Friday, January 12, 2018

The Cyclone Bomb

An Eastern Gray Squirrel takes a sip from a warm bird bath to stay warm

At first, it was a snowflake. Then two. And three. Followed by a billion. The forecasted cyclone bomb finally hit. 

Every time Gus heard the words "Cyclone Bomb", he would moan. Why does everything have to be sensationalized?  It was just a good ol' blizzard!

Kathie searches for that elusive Barred Owl on a branch.....somewhere
It was a beautiful disaster.  I watched in fascination as the world came to a screeching halt. The silence of a blizzard is rather spiritual. 

A Blue Jay is one of many birds that use the heated bird bath for a sip
The steam rose from the heated bird bath and kept the wildlife from freezing. We sat with tea watching this historical event unravel before our eyes. 

Coda watches the birds in her first blizzard
I looked down and found Coda watching the winter wonderland outside.  That's when I knew I had fallen in love with her.  It's amazing how quickly I had become attached to this pooch. As she looked out the sliding door, I knew I would miss my little Coda burger.  But there was a bigger question brewing in the back of my mind. Would I ever get home? I was only a couple days away from flying out of the state.

Dark-eyed Junco
Thousands of passengers were stranded along the East Coast in airports as all of their flights were cancelled.  Could Maine get their roads cleaned up in time for my flight back home?  I wish I hadn't worried about such silly things, but I needed to get back in time for work.  So I just threw those thoughts away and enjoyed the views. 

The night before the storm, Mainers hit the grocery stores pretty heavily.  They purchased all of the bread, tomatoes and milk from the shelves.  What a weird combination!  We, on the other hand, purchased lobster meat and other seafood things. 

Gus prepares lobster rolls
A very excellent man by the name of Gus made us lobster rolls.  So we had wine and lobster rolls.  Ok.  What I'm about to admit is embarrassing. 

The magic that is a lobster roll
Gus remembered that I had eaten three of these Maine delights the last time I came to visit. No way!  He was right!  It took three of these lobstah rolls once AGAIN to fill me up.  I was such a pig!  I do not eat fish or seafood in most places, but in Maine, it all tastes SO good!  And like with my visits in Wisconsin, I left Maine 10 pounds heavier.  My doctor had a nice conversation with me.  Now why in the world would I schedule a doctor's visit right after the holidays?   

A Wild Turkey is like a dinosaur
The Wild Turkeys were wild.  They often chased the smaller birds away. It was Coda's job to keep the feeders open for all birds as she chased the turkeys back into the woods.  

Kathie purchased beef suet for the woodpeckers.  This is a really cheap option that you can purchase in the meat department for a couple bucks.  I know it looks gross but it helps the woodpeckers(and other birds) stay warm in these cold temps.  We had 3 species of woodpeckers visit this station, the Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were regulars.  

A male Downy Woodpecker feeds from the frozen beef suet to keep warm
That night I put on my pajamas.  I snuggled with Coda until she had to go to bed. Kathie assured me the roads would be clear the next day. How on earth was that possible?  I lost consciousness that night and woke up to plowed roads!  My gods, she was right!

A juvenile Bald Eagle swoops low to catch a gull
That next bipolar day, the sun blared down upon us as if there had never been a blizzard.  We went to my first landfill in Bath to count gulls.  It was amazing. 

There were thousands of gulls flying all around us.  As many as 10 Bald Eagles flew around the trash to grab a gull for dinner.  I was in awe.  I could've sat there for hours. However, the smell from the trash after awhile made me a little nauseous. In fact, if I lived there, I'd bring the lady at the visitor's drive thru window some lunch.  There she peered down upon us from that trailer window with a smile probably thinking to herself, These people must be crazy.  We visited this epic landfill twice.  There was trash EVERYWHERE! And birds!

But no Glaucous Gulls. I documented every quadrant with gulls in flight and on trash.  I spent several hours scanning photos at home searching and searching for the gull but no luck. Kathie will have to come visit me in Wisconsin during the winter to get her lifer gull. 

