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Friday, March 26, 2010

Following the Flight of an Osprey

If you need proof that birds are starting to fly north right now, check out the flight of an osprey that’s being tracked on the website Westport Osprey. A 13- year-old named Hudson left Venezuela on March 9th and through the use of satellite technology, we see him making his way to his summer nesting ground on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of yesterday, he had reached the Hudson River, less than 150 miles from his final destination. Westport Osprey was also tracking another osprey named Ozzie, who spends his winter in Cuba. He must be enjoying the Cuban music scene, because he hasn’t left yet.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/26/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Best of Connecticut Birding

Migrating shorebirds are prevalent along the Connecticut shoreline in late spring and fall. Green backed herons, yellow warblers, snowy egrets, swallows, ospreys, doves, and Canadian geese are just some of the birds sighted at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point. Of the 399 species known in Connecticut, over 300 have been recorded at this 840-acre nature preserve. There’s also nesting piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers (rare in Connecticut), and both types of night herons. Ask about their naturalist-guided canoe trips to the Charles E. Wheeler State Wildlife Management Area, one of the few remaining wilderness areas on the Connecticut coast.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Best of Cape Cod Birding

While the interior of Cape Cod is rich with cardinals, mockingbirds, goldfinches and woodpeckers, it’s the coastal variety that entice many a visitor here.  Shorebirds by the thousands, returning from their Arctic breeding grounds, stop along the Cape coast for much needed respite and food as they fatten up for their journey south. One of their favorite overnights is Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The Massachusetts Audubon Society, who own and maintain the property, have claimed to have seen over 250 different species like oystercatchers, stilts, avocets, plovers, turnstones, and sandpipers.

The Goose Pond Trail is a leisurely ramble though marsh, forest, ponds, and fields. At low tide, continue on the Try Island Trail to a boardwalk that leads to Cape Cod Bay.  Green herons and large goose-like brants are prevalent in the surrounding salty marsh.  Retrace your steps back to the Goose Pond Trail to reach Goose Pond. A bench overlooking the water is one of the most serene spots on the Cape. Northern hummingbirds fly in and out of the branches overhead forming a choir whose voices will soothe any man’s soul.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/24/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spotting Puffins at Machias Seal Island, Maine

Near the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, Machias Seal Island is a tiny unspoiled sanctuary for a number of Maine’s most noted marine bird species. You can visit the island via a charter boat operating out of Cutler or Jonesport, Maine. An hour later you disembark onto a small low-lying island. Hundreds of plump birds whiz over your heads searching the waters for breakfast. Some have hooded black heads that look like Batman’s disguise. These are the razorbill auks. Others have eyes the size of a parrot with beaks dotted red, black, and yellow. This is the bird everyone is excited to see, the Atlantic puffin. 

Weather permitting, you can climb atop the seaweed-slick rocks and see puffins two to three feet away. The eastern part of the island is covered with Arctic terns. The razorbill auks might look like superheroes, but it is the aggressive tern that keeps predators like seagulls away from the eggs of all the island’s birds. Paths lead to four blinds where you can set up shop and watch the puffins return to feed their young. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Seeing Bald Eagles at Umbagog Lake, New Hampshire

Spring is here and the birds are starting to chirp outside my bedroom window. Soon I’ll be grabbing my binoculars as the yellow warblers make their April and May pilgrimage back north. To celebrate the reawakening of nature, I’m going to devote this week to my favorite bird watching sites in New England.

