Sunday, June 28, 2015

Maynerayge Days 4-6: A Belly Flop and A Bean Goose...Do You Have Razorbirr?...Just Browning Around.

This is Down By Law Dan.  He is intimately familiar with Down By Law's entire discography and the nuances of their sound. He also knows that iPads make for excellent eBird machines.

After our glory with the small gulls at Pine Point came to a close, it was time to move north. The next morning we went straight to Mr. Bagel, at the edge of Scarborough Marsh, for sharp-tailed sparrows. Knowing that Saltmarsh Sparrow would be a life bird for some, I again sacrificed for the greater good and left the camera in the car. We got both sharp-tailed sparrows and a putative hybrid or two, and rolled north. Sparrow crushes were obtained, but not by me of course. Also, sharp-tailed sparrowing is hard.

Our one and only stop we made after leaving Scarborough was at Higgins Beach, where Down By Law Dan hoped to lifer a Piping Plover, which was done with great ease.  Believe it or not, I used to be in the Piping Plover business, and I continue to relish this species more than most.

Common Terns were a common bird at Higgins Beach, which was a surprise to no one. You can call me a robin-stroker if you like, it would not be inaccurate in this case...I have no shame. 

Adults are so short-tailed compared to Forster's/Arctic/Roseate.

We eventually found ourselves nestled next to the Canadian border in Lubec, where we had rented a house ("THE EDGE") for four nights, which was perched on top of a cliff overlooking Johnson Bay. It was great.  The birding was hit-or-miss in the area, although our trip list grew frighteningly quickly. Some nice pickups in the area included Boreal Chickadee (Lower 48 bird), Black Guillemot (lifer!), Alder and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Palm Warbler, and American Woodcocks doing flight displays, which I've never seen before (it was awesome)...I haven't seen one for so long it was almost like a relifer.  We also just picked a random field and hoped they would be there, so that worked out pretty well...even better, earlier in the afternoon Flycatcher Jen made a "peent" sound in the car and Down By Law Dan and This Machine Nate both thought it was actually a woodcock for a considerable amount of time. How embarrassing. In fact, it was even more embarrassing than when I got lost trying to drive home for an absurd period of time just a couple hours later.

Down on the Bold Coast, we had a nice walk out to the ocean hoping for Black-backed Woodpecker (dip), Spruce Grouse (dip) and other boreal specialties. When we got to the coast there were Razorbills flying by close to shore, which I did not expect at all. This one was diving in the surf right below us, like a goddamned scoter. This was a great lifer, and I owe Flycatcher Jen an HJ.

Walking around the boreal forest near the coast, there is no missing the abundant porcupine sign on dead snags everywhere.  In some places there is so much of it that you would think that the forest was just littered with porcupines.  We found this fine specimen on the ground next to the trail, and it hitched up the nearest tree at an unimpressive speed (but fast for a porcupine, I thought).

The business end of a porcupine.  Porcupines are fantastically equipped for defense against predators, not so much with automobiles though.

A bog rimmed by boreal forest at West Quoddy Head.  Our first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the trip was near this edge.

The Spruce Grouse stress was beginning to build.  At some point before the trip, it somehow became my Number 1 target bird, although it took me a long time to realize it.  Why that is, I'm not entirely sure, but by the time we were on the ground in Maine I was ready to admit it...I needed Spruce Grouse.  My checklist didn't need it, I did.

Spruce Grouse is not a rare bird in Maine.  They are relatively widespread, but it's not like you can just show up at a lek and expect to see one, since they don't do that.  So we groused here, we groused there, but there was not a grouse anywhere.  Fresh-out-of-the-oven eBird reports of Spruce Grouse in the Lubec area were encouraging though.  We were hot on the grouse trail, no doubt about it, but it was not an easy bird to get.  This Machine Nate thought he saw one right next to the car and got everyone really stoked, but that lead only resulted in confusion and disillusionment...the birding gods were especially sadistic that day.

Eventually we decided to try out Boot Head Preserve, which featured both recent eBird records and fairly specific directions for grouse-finding in the Maine Birding Trail. I was in front of our shameful, socially-challenged group of uber-nerds on the bog boards, when suddenly it was happening.

I was being charged by a Spruce Grouse.

