Friday, 11 September 2015

22nd August - Cape Cod, Massachusetts - Day Three

Our last day, with an afternoon departure back to Boston, so the opportunity to relax in the morning.  The forecast rain has yet to come, but the morning was still very humid with very low cloud, the sun though could be felt through the overcast conditions.

The choice was either to sit by the pool, or to have a walk around the area.  There was a footpath leading from the hotel to the Cape Cod cycle track that runs the length of the peninsula.  This also follows the power lines, and with that comes a fire break in the pine trees.  I was interested in exploring the area, in the hope of finding some of the commoner garden birds, birds I was very familiar with when we lived in New Jersey.

The area is lined with pine trees, and it was not long before I could hear the calls of Chickadees and the quiet tapping of what I suspected was a Nuthatch.  I waited and watched and then a White-breasted Nuthatch appeared on the trunk of a pine in a classic pose.

I always find it fascinating how the calls of birds outside of Europe can be very similar to those you are familiar with.  For instance the chickadees are unmistakeably tits, and the cluck of an American Robin, the Blackbird or Fieldfare.  The one that always gets me though is very similar to that of a Robin alarm, and it is a bird with a dominant red plumage, the wonderful Northern Cardinal.  A very secretive bird that will skulk through the branches, but then emerge to give you a flash of its wonderful red plumage.

Eventually the Chickadees showed, these are Black-capped Chickadees as opposed to the Mountain Chickadees we saw in Grand Teton, looking very much like a Marsh Tit, their behaviour is a kin to that of the Blue Tit, and is a regular visitor to garden feeders.

At the top of the conifers there were several calling American Goldfinches, but unfortunately they never came to a position where I could get a suitable photograph, all I could manage was views of their bright chest and bellies.  Charming little birds with bright yellow and black plumage, they resemble a canary more than our goldfinch.

If you just stand still and watch the birds will come to you, next up was a Downy Woodpecker, a small woodpecker just a little bigger than a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.  It was creeping along the branches of pine tree, making it very difficult to get a clear view and photo.  They lack the red seen in the Hairy Woodpecker, and have a smaller more delicate bill.

A Common Grackle then appeared at the back of the trees, large flocks of these can be seen at dusk heading for communal roosts.

There had been a very distinctive and loud song around the hotel, the owner usually delivering this from the top of a bush or post.  As is the case with these loud songs the owner is a little drab, in this case a Song Sparrow, unlike our sparrows the song is quite tuneful, and very diagnostic for a LBJ

Back in the pines another familiar call, this time like that of a Great Tit indicated the presence of a few Tufted Titmouse.  It is though not as spectacularly marked as the Great Tit, it sporting a rather drab grey plumage, but with a jaunty tuft to give it the name.  This one was feeding on berries.

I then came across a family party of Song Sparrows that were quite approachable.

I then decided to leave the path, and take one of the many paths that led through the fire break.  A bird on the overhead wires had caught my eye, and as I made my way through the bushes it flew off, but below it on the ground was a nest box on a pole, and on the nest box was an Eastern Bluebird, complete with beetle.

The Eastern Bluebird differs from the Mountain Bluebirds we had seen in Wyoming by having a red throat and chest, but retains the lovely blue head back and wings, although this one does look a little tired.  It would seem that these birds have been encouraged here by the nest boxes, and by the presence of a ring that they have also been studied.  

I edged closer to get a better view.

A little further on there were several juvenile birds using the wires to look for food, dropping to the ground from the wire to pick up beetles and other insects.

I then came upon an area of grass at the back of Willy’s Gym, here there was more movement, juvenile Cowbirds feeding in the grass.

From the surrounding bushes there was the mewing call of a Grey Catbird, it appearing briefly on a branch before flying off.

Then a lovely Baltimore Oriole in the tree in front of me, that made three iconic birds that have given their names to American sports teams, Cardinal, Bluebird, and Oriole.

In the garden in New Jersey these orioles would come through in the late summer, always appearing like this one at the tops of the trees.

From behind me there was some more tapping, and I expected another Nuthatch, but found this Downy Woodpecker that gave some better views than earlier, albeit still dark and with the head hidden.

Conscious of the time, I was deciding whether to turn back when I noticed a falcon fly across an open field, and perch up on a security floodlight.  It was an American Kestrel so I decided to try and get as close as I could.  This was the best I could do, still a little distant, but you can see the key differences from the European Kestrel, the two dark stripes by the side of the head.

Leaving the Kestrel, I made my way back to the hotel.  As I returned to the grounds I noticed a dove on a piece of rough ground.  This is the commonest American Dove, the Mourning Dove, but a bird that we became very fond of in New Jersey, one of which we named Colin.  Colin used to visit the deck regularly with a mate, as doves seem to do.  They would always wait for the gate to be open to enter the deck, never hopping through it when closed.  Then one day we returned home to find a dead Cooper’s Hawk on the deck, with Colin in its talons.  The hawk having taken the dove and then it flew into a window and killed itself.  Colin has never been forgotten, and this picture is in memory of Colin, I'm an old softie at heart.

That then was it, the end of a wonderful holiday in which we have seen so much, spectacular scenery, some amazing Wild life, a bird I only dreamed of seeing, and some incredible whale behaviour.  I think it is fair to say that both Helen and I were probably a little uncertain as to how we would feel about returning to the US, but we both agree that this has been a wonderful experience and in many of the places we visited it exceeded our expectations.

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