual ABA Bird of the Year, this year’s choice, the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), has the most personality. It’s hard to look at one posing near it’s burrow without seeing its defiant and endearing stance.
The owls, of course, take themselves seriously, choosing a mate, finding an appropriate prairie dog, ground squirrel or man-made burrow to nest in, and raising a family.
The owls have had recent success in Imperial County, California where many of these photos were taken. Unfortunately by 2019 their population in nearby San Diego County was down to 75 pairs due to habitat loss and destruction of the ground squirrels whose holes the birds rely on.
In 2020 researchers began to turn that around by releasing eight young owls at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. In the winter of 2020-2021, 24 pairs were reintroduced to man-made burrows at Ramona Grasslands Preserve. This winter they plan to reintroduce several more. The hope is that the young birds raised at Ramona will return to their birthplace to nest.