Monday, September 06, 2010

Fall warbling

I awoke this morning before even the ever-present House Sparrows had begun to twitter: 5:55 a.m. This is not a good time for me, but I wanted to go along on a local birding club field tour of the Scotia Barrens, an IBA near State College. The trip was led by Joe Verica, a really nice guy and an excellent birder.

The temperature was in the mid-40s when I met the group; we'd arrived way too early to see much. Until the sun was well up around 8 or so, we basically trudged along the main road, freezing, and listening to American Crows, American Robins, and Blue Jays. Joe said that once the sun got warmer and lit up the trees, we'd see more; he also gave us an interesting tip: listen for Black-capped Chickadees, as warblers tend to move in mixed flocks. I don't know if that's a universal truth, but it turned out to be true for the Barrens.

We finally started seeing little groups of warblers, mostly the same ones over and over. I did see one lifer: Cape May Warbler! Yippee! I'd been wanting to see one of those for a while, as they are almost as beautiful as my favorite Blackburnian Warbler. Most of the individuals were already in their muted fall plumage: I noted that most of the streaky-breasted warblers only have the black streaks on the flanks; the Cape May's streaks start at the throat and go down all the way across the breast. It's hard to tell in this one, but the streaks do go across the breast.

Later, I did get to see a male who was still hanging on to his fancy breeding suit, but I didn't get a photo of him. Once again, I forgot to put the memory card into my old Kodak camera, so I didn't take too many pictures. Plus I was trying to focus on the birds themselves, trying to ID each on my own. It's been a while since I took my guide out into the field, but the Sibley is small and easy to carry and I really wanted to study each bird.

Here's the complete list:
Broad-winged Hawk - the first time I've seen one perched! Beautiful.
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher--what he was doing deep in the woods, I don't know.
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch--these guys looked especially pale today, as opposed to the blue-gray. I didn't see anything about that in Sibley, but they were definitely paler gray than I've ever seen before
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Gray Catbird--am I the only one who always wants to tell these guys to shut up so I can hear the real birds?
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler--LIFER #278!
Pine Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee--their "drink your tea" was reduced to a simple "tea!" today
Rose-breasted Grosbeak--a streaky female, puffed up for warmth
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

So that was my morning. My feet and hands are still pretty cold, but it's a bit chilly in the apartment. I wonder whether, after having spent last fall and winter in south Texas, I might have some trouble this winter re-acclimating to the northern winter. Granted, today I was only wearing two layers, one short-sleeved and one long-sleeved tee. (I should've worn a sweatshirt, at least.) Still, I was just so cold! My hands were probably the worst; I just couldn't get them warm, even though I kept them in my pockets or rubbed them together constantly. It's rare that I've had to use gloves while birding, but I might invest in some thinsulate-lined gloves for my fall/winter birding. I have a couple pairs of mittens, but no gloves. Mittens while birding are kinda bulky, by the way, but warm!

...I just put on two layers of socks and some sweats--much better! Quite toasty now! Of course, it'll be hot soon. And it's going to be in the 80s again tomorrow--just in time for work.



John said...

Congrats on the life bird! Cape May is a very elegant warbler, even in fall or immature plumages.

It's a lot colder in central PA than here!

dguzman said...

He was beautiful, John. I just wish I'd gotten a photo of that male!

And today, we had near-record HIGH temps. It's a roller coaster.

mgstarboard said...

I think it means you should come back to Texas. Congratulations on the lifer though.

Felicia said...

Sounds like a great day out, despite the cold! Congratulations on the Magnolia Warbler; they're great little birds.

dguzman said...

Mary-oh sister! I do wish we'd had more birding adventures when I was down there. Another time. We need to go to the upper Valley next time. Miss you, sis.

Felicia--I wish I'd gotten more pics!