I went with Roana this morning to bird one of her PA Breeding Bird Atlas blocks that happens to be near my house. Got up at 6 a.m., and that after not being able to fall asleep until about 2 a.m. because I was so excited about going birding with a real birder!
We first climbed up a part of the Mount Nittany line, Centre Hall Mountain, that separates Brush Valley from Happy Valley, home of Penn State. We hiked up what appeared to be an old logging trail, though I can't imagine that anything could've made it up that road save for a Land Rover or a Humvee. Oh my aching ankles! It was a beautiful woods, though, full of very loud ovenbirds, red-eyed vireos, and cardinals. We heard wood thrush, scarlet tanagers, and many warblers, especially once we got higher up the mountain.
Birding for an atlas like this is a little different from regular birding, because you not only want to see the birds but to see them displaying any of a number of behaviors that indicate they're breeding in the area, not just passing through. As a result, you have to see the birds during "safe dates" (when they would typically be doing their breeding thing) or, if it's out of the safe dates, you have to see them actually performing breeding behaviors. So we tried to spot birds carrying nesting materials or food, getting agitated and/or territorial at our presence, courting one another, and so forth. I played scribe as Roana used her amazing ear for all kinds of birdsongs and calls, though a heavy fog and terrible lighting conditions made it difficult for us to see birds in this very dark wood.
We went to the top of the mountain, which was a pretty good hike, then scrambled our way back down the rocky trail. Again--oh my aching ankles! We were thinking that the way down would be easier, but it was almost harder having to keep our footing among the rocks.
As I said, I kept the list, but I'm only going to list my lifers here; also, I'm putting an H by those birds I only heard and Roana ID'd:
Ovenbird (H) (finally got confirmation on that call I've heard a million times)
Worm-eating warbler (H)
Eastern wood pewee (H)
Black-billed cuckoo (H) (won't for the atlas because we didn't see him doing anything and his safe date doesn't start until 6/10)
Black-throated green warbler (H)
Black-throated blue warbler (H)
Black and white warbler (I spotted him!)
Blue-headed vireo (H)
Blackburnian warbler (H--dangit--I really want to see one of these beautiful birds)
We then moved into Penns Valley and went up Indian Road, which is aptly (albeit politically incorrectly) named:
There was a beautiful wooded area here, set among the corn, soy, and wheatfields. Here, I saw some another lifer: a red-headed woodpecker!
Woo hoo! Beautiful bird!
We also got great looks at an oriole:
and a very cooperative chipmunk:
We then went down some Brush Mountain backroads, driving among the rolling pastures and fields and finding more lifers for me!
Willow flycatcher (who was not in safe dates but was VERY agitated at our intrusion on his territory)
Least flycatcher (who was living across the road from the Willow)
Note that I've added to my sparrow list too; I wish I could've gotten photos, but the vesper wouldn't sit still long enough and the grasshopper stayed hidden in the tall grass. I almost got a beautiful photo of an Eastern meadowlark perched on fencepost, but of course he flew away right as I pointed the camera at him.
All in all, this was a great trip with 14 lifers in about 4 hours! It doesn't beat my record of 23 lifers in 5 hours (set on my walk with Julie Zickefoose last month at the Oil Region Birding Festival), but it's pretty good for a foggy Saturday morning in June.