The Last Good Year

Was an epiphany I had the other week.  As I’ve birded this May, I’ve tallied lifer after lifer.  After my birding on May 1st where I was impressed with five lifers, I’ve broken that record several times.    Unless I visit/move to a new and distinct region, I’m not going to so easily accumulate life species with a single excursion.  I’m getting spoiled.

On Monday, our party grew to five for the final outing to Garrett Mountain.  It was a very pleasant excursion.  The weather started off threatening and dismal, but cleared to a very pleasant May morning.  (Initially it was so foggy, we couldn’t spot a single pigeon when overlooking an entire city!)

We met up at 8 and accomplished 4 hours of birding before we all had to depart for the duties of our daily lives.  (In my case, packing for Saturday’s move!)

Driving in I missed the parking lot entrance due to the call of a strange bird and the fog, so I had to do a full loop around the park in order to return as it’s all one-way driving.  But in doing so I picked up the sneaker squeak of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak..

In the woods by the pond, I got to see the Swainson’s Thrush AND the Gray-cheeked Thrush. Which made me very happy because the group picked these species up on a day when I was unable to bird.

Gray-Cheeked and Swainson's Thrush pal around together.

Gray-Cheeked and Swainson’s Thrush pal around together.

At the pond, we located two sandpiper species. Woo!


The Solitary Sandpiper is solitary.


Spotted, two Spotted Sandpipers are busy creating mini-spotted offspring.

We also did very well with warblers, but less so with warbler pictures as in I have none.  We picked up Black-throated Green, Tennessee and Nashville hanging out (appropriate, no?), Canada, Wilson, AND a Connecticut Warbler.

All of which are lifers for me in addition to the two Thrushes.  8 lifers in a day. There will never be another day quite like it.

Marvels on Mother’s Day

As I work every Sunday, I did not get to spend Mother’s Day with my mother.  For some reason she didn’t want to get up early to go on a Mother’s Day hike at the center.   However, I went in extra early to do a bit of birding with two other birders.  We had a lovely time despite the dearth of mothers.  The target birds were the Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, both of which we got within 15 minutes.  We got most of the birds early in on the Red Trail and along the pond.  At the pond, we spent some time stalking the green heron.  We were scouting for better looks at the green heron, and heard the wood ducks fly in.  We may have had as many as three green herons, but definitely two.  As we moved to the white trail which had less in the way of bird life to interest us, but more to speculate regarding plants, we found miniature broccoli bits strewn along the trail.  It took us awhile to confirm our suspicions, but the broccoli-like bits were the sweet gum flowers!

More reading on the “lofty, maligned sweet gum“!

Also, on the white trail we were treated to some closer looks at the singing Wood Thrush.  We returned to the main trail instead to watch a domestic dispute between two Baltimore Orioles.   As we were approaching the yellow trail, I heard the distinctive teacher, teaCHER, TEACHER! of the Ovenbird.  As we were currently chasing a Common Yellowthroat (which we dipped on) the other two were skeptical, but when the call repeated, they became believers.  It took several good minutes of tracking, but we did finally locate the Ovenbird scampering away into the bush on its scrawny legs.  I missed out on seeing the Ovenbird on the day of my defense. So I was very excited to move the bird to a bona fide lifer instead of just a lifer by ear.

Morning’s List:

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Wild Turkey
  • Green Heron
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • Tree Swallow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Wood Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Ovenbird
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole

5 Star Day

Or perhaps, this post should be called the 5 Bird Day post.

Recovering from my sudden bout of the flu last week, I submitted up final thesis edits on Monday night.  Last night I received approval to distribute my thesis to the committee.  Which I did and then promptly vomited.  (I’m chalking that one up to brushing my teeth too soon after drinking orange juice.)    Really sounds like a five star day, doesn’t it?

I also received a second email from my adviser last night inviting select students for an impromptu birding excursion this morning to Garett Mountain Reservation.   Two of us took him up on the offer and we met up at 7am.  (Well I made it there by 7:10 since I had an unnecessary detour through Paterson.)

Birding with John is an experience typical of birding with most master birders.  He does much of his birding by ear.   We were joined by one other student, the one who runs the turtle research at the SOC.   She’s “more interested in animals” (her phrase) than birds and has only birded the last year or two.  She was overwhelmed by the cacophony of sounds and he was underwhelmed by the lack of it.   I am getting most of the common birds at this point, if not all their variations, I at least have a number for which I am approaching adept.  The really high pitched buzzy, trill stuff does not even register on my radar.  It didn’t help that there was lots of landscaping going on!

John had 38 birds on his list.  I had 33.  I dropped 5 because there were a number I didn’t get eyes/ears on so I figured it wasn’t fair to count – especially if they were FOY or lifers.  But we did pick up five lifers, so it was definitely a good morning.  New for me were the Warbling Vireo, Wood Thrush, Eastern Towhee, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Orchard Oriole.   So that was a very good day.