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Mason Farm, Twice

September 13, 2010

My parents are in town this weekend, which means a couple things. First, I get to bird with my dad, which is always nice. Second, I generally have to stay close to home (fear not gentle reader, I’ve got some more exciting things coming up in the next couple weeks).  But third, given the talk among nocturnal migrant aficionados leading up to this past weekend the default wasn’t so bad.  It’s Mason Farm of course, that nature reserve tucked behind the golf course that provides everything the southbound migrant needs and everything the birder needs to spot them.  There are undoubtedly worse places to go, so we didn’t feel the need to go to any of those places.  Highlights as follows.

Day 1 – Noah came with us, and while he didn’t spot too many birds this time there was no shortage of trees to point at and butterflies to talk to from his perch on my back even if the birds we looked for started slower due to the low hanging clouds.  The opportunity to stop and meticulously work flocks of Chickadees for the gooey migrant center inside was limited with a child that prefers Drive to Park, but Noah had a good enough time when we