Monday, October 25, 2010


North Andover Fall Foliage in the Rain

Autumn in New England. You get a picture in your mind of red, orange, and yellow maple leaves when I say that. Don't you? Well, we did see plenty of maple leaves yesterday in our autumn tour of a tiny corner of the Merrimack Valley.

First stop on our extremely local tour of "New England Autumn" was the corn field at Barker's Farm. The corn stubble was overrun with hundreds of crows. They were in the field scavenging, perched in trees, flying back and forth, just all over the place. There was no sign of Canada geese, Sandhill cranes, or turkeys, all of whom were fixtures at that spot a couple of weeks ago. The crows seem to have moved into the goose niche.

Next stop was Crescent Farm in Bradford. For some reason, I've now been to Crescent Farm more times in the last 3 weeks than in the previous 30 years but I still haven't done the corn maze. Crescent Farm is a veritable farm theme park, with hayrides, cute animals, a corn maze, pick your own pumpkin fields, pumpkin ice cream, haunted hayride tours, birthday parties ...

Friendly Goat

One of the goats was extremely friendly and nuzzled Nancy's white cane through the fence. The alpaca was aloof, but posed nicely for pictures.

Aloof Alpaca

I've already had my one splurge on pumpkin ice cream for the season, and it was way too cold for ice cream yesterday anyway. Besides, what is Autumn in New England without cider? Hot cider. So once it started to rain in earnest, we went inside the farm shop for hot cider. As we enjoyed our cider, a group of Chinese students were avidly photographing all the different kinds of pumpkins and gourds for sale.


As we looked out over the fields we could see people picking pumpkins while carrying umbrellas, the hayride going by full of kids in Halloween costumes, and the animals chowing down on hay. The corn stubble field across the street from the silo and shop was completely empty of any bird life at all. No geese, no crows. I commented on that to Nancy, wondering why the crows were all at Barker's and not at Crescent.

Hayride and Cows

The best moment of the whole Crescent Farm visit came as we were walking back to the car. I looked out over the fields again and suddenly a flock of about 300 crows erupted from the corn maze all at once. No time for a photo, but it was an awesome sight.

Our last stop for the day was at Anvil Farm in Boxford for some apples and a look at the pigs. The apples were great. The pigs were all asleep in their pig houses.

The Barn at Anvil Farm

A good time was had by all.

More photos of the day on Flickr if you must see 'em all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Surfland Fishing Report

Should have posted this before. The mackerel are attracting tons of gannets, as per usual at this time of year. Also there are some good pictures of the dredging and beach renourishment project. Check it out at:
Surfland Fishing Report

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

flight of ideas leads to a little walk down memory lane

Gunnar Engblom's "guess the bird blogger" post on Hungarian shorebird blogger Szimuly György got me thinking about my trip to Peteri Lake with Zsolt and Maci and the ornithologist Bankovics Attila, way back in the distant mists of time (actually, 2001 -- it just seems much longer ago).

It was really hot that day and I was exhausted by the time we finished birding and sat down to an al fresco meal of traditional Hungarian fish soup. The lake was alive with egrets and herons who were there for the abundant frogs. Zsolt kept trying to keep my Collins Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe. I remember telling him I didn't understand why he wanted my English language one when the very same book was available in Hungarian -- translated by the very same Attila whom we had driven to Peteri Lake from Budapest and who was now guiding us. Never did get an answer to that. Nor did we ever resolve whether the frogs were telling each other long narratives.

I found this wonderful description of Peteri Lake and noticed that the author mentions Attila's visits: Péteri Tó Bird Reserve is also our Home. That brought back vivid memories of Indian rollers and sedge warblers and European goldfinches as well as the herons and egrets. It's a very special place.

For some reason I usually think of my misadventure while viewing the ferruginous ducks at the Tisza River when I think of that trip rather than the wonders of Peteri Lake. Of course, when I visited Maci two years later, her most vivid memory of that trip was our Otis tarda sighting, which was originally the whole point of the trip. Ah, those were the days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

yet another stuff in the merrimack entry

The latest stuff in the Merrimack River:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

local media getting excited about coming storm

With a northeast storm predicted for tonight/tomorrow, the recently completed Plum Island beach renourishment is getting lots of media attention. What do you want to bet that every media outlet in a 75 mile radius has a crew at Plum Island center the instant the storm hits? Meanwhile, here are some of the stories:

WHDH-TV - Plum Island prepares shore against erosion

Will improvements to Plum Island help it stand up to bad weather?

Dredging project restores Plum Island Beach

Dredging Today – Plum Island Renourishment Project Come Up Short (USA)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cormorants at Bold Point

Double crested cormorants were all over the place at Bold Point in Providence this weekend. It's neat the way they arrange themselves on pilings to pose for photographers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tourist Traps

Tourist Traps
Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg
Newburyport actually goes to the trouble of stacking picturesque wooden lobster traps on the Riverwalk for tourists to photograph. This amuses me.

I took this at the beginning of September just before Hurricane Earl swung by out at sea.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

sandhill cranes!

I had a nice surprise this rainy afternoon: 2 sandhill cranes only 3 miles from my house! They were hanging out with a whole lot of Canada geese in the corn stubble at Barker's Farm. Cranes and geese alike were eating up a storm. One of the cranes picked up a whole ear of corn and started pulling off the husk. It was cold and raining but I hung out and watched for awhile and tried to get some pictures. I went off to the farm stand to buy some corn and tomatoes for myself -- maybe the cranes were making me crave corn -- and mentioned to the woman there that there were two very beautiful sandhill cranes in the corn field. She said she knew about them and other people had mentioned them. After I got my produce (corn, tomatoes, Macoun apple) I went back for another look. The cranes were a tiny bit closer to the road and the rain was a little lighter so I got the above picture. A few other birders came by while I was there.

On the way back home to cook the corn, I met a flock of wild turkeys blocking the road. Quite a birdy day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

catching up 1: ASRI raptor weekend

The weekend of September 11-12 we attended Raptor Weekend at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island's education center in Bristol. We watched flight demonstrations, presentations by Mark and Marcia Wilson of Eyes on Owls, got to meet Webster the ASRI education owl, and took a walk through the sanctuary's meadow out to the bay. Took lots and lots of pix. These are only a few.

Narragansett Bay

Spectacled Owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl Spreading Its Wings

Another Snowy Owl (I love snowy owls)

Eastern Screech Owl


Nancy and I were keen to meet Webster because we contributed to the fund to pay for cataract surgery for him so he could continue to live and educate at Audubon Society of Rhode Island. We were thrilled that he is recovering very well and can see well enough to catch his food and not fall off his perch. May he live many more years!

Harris' Hawk

Harris' Hawk

Great Horned Owl (not Webster -- one of the Eyes on Owls birds)