A Rose by any other breast, is still freakin’ sweet
This time of year I’d love to scoot out west to catch the migrating birds following the Appalachian mountain range. It’s practically an interstate highway for southward bound birds, and birders in that part of the state, nearly every year, pick up some cool species that are unheard of this far east. Right around this time, the last week of September, the flood reaches it’s highest level.
But that’s not really an option just now, another indication that I may have picked the wrong year to do a Big Year in the southeast. We’re still feeling the effects of Hurricane Ike around here. While the issue immediately following landfall was exorbitant prices, the problem now is one of supply. We’re out of gas around here, and service stations across the state are ghost pumps with plastic bags covering nozzles and signs stripped of prices. Texas tea is decidedly hard to come by, and even harder to predict just which station is holding at any given time. Out west, the situation is even worse, and if I were to make a trip out there I run the distinct risk of not being able to make it home the same day. Perhaps the birding gods are conspiring against my record run, between the price spikes this summer and this Ike trouble, they’ve done a fine job scuttling it so far.
But if the birding is hot stuff out west, it’s still fair around here. So in the interest of keeping it close to home, it was back again to Mason Farm where the fall is coming along rather nicely. We’ve had plenty of rain this year so the Tulip Poplars are sprouting their winter buds, the Persimmons are big and juicy, and nearly every vine supports red or blue berries. Needless to say, the birds are all over this fall bounty.
Nearly all the birds I saw on the day were feasting on berries or buds of some sort. The White-eyed Vireos and Gray Catbirds were the most abundant, but I ran into a few warblers; Black and White, Redstart, Parula, Yellow-throated, Chat and the year-round Yellowthroats.
The birds weren’t the only ones partaking in the gluttony. I nearly stepped on a particularly colorful Eastern Box Turtle (note to self, look down once in a while) feeding on sticky, sappy fallen persimmons.
But the highlight of the morning had to be the acquisition of the most frustrating unrequited tick on my year list. Feeding on the winter poplar buds just as I hoped one would be, was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a bird I’ve had some trouble tracking down this year. Perhaps now that my biggest year bogey is behind me things will really start picking up. And I’m ready for my electric car any time now, you know, in case anyone about there can help me out.