Nothing quite prepared my wife and me for the extraordinary pair of bald eagles we found nesting on a dead oak tree on Umbagog Lake one spring day. Loons were lounging on the glass waters, their call (the sound of laughter) echoed atop the spruce and fir trees, as we paddled in the calm waters. This vast 7,850-acre lake, whose shores lie half in New Hampshire and half in Maine, is a National Wildlife Area, primarily due to the sight we were about to see. We glided to our right where we found a large nest perched atop the highest branch of a leafless tree. As we drew closer, we spotted the mother guarding her home, her pointed beak sticking out through the maze of twigs. The sight of her mate standing on the branch below was mesmerizing. His white head was cocked in a royal pose, his eyes aware of everything around him, hence the nickname “eagle eye.” We skirted the island for a long time, fascinated by the awesome spectacle, before canoeing back to the put-in.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 19, 2010

First Descents

I’m in the midst of writing a feature story on Colorado Adventure for Air Tran’s inflight magazine, covering mountain biking, hiking, and white water kayaking. I just got off the phone with Boulder-based Brad Ludden, a world champion freestyle kayaker who had the chutzpah to kayak down more than 100 rivers that have never been paddled on before. This includes a recent a four-day first descent down a river in Madagascar, where he came very close to losing his best friend in a huge rapid. Now 29, when Brad was 18, he started a charity organization named First Descents that helps empower 18 to 39-year olds who are battling cancer. So far, more than 600 people have done the program which, like Outward Bound, helps folks gain confidence through outdoor adventure like white water kayaking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. The program has succeeded far better than Brad ever imagined, with more than 400 people now on the waiting list. As he mentioned to me, “Mother Nature doesn’t really care if you have cancer or not. We’re all on an even playing field.” All of the adventures are offered for free, thanks to the support of donations by the public at First Descents.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Adventures in Madeira

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I like to promote small outfitters from each of their respective countries. After all, who knows their region of the world better than a local? That said, I just received an email from Jhonathan Rodrigues, owner of Adventure Kingdom on the island of Madeira. 35 miles long and 13 miles wide, Madeira is best known for its mountainous interior, with Pico Ruivo rising 6100 feet in the center. Cliffs plummet to the sea from towering heights, ravines are cut into rough and hewn terrain to form more than 40 canyons. Indeed, it’s one of the best locales on Earth to go canyoneering. Adventure Kingdom leads guided jaunts to do just that, along with trekking deep into the heart of the island, and, for the less intrepid, walking along the “Levadas,” irrigation channels built hundreds of years ago, now laced with footpaths.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/18/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Davis, California, Leading the Way in Cutting Carbon Emissions

Located near Sacramento, Davis, California, is a city of just over 65,000 people that’s perhaps best known as the first city in the country to create bike lines on their streets. Well, yesterday, they just upped the ante by announcing their intent to cut the community’s carbon emissions by up to 50 percent by 2013. Using the tenets of David Gershon’s book, “Low Carbon Diet: A 30-day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds,” Davis is creating EcoTeams, peer-support groups to help households reduce their emissions. Cool Portland (Oregon), Gershon’s first pilot program, helped reduce carbon emissions of each household by 22 percent or 6,700 pounds. 50 percent seems ambitious, but kudos to Davis and Gershon for giving it a shot!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wild China

I had the good fortune to have lunch last week in Boston with Mei Zhang, founder of Wild China. For more than a decade, the Harvard MBA grad has brought visitors to the remote parts of China, telling me that “over 80 percent of travelers to the country see less than 20 percent of the land mass.” More than likely they get a glimpse of the Great Wall in Beijing, go on a Yangtze River cruise, and, if they have time, see the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China in Xi’an. But what about that impressive mountain and river scenery found in the backdrop of Zhang Yimou films? To immerse yourself in that otherworldly beauty, you’re going to have to sign up for one of Wild China’s trips. Zhang is keen on taking people to her native Yunnan Province, north of Laos and Burma. Here you’ll find centuries-old Hill Tribes making bricks of tea high up in the mountains and the Tea & Horse Caravan Trail, a southern Silk Route still being used that links southwestern China with Tibet. The trade route will be featured in the May issue of National Geographic, a perfect time to take the weeklong jaunt with Wild China, according to Zhang. She also offers hiking trips on the 19th-centruy French Explorers’ Route, along the Mekong and Salween Rivers, and trekking in the heart of Shangri-La.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/16/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

 

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge is flourishing thanks to new lodging on their spectacular grounds overlooking Stowe and new cross-country ski and mountain biking trails. When it comes to sugaring, however, the von Trapps do it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until late April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles.
 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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