Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maryland, my Maryland

This past weekend started last Wednesday evening for me. I flew to Baltimore for a long weekend visiting friends and, with such fine weather, also did a bit of birding.

My first stop was on Thursday morning at Herring Run, a Baltimore City park. Herring Run is very dear to me because I have spent so much time here walking my dog, Ky, and birding - May counts, atlassing and just birding for fun. When Ky was alive I never went without her. Many also know that she was my best birding companion.

This is the path from the parking lot where, if I used my imagination, I could imagine Ky running along ahead of me again. As it happens, I ran into one of the frequent dog walkers on this day with her three dogs. She remembered me and we stopped to talk a bit. She asked about Ky.

Northern Mockingbird ...

... is certainly not a bird that we see routinely in Michigan. It's kind of special when we do find one or two, especially for a CBC. In Baltimore, however, this bird is found in every park and every suitable backyard thoughout the city. Of course, all this mockingbird is interested in are the plump, red berries.

Poor photo, unfortunately, of a Carolina Wren - (for a good photo, see Jerry Jourdan's blog entry Secondary call notes, 11-07-09.)

Carolina Wren is certainly more common than Northern Mockingbird in Michigan. Again, however, their teakettle, teakettle, teakettle song and alternate songs ring out from every suitable habitat in Baltimore.

The whole time I lived in Baltimore and walked or birded at Herring Run, this garage storage building was graffeti-covered white and green. They've since spruced it up a bit.

Gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), as opposed to Fox Squirrels, are the park and backyard squirrels in Baltimore. Their antics are the same, but they are a little smaller and, I think, a little cuter than our Fox Squirrels.

Another building (housing always locked bathrooms) near the parking lot that was always run down and covered with graffeti has received a spruce-up with a charming mural of outdoor life and activity. Of course, the state bird and namesake of the local baseball team must be represented.

This is as close as I came to finding a Baltimore Oriole, but they can be found this time of year especially on the eastern shore and in southern Maryland.

Next stop: Ocean City. Departed Friday night and spent all day Saturday there leaving after dinner. Whirlwind trip, but well worth it. Typically the birding in November can be terrific in Ocean City and surrounding areas in Worcester County.

A small, but intact, horseshoe crab shell found on the beach.

I found myself feeling sorry for this fresh Monarch butterfly fighting a stiff wind as it migrated south. Here it is resting on a picket fence post that surrounded a boardwalk property. I observed nothing that it could nectar on. Later I saw a fresh Red Admiral flying too high overhead to photograph. (Back in Baltimore City on Sunday morning I also saw a fresh Question Mark and one of the blues.

The famous boardwalk of Ocean City.

In some instances I would love to be a time traveler. Ocean City is completely built up with large, hyper-modern, high-rise hotels and condos. But intermingled with these frankly not very attractive buildings are completely charming older buildings - hotels, apartments, boarding houses, etc. that remain from the 30's, 40's and 50's when Ocean City must have been spectacular. It still is spectacular on a warm, sunny day in the off season when there are very few people. This was the case for my visit on Saturday. I would recommend Ocean City to any visitor in the off season.

Nest stop!

Wild ponies of Assateague
Finally on to Assateague Island where the wild ponies are found just about anywhere. Here they are grazing on a grassy area of one of the parking lots. They are completely wild, but as you can see in the above photo, these ponies were oblivious to people. There are signs warning not to pet, feed or otherwise go near the wild ponies. But, in the summertime there are just so many people here that they must become inured to humans.

I think that if I had not stepped aside, this pony would have just brushed me aside on her way to join the grazers above.

Ring-billed Gull
I've been corrected on the identification of the above bird by Matt Hysell (see Birding Berrien and Beyond - to the right in my blog list.) Originally I wrote: another bird we can see in Michigan, but not often and not this time of year. This winter plumaged Laughing Gull flew over the parking lot as I was photographing the horses. If it was a winter plumage Laughing Gull, the trailing edge of the underside of the wing would have been darker and would have blended into darker primary tips. On my bird, the dark tips are not blended, and the white spot on the primary tips would not be seen on a Laughing Gull. Matt suggests that this bird is either a Ring-bill or Herring. Based on its size flying overhead, Ring-billed Gull is most likely. In any event, both are birds we see commonly in Michigan. How did I get this identification so wrong? Certainly inattention to detail and wishful thinking are involved - both common pitfalls in birding. Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to offer this correction.

Finally, a bird that is a real rarity in Michigan but are easily seen in Maryland, especially on the eastern shore and in southern Maryland.

Black Vulture - of the two, my favorite.
November Green Darner
Back in Baltimore on Sunday morning, sunny and 70 degrees, and after failing to get photos of the Question Mark butterfly or the blue sp. butterfly, this big Green Darner dragonfly came flying lazily along and landed in my friends' holly tree. He blends in so well, but he's there resting in the berries.

Great weekend - as always, wish it was longer.


ocbirdguy said...

I would love to return to that area. I birded there in Dec 05. They loved having birders at the hotel since business is slow in the winter.
I was able to watch thousands of "orange" Snow Geese land in Sinapuxent Bay with the sunset. One of my most treasured birding moments.
Assateague Is. was a true surprise with the wild horses.
I was even pictured in the local paper as one of the Christmas Bird counters. Pretty cool.
Other noteable birds on my trip...
Am. Oystercatcher
RT Loon
Great blog site
Take Care

Cathy Carroll said...

Thanks for your comments. I completely agree. Because I didn't have a photo, I didn't mention the gannets hunting out on the ocean. This trip I was with non-birding friends, so any birding I did was snuck in. We did go to the Bayside campground on Sinapuxent Bay to spend a couple of moments looking for little birds. This is where I photographed the black vulture. Thanks for reading.