Monday, June 26, 2006

A Lifer in Maine

Monday, June 26, 2006
At the Bangor, Maine ABA convention, on Saturday, June 24, I joined an early morning field trip (4:15 am departure) heading north to the boreal forest in search of boreal birds and creatures. Leaders on m y bus were Jeff Bouton (or Leica) and Stephen Ingrahm (of Zeiss) and Marion Bates, a local ornithologist and avid breeding bird census-maker. When it was discovered that I had my IPod and mad IPod skillz, I was immediately given a field commission to co-leader for the trip.

We drove 1.5 hours north of Bangor, nearly to the New Brunswick border, and spent the day walking along logging roads in the boggy boreal forest habitat. As we stepped off the bus to begin this adventure we immediately found ourselves black with mosquitoes. Bug juice of varying intensities only seemed to discourage them. It certainly did not dissuade them from robbing us of pints of our blood.

On the long drive north, as I dozed in the second row seat, a cry of "MOOSE!" went up. A young moose was tramping along the roadside ditch, and into the woods. I leapt awake, binos at my eyes and saw the huge, hairy mammal. A life mammal for me! Too bad it was gone as the bus whipped past, it would've been nice to photograph it.

Shortly after we got off the bus, a small flock of red crossbills came through the woods. The light was unbearable for photography, but when did that ever stop me?

The two gals above are modeling two very different styles of protective mosquito netting. I would go nuts having to pull a wedding-veil-like hunk of netting out of myt way each time I raised them. But the folks with the netting spent more time watching birds and less time shooing the skeeters from their heads.

This cedar waxwing was most photogenic. Too bad he wasn't bohemian.

We walked for a couple of hours along one logging road, encountering little pockets of bird activity that garnered good looks at Blackburnian warbler, cedar waxwing (above), yellow-bellied flycatcher, white-throated sparrow, and a brief glimpse at some gray jays. Then as I played the black-backed woodpecker call for the last time on my IPod. A lone adult male appeared—my preference for seeing this bird was to see a male with the yellow on his head, and thank my shooting stars and lost lucky charms, that's exactly what we got: and adult male black-backed.

Ahhh! My life black-backed woodpecker! He responded to a woodpecker drumming sound on my IPod. This species is one I have tried to see numerous times in the past. This guy really showed well and soon began preening and loafing. Un pajaro bonita! I oohed and ahhhed as it called, drummed, and eventually flew off, having vanquished its imaginary foe.

They got this bird's name right. How much blacker could its back be? None blacker!

After we got the black-backed woodpecker, I asked everyone for whom it was a life bird, to stand with me (in solidarity) and perform the Life Bird Wiggle. This is the photo documentation.

Raise your hands in the air like you just don't care! The shake your body, wave your arms, and go "Whoooooooo!"
Congratulations, you now know the proper way to celebrate a life bird!


On June 27, 2006 at 7:26 AM MojoMan said...

Now, if we could just get rid of those pesky mosquitoes and black flies, we could have some more outlet malls and lake-side condos up there...

Thanks for sharing a fun story about a cool bird.

On June 27, 2006 at 8:52 AM Rondeau Ric said...

A simple cure for mosquitoes, one which I'm sure you COULD partake of.

Have a number of barley pops, you won't feel them so much and all those drunken sketters will crash into trees and collapse.

Congrats on the life bird and mammal. Again you had to get within eyeball distance of Canada.

Is Mother Nature trying to tell you something?

On June 27, 2006 at 9:38 AM Anonymous said...

Once again, you've outdone yourself with brilliant photos and lively writing. It surprises me how much I miss your blog when you're too busy to post.

On June 27, 2006 at 10:23 PM Bill said...

Cograts on another lifer bird and mammal. Thanks for your help today....and to think you topped off the visit with a highlight appearance of a white talied deer right there in the heart of downtown Marietta! You just draw those critters in!
The Birds of Ohio book will be a tremendous resource. I continue to vicariously live your adventure on your and Julie's blogs.
Wilderness Bill

On May 25, 2007 at 12:20 PM Emily said...

Hi Bill - These are some really great photos. I’m involved in the production of a large report assessing Northeastern climate impacts for the Union of Concerned Scientists and am really interested in using some of your photos in a section about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus. Please contact me at if you are interested in learning more and possibly helping us out. Thanks!