Well, we got up early and headed out to our bird counting station on Schoodic Point. Unfortunately, it was too foggy for the morning SeaWatch count.
We can't count birds if we can't see them. I checked periodically to see if the fog had cleared. It can be perfectly clear at our campsite, but not over the water. Nope. Our morning session was a loss.
I got some work done and checked on my Dad. I made arrangements to fly to Louisville on Sunday and come back on Wednesday. I'm hoping that will cheer him up and we can figure out what the next few weeks may hold.
Linda went into Winter Harbor to pick up some groceries. It was still foggy when she left.
By the time our afternoon session came around, the fog finally lifted.
We were able to count, but there were more people than birds. Fortunately, we met Sue, a 10-year solo full-timer that had been checking in on our Journal since earlier this year. She was a delight and certainly helped pick up our spirits.
She has gone from a fifth wheel to a Class A motorhome with a toad to a very nice Class B motorhome which was, of course, in the parking lot. We chatted while we scanned the horizon for migrating sea birds.
Later, Seth appeared. We've only had a couple of hours with him out on The Point, and we're craving more time with him so he can help us with more tips and tricks and help with the identification of some the birds we're not counting as part of our duties. He liked Sue, and half-seriously asked if she wanted to come count birds on Mondays and Tuesdays. :)
Seth has been very curious about our RVing life, and Sue gave him a tour of her rig while we continued our count. That was very nice of her.
Tracy (Camper Chronicles) asked for more details about our counting process, so here goes.
Linda & I focus on the northernmost section of our viewing window to catch birds flying south coming into our window as soon as possible (so we have maximum time to identify and count). We alternate between scanning with the naked eye and using binoculars. Looking through binoculars constantly is hard on the eyes, but we try to have one of us looking through binoculars or the scope at all times. And we'll scan along our whole viewing window just in case something slipped by us.
Once we sight flying birds, we describe to each other where they are using landmarks on the rocks, boats in the water, people on the rocks, and descriptions like "mid way out", "just below the horizon", "above the horizon", "low flyer", "high flyer", etc. We've worked out our own communication. If the birds are close enough to see them clearly enough with binoculars, we both make an identification. If we agree, the count goes in that species count, but if we disagree, they are counted as unidentified.
If we can't make an ID with the binoculars, Linda quickly tries to find them in the spotting scope which magnifies them much more. So she will identify them while I'm counting (assuming I can at least see them well enough to count). On clear days when visibility is way out, there are birds we can only see with the scope and usually we can't identify them from that distance.
When we spot migrants, we both count and Linda records the count on our data sheets. If they are one or two or three at a time, she does hash marks. But if we have flocks or strings, she writes down the total number. She adds the hash marks and numbers to get a total at the end of each hour, and then we get a grand total for the day.
So far, almost all the strings and flocks have been small enough (like the one below) for both of us to count and cross-verify our count.
If we are off a bird or two from each other, we'll take the lower number. Very rarely are the groups as easy to count as the cormorants above. We don't get many that come close enough for a photo like that. Picture them farther out, down below the horizon blending with the dark blue water, and moving rapidly. We have to find them, identify them, and count them before they get out of range. It ain't easy. :)
If it's a really big flock, we have to count and extrapolate to estimate the total numbers. We may pick out a group of ten and estimate how many groups of ten there are. We're surprisingly accurate with that method. If there are multiple flocks, we communicate which ones each of us will count. "I've got the high flying group out in front, you take the lower group trailing".
As the migration season kicks in, it will get harder and harder and we'll have to get better and faster. Seth says we're doing better than he expected, but we know we'll have to improve more.
While Seth was out there, we had a flock of cormorants, almost all of which are Double-crested Cormorants. But he identified one in the group that was a Great Cormorant. When he said that, I was able to pick it out quickly, but I never would have picked it out on my own. They look almost identical (especially from a distance), but the single Great Cormorant is a bit larger with a slightly slower wing beat. Picking out those subtle differences comes with experience.
The afternoon session ended with few birds to count, but our moods were improved with Sue and Seth being there.
