Monday, May 05, 2008

Big Birding Day!

I accomplished most of my weekend goals except for going to the native plant sale at Rhonymeade. Kat was having her TAs over on Saturday for a big grading party, and so I had to make guacamole and stuff for them. It's been so cold that I couldn't plant anything anyway, so I'll just go get my veggies and stuff from this Amish greenhouse near the Marsh House.

Still--what a great weekend! The weather was great, with only some clouds here and there and a few showers at night. But the days were really great, and I got a lot done. The freshly mowed lawn:

It wasn't too bad--the sun was in and out of the clouds and a cool breeze was blowing the whole day, and I didn't get attacked by any snakes or bears or tigers lurking in the tall weeds and nigh-impenetrable dandelions. The lawn was a little damp, but I got it done and I got some good exercise.

The greatest part of the weekend, however, was the birding. My pal Gretchen and I got up at the crack of dawn (5:40am) on Sunday and made it out to my new favorite birding place, the Coburn Rail Tunnel/Trail. We arrived a little after 6am under heavy cloud cover, and we were immediately treated to a demonstration by two cerulean warblers flitting around a treetop and then flying off in close formation. No pics of these guys, as the entire thing lasted only just long enough to get the binocs on them and ID. Still--what a great little bird!

The non-stop chorus of bird songs when we first got there made it difficult to concentrate on just one species at a time, but I did my best. I think the key to birding this place is to get there super super early; we may try to get there by 5:30 next time, because even at 6am, the sun was already up.

We then crossed the bridge over the creek and were innundated by a group of about eight Baltimore and orchard orioles, all calling and flying around and having early-morning fun. All these birds were lifers for Gretchen, and there were so many of them that we were a little overwhelmed. It's been such a long time since last spring, and I've really missed seeing the spring birds!

Gretchen's quite the avid beginning birder, spotting and IDing a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers with the Stokes field guide. She spotted and IDd a black-and-white warbler too. I was so proud of her; she's got as much birding zeal as I do, so we had a great time seeing all kinds of species. It's so much fun to go birding with her; every bird is new to her, and she just never gets tired of seeing and hearing them.

Here's a list of the birds we saw and heard during the three hours we were there:
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Northern Parula
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Osprey
Ovenbird
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal
Canada Goose
Mallard
European Starling
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
American Crow

And as promised, I remembered to get pictures!
Just one of the many Baltimore orioles we saw:


A blue-gray gnatcatcher--Gretchen's first ID using a field guide:
Another pic of the gnatcatcher:There were two of them, and they stayed in the tree looking for insects and food for at least five minutes--enough time for us to thoroughly fall in love with them and their cuteness. Gretchen digs the tiny little fat birds; she says she wants to grab them and put them in her pocket. I don't know how the gnatcatcher would feel about this, though.

A blurry pic of the black-and-white warbler, which we watched for about five minutes; he was down at eye level in a small tree near the bank of the creek:

I only wish my photos of the American redstart would've come out; he was beautiful! But all I got was a blur surrounded by tack-sharp-focus tree branches. Sigh.

After a bit of time on the rail trail getting warbler-neck, we decided to climb the hill into which the rail tunnel is dug; it's probably about a 250-foot climb, maybe more. Pretty steep, but it was fun--and we saw some really neat things along the way. This tree has obviously been the victim of hungry (and pecky) birds:

This tree looked to us almost like it was trying to push itself up out of the ground using its above-ground "arms" to free itself:
There were several trees like this, with roots all exposed like there just wasn't enough dirt to cover them up:
Maybe it was erosion from the rains?

There was a nice walking trail a little way up the hill:
But we decided to climb to the top and there we found another path along the crest of the hill. We saw a beautiful gray-green landscape of new growth:
The air was cool, and this gray-green color was soooo soothing so we stood there for a while and drunk it all in. Those crazy orioles were all around us the whole time.

Gretchen is way gutsier than I am, climbing this rocky outcrop at the top of the hill:
See her up there in the gray sweatshirt?

We also found some neat flowers on the hillside; perhaps some of you field botanists can help us out with IDs.


And here's a weird plant:
The way down:
Oy vey, my poor ankles! But it was fun, and a couple of Advil later I felt good as new.

We also found some cool bugs, including this millipede:
And just what is this shockingly green bug?

At about 9am, we left Coburn and drove down Long Road, which connects Penns Creek Rd to Millheim, hoping to see some brown thrashers as I have before. We didn't see any of them, but we did see a yellow warbler, more orioles, a Northern flicker, tree and barn swallows, a bluebird, and this hungry TuVu -- this one's for you, Lynne!
He was far away in a cow pasture, so the quality's not great but you can kinda see whatever it is he's eating. Neato. This was the first time I'd ever seen a TuVu eating.

We also discovered our mutual love for cows (photos by Gretchen):

We even stumbled upon the filming of a new musical, The Sound of Moosic, featuring this young actress as Maria, the role Julie Andrews made famous:

Perhaps I'll wait until it comes out on video. I'm really not a big fan of that big old nun singing "Climb Every Mountain."

In Millheim, we found this mallard family (great photos again by Gretchen):

Look at that intelligent little brown eye, scoping us out.

Tomorrow, I'll upload the photos from my Sunday evening marsh trip--during which I FINALLY saw green herons and an American bittern!

20 comments:

Lynne said...

Hooty-hoot! Thanks for the Turkey Vulture!! I've only seen them on the ground once. It'so cool that you have a birding buddy- sounds like you had a blast.

Your lawn looks nice too. :)

Rabbits' Guy said...

Great bird-a-long! And plants and bugs ... amazing how many diffeent thigs you saw when you kept a list!

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Great shots! I love that oriole picture.

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great post. I feel as if I were there with you. Thanks for sharing. What a great birding day, flora day, fauna day.

It's Cinco de Mayo, but I don't know if one says "happy" or not. But I thought of you.

Earl Cootie said...

Wow. Almost half of your birds would have been lifers for me. That does sound like quite a day. And such a pretty wood. That trail looks like the beginning of a fairy tale.

Don't know plants too well, but I think that first one, with the dangly jobbers, is Solomon's Seal.

FranIAm said...

I thought I had left a (long) comment here yesterday.

Oh well, blogger is as blogger does.

What a beautiful post.

And where the hell did you find yourself in PA with that Julie Andrews look-a-like????

dguzman said...

Lynne--it was an awesome day. Oy, that lawn--I should've taken a "before" pic so you could see the blanket of yellow dandelion flowers.

Rabbits' Guy--Glad you enjoyed. I love seeing everything--trees, bugs, birds, plants, rocks--when I'm outside!

Dr. Monkey--thanks!

NCMtnWoman--glad you enjoyed it. I called my mom (originally from Mexico) and wished her a happy day yesterday.

Earl--it's so beautiful up there, and the birds are everywhere! Solomon's Seal--got it. Thanks!

Fran--what a happy coincidence that was, finding the new Julie Andrews mooing to herself on the hills, which were indeed alive with the sound of moosic.

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