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Labor Day’s alright for birding…

September 3, 2007

With the Carolinabirds listserve hopping with reports of migrating songbirds all over the state, I decided to once again try my luck at my favorite site in the triangle to bird. Three seasons of the year it’s usually a great spot but in the summer it’s too hot and too slow to consistantly check it out (mostly the first). But now that the weather has turned a bit, it’s time to get back out to Mason Farm.

Mason Farm is run by the university and the state botanical society. Forestry and Biology students often run experiments there so it’s managed for the widest variety of habitats and species, all along a 2 mile trail that loops around the facility. It’s really the perfect “local patch”, as our British birder friends are wont to call these things. It’s only 5 minutes from my house so a trip doesn’t take my entire day. If the birding is slow, I can make it around the loop in an hour or so, if the birding is good though, as it often is, I can be out there all morning. Plus, nearly every species of bird seen in the triangle has been seen at Mason Farm at some point. For some reason the sign warns for visitors to travel with a partner for their own protection, but I just as often go by myself. I can’t help being dangerous, that’s just how I roll. I got there just after 7, before it got too hot, with songbirds on my mind and I was not disappointed.

The best birding during spring and fall is often right down the first path after the parking lot, but even the parking lot can be good. A mixed flock of Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Parulas, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers met me as I got out of the car. They’re all summer residents, but there was something about the way they were foraging, all together for one thing but determinedly scouring the trees, that made me think that this was no ordinary flock. These birds were moving, and I took it as a good sign.

I was still a little early for activity, it had been a chilly night but as the sun peeked over the horizon I saw my first migrant warbler, a Chestnut-sided dressed in its olive green fall uniform. This was a new bird for the year for me as I had inexplicably missed it this spring. That was only the beginning though, birds were coming thick and fast, mostly big groups of robins but in between them all there were more fall warblers. An Ovenbird slunk past, a Waterthrush sp. stopped for a second and then was off without leaving its name, the jerk. I saw the first of several Magnolia Warblers, a sharp little Prairie, a drab 1st year Prothonotary and absolutely stunning male Hooded still wearing his spring finest, one of my fav warblers. Interspersed were the Gnatcatchers and Vireos including many 1st year White-eyes without their white-eyes. Trouble birds, they give beginners fits, and truth be told, this birder too with a few years under his belt, especially when they pop up in the middle of a mixed flock and for a second you think you think, “oh man, something cool!”. Here’s a tip, it’s a 1st year White-eyed Vireo. It’s nearly always a 1st year White-eye. Well, at least out here anyways.

Rounding the corner from that hot spot things cooled off bird-wise and started to heat up temperature-wise. There were several birds feeding on choke berries, including some young robins like this one here. The rest of the loop was not as productive as that first bit though I did spot a ratty Yellowthroat, a nice male Black-and-White, and a young Redstart to take the day’s warbler count up to 10. Plus, on the walk to the parking lot I ran into a group that included several Magnolia Warblers, a female Baltimore Oriole and most surprisingly, a Veery. Veery nice indeed.

A great morning all in all, and if this is what I have to look forward to for a little while, the next month is going to be alot of fun.

One Comment
  1. Mary Helen permalink
    September 3, 2007 3:41 pm

    Two prothonotaries flew into the window here at the lake yesterday. One didn’t make it. I’m glad you had a good birding day.

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