Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 2 of Birding with the Carolina Bird Club in Blowing Rock, NC

Ah!  It is time to finish my account of birding at the Spring Meeting of the Carolina Bird Club in Blowing Rock, NC in early May.  For the morning foray of Day 2, I joined a group of middle-aged and older birders for an excursion to Julian Price Memorial Park, just south of Blowing Rock, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at Milepost 297.  This park is directly adjacent to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park that I had visited the day before.  Our leader, whose name has exited my memory, was a charming, young man, who really knew very well his birds and birdsongs.  We, the older folk, were much impressed.  He helped us immensely to locate the little wigglers (aka. warblers) high in the treetops with his easy to follow visual cues and a green laser pointer.  He always carefully aimed the pointer above or below the bird, and what fun it was to watch one White-breasted Nuthatch chase the green dot on the tree trunk as though it were a bug!  If any one of us were hoping to find a particular bird to add to our life list, he made it his mission to find that bird.  And thus, with his help, I added 2 more birds to my life list, the Blackburnian Warbler (sorry, no photo, :(  ) and the Chestnut-sided Warbler!  In fact, my first Chestnut-sided Warbler put on quite a show, singing and be-bopping from branch to branch right in front of us!

My first Chestnut-sided Warbler!

Chestnut-sided Warbler in song!

As we continued on our path, a bird was heard singing from the rhododendron and I was thinking to myself "that sounds like the Canada Warbler song that I learned yesterday.  Apparently, from all the new birdsongs that I had encountered the day before, that one had stuck in my brain.  So I was quite surprised when our young guide listened intently and then said, "I don't know that song."  Dare I suggest that it may be a Canada Warbler?  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so yes I said, "Isn't that a Canada Warbler?"  And our young guide replied "I do not know.  I do not know the Canada Warbler song."  Well, that surpised us, the members of the older generation standing closeby, who were so awe-struck by this young fellow's breadth of avian knowledge.  One woman exclaimed,  "What?  There is a birdsong he does NOT know?!"  Then he called out to the whole group, "Hey, everyone, Cathy hears a Canada Warbler in the rhodendendron over there.  Let's see if we can locate him!"  And then I felt great trepidation mixed in with my self-doubt.  What if I were mistaken?  I had just heard that birdsong for the first time yesterday and I had heard a number of new songs yesterday.  I could easily have confused this bird's song for another's.  Well  off we go, phishing* trying to draw out the bird.  Finally, he popped up way above us, backlit, and continued to sing.  We trained our binoculars on him ... studied as best we could with the constrast-y light, and YES!  It was indeed a Canada Warbler!  Phew!  Beginner's lucky call!  I could not capture the bird in a good photograph due to the poor light conditions so the bird below is a picture taken on a another subsequent trip to the mountains.

Canada Warbler (from a later return trip to the mountains)

Here are more pictures of some of the birds that we were able to see thanks to the generous help from our young guide.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Gray Catbird

Indigo Bunting

Broad-winged Hawk

Black-and-White Warbler

In the afternoon, I traveled to 2 other locales -- the Meat Camp Environmental Studies Area and Green Valley Park -- with another friendly group of birders.  Both areas were interesting and offered different birding habitats, a wetland for the former and a riverside meadow for the latter.  With it being a warm, overcast afternoon, these areas were not as birdy as the Julian Price Park had been in the morning.  Nonetheless, there were plenty of members of some individual species that wanted to show off:  such as Song Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Red-tailed Hawks (sorry, no photo), Yellow Warblers, and another life bird for me, the Least Flycatcher (no photo : (  ) at the Meat Camp Environmental Studies Area; and Tree Swallows (hawking bugs and nesting in boxes along the river -- sorry no photos) and House Wrens at Green Valley Park.

Yellow Warbler

Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

House Wren

Below are a couple of samples of the flowers found blooming in the Meat Camp Environmental Studies Area.

A Trillium -- is it Sweet Beth (aka Vasey's trillium) or Stinking Benjamin (aka Red trillium)?

If anyone can ID this trillium, I would be grateful.  My guide shows that these 2 species of trillium -- Sweet Beth and Stinking Benjamin -- are nearly identical with the exception of their perfumes.  I do not remember it being stinky so perhaps it is Sweet Beth.

Appalachian Bluets

That evening, at the final dinner of the Carolina Bird Club meeting, a tally was completed of all species seen on field trips throughout the weekend.  For this Spring 2011 meeting in Blowing Rock, NC, 130 species were noted by the participants.  The evening presentation on High Country warblers by Curtis Smalling, the Important Bird Areas and Mountain Program Manager for Audubon North Carolina, was inspiring for it's beautiful photos and  was very useful in terms of the information conveyed -- when, in what habitat and at what elevations can the different warblers be seen.  I took notes!  It was quite the enjoyable weekend.  All told, I acquired 6 life birds:  the Veery, the Wood Thrush, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the Least Flycatcher, the Chestnut-sided Warbler, and the Blackburnian Warbler! 

And then ta DA!  To end the evening perfectly, Carl won a door prize! -- a guided birding trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway with the expert birder Marilyn Westphal! -- a prize that I much coveted.  Needless to say, I began planning that guided tour in an exchange of e-mails the very next day.  This all resulted in fabulous trip to the mountains for a week in early June.  But that is another story for another time! 

*Phishing -- in birder's language -- blowing (often through pursed lips), kissing, clucking  and other noises made by a birder in hopes of luring  a curious bird out of the foliage (it works sometimes!).

No comments:

Post a Comment