My initial reaction to being charged by a male Spruce Grouse was not to call out "Spruce Grouse!" to the others in my group, but instead at a moderate volume I said, "Grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse grouse" very rapidly, which I thought was an interesting (and unplanned) response to such a bird.  This Machine Nate was taking a leak at the time I gave my grouse alert, and promptly got caught in his zipper.  He may have become permanently mangled, but that is the kind of risk we take when we are out in grouse country.  But take this to heart...when he saw the brave grouse strutting around on the moss, the tears in his eyes were not those of fresh physical disfigurement, no.  They were tears of joy.

The vigilant grouse ran towards us on the forest floor, and promptly flew up on a low perch to take a good look at us.  The grouse was, to put it bluntly, ridiculous.  It completely lived up to its species' rep of not being afraid of people.  The courage and heart that this bird displayed that day will live on forever in our memories.  It would walk around in a certain patch on the ground, fly up to a certain perch, fly up to another certain perch, fly back to the ground, and repeat the process over and over and over again.  It defended the shit out of its territory.

The other ridiculous aspect of this bird was how facemelting it was.  The fine detail but vast variation in feather patterning it displayed was hard for me to process all at once, there was almost too much to look at. Truly, it is one of those birds that far exceeds your previous notions of them you may have had before seeing one. The red eye comb was also the single reddest thing I have ever seen on a bird, maybe period. I still can't quite fathom the degree of redness emanating from this bird's face.  It makes Scarlet Tanagers seem modest in comparison.

The Maine Birding Trail was almost spot on about their grouse advice for this site, the bird was exactly where they suggested looking, and the eBird assist was clutch as well.  With our collective grouse-lust finally sated, we headed back to town for horrible food (delicious bread though, which seems to be abundant in Maine...why?).  After 3 days of rough seas and boat cancellations, we would finally be going out to Machias Seal Island the next day, and preparations had to be made. Though more lifers were on deck, this was definitely the bird of the trip for me.

Bogs are not nutrient rich places, and lovely insect-consuming pitcher plants abound in these places. Oh, and in case you were concerned about This Machine, don't worry, he has come out unscarred and vigorous, and with Spruce Grouse on his life list.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The ABA's First Nazca Booby (That You Never Heard Of)

A long time ago, in a county far, far away, a girl sent a boy some pictures. She sent pictures of a booby.  

This booby was not in good shape, not the kind of booby that a girl or a boy would want to see, for it was a dead booby. It had been dead for some time, and not immediately identifiable. This boy told the girl to take the booby to an eggman, a man who surrounds himself with death. The eggman was eager to take the booby. Some weeks later, this boy and the eggman took a look at the dessicated booby and measured its wing chord. The wing chord told the boy and the eggman what they needed to know. The booby was not a Brown Booby, nor was it a Blue-footed Booby. It was something else.

Today, I hand the blog reins over to Officer Adam Searcy, a Bird Policeman. Respect this officer's authority. His word is bond. - #7

A Nazca Booby was present, very briefly, last month on Anacapa Island in Ventura County, CA. A lucky few (very few) were able to see it, while many others dipped in disgrace. Photo courtesy of Joel Barrett.

As most of you know, the collective blood pressure of many Common Birders was recently elevated due to the occurrence of an adult Nazca Booby—a substantial vagrant—on the east end of Anacapa Island in Ventura County, CA.  Cars were driven, wives were abandoned, and sixth-graders were very likely punched in their faces, all so that crazed humans could get on a boat and go look for This Thing.  Even I (yes, I occasionally watch birds) co-led a failed expedition aboard the able S/V Moomba, accompanied by The Stahlest Man on Earth, Sultry Salmon, and “The Scot”, et al., only to be stymied by wind-blown peanut shells, forgotten champagne, and goddamned blue whales.  So, much to the disappointment of The Entire Birding Community, the Nazca Booby appears to have decided to do what boobies do best—be rude and leave (ignore all of those reports from The Farallones, the isle of misfit Sulids—those boobies [s.l.] done went and broke down [and somehow attracted a Kelp Gull/Linnet/Galflathosaur]). For now, all of Our Lists (nearly: shove-off, J. Barrett) remain free of this spectral Suliform.

