Hot Hot Heat
Birding in the summer in the South requires determination. It requires persistence. It requires a two gallon jug of water on your person at all times and a medic alert bracelet just in case you collapse in the field miles from civilization. Because as we all know, the stereotypical Southern Summer involves a seersucker suit, a well-mixed mint julep, and liberal use of the phrase “Good Lawd, it’s hawt owt t’day”, delivered while wearily fanning yourself. Bonus points if you live in some sort of antebellum house. You should at least try to have a front porch and a magnolia tree in your yard.
I say that’s how you should spend summer in the South. I’m from Missouri, the midwest, so that makes me some sort of Yankee usurper, and I have no good sense to get out of the heat. Least of all with a Big Year on the line. The birds are not much better, but they tend to cluster their activity in the early morning hours before the worst part of the day gets going. I have to meet them, so it’s an early morning to say the least.
Yesterday it was again to Mason Farm, and as I arrived at 7:00 it was already over 70 degrees and rising fast. The birds were largely quiet with the exception of a few young singing Redstarts. It was too hot for most anything flying except for the bugs. I know several birders that turn to bugs when the weather gets hot. The best time for dragonflies and butterflies seems to correspond to the slowest time of the year for birds. I never got into it past the very basics, but today I noted the bugs. They certainly make better photo subjects that birds, they allow for much closer approach.
For instance, below, a one of the large group of saddleback patterned Dragonflies, common across the US. This one is a Widow Skimmer as best I can tell.
One of the more interesting arthropods in the area are these little flat-backed millipedes from the order Polydesmida. This one is, appropriately, a Yellow and Black Flat Millipede, Apheloria tigana, and is endemic to this part of North Carolina.
But there were birds. The Chats were singing avidly and both Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak were easily found. But nothing new for the year and with the temperature rapidly climbing towards 90 at 9 in the morning, I headed home. It’s far too hot to spend any additional time outdoors.
Now where’s my mint julep…