It was good to be back out at our oceanside office. :)
This morning was foggy as well. We did our 6:30 a.m. count of gulls on the rocks and eiders in the water (the few we could see), but after waiting 20 minutes, we called it. We were disappointed because Seth was going to come out and spend a couple of hours with us this morning.
Instead we ended up at the bird banding area with Ed & Caroline.
Linda helped them get bird bags ready and transcribed some data as Seth looked on.
They have ten "mist nets" set up in the woods that they check every 30 minutes. I walked the nets with Ed a couple of times.
Watching bird banders is a cool thing for us to do. Linda says it's like a treasure hunt, and we get to see the beauty of the birds up close. All those little brown and gray birds we see flitting around in the trees are actually quite beautiful up close.
When we arrived, Caroline was finishing up her measurements and data collection on this Black-And-White Warbler.
Ed came in with a Yellow-breasted Chat. It was sort of a big deal because it was outside its normal range. It seemed to be saying "Really?" as Ed banded it.
The Chat is a beautiful bird with quite the repertoire of songs and sounds in the Spring.
Next we had a Northern Flicker, a large woodpecker.
It's quite a handsome bird.
In the east, the flicker will have these yellow feathers which usually appears as a yellow flash as they fly.
In the south, they are often referred to as "Yellow Hammer". In the west, those feathers are red on the Northern Flicker. You might hear the terms yellow-shafted vs red-shafted.
On the same run as the Northern Flicker, Ed took three Hermit Thrushes out of the net.
You are more likely to hear the melancholy song of the Hermit Thrush than to see one while walking through the forest. It's common, but hard to get a good look at.
Next was one of our favorites - the Cedar Waxwing.
This gorgeous bird is quite common in flocks, but they tend to stay hidden in the trees just out of sight. Note the red wax-like tips on the wings.
Next we have a Palm Warbler.
The Dark-eyed Junco is familiar to most people and is a frequent visitor to bird feeders. For many in the east, it is a sign that winter is on the way.
We have lots of these adorable little Red-breasted Nuthatches around our rig.
One description of their call says they "sound like tiny tin horns being honked in the treetops". One lady asked us "What's that bird that sounds like a small truck backing up?" :)
Next there was a Magnolia Warbler.
While Ed & Caroline went out to make another net run, I ran home to get them a large, deep pot. They are going to make some blackberry jam, and we carry a couple of deep pots for cooking chili or shrimp boils at gatherings.
When I got back, they had a female American Redstart.
The male American Restart is mostly black with bright orange patches in the places where the female has yellow on the sides, wings, and tail.
Just before we left, Ed brought in a juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird.
They aren't banding hummingbirds here, but they got its weight and some other data before releasing it.
We enjoyed spending time with Ed & Caroline, and I'm sure we'll do that a few more times before they leave in mid-October.
In the middle of the day, I went to Birch Harbor to fuel up the Jeep, and then I went through Winter Harbor and checked out the Grindstone Neck Golf Course. It didn't look as nice as the photos on the website, but it might be worth playing this nine-hole golf course when the rates go down after September 12.
I also stopped by the Winter Harbor Lobster Co-Op. They had hard-shelled live lobster for $7.50/lb and soft-shelled for $5.50/lb. They also had some fresh haddock. I didn't pick anything up this time, but we'll be boiling some lobster soon.
Back at the rig, Linda was getting caught up on 2017 Spring Rally sign-ups. We have over 90 people registered already.
At 3:30 we were back out on The Point for our afternoon bird counting session, but it was still fogged in.
I took a few photos ....
and a video ....
while we were out there. But there was no sign of it clearing up, so we headed back home where we worked on some revisions to the spreadsheet. We're going to expand it to include more data.
Though the sea is rough and it looks cold out, it's still quite warm with temps in the 70s and we've had very little wind the last couple of days. Tomorrow, we're supposed to get some sun and the highs are supposed to be in the mid-80s. We're hoping the fog will lift and we can get back to counting migrants.
Well, that's it for now. Until next time. :)