Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Plum Island

Wild Turkey
On the way down to visit Kathie's family in Connecticut, we stopped at a birder hot spot known as Plum Island.  It is a place that is widely spoken about in birder circles.  And we weren't going to pass up this opportunity!

Plum Island is a research area designed to help protect birds and their nesting grounds. While we were there, I spotted several people involved in research and safeguarding nest sites. 

American Redstart-finally nailed a shot of this bird!  They are tricky!

The purpose of our trip?  There were a few life birds here, but overall, it was about exploration and just enjoying better observations on birds I had already seen.  We had killer views of the American Redstart, Mute Swans, Bobolinks, nesting Song Sparrows and so much more.  

Nesting Song Sparrow
Exploration takes time.  And while on a birding trek, time always runs short.  It's just impossible to do it all.  I have a clock inside my head that consistently tells me how much time we have for each stop.  And there were way too many!  We examined every patch of reeds, tree, beach area, and fence post for that Eastern flavored Willet, Common Yellowthroat or Eastern Kingbird. 

Eastern Kingbird
While the traffic was consistent, it wasn't overwhelming like the Mt. Washington Auto Road.  People rushed to the very last beach area.  I'm not sure why as the beach was not one of the better human ones I've seen, but that's what people do. 

Eastern Willet
Along the way, we stopped.  There had been so much activity in each area that it "required" us to investigate further. 

I loved being around natural water areas again.  It's something most people take for granted.  For Arizonans, it is quite the treat. 

Also nice?  Finding Least Terns hovering around their nesting sites on the beach!

Least Tern flying over nest site
And along the way, I fell in love with Plum Island.  As of late, my eyes have been focused on the nesting habits of birds.  While none of the birds here were life birds, it was quite fulfilling to witness these birds on their breeding grounds. 

This sign made me so happy. There not only was a person watching over the nesting areas, but they were roped off with signs!  There have been many issues over this past year from states dealing with various endangered birds.  Two Whooping Cranes were shot in Louisiana in February.  A whole colony of nesting Least Terns in Florida were wiped out because several dog owners let their pooches off leashes on Disappearing Island.  It's not a bad thing to take the dog out for a walk, but here's why they should NEVER be allowed off their leashes in many areas........ 

Tiny and magical.....a baby Piping Plover!
Several small cotton balls caught my attention while on the beach. Now imagine a dog here and the damage it could do.

Piping Plover
I stood absolutely still as the little ones came running towards me. The endangered Piping Plovers!  Never in my life had I expected to observe the young ones running around on the beach!  I first saw these magnificent plovers in Florida this year at Bunche Beach.  We watched the parents protect these little ones on this very active beach.  And I realized it is a pretty dangerous world when you have hungry gulls flying around you or little kids not paying attention while they do what kids do:)   A Great black-backed gull flew nearby and chased these little ones to their parents. 

They called to their parents.  And their parents called back. Then the tiny Piping Plover turned towards the parent and.....

They both hid under the wings of their parent. That touching moment really made me feel something. I'm not one to overtly say "Awww", but this little scene reminded me that I do have a heart:)  The parent sat out in the middle of the beach, exposed, with the little ones clinging underneath the wings. The other parent observed from the nesting area.  If they needed to escape, the parent would call from the location and lead them back into the safety zone.  It was pretty cool to witness it all. With this particular plover, mother and father work as a team. 

I see human kids running around on the beach nearby and I want to place a magical force field around these birds to protect them, but sadly, I do not own this technology....yet.  I just have to trust that the person watching over the nesting Least Terns and Piping Plovers will warn the parents and their kids to look where they are running.  I hesitantly walk away from the scene.  

As the evening begins to set, we must continue our way down to Connecticut.  We stop along the way to count more birds. 

And I am granted a life bird.  The Eastern Towhee. 

Eastern Towhee
I wish I had more time, but there is only the time given.  That's it!  I feel I've made the best of my life, but I find myself frustrated that I get hungry or need to use the bathroom at times.  If I forget to drink, I get a headache!  Food, bathroom, people, transportation really use up a lot of time.  There were a lot of interesting people around the area.  However if we stopped to chat, we'd use up our daylight hours.  There is only one safe time to speak with a birder.  Unless they are owling, it's usually right after sunset.  You will have their attention for a couple hours before they fall quickly asleep as the next day is always an early one:)   

Birding is as beautiful as the Mute Swan. I won't get into the invasive part:) Plum Island is a must visit spot for the nature enthusiast.   Until next time....

