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Two days at the Farm

April 19, 2010
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The Spring rush is on.  The honest to god, real deal spring migration that I’ve spent about 10 months waiting for has finally arrived.  Sure there are still some birds left to get here; most of the warblers actually, along with tanagers and thrushes and Grosbeaks.  But enough are here that the adrenaline has kicked in and urged me outdoors every free morning I can get, which means it’s going to be a tough week at work knowing that just outside my office birds are arriving from Central and South America daily and building to a crescendo while I stare at a computer screen.  Times like these make me wonder every single year how I make it through.

But that’s the future, this past weekend I was able to take both mornings to look at birds.  And while I like to mix things up during the year, spring is all business.  It’s about going where the possibility for spring migrants is the best regardless of whether I repeat myself.  So both Saturday and Sunday I headed out to Mason Farm, where I hoped the migrants would be dripping off the trees.

I’m happy to report that they were, and they were nearly exclusively American Redstarts, which is as pleasant a bird to welcome back as any.  I ended up adding 10 more species of warblers Saturday morning including my first of the year Prairie, Prothonotary, Black and White and Black-throated Blue.  That alone made it a great morning, but I wasn’t able to spend a ton of time doing much more than watching and moving on since I had a little jockey urging me on.  I’m not complaining in by any means, however.  Baby birder is as good a field companion as just about any, and I’ve been birding with some whose quirks are not nearly as pedestrian as requiring a few verses of “She’ll be comin’ round the Mountain” from time to time.  Ultimately though, he has a much more productive way of passing the time.

The birds were so good Saturday that I couldn’t justify going anywhere else other than Mason Farm again for Sunday morning. This time, however, I drug my scope along in the hopes that some of those drop-dead gorgeous looks at warblers I’d had the day before would transfer to the next day when I was camera-ready.  The answer, more or less, is yes.  I got my fill trying to digiscope warblers (no small feat), but some of the slower moving birds made for ok targets. This Red-eyed Vireo, one of the few species that was more common the second day, just arrived from South America or at least it did in my romanticized notion of migration.

While they’re mostly associated with winter around here, White-throated Sparrows are with us almost to June.  The ones still lingering in Carolina tend to be looking particularly ratty by this point, but there are a few sharp individuals around, like this bird feeding on Elm buds.

The most charismatic bird at Mason Farm are arguably the White-eyed Vireos.  They’re practically raucous in the streamside thickets, and as difficult as they seem to be to see well in other places I’ve been, they’re highly conspicuous here.

So conspicuous, in fact, that it’s difficult for me not to try to take a photo of them when they’re being so obliging.  A pair of them in foraging in near a brushy field were practically begging me to make the effort, hopping around not more than a few feet from me without even the need for pishing.  I got the photo below while the male was busy yelling at something or other.  Probably the other singing White-eye about 20 meters away, I told you they’re thick there.

I was content with the photos I had, when the same bird popped up not 10 feet away from me begging for his photo.  So I obliged.  I’m actually really happy with this photo even if it did turn out a little on the green side. I’m still trying to figure out exposure and post-processing.

Of course, Eastern Bluebirds are busy around the many nest boxes set up at Mason Farm, often perched on any nearby shree (this is how I’m going to start referring to a plant taller than 10 feet but with a trunk diameter of less than 5 inches, because let’s face it, the English language is deficient on this point and these things are all over the place).  When such a nice blue bird is teed up so nicely how can you not try to photograph it.

This photography thing is alright, and I’ve begun thinking I need to finally make the move to DSLR that I’ve been talking about for some time.  It would certainly beat dragging my scope on the trail with me whenever I want to have something to share.  More on that soon.

In any case, the weekend ended with 11 warblers, 3 vireos and the season’s first Hummingbirds, Green Herons and House Wrens.  A good start to what I’m hoping is a fun season!

