Sunday, November 17, 2013

Snow Bunting Storm

It was all gray and wet today, but yesterday was gloriously clear and warm. I couldn't very well pass up the chance to go outside with weather like that! It'd been a while since I was last at the shore, so I headed off to Milford Point for an awesome beach-filled afternoon.

The tide was the lowest I've ever seen it here, and I walked across wide expanses of wet sand under the prettiest blue sky (a sailboat makes the scene even prettier):

Actually, most of the ground I walked on was covered with mussel and oyster shells (and beds of living shellfish, too). It felt very strange to be walking right on the ocean floor:

Mysterious creatures buried in the sand kept spitting jets of water into the air as I walked here. More molluscs, perhaps?

The scenery was undeniably cool, but my favorite part of the visit was a big flock of Snow Buntings (at least 100 birds) that kept flying back and forth across the beach. These little birds are super cute. Of course, they wouldn't come near (or sit still) enough for close up pictures, but their white/black/brown costumes made a cool sight as they blew around the beach in their little chirping flurries:

I've only seen Snow Buntings a couple of times before, and only at the shore in winter. It was cool to see so many of these fancy little winter visitors at once!

Some more familiar winter shore birds were around, too: dozens of American Black Ducks, a flock of Brant, and a couple of Common Loons way out in the water.

These two Red-breasted Mergansers were foraging close to the shore:

They were pretty well synchronized in their underwater hunts, a pair of snorklers floating by:

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this handsome Ring-billed Gull, too:

Then the afternoon got later and the light got redder, and the scenery was awesome in new ways. I love this brilliant marsh grass (with what I'm assuming are high-tide markings):

I'm glad I took advantage of the lovely weather to visit the shore!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pileated Woodpecker at Bent of the River

Friday was a lovely (if a bit chilly) late fall day, and I decided it was high time for a woods walk. (How has it been over a month since my last walk in the woods? Not cool! I was feeling some serious woods withdrawal.)

I ventured out to the Bent of the River Audubon sanctuary, where I had a couple of absolutely lovely visits this past summer. The fields are now brown, and the trees are mostly bare, but this place remains wonderful and welcoming.

There were creatures all over the place, but I'll just skip right to my favorite. Pileated Woodpecker!

OK, Pileated Woodpecker butt. Let's try again. Pileated Woodpecker!

:) I think Pileated Woodpeckers are one of the best things around, and I so often see them only as flashes of big black and white wings or hear them hammering in the distance. This lady and I kept crossing paths during my walk, and I'm very glad she decided to stay and work on this tree fairly close to me on our last meeting! This is the first time I've been able to watch one of these awesome creatures for any length of time and at anything resembling closeness. I love her black and white stripes, of course, and that brilliant red crest, but now I have other things to admire, too, like the scale-like pattern on her belly, and the small yellow spot at the base of her beak.

I couldn't very well just walk away with such a (relatively) cooperative Pileated Woodpecker right there, so here are a couple of videos of the lady at work. She has quite the powerful stroke with that beak!


While I was watching this woodpecker, a big Gray Squirrel came ambling down a tree a few feet away from me and looked at me curiously:

On another part of my walk, I came across this rather zealous Eastern Chipmunk:

Birds were foraging all over, too, including a couple of funny little Brown Creepers:

And the fields were filled with sparrows. Hello, handsome Song Sparrow:

There's a lot of gray and brown out there right now, and many cool things to see. I'm definitely adding Bent of the River to my more-frequently-visit list!