Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Great Day of Winter Birding

 With the sun shining, temps rising to a tropical +5 c, and the report of a possible Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on Blackhead Road, it was time to go birding. I called Margie M. at a dangerously early hour to invite her to join me. She was game and by 8:45 we were on our way. Hopeful birds were the sapsucker, Red Crossbills, the Brown Creeper, and the Lincoln's Sparrow. All of these birds evaded us, but we were rewarded with the unexpected.
Having traversed Blackhead Road twice and seeing only juncos, we headed for Goulds via Maddox Cove. Deciding to check out a feeder in the residential area of the community, we headed upward. I was surprised, totally surprised by a bird that popped up in front of my car and landed not ten feet away. As soon as I relocated it, I was shocked to see it was a Dovekie!

There have been several recent reports of Dovekies showing up on the beach and on land. Speculation is that they are having a hard time finding food. Whatever the reason, there sat this bright, alert little Dovekie right in front of us, sitting on the road.

 Mixed with the excitement of the find and the dread that this bird might be on the way out, we watched. What a quandary! The bird looked healthy, like it should be at sea and not sitting on a roadway. Migratory Bird laws dictate that these birds should not be picked up, although it did cross my mind. Should we call someone with a permit to get this bird back to the water! What to do!
It was a great relief when this bird lifted off and flew with aplomb straight toward the water. Once we completed our drive-about up the hill, we checked the waterfront. There was no sign of the bird. Once it was aloft, it must have headed straight back to sea. It is really amazing the unusual things I have come across while out birding. I go with one goal in mind and end up with something totally different.

We proceeded to Goulds hoping to see the Red Crossbills. There were none, only goldfinch and juncos aplenty. As we were leaving the area, we caught sight of several birds flying into a group of trees. We really weren't sure what we had seen until this beauty popped up. There were six beautiful Mourning Doves sitting on branches and milling about under the trees. Now, with the 12 reported on Old Bay Bulls Road and these six, there are at least 18 Mourning Doves in Goulds. That is a lot!

We stopped at Bowring Park, but didn't see the Pink-footed Goose nor the Brown Creeper, nor the Lincoln's Sparrow. On the way home we popped by the Southside where we saw the spry little Yellow-rumped Warbler hanging in there, along with at least one Song Sparrow and one Junco. Stopping at Caledonia Place, we didn't see any of the rarities known to have been in the area. That marked the end of the morning birding.

As luck would have it I found myself with about two more hours of free time in the afternoon, so I decided to walk around the North trail of Long Pond. It had been a long time since I was there, but felt right at home. During my first year of birding, I walked this trail at least three times a week during the winter. Why? Because it was one of the few places I knew to go and because it yielded lots of bird activity and tranquility.

Again, I was surprised. Seeds were sprinkled all along the trail and there were many birds, juncos, BC Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Then, I came upon this Ruffed Grouse also enjoying some of the free seed spread on the snow. The light browns showing up on this bird were really stunning. When I checked images on the Net, I found this to be a common color on a winter bird.

My last surprise of the day came as I was nearing the Fluvarium on the return walk. A Northern Goshawk flew in over the trees on one side of the trail, right over me and into the trees on the other side. There was no time to get a picture, but that doesn't diminish the thrill of seeing it so close.
So, there were misses and hits during the day.  I thought it is was a really good thing I was done, because a "flash freeze" was setting in. The wind picked up intensity, the temperature rapidly dropped, and I headed for my car quite satisfied with a great day of birding.

Click on images to enlarge.

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