My vacation had kind of birding excitement curve built into it. The first two days at Jekyll Island and the Blue Ridge Parkway were nice with the highlight being the flocks of migrating Warblers towards the end of the day on the Parkway. The next two days the birding got a lot better and the culmination was a fantastic trip to Gloucester, MA on Sunday the 12th and a wonderful stop at Cape May, NJ the last day of the trip.
I woke up early and after eating breakfast in the hotel I realized it was still a little to early to rush over to Hawk Mountain. I went back to the room and as I looked out the back window I noticed a really nice wood lot adjacent to a couple of corn fields right behind the hotel so I decided to start my morning there and boy was I happy I did.
The first thing I noted was that it was very birdie. There were Sparrows flitting everywhere with Song Sparrows and White-throated being the most common but I also had a Lincoln’s Sparrow and a couple of House Sparrows as well.
As I was walking the edge of the corn field the sound of Robins, Blue Jays and Cardinals and Carolina Wrens chipping and singing continued the dawn chorus. A little further down I noticed a tree full of birds and when I was close enough to see what they were I was surprised to see a large group of Cedar Waxwings. This group consisted of what appeared to me to be a half-dozen adults and 30-40 young Waxwings.
I finally was able to tear myself away from the field and headed over to Hawk Mountain. I had been here once before so I was prepared for the long hike up to the North lookout and was happily surprised to see that there were quite a few birders around already. Let me start by saying Hawk Mountain is a really, really cool place but you definitely need to be a pretty hard-core Hawk watcher to appreciate it. Often many of the Hawk sightings are birds that are quite far away and often no more than specks in your binoculars. Occasionally a species will fly close enough to see details and once in a great while one will even come close enough for pictures. I managed only one picture from the North look out this year in the 3 hours I sat up there watching.
The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has a wonderful Gift and Nature Center with some feeders strategically placed for observation. They also have a wonderful natural plantings area with a nice water feature that is a bird magnet and this is where I picked up my first “lifer”of the trip. There were Tufted Titmice, Chickadees and this wonderful Golden-crowned Kinglet all taking their turns at the water.
I usually plan my trips very thoroughly but I didn’t do so well this time as I thought my beautiful wife was going and I wouldn’t have been able to bird quite as much. Unfortunately she had to stay home to care for her parents and this freed me up to explore a little more.
I left Hawk Mountain about 1pm and after consulting my maps decided to head to the coast. I found a Holiday Inn Express in Connecticut about 5 miles from Hammonassetts Beach State Park which is less than 2 miles from I-95 and decided to try that park out first thing in the morning. Holiday Inn Express is by far my favorite hotel to stay inn when I’m not sleeping in my SUV. I think their breakfast is far and away the best and I had 3 omelets, 2 pancakes a yogurt a bagel and 2 hot chocolates and orange juice the next morning before heading out to the park.
Looking at the internet last night I found that Hammonassetts is very highly rated as a birding destination so I was very excited to see what might be about. The day started out well as I arrived a half an hour before the gate was supposed to open and the guard, seeing that I was a birder, allowed me to enter.
This guy was my greeter as I got out of the car. They would be a continual presence throughout the day as they went about their business of finding clams at the beach and then flying to any parking lot or road and dropping their catch from 25-30 ft up. They seemed to have this down to a science as I rarely saw a Gull have to drop a clam twice. There were also Ring-billed, Laughing and Greater Black-backed Gulls around. I only saw a few shorebirds which was a little disappointing. I had Dunlin, Semi-palmated Plover and a Sanderling.
Hammonassetts provided me with my second “lifer” of the trip a group of American Black Ducks. I had seen this species before but didn’t have a picture of one and as you know if you’ve read much of my blog that that is kind of my standard for counting birds.
This is a really great park and must be the go to spot for all the local Connecticut birders. A few of the other specie s I saw there included House and Gold Finches, a couple of species of Sparrows, Sharp Shinnned Hawks and a Northern Harrier and the below pictures.
I stayed at the park to 1PM and then headed to my daughters in Boston where I would be for the next 4 days. I’ll continue on soon and I do thank you all so very much for following my adventure!!