Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bird Friends

Birds Friends
Thursday, May 31, 2012

5:36 AM and just in with Karl the Wonder Dog. He acted like he needed some help from that guy on the new Dog in the City show that started last night on television. Karl refused every command and made it clear that there were too many nice smells this morning. There was 1.5" of rain in the bucket by the back door and he was trying to tell me that since the rain has stopped, every manner of wild animal is out and about and he wanted to check out the neighborhood. I suspect within about ten minutes he'll have awoken Gail and she'll be out letting him meander where he wishes as I prepare to head to the flower farm.

Many gardeners enjoy bird watching and I have always tried to pay attention to birds in and around our gardens and woodlands. With the kind of weather we have received in recent years, birds arrive that sometimes don't seem to fit with our local birds. I remember one year when a a very strong storm from the south ran through Vermont and the day after it finished we had an Indigo Bunting, a Scarlet Tanager and a Rose Breasted Grosbeak in the garden in the same tree at the same time. Colorful but uncommon for  sure. The following day we had a Towhee under the sugar maple scratching leaves. This past week our local library has sponsored a bird walk and local naturalist Brian Pfeiffer continues to offer some specialized tours too. These events are always fun to attend and help understand birds better.

Time flies like birds and almost two weeks ago I was packing for a trip to Maine. One of my firsts stops en route to Acadia was the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory outside of Bucksport. The observatory rises 437 feet above the Penobscot River making it the tallest bridge observatory in America. I had been by a couple times before but one time it was foggy and another time I was a couple hours early and it was not yet opened. This time I planned for the visit.

As I exited the car and headed down to the elevator, I heard a loud, shrill, threatening bird voice coming up behind me from the mountain behind. As I looked up, a peregrine falcon was cruising like a guided missile at +100 mph towards a nesting box on the old bridge. that runs parallel to the new one. The bird was telling everyone that it was breakfast time for the kids in the box and it landed on a dime with a skill that is too hard to describe. When I got to the observatory entrance I asked the ranger for info and he told me the nesting box had been placed on the old bridge 25 years ago but it wasn't until two years ago that the peregrines took up nesting there. I know I'll keep an eye on it every spring as I pass through as it's really something to see. My little camera doesn't do the bird justice but here's my best effort. The local cliffs over by Marshfield Pond off the Lanesboro Road here in town was one of the original peregrine restocking points in 1979 and every week we see peregrines in this area. Some days in winter they are around the bird feeders and....well....that is a different nature story.

If you visit Maine and are in the Bucksport/Prospect area, stop at the observatory and see if there is any action. The entrance fee includes entrance to Ft Knox too. Here's a Maine tourism video to give a quick overview. 

If you have any good pictures of peregrines, please send them along. My trip to Maine was too quick--almost peregrine-like, but I loved every minute of it as I always do. For now, I have to get heading to the flower farm. The sun is bright and flowers await. Lilacs are blooming and their fragrance is a lure to tiger swallowtail butterflies.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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