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13 Comments
  1. April 19, 2010 8:01 am

    Gorgeous birds, and you already know how much I envy you for the North American spring migration – so no whinging and whining needed here.
    By the way: clearly your eyes.

  2. Nate permalink*
    April 19, 2010 10:07 am

    @Jochen- Thanks. It still seems a bit too green to me, but the background might be tricking me.

  3. April 19, 2010 10:52 am

    I hit up Mason Farm last Monday, with White-eyed Vireos and American Redstarts being by far the most numerous birds I saw. I missed a few of your really nice migrants though (Prothonotary!) so I’m pretty jealous, lol. I did have a pair of Blue-headed Vireos still sticking around, so that was nice.

  4. Nate permalink*
    April 19, 2010 11:00 am

    @Robert- The Prothonotary was not on the trail itself, it was heard from the car where the gravel road runs along the creek near the entry gate as I was leaving. I had Noah with me or I would have tracked it down. That’s usually a more productive spot for them than the fields along the trail loop. I’ve seen both Waterthrushes from that trail that goes back there too.

  5. April 19, 2010 4:24 pm

    Wow, Nate. Great shots! It sounds like you had a productive weekend indeed. Lots of goodies. Oh, and that sleeping photo is the best!

    By the way, ‘shree’ is about the coolest new word I’ve heard, and it does fill a longstanding hole in our linguistic repertoire.

  6. April 19, 2010 7:23 pm

    I went to High Island expecting more than what I had seen the previous weeks and was still mostly disappointed, although Friday afternoon was decent. My weekend is Friday and Saturday and Saturday was a major dud! Anyways, I follow what is going on at High Island, TX on Twitter and Facebook and Sunday morning before I had even left for work they were talking about the deluge of migrants, and I am talking about warblers! I saw less than 10 warbler species on the whole weekend and they had seen 25 in the first 3 hours of Sunday morning!!! The final tally was 29 species and today they are up to 25. I have taken off from work and am driving early tomorrow morning to get there to see if I can get any of the leftovers.
    I was interested in knowing if things were slow all over or just the middle section of the country.

  7. Nate permalink*
    April 19, 2010 7:33 pm

    @Jason- Thanks! Coming from you that’s quite a complement! Your photos are fabulous, I’m lucky to get the bird in frame most of the time. :)

    @Dave- Seems to me things are running a tad behind around here. My Prairie Warblers were about a week later than I usually get them and I’m still missing some regulars (like I can’t believe I haven’t seen a Catbird yet!).

    It wouldn’t surprise me if things come through in a big rush northward, I just hope I can be out when it happens. On the other hand, I remember feeling this way last year and having a big warbler day the second weekend of May, so you never know. 29 sounds epic though! Good luck!

  8. April 19, 2010 11:21 pm

    Nate – Thanks for the info about Warblering at Mason Farm, definitely gonna have to check out that trail tomorrow. As for Catbirds, I had a surprise FOY Catbird today at the 17 Acre Woods late this afternoon, so they shouldn’t be too far behind for Mason Farm!

  9. April 19, 2010 11:29 pm

    I really like your second shot of the White-eyed Vireo. It does look very green, but I think it’s because of the background.

  10. Greg permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:30 am

    I think your photography is excellent!

  11. Nate permalink*
    April 20, 2010 11:44 am

    @Robert- I hope not, I’m missing them.

    @John- The more I look at it the more I think you’re right.

    @Dad- Thanks!

  12. April 20, 2010 9:41 pm

    Very happy I found this blog and I am following you now. These are wonderful shots of all the birds. I live in South Carolina, and I had a lot more bluebirds this year than ever. They are simply gorgeous. I love the shot of the bluebird!

  13. April 30, 2010 2:24 pm

    So many gorgeous photos! Here in Ohio we’re presumably a bit behind you but I did find lots Orchard and Baltimore Orioles this morning (the Orchards were a lifer for the person I was birding with, which made it even more fun). Can’t wait for more things to start trickling in.

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