Bald Eagles are epic. Two years ago, I had a hard time getting a decent shot of one.  However, 2017 and the start of 2018 have been good to me in the Eagle department. 

As we left the landfill, a snowflake fell.  Then two. And three. Followed by a billion.  I thought it wasn't supposed to snow again.  Then it did. This is the way of Maine. 

During our final days, we'd freeze again as the temps went below zero.  The gray skies were weighing on me heavily and I began to miss Arizona. I love Maine but I could never live there. The magical thing about home is that it feels good to leave, but it feels even better to come back. 

We had such a great time birding in the challenging conditions. It was even better spending time with Kathie, Gus and their kids. 

the beautiful drake Common Eider
The ocean birding was pretty epic.  

We'd stop in wooded areas looking for berries and marvel at flocks of Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins feeding from the bushes. 

An Eastern Bluebird grabs a berry or two to survive the temps
Our last lifer for the trip was a Black-legged Kittiwake.  It's almost embarrassing to admit that it has taken me this long to find one!  We stood along the frigid rocks of the Acadia National Park Peninsula and watched a smaller looking "gull" fly with several Ring-billed Gulls. 

Black-legged Kittiwake

As the sun set, we were still able to get nice views of the bird in flight.  I couldn't feel my fingers. I thought I was pushing my shutter button but nothing was happening.  So I took off my gloves and forced my finger down on the button again.  The camera made painful, almost drawn out, clicks letting me know that the cold was getting to her. It was -12 and the wind was acting quite angry. 

Another snowflake fell. Then two. And three. Followed by a billion.  

This poor man was frozen solid. There was no saving him from the brutal freezing temps.
Thankfully, my flight left on time but I watched as those travelers stranded on Thursday night(night of the Cyclone Bomb) were still trying to re-book their flights home.  The trip seemed to all happen in a blink of an eye.  I guess that's what happens when you bird with a dear friend.  There are still several more adventures in store for Maine.  So Kathie, get ready to grow a pair of sea legs for several islands as we will explore alcids breeding on their home turf:) It's time to get back to sunny Arizona birding. Until next time.......


  1. Wonder filled post. Thanks for sharing your Maine birding experience. We visited Maine in October. Decided we could enjoy as a second home.

  2. A heated bird path! What a treat and a must actually...
    Each picture more beautiful than the last!

  3. Lol, I can grow sea legs, but it's a sea stomach and a strong bladder I need to brave the sea again!

    Once again, it is fun to see my world through your eyes. I am glad you enjoyed the dump so much! The eagles and gulls were amazing, though, and we did have fun. Thanks for coming back to Maine, but you have to come again when it is warmer. I still have so many places to show You! Plus...Coda misses you.

    P.S. I can't wait to visit Wisconsin! It will be a New State with New Counties to conquer!!!

  4. Brrrrrrr! Not sure I could cope with those conditions, Chris, even when the birds are that exciting. However, those lobster rolls might just tip the balance! Coda's such a pretty little thing - gorgeous - I can understand why you fell in love!

    Best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Such a cold and wonderful adventure.

  6. A wonderful series of posts Chris and the photos are just awesome. Birding looks so challenging and yet you saw some superb species. Must have been so nice to meet up with Kathie again.

  7. A beautiful disaster indeed! How wonderful! Loved your Dark Eyed Juncos (I sure enjoy having them here!) and your other photos. And those lobster rolls look amazing. Yes, seafood in Maine would be such a treat!!! Wonderful if COLD trip!

  8. That monster storm started right over our heads here in Florida. Having satellite and radar images certainly added to the drama! Great photos. The one with the cabin and lobster pots in the background gets me disoriented. Are they really that big or is this a trick?

    1. Oh yes! They really are that big. It was a lobster trap mountain. Some even were made into Christmas trees!


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