So what do you know about Nazca Boobies?  Like most humans, probably quite a little. What you think you know about them might include details about their status in California. Ok then, how many records does California have?  Well, as usual, you’re probably wrong. Sit down, Locustella naevia, and let me tell you a tale…

Last month’s Nazca was neither the first, nor the second, but The Third to be recorded in the state. Even more amazingly, it was the second to be recorded in Ventura County. That’s right—not a first state record and not even a first county record. The first county record and the first state record occurred way back in the dark days of 2013’s summer when Alexis “I Buy Expensive Star Wars Paraphernalia” Frangis happened upon it at McGrath State Beach, storied vagrant trap, treated sewage pond, and well-known Abandoned Porn Repository. A booby carcass (dead) was encountered and brought to the attention of #7 and Cadet Searcy. The carcass was rapidly transferred to the custody of The Authorities and deposited at a secure undisclosed location. Plumage showed that this bird was a Masked/Nazca type—but it was a young one, so bill color was of no help and measurements were equivocal. So some Really Smart People got together and they did some science.  After the science was done, the verdict came in: NAZCA BOOBY.  Much α-enolasing, CytB-ing, and lots of GATCCCATTGGAAATT-ing later, we had a bona-fide (dead, unchaseable, irrelevant to Many Birders, but damned interesting nonetheless) Nazca Booby, right here, jerked, infested with dermestids, but beautiful in its own dead and significant way.  

The most unchaseable Nazca Booby, collected in July 2013 at McGrath State Beach.  Photo courtesy of Alexis Frangis.

There you have it, folks. The FIRST ABA RECORD of Nazca Booby came ashore, dead or alive, (or was planted by our ever-assisting-enemies, The Ships) at McGrath State Beach, here in humble Ventura County, California. Here’s hoping that another one shows up alive and finally lets us all stare at it. Until then, we shall all remain miserable as we are taunted by the gaping Nazca Booby-shaped holes in our state lists.

Some history: A Nazca Booby was recorded in San Diego County some years ago, but was not added to the state's list due to a brief but well-documented bout of ship assistance.  In 2013 Alexis Frangis recovered this bird on the beach, which has been accepted by the California Bird Police. In 2014 a single observer saw and photographed a Nazca Booby offshore in Los Angeles County (accepted by the California Bird Police), and the Anacapa Island bird showed up last month. All records are from May-July. Thanks to Alexis Frangis for finding the bird and delivering it to the right people.  Thanks to Officer Searcy (who has given BB&B some insightful interviews in the past, see here and here) and the California Bird Police for their words, and for their science.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Maynerayge Day 3.5: Slipping The Clutch

It was late in the afternoon, and Nate and I decided to head out to the beach at Pine Point to try our luck with the continuing Little Gull and for more looks at Roseate Terns.  It was sadly dark when we got out to the jetty...a big cloud bank was blotting out the sun and Maine was cold again, and any photos to be taken were to come out dark and grainy.  But there they were...the Bonaparte's Gulls, frolicking in the surf, just where they were supposed to be.  Where was the Little Gull?  Scanning the flock repeatedly brought no such fact it only brought Roseate Terns, which Nate always informed me were flying very close by behind me whenever I got too distracted by the gulls.  It was agonizing.

Since it did not seem to be around, the thought occurred to me that I should do something other than focus on finding the Little Gull that I thought I had previously found...I should really find my own Little Gull. So I stopped looking for the tiny black-headed wonder and kept scanning the Bonaparte's flock. It wasn't long before a bird lifted off the beach with a really bizarre wing pattern...could it be? My redemption? My destiny? It landed out next to the end of the jetty, so I Nate and I troglodyted out to where another group of Bony's was feeding. Within a few minutes...we had our reward. Another Little Gull!  I love it when a Vague Runt plan comes together.

Due to the awful light conditions, essentially none of the birds around were crushable, but we had good looks at this bird as it foraged and flew around the tip of the jetty. This being only the third Little Gull that I've ever seen, I wasn't going to complain.

This is a young bird in first-summer plumage, overall pretty shabby-looking but it really stood out both on the water and in flight. With such a bold wing pattern, it was impossible to miss when it was on the wing.

While we were out on the jetty, we noticed another birder had shown up back on the beach, and he was clearly on the hunt for the other Little Gull. After our young bird disappeared, we saw him running down the beach toward another Bonaparte's flock, clearly in hot pursuit of the adult Little Gull that he had just relocated. Nate and I decided to parasitize him, and he led us right to the bird.

There it was, our other little buddy.  We had seen it three days in a row now...Vague Runts are good birds to know, especially in this case where it is especially runty.  It gave good looks in the fading light, and eventually flew out to the river mouth to feed.

