Skylar’s Great Adventure

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter…to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated by a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.  John Burroughs

The little Great Horned Owlet that fell out of the tree at Fresh Pond on April 12th is being celebrated  in Kim Nagy and my new children’s book Skylar’s Great Adventure.  This drama so captured the hearts of the community that it was featured on the front page of the Cambridge Chronicle (story by editor Amy Saltzman).
Kim and I thought that it would make a perfect book for kids.  So we went to our go-to guy, book designer Steve Gladstone, the integral part of our Dead In Good Company book project, to get the Skylar project rolling.
SKYLAR’S GREAT ADVENTURE  is now available on Amazon, and soon in Mass Audubon shops and local book stores.  If you have kids and grand kids and young nieces and nephews, please share with them this warm, exciting story of the brave little Fresh Pond owlet’s perilous journey.
Every year there are surprise out-of-range birds that appear around here.  On a couple of occasions the MacGillivray’s Warbler, a magnificent Western bird, has found itself in Boston, once in the Fenway area  and another time at the Arlington Reservoir.  And there was the Townsend’s Warbler, another Western bird, that made an appearance here in recent years.  Probably one of the most exciting out-of-range visitors was the Red-footed Falcon that brought hundreds of birders to Martha’s Vineyard in 2004.  So it happens.  Up to now I think the Red-footed Falcon has been the most famous unlikely visitor.  But it looks like a new champion has arrived.  A Great Black Hawk, a native of Mexico, Central America and South America,  as far as northern Argentina, has found a winter home in Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine.  This seems to be a record.  I’ve read no other reports of this bird having been anywhere near here – ever.  It was first spotted in Biddeford, Maine in August but has settled into Deering Oaks Park for the past couple of weeks.  At times there have been two hundred or more birders and photographers on hand to watch this bird – one photographer flew in from California to see this hawk, I was told.   I was there to enjoy this wonder on Monday, December 3rd.  There were maybe twenty-five birders and photographers present for the few hours I was there.  Which was fine.  It gets a bit difficult to maneuver with two or three hundred watchers following the same bird.  I expect the large contingent of birders and photographers converge on the park on weekends.  
This hawk is a beauty.  Striking colors, Somewhat Red-tailed Hawk-ish, 
Great Black Hawk, Portland, Maine.  Photos by John Harrison.
It’s been very active in the park, flying from tree to tree, giving photographers plenty of opportunities to catch flight shots.  This is a perfect way to close out 2018, which has been a terrific year in our pursuit anyway.  But undoubtedly this Great Black Hawk is the greatest hit of the year.  Here is a video look at this now-famous Maine visitor.  
The Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Group reception and awards ceremony at Hunt’s Photo in Melrose on Sunday, November 4th, was a tremendous success.  The framed photos in the exhibit were open for bids with all proceeds going to the Mass Audubon Blue Hills Trailside Museum.  Craig Gibson, the monitoring group organizer, addressed the audience with opening remarks  and introduced the day’s speakers, Norm Smith of the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Tom French of Mass Fisheries and Wildlife, Mark Wilson of Eyes On Owls, Shawn Carey of Migration Productions, Chris Guinto of Hunt’s Photo, Canon Rep Steve Golding
and photographer Jim Renault.
Craig Gibson (L) and Mark Wilson.                    Mark Wilson, Tom French and Jim Renault.
Mark Wilson, Norm Smith and Shawn Carey.   Craig Gibson and Ray Brown of the Talkin’  
                                                                               Birds radio show.  Photos by John Harrison.
The winners of the photo contest were announced as part of the reception.  There was a first, second and third place winner and three runners-up.  There was also a viewers-favorite award, announced by Canon Rep Steve Golding.  Nancy Brules Gower was winner in this category and
received Canon binoculars as her prize.
  (L) Nancy Brules Gower receives viewers-favorite award
  from Canon rep Steve Golding.  Photo by John Harrison.
