July 31, 2014

A junky owl, cavorting robins, tea drinkers and hummers

An owl, created from junk by Kathryn Spence, one of many of her works on exhibit at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. The artist will lead a bird walk next Saturday.

An owl, created from junk by Kathryn Spence, one of many of her works on exhibit at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. The artist will lead a bird walk next Saturday.An owl, created from junk by Kathryn Spence, one of many of her works on exhibit at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. The artist will lead a bird walk next Saturday.Those who know the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield hardly think of it as a birdwatching center. However, the museum has a number of unusual birds on exhibit by an artist who will, in fact, lead a bird walk on Saturday, May 12, and then lead a tour of her birds and other creatures made from “junk.”

Kathryn Spence’s works are part of the Aldrich’s current exhibit, Found, featuring art made from “found” objects, which are, more often than not, junk.

Sunday’s New York Times featured a large, color photo of the remarkable owl that accompanies this column, created by Ms. Spence from chopped clothing, towels, toys, newspaper, wire, and thread. The Aldrich exhibit also includes a number of her small birds and even a Red Fox.

But Ms. Spence is more than an artist of birds. According to museum, she is an expert at identifying birds in the wild.

Next Saturday, she will lead a family-friendly morning of birding at Weir Farm National Historic Site. An avid birder, she will join Weir Farm rangers in helping participants to identify and learn about the varieties of birds found at the historic site on the Wilton-Ridgefield border.

Afterwards, everyone will head to the Aldrich where, inspired by the visit to Weir Farm, children will use found and discarded materials like those in Ms. Spence’s work to create their own art, with the help of museum staff. While that’s going on, Ms. Spence herself will lead adults on a tour of her work in which she tells how she is inspired by nature to create these incredibly accurate creatures with distinctive personalities.

The event takes place from 9 to noon. The cost is $30 for non-members, but free to those under 18.

The museum expects this to be a popular program and urges early reservations with Tracy Moore, tmoore@aldrichart.org, 203-438-4519, extension 21, during regular museum hours.

Eagle eyed

Regina Owens of Ridgefield reports, “My husband and I spotted a mature Bald Eagle four times this past week flying over Pierrepont Lake. He appears to be fishing. My husband thinks he also saw an immature Bald Eagle, but I have not been so lucky. To date, we have had no luck in getting a photo but we will keep trying.”

I suspect the number of eagle sightings in our area will be ever increasing. Last summer, there were many from Lake Mamanasco in Ridgefield, not far from Pierrepont, where hardly an eagle had been seen in many decades. They are growing in number in the post-DDT era, populating the nearby reservoirs of Westchester and Putnam Counties, N.Y., and the Saugatuck and Aspetuck Reservoirs in Fairfield County. They may be moving into smaller bodies of water like Mamanasco and Pierrepont.

Please keep us informed of your sightings.

Spring break

Our poetic and athletic friend, Frank McBrearity of New Canaan, reports, “Romance is in the air in New Canaan: robins sing ecstatically in the early morning hours; frenzied flying from tree to tree; frantic antics in the grass and under the bushes; not just robins but cardinals, too. Blue Jay pairs are seen dining together in shady nooks. Eight finches are snuggled cozily atop the birdfeeder. Above it all, a brazen grackle flexes his wings before a clearly disinterested female acquaintance. The entertainment is better than reality TV, and far more interesting than the morning news. It brings back distant memories of, well, ‘Spring Break.’”

Battling birds

“In our area robins stay year-round,” reports Deb Bender of Cos Cob. “In all the years we’ve lived here, I’ve never seen them act so aggressively. Talk about territorial! Fights, arguments — it’s constant.

“One unfortunate thing that I’m worried about … catbirds. I have yet to see even one. We’ve always had a good number of catbirds in the neighborhood. Any idea what happened to them?”

It may be a bit early for the Gray Catbird, a species that is supposedly doing well in our area. Plenty were around last season. But local environmental changes, such as too many trees, can change their territorial interests. They like fairly open areas with lots of shrubs, hedges, and “thickets,” not areas that are too woodsy. Years ago, we used to hear more of their cousins, the Northern Mockingbird, but nowadays, our neighborhood is just too “treed.”

Drink your tea

Jen Weibel of Redding had a pleasant surprise a week ago, “hearing the towhee’s ‘drink your tea’ and then spotting two males rustling about in dead leaves under shrubs.”

She added, “I love their sharp distinct markings and bright rusty sides. They were still here yesterday, but it would be wonderful to see a female too. We almost always have a pair here in the summer but last year I didn’t see a one.”

They’re back

Sally and I had the first hummingbird sightings of the season at our feeders Sunday. While some Connecticut residents have reported seeing them weeks earlier, they were right on schedule here.

Coming up

Spring Migration Bird Walks: Bring binoculars and/or a camera, no charge or RSVP required, Saturdays: May 5, 12, 19, 26, meet in Audubon Greenwich parking area at 613 Riversville Road, 203-869-5272 x230, greenwich.audubon.org

Spring migration bird walks, Tuesdays or Thursdays from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.: May 3, Bylane Farm, 35 Todd Road, Katonah; May 22, North County Trailway; Bedford Audubon, www.bedfordaudubon.org, 914- 232-1999.

Birding by Ear, indoor discussion of how and why birds vocalize, plus recordings, then outdoor walk to practice, Saturday, May 5, 9:30 to noon, $15 adults, kids free, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, 203-869-5272 x230, greenwich.audubon.org

Bird Gardening, with Julia Cencebaugh Kloth, Wednesday, May 9, 7 to 9 p.m., $31, Ridgefield Continuing Education, register at www.ridgefieldschools.org or 203-431-9995.

Canoe Trip on the Great Swamp, Patterson, N.Y. with Dr. Jim Utter, migrating birds, Saturday, May 12, 8 to noon, $39, Bedford Audubon, 914.519.7801 jpollock@bedfordaudubon.org, www.bedfordaudubon.org.

Copyright 2012 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] gmail.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.