I thought the day was at an end.  I was mentally packing up and getting ready to go, and did the prerequisite last scan of the flock of birds in front of me...and then all time stopped. My heart paused between beats.  Gulls were frozen in mid-air.  What the fuck is that bird standing there?  Holy shit, it's a Black-headed Gull!!!!

For the last several minutes, this Black-headed Gull had been standing right in front of us, just a few feet away from the Little Gull, without anyone noticing! Indeed, in one of the last Litttle Gull pics I took that day, I can see the Black-headed standing in the corner of the frame. Compared to the Bonaparte's, it was huge, and after spending so much time looking at Little and Bonaparte's Gulls the last few days, it was instantly recognizable. Like the first Little Gull of the day, it was a first-summer bird, a life plumage for me. Check out the leg color (and girth!) compared to the Bonaparte's standing behind it.

Nate and I couldn't believe our luck. We summoned the other birder we had previously been parasitizing, Josh Fecteau, and were able to pay him back handsomely with this ace Vague Runt. The bird moved off the beach and foraged in the little breaking waves, giving great comparisons to Bonaparte's Gulls. Check out the different wing patterns between the Vague Runt and a Bonaparte's of the same age. Remarkably, Dipper Dan and Flycatcher Jen had stayed back at the vacay house the entire time, seeing none of these birds. Even sadder/funnier, Nate and I had taken the rental car, so if they wanted to see this bird they would have to hoof it all the way from the house before it was too dark to see. Is that fucked or what?

Dipper Dan and Flycatcher Jen eventually showed up in time, while the Black-headed continued to be hella cooperative. All was well in the world. Note the extensive black in the inner primaries.

The bird was clearly larger than a Bonaparte's with a longer bill (reddish in good light) and traces of a hood that came up much higher on the head than a Bonaparte's, and way way higher than on a Little Gull.  A field mark that I did not remember on basic-plumage birds (I've only seen one of those, cut me some slack) was how white the bird was on the hindneck compared to a Boney.  That was one of the first things I noticed about the bird, back when it was standing on the beach.

The Black-headed also was pretty dark on the underwings.  As with Little Gull, I've only seen Black-headed a handful of times before, so this was a victorious find.  According eBird, this is only the second recorded in Maine this year, and the only one other folks were able to chase successfully.

As I mentioned earlier, I somehow managed to not photograph every single Roseate Tern that flew by closely, and the shots I did get made me wince when I looked at them.  At least you can actually see the roseate hue and strikingly pale upperwing in this photo.  This was one of my top target birds of the trip (I've now seen every expected tern species in North America and the Hawaiian Islands except Blue-gray Noddy...don't know how I'll bump into one of those things), and it was nice to see a number of them flying around off the Pine Point jetty. Looking forward to the next time I get to meet this tern.

Common Terns really are common in Maine, no shocker there.  It's been a long time since I've seen so many. Being a decidedly uncommon bird in California, it was great to spend some more time with this species, all of which were in alternate plumage.  Solid.

The typical pot-bellied, short-tailed look of a Common Tern.

It wasn't so long ago (though it seems like it now) that I was in the Least Tern business, down in the whale's vagina. Since we are no longer business partners I am no longer afforded the chance to see them every day of the week, so I was pleased to see so many Least Terns around Scarborough Marsh and Pine Point. It's crazy to think that some of the birds I've seen on Midway Atoll I've also now seen in Maine...along with Least Tern, Ruddy Turnstone and Green-winged Teal are the others. Least Terns even breed on Midway...the mind reels.

Least Terns are gray in the uppertail and rump, whereas Little Terns are white. Remember that, and you might be a birding hero someday.

Just offshore from the jetty and the mouth of the Scarborough River, a large flock of terns and Bonaparte's Gulls were feeding the entire evening.  No doubt the abundance of food right next to the beach was behind the number of quality birds present.  Considering the warbler show earlier in the morning, this was probably my best day of birding for the entire year. Birding in Maine is good birding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Maynerayge Day 3: This Is Why I'm Not A Good Person

On day 3, we started the morning down at Biddeford Pool.  There seemed to be lots of warblers around, although most of them seemed to be Yellow Warblers at first.  The birding at the pool itself wasn't exactly thrilling, but the number of migrants flying around above us was a sign that we could not, would not, ignore.  Checking the beach quickly was rewarding, because Nate observed a middle-aged couple have a vicious fight, with the husband getting completely ditched and left on the beach smoking a cigar of sadness.  Hoping for good birding, I once again left my camera in the car, which worked like a charm.  Less than an hour later we were in a huge swarm of migrants that refused to go away.  It seemed like that this one small grove of trees were sucking in migrants from everywhere....Blackpolls, a Bay-breasted, Canadas, Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided, etc., even an out-of-place Field Sparrow. We were glued to that spot for most of the morning; it was one of the better mixed flocks I've seen north of Mexico.  Good thing I didn't bring my camera!