The third place contest winner was Ken Proulx,  second place was Greg Ohanian
(L to R) Mark Wilson, Shawn Carey, Chris Guinto   (L to R) John Harrison, 2nd place winner  and 2nd place winner Ken Proulx.                            Greg Ohanian and photographer John                                                                                               Blout.
and first place Leigh Scott.
First place winner Leigh Scott with her winning photograph and with Tom French.  Photos by John Harrison.
Chris He (third from left), second runner-up.    John  Blout (third from left), first runner-up.
Photos by John Harrison.
Chris He (third from left), 2nd runner-up.          John Harrison (third from left) third runner up.  Photo by John Harrison.                              Photo by Kim Nagy.
Norm Smith with Peregrine Falcon.                       Ray Brown (L) and Norm Smith.           
Photos by John Harrison.
As we do every year on Columbus Day weekend, photographer Kim Nagy and I attend the Spring Pond Farm Wool Arts fair at the Alpaca farm in Greenfield, NH Ray and Deb Cilley, our gracious hosts, open their farm to this event every year, enabling people to get an up-close-and-personal look at the mild-mannered Alpacas and to shop at the vendors’ stalls at the event.
Kim Nagy and Ray Cilley of Spring Pond Farm in Greenfield, NH and the Alpacas of the farm.  Photos by John Harrison. 
Alpacas at Spring Pond Farm.  Photos by John Harrison.
Highland Cattle, Spring Pond Farm.  Photos by John Harrison.
And we even had an introduction to the world of drones by Cesar Queiroz.  He skillfully maneuvered a Go-Pro camera-attached drone over the farm.  With a small tablet he was able to precisely guide the camera over us and around the farm, taking sharp photos and video at his command.
Thanks to Cesar’s demonstration it is easier to understand why Amazon – and other companies – are thinking of some day using drones to deliver packages and for other uses.
Drone demonstration by Cesar Queiroz at Spring Pond Farm, Greenfield, NH.  Photos by John Harrison.  In the second photo, on the right, is Prof. John Amaral.  Thanks Deb and Ray Cilley for once again sharing your world with us…..
Of course, the season wasn’t without some of the wonderful usual suspects.  A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk has been hanging around Mount Auburn Cemetery and gave us some exciting moments.
And an adult Cooper’s Hawk was perched on a Weeping Beech early one morning.
Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photos by John Harrison.
Adult Cooper’s Hawk, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photos by John Harrison.
Barred Owl, Salisbury Beach State Park.  Photos by John Harrison.
Screech Owl, Fresh Pond.  Photos by John Harrison.   We had some nice looks at Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets at Salisbury, Mount Auburn and the Mystic Lakes.
Yellow-rumped Warbler with bee, Salisbury Beach State Park.  Photos by John Harrison.
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photos by John Harrison. And once, while watching these at Salisbury Beach, a Snowy Owl flew into the marsh, far away, but a Snowy is a Snowy and always a sight for sore eyes.
Snowy Owl, Salisbury State Beach.  Photos by John Harrison.
 There have been a few Snowy Owl close encounters at Salisbury, Hampton and Plum Island so we’re hoping that this is going to be another exciting Snowy Owl season.  Snow Buntings, an annual winter favorite at Plum island and Salisbury, were right on time.
Snow Buntings, Salisbury Beach State Park.  Photos by John Harrison.
We’ve had some nice looks at Screech Owls in Waltham and I even had a life-bird, Common Redpolls, at Plum Island along the Hellcat Trail boardwalk.
Screech Owls, Waltham.  Photos by John Harrison.
Common Redpolls, Hellcat Trail, Plum Island.  Photos by John Harrison.  The Blackpoll Warblers at the Mystic Lakes were still enjoying berries on the trees near Sandy Beach in late October and a few even well into November.
Blackpoll Warbler, Mystic Lakes.  Photos by John Harrison.
Juvenile Cedar Waxwings, Brookline.  Photos by Kim Nagy.  
It’s been a fantastic season with much to be thankful for…….Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.  We await the surprises of 2019!