Saturday, May 13, 2006

Final Tally: Our Little Big Day

Saturday, May 13, 2006
W is for Whipple, home of the Whipple Bird Club. If you see birders flashing this hand signal, seek cover. Something is about to go down.

Well, we did not make the century mark on today's Big Day attempt, but it was just about the most relaxing day of birding I've enjoyed in a long, long time. No pressure, just going where the birds and our collective whimsy takes us.

I admit to getting a bit crazed as the day wound down to dusk and our total hovered still within striking distance of 100. This was just after we had a late flurry of birds--from about 6:30 until 7:15--during which we added 10 new species. But a rainstorm, hungry bellies, tired kids, dropping temperatures, and unavoidable darkness won. So we opted for Mexican food (gracias, Las Trancas!) instead of a Quixote-like bit of tilting at birding windmills.

Here's a bit of Big Day wisdom: no bird is less findable late in a Big Day than a kestrel. I will not elaborate--it's simply a universal truth of Big Day birding.

So we ended with 96--respectable for this part of Ohio, especially since we ate all our meals indoors, attended a kids' birthday swimming party, participated in a girls softball game, painted chickadee nestlings, checked the bluebird trail, and blogged during the day.

In the afternoon, we spent hours longer than we should have crawling our way down the dusty gravel roads along the runs (what we call creeks or cricks in these here parts) that wind and burble toward the Ohio River. From County Road 12, we took Cow Run, then Newell's Run all the way to the river. I believe we set a world record for singing American redstarts, and we had lots of cerulean warblers, too. Many lovely patches of wildflowers and great pools of water perfect for tossing rocks into. I had an intense flashback, watching my kids leap out of the car to get to the water in the run where they could explore, throw rocks, look for fish. This is exactly what my brother Andy and I did, on these same runs, 30 years ago when Mom was afield with the local bird watching group. But before long, I was more interested in the birds than in throwing rocks....

So I made sure that Phoebe had some good binocs around her neck, and I got her to the scope as often as possible for good looks at birds. She enjoyed keeping her own checklist (of every bird we heard, saw, or mentioned). Liam is still completely immersed in the rock-throwing phase (which I have to admit, is still really fun for me, too).
Liam believes he is the fastest person on Earth. Who am I to argue? He was definitely the fastest person on Cow Run.

Phoebe, spotting scope, singing male wood thrush. Sweet!

Although it was International Migratory Bird Day, most of the really great birds we spent time with today were not Neotropical migrants. They were our local, resident breeders--red-headed woodpecker, eastern bluebird, a fledgling northern cardinal, Carolina wrens, eastern phoebes.
In fact, if we'd HAD a few more migrants, 100 would have been no problem. My guess is that the next warm, sunny morning we have will be amazingly birdy.
Just fledged from a nest in our forsythia, a brand new northern cardinal.

I am happy about our little Big Day. It was way fun. Here is some additional photographic evidence.
Buck the bull kept us from getting closer looks at the red-headed woodpeckers in the oak copse in his pasture.

Steve McCarthy, Royal Meteorolgist for the Whipple Bird Club, helps Julie check on some bluebird nestlings.

Jules sexed the nestlings, which will be fledging in just a few days. More, deeper blue, even at this age, means a male.

Three female red-breasted mergansers at the Ohio River levee were a surprise addition to our list.

Our final bird for the day was a singing willow flycatcher: "Fitz-bew!"


On May 14, 2006 at 10:33 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Finally spending a whole day birding with you, the kids, and Uncle Steve was exactly what the doctor ordered. Like a 14-hour hit of pure oxygen. Let's do that again, sooner rather than later, and add Shila to the mix! It won't be spring for much longer!

On May 15, 2006 at 9:38 AM Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Count me in for the next event. Whipple Bird Club rocks! What great birds, what good company. More fun than NJ, eh Bill?


On May 15, 2006 at 10:48 AM Patrick Belardo said...

Hey you guys stole our Red-Breasted Mergs! :) We scoured the NJ coast for them, but no luck! Our WSB team was plagued by a migrant-less day. It sounds like you guys had fun and that's what matters.

On May 15, 2006 at 6:15 PM Katdoc said...

Ex-squeeze me... "painting chickadee nestlings?" Oh wait, I get it. Zick painted their pictures. You didn't actually put paint on the birds, right?


On May 16, 2006 at 1:26 PM birdchaser said...

Curse of the Kestrel. Dipped on kestrel on my own birdathon here in PA last weekend, but we were able to trade up for a flyby peregrine.

On May 17, 2006 at 8:38 AM Anonymous said...

I love that Liam needs to look at his hands when flashing the bird club sign, priceless!