Archive for November, 2014

November Pelagic Trip Off Cape Cod

They threw out bait to attract the birds (called chumming) and we got close looks at several species of gulls.  The Black-legged Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are ones I don't see every day!)

They threw out bait to attract the birds (called chumming) and we got close looks at several species of gulls. The Black-legged Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are ones I don’t see every day!)

This past Saturday I went with friends on another pelagic trip off Cape Cod (see my post about the July trip, A Trip to the Edge of the Continental Shelf).  The venerable Brookline Bird Club sponsors a number of these trips each year and they are terrific ways for us land bound birders to see birds that can only be seen from way off shore.  Gone were the tiny Storm Petrels I saw in July to the southern parts of their range, but their absence was more than compensated for by the presence of  wintering sea ducks in staggering numbers.  We saw a flock of Common Eiders estimated at 60,000 strong and an even greater spectacle of Long-tailed Ducks, including a flock that flew by the boat for a full five minutes was estimated at 150,000!  We passed Monomoy Island where Gray Seals congregate along the shoreline (attracting dozens of Great White Sharks).  They give birth to their pups there in January.  Along the way we encountered a small flock of Goldfinches and three Robins out over the Atlantic.  I hope they found their way back to dry land.

There were several large pods of Gray Seals lounging on the beach.

There were several large pods of Gray Seals lounging on the beach on Monomoy Island.

We were also treated to the sight of a large flock of Northern Gannets feeding, a practice that involves plunging like arrows into the ocean from considerable heights, and to top off the experience, several whale sightings, Minke and Humpbacks.

If you are a “facebook friend” there are a couple of videos and an album posted by Patrick Comins that give far better pictures than my little point and shoot (which ran out of battery) that I’ve shared on my FB page.

 

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First Parsnips of the Season

Yum!!

Yum!!

We finally had a light frost a couple of days ago.  Frost sweetens winter vegetables like parsnips so I decided could at last harvest some and be confident that they would be tender and sweet.  I chose a simple preparation, just “slabbed” and sauteed in butter until the sugars caramelized and they were easily pierced with a fork.  After enduring months without parsnips, I didn’t want anything fancy, anything that might distract me from their delicate flavor.   I believe parsnips are vastly under-appreciated.  They are best straight from the garden of course, but lacking that, try some from the market.  You may find a new fall favorite.

I also hope none of you thought I was “down” with my Memories of Berlin post.  One son called and told me it seemed so, but I guess I was just being reflective.  Not to worry!  I’m happy!!

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Memories of the Berlin Wall

Peter and I, in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the burned out Reichstag building, under restoration. (1964)

I’m with Peter in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the burned out Reichstag building, under restoration. (1964)

On this, the 25th anniversary of its demise, I can’t help thinking back to my time in Berlin.  It was the 60’s and the Wall was under construction.  As you can see from the photo, the part in front of the Brandenburg Gate was still separated by concertinas of barbed wire.  My apartment was in Lichterfelde Ost, a district that bordered the East.  The border and a guard tower were less than a kilometer away and I often heard gunfire in the night when the guards shot at fleeing East Germans.  On the day in the photo, I had taken my son Peter down to the border where there was a lovely garden area.

Now the Wall is gone, Peter is gone, that marriage is gone, but today life begins anew as I plant my garlic, in preparation for another year.

 

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A Little Subtle Beauty from Last Week’s Bird Banding

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Brown Creepers are on the move and we banded five of them last week.  They are year round residents in Connecticut so it is likely the increased numbers are from Canada.  These tiny birds weigh in at around 8 grams and it is a joy to hold them and see them close up.  If you are lucky enough to catch sight of one in the wild, you’ll find them almost invisible as they creep their way up a tree trunk, examining each crevice for insects with their decurved bills.  They brace themselves on their stiff pointed tail feathers. I like this quote from the naturalist W.M. Tyler:   “The Brown Creeper, as he hitches along the bole of a tree, looks like a fragment of detached bark that is defying the law of gravitation by moving upward over the trunk, and as he flies off to another tree he resembles a little dry leaf blown about by the wind.”

I never notice this lovely rufous patch when I see them in the wild.

I never notice this lovely rufous rump patch when I see them in the wild.

This white stripe on the wings is visible in flight.

This white stripe on the wings is visible in flight.

Freedom!  Seconds away.

Freedom! Seconds away.

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