For more birds from around the world, check out Wild Bird Wednesday


  1. lovely post. I sure hope the baby plovers survive.

  2. Congrats on nailing the photo of the American Redstart. They ARE tricky!

    Many years ago I lived in Massachusetts near Plum Island. Sadly I was not a birder then. What I would give to visit Plum Island now!

  3. The plover chicks and their mama choked me up with joy! What a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Chris! I am so happy for you that you got to go to Plum Island. (Where is it? It isn't that island in the Chesapeake Bay, is it?) and see the water birds in their natural environment, especially observing this little family group! The mute swans are beautiful. And an Eastern Towhee is a bird I am VERY familiar with! We saw them a lot in Virginia, NC and also in AL where I am from. Russell and I started birding once when we were pretty young, keeping a notebook of the birds we sighted, but we didn't keep it up over the years. The Eastern Towhee is one I well remember from those early years. Glad you got to see one. The AZ flora & fauna is so different for us, but each place has its treasures!

  4. Hi Marie, it's in a state that I cannot pronounce or spell correctly without having to look at the name 5 million times....Massachusetts. And I don't feel cool enough to call it Mass like most of the locals do:) There was so much there and it's all so different from here. There have been some intense moments this past summer......and time!!! The amount of driving we did to get to all of these places both here and New England is crazy. You are correct in that every place has its treasures...but I sure do like coming back home to Arizona after all is said and done:)

  5. A beautiful place and interesting birds, like the plovers.

  6. the tiny plovers are adorable! glad you got the redstart! such a pretty thing!

  7. Hi Chris Plum Island certainly seem a great place to go bird watching. that was such a treat to see the baby Pipig Plover. it is so small and venerable to predation.

  8. Hello Chris!:) The American Redstart and the Eastern Towee are beauties, glad you were able to get a shot of both. Great pictures of the baby Piping Plover. The story is so touching, thanks for sharing these tender moments.:)

  9. What a wonderful post. Love that Piping Plover and the youngster the best though. So cute.

  10. Chris, how nice it is to remember this day. We did have a good time, didn't we!

  11. Chris, great post on your birding Plum Island.. The Piping Plover chick is adorable! Love the photos.. Happy Birding!

  12. Love to see that birds have at least SOME protection :) Those chicks are so cute, all legs and poofy feathers!

  13. Lovely variety of finds! That little ball of fur it just too cute!

  14. Wonderful post Chris - those Piping Plovers are just adorable. Well done on the American Redstart photo - another beautiful bird. Plum Island looks a really great place and so good to see some protective measures in place to protect nesting birds.

  15. a fabulous birding destination! Great shots of beautiful birdlife

  16. So glad some of these sites are being protected. Seems a beach education program might help also. The plover chicks are adorable and the shots with the parents wing protection are excellent.

  17. Awesome post! The baby plovers are adorable.

  18. What a great place for photographing birds. The little plover chicks are adorable. It's nice to know that some effort is made to keep them safe.

  19. congrats on the lifer. Great post.

  20. Wonderful share and congrats on getting a lifer as well as that little fluff of new life, so sweet!

  21. A really nice post you gave us there Chris. I could relate to most of those birds as I have seen them, except for Piping Plover and Willet. Also, your Least Tern is so like our Little Tern that I feel they are one and the same.

    The terns and our Ringed Plovers suffer from the same sorts of harassment here from too much disturbance and sometimes wilfully so. It's a problem the world over

  22. so many beautiful birds. And I adore the little one. :)

  23. I love hearing that a bird which is taken for granted here by birders (Eastern Towhee) is a lifebird for someone not from the area.I agree that sometimes after you've seen so many birds then it is time to slow down and take a closer look for a change.

  24. Great set of birds. I hate the ticking clock in my head when I'm birding! I try to ignore it!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  25. Wonderful post. Quite a change from Arizona! Those Piping Plovers were just great to see. Thanks!

  26. The Piping Plovers was definitely an "Aww" moment! Your descriptions really allow us to share the moment with you. It's not often that I laugh out loud (referring to the little cotton balls comment) and tear up in the same post! Thank you!


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