After the turnover in the rampaging flock seemed to die down a little bit, we went out to East Point, where there were a couple Bicknell's/Gray-cheeked Thrushes mixed in with the Swainson's Thrushes, and I got to hear a Gray-cheeked Thrush sing for the very first time.  Tree Swallows were nesting in bird houses built like lighthouses, which I'm sure just tickles some people.

Near the rocky shore we found the first Long-tailed Duck and Merlin of the trip, along with a small creche of Common Eider kids, which was pretty cute.  Common Eiders are thick in Maine, even in summer, which is a very good thing.  While the west coast certainly has a much better and more interesting rockpiper community, the east coast has a raging seaduck scene.

Down by South Point, we lay waste to a flock of Common Eiders that only seemed to give the mildest of fucks about our presence.  I've seen a lot of Common Eiders in Massachusetts and the Aleutian Islands (and one in California, thank you very much), but never had I seen them at such a fantastically crushable distance.

To borrow one of Nate's favorite adjectives, these birds are splendid.  Looking at them from a modest distance is an extremely fulfilling experience, up close it's on a whole new level.

The full spectrum of Common Eider plumages.

This doesn't even make sense.  Such novel bill structure.

After Biddeford Pool, we went to Kennebunk Plains for Upland Sandpipers and Bobolinks.  It was hella windy and the birding left something to be desired...while we went on to find Bobolinks at a number of other places, we never ran into any Upland Sandpipers.  There are no Upland Sandpipers in Maine.

While there may not be Upland Sandpipers, there are very resourceful Prairie Warblers.  This one was attacking a pile of used toilet paper to use as nesting material. I didn't see it but Flycatcher Jen observed copious amounts of human feces in association with the nest material.  Talk about going to browntown.

This is the most humorous thing I've ever seen a warbler do.

The male was nearby, doing things other than wallowing whimsically in human waste.

Vesper Sparrow was one of the commoner birds out on the plains; Eastern Meadowlark and Grasshopper Sparrow were good trip birds as well.

After our failure at the Plains, we used eBird to successfully not find Bobolinks at another spot. While standing around stupidly behind a general store, there were at least a handful of birds around. There was a small roadside pond where swallows and Chimney Swifts were coming to drink, so I tried my hand at getting some swift photos.  It wasn't a total failure.

To be honest, I don't really have good photos of any swift species, this is probably the closest thing.

Giving in to the wind and the fail, we lurked back to our vacay house back on Pine Point.  I decided against a walk on the beach in favor of a shower, but headed out again upon hearing of more Roseate Terns and the return of the Little Gull's Bonaparte's Gull flock on the beach as the tide began to fall. What did Maynerayge Day 3.5 hold?  Birds more interesting than Yellow Warblers and Tree Swallows, that is for damn sure.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Maynerayge, Days 1-2: Maine is Hot, Maine is Cold, Iced Coffee For All

And then it happened...I was in Maine.  On a birding trip.  To say that I needed this would be the most severe understatement.  The spring birding I've been able to do here at home has mostly sucked, I needed a break from Oakland, and I was ready for the chance to get some sweet sweet life birds. And so four nerds assembled: one Seagull Steve, one Flycatcher Jen, one This Machine Nate (Nate is open to another nickname by the way, if you have any suggestions), and one Dipper Dan.  None of us had birded Maine before, and the potential for lifers for all of was alarmingly high.

The first day we arrived, Dipper Dan and I took a cab from Portland down to Pine Point, which sits at the mouth of the Scarborough River and the massive Scarborough Marsh to meet up with Nate.  We had rented a house there for three nights, since as a group it was affordable and we were within walking distance of high quality birding.  A couple of Nate's friends who were in town had went out to the beach to walk their dog, and so we three nerds decided to follow.  "I'm going to leave my camera here so we can see something good", I said, and Nate and Dan decided to do the same.  It turned out to be a very wise move.

