Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bird Walk w/ Rich Speidel, Camp Saratoga in Wilton, NY

Yesterday I woke up at 5:45 AM to get ready to go birding at Camp Saratoga at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve with Rich Speidel who is associated with the Adirondack Mountain Club. The group was set to meet around 7:30 AM. It was an all right morning for outdoor activities, though rainclouds loomed ahead for hours, which meant absolutely horrid lighting for birding.

I was amused to meet with the group of about 25 people. I was the only person remotely near my age (I'm 26), which was much expected. That was quickly overlooked, and many fellow birders were quite friendly and talkative for that early in the morning, and I had a great time chatting with some of them.

The walk itself was really leisurely. I was almost fascinated with how slowly we were going, because I tend to have a brisker walk through the same trails when I bird. I now wonder if my speed has caused me to miss birds in the past, because we saw/heard 37 in all, and some of the birds didn't make themselves known until about 3 minutes into resting at a point. I can definitely say that I was quite awed by this.

Anyway, we were so leisurely that we stood still long enough for me to start having ticks crawling up my boots, socks, and pants. I don't mean just one or two. I mean 8-12. I nearly had a panic attack while flicking them off one right after the other. Others in the group started implying that I must be doing something to attract them to myself, as they claimed they had none on themselves. It is amazing what people will come up with to justify their beliefs that it couldn't possibly happen to them. Somehow people even believe that green field pants will attract them. But, I had 30% DEET repellent on, more than most of them used. And in mere minutes, everyone had ticks on them. I couldn't help but to yell out, "SEE! I TOLD YOU!" We, the birders, had wandered into a tick festival. I could have screamed. It left me distracted for the second half of our day, and later on, exhausted due to the long-term anxiety. I even found one on my pants 30 minutes after leaving the Preserve. But this time, I did not get a single bite. Was I just diligent? Lucky? Or did my repellent work? Who knows, but I ordered myself some Repel Permanone last night.

So, the actual birds! Oh yes. Well, I found out yet again that birding in a large group distracts me terribly. I noticed this last summer when I did point counts. I just cannot focus around more than about 8 people, unless I'm leading, which I wasn't. It's because everyone focuses on something different and people are simultaneously calling out birds. But anyway, at the pond off Scout Rd, I spotted a Green Heron (my first!), Canada Geese (4), Mallards (2), saw a Kingfisher fly over the water, and heard American Goldfinches and a Red-winged Blackbird. The parking lot across from the pond had American Robins and an Eastern Phoebe. There were also ducks flying overhead, but the lighting made any marks impossible to see.

We then walked the trail on the southern side of Scout Rd. There were many American Goldfinches, the occasional Black-capped Chickadee, and incredibly loud Tufted Titmice all along the trail. There were also a few Blue Jays - in fact, they were a good indicator of just how bad the lighting was, as I got a good view of them and they just looked brown and white.

And here is why I don't like birding in groups - despite us having a leisurely pace, I actually don't have in my notes the general locations of these birds or the times. I do know we mostly walked the blue trail. So you get more of a list:
- Black-throated Blue Warbler - heard and saw for the first time! They have a distinct zoo-zoo-zoo-ZEET call which was also described by others as zeu-zeu-zeu-ZEET. I mention this, as they both sound accurate enough to me. Spotting the warbler was not all that exciting, as his color was washed out by the clouds, but it was definitely him as I saw him open his bill and make that call. Also exciting was hearing a Black-throated Green Warbler calling right nearby, and they seemed to actually be responding to each other.
- heard an Ovenbird in the woods at some point with it's 7-time teacher call.
- Pine Warblers were seen actually calling multiple times, so it was nice to finally have them confirmed as being in the area and not so rare. Rich told me that it seems that Chipping Sparrows tend to call much longer than Pine Warblers, and having seen both calling, I can say this has a tendency to be true.
- heard Eastern Towhees, worth noting that one was by the field by the blue trail near Scout Rd, calling chu-WINK. This was certainly a new one for me by call, and I never saw one yesterday, but I love that bright, very loud sound.
- heard Northern Cardinals
- heard a Hermit Thrush, it was kind of cool being the first to actually have one's attention on it's call
- heard a Common Raven call
- Scarlet Tanager (heard the Robin with a sore throat song)
- there is a clearing where all the trails meet, surrounded by tall pines. This is where the Black-throated Blue Warbler was finally seen, and it's where I finally saw my first Pileated Woodpecker! I couldn't believe how huge it was. I didn't even need binoculars (good thing, they seemed to have something greasy on them yesterday which really made them poorly functioning). It sat on the side of a pine and made it's jungle-like ascending call.
- there is a neat area with a bridge over a brook with marshy area on both sides with tall dead trees that's worth noting. Here we heard Song Sparrows (such a distinct song) and Common Yellowthroats (the Witchity-witchity-witchity-wit), and a Great-crested Flycatcher which I attempted chasing for a look, which never happened. I did get to see the large size which blew my mind, and it kept calling a low, buzzy weeep. weeep. weeep.
- Field Sparrows (the song starts slow and speeds up) were heard near the large field opening as well, and many Chipping Sparrows hung out in that field.
- near the parking lot, there is a log cabin of sorts, and a House Wren was singing near it.

And that concludes that. I apologize for how messy and disconnected this post may seem, but that's what happens when I bird in a large group. I'm not complaining though, I learned quite a bit, got to see new species, and heard PLENTY of songs that are new to me in the wild that I will have to get to know better. Plus, now I know even more what species hang out at the Preserve, a spot I keep on visiting.

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