It took me 15 years of birding before I ever saw a White-rumped, of course, I don't go through so much pain to find them so we are able to hang out with some regularity.  Because I suffered for so many years in White-rumped Sandpiperless agony, they now hold a special place in my heart and I will always spend some extra time with them.  Photographed at Pine Point, ME.

The orange base to the bill is an extremely helpful field mark for birds in alternate plumage, something I don't think field guides emphasize enough.  Yet another bird who looks remarkably good while staying within the notorious confines of The Economy of Style.

Although the beach had a number of people walking around, it wasn't long before we started picking up on some birds.  A large raft of sea ducks feeding offshore turned out to be a mixed flock of White-winged and Black Scoters, the latter of which was a life bird for Nate, the first of many that our group would be getting.  We walked down to a large group of Bonaparte's Gulls feeding in the surf, and I mentioned the distant possibility of a Little Gull being mixed in with them.  I have seen one Little Gull ever, and I think that was over ten years ago...seeing another one would be a relifer of sorts, a great birding victory. Despite the fact that I was looking specifically for this bird, I could not believe it when I saw a bird with jet black underwings alight on the water...there it was!  A Little Gull in high breeding plumage...what the fuck?!  Good thing I didn't bring the camera...ugh.

The bird was both incredibly good-looking and incredibly cooperative, constantly showing off its unique wing pattern and eventually coming up to the beach to preen right in front of us.  At such close range, the bird really did stand out from the surrounding Bonaparte's Gulls...the bill was even a deep, dark reddish color, something I did not expect to see on this bird.  The light was fantastic.  We felt bad for Flycatcher Jen, who was not there and getting gripped off horribly because United Airlines decided to delay her flight over and over again.  Had we brought our cameras, we could have absolutely slayed it...these photos were taken the following morning from some distance, but they will have to suffice.

I later found out that the bird had actually been discovered by other birders earlier in the day, so although it was an awesome self-found rarity it wasn't actually a found rarity, oh well.  This bird was easily one of the highlights of the trip, and a tremendous way to kick off our spring tour.  We celebrated with Nate's friends in Portland that night with tapas, cocktails, and the first of the million beers that would be consumed during the trip.

On Day 2 we kicked off our birding back out at Pine Point, where to everyone's relief Flycatcher Jen lifered the Little Gull and several of us lifered Purple Sandpiper and Roseate Tern.  The Purples looked more distinct from Rock Sandpipers than I thought they would, and I was surprised by how much the Roseate stood out from the surrounding is a tern that is far more elegant than an Elegant Tern and a tern far less roseate than an Elegant Tern, if you ask me.

One of the most visible birds in Scarborough Marsh were Glossy Ibis, a bird I haven't seen in a few years.  We had one flock foraging relatively close while searching for sharp-tailed sparrows, which was a good thing considering how uncooperative the sparrows were that morning.

The last time I thought I saw a Glossy Ibis, the bird turned out to be a doubt about the genetics of these birds though.  A blue face is a good face.

Those who live in the east are probably wincing looking at this mediocre Common Grackle photo. Well, I don't get to see many Common Grackles!  As you can probably guess, these birds are widespread and common in much of Maine.  Photographed at Pine Point, ME.

After birding Pine Point and Scarborough Marsh, we spent the afternoon looking for migrant passerines.  One of our stops was Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, which had a few nice birds including some Wood Thrushes.  Wood Thrushes are one of my favorite birds...some say that Hermit Thrush is the best singer among the Catharus, but hearing a Wood Thrush always strikes a special chord with me.  A couple were foraging out on a lawn and allowed better looks than usual. 

Yeah, I know, pretty far from a crush but I'm enthusiastic about these birds, what can I say? We didn't run into any big migrant flocks here or at Capisic Pond, but there was plenty to keep us entertained.  Flycatcher Jen was lifering birds at a remarkable pace.  Too bad we never got to bird these sites during the morning, but we had our hands full wallowing in other good birds.

Pink Lady's-slipper is wonderful plant to gaze upon, and has a winning name as well.

If this were another blog, this is where I would make some grimace-inducing euphemism about squirrels liking each other. That is not science. What is science? Boning. Boning is science. These squirrels are boning. They were hella into it too, constantly flipping over and changing positions. The best part of it was that that there was another squirrel about 3 feet away watching everything very intently.  Maybe it was a cuckold?  You may doubt the complexity of squirrel kink, but who are you to doubt an animal that is known to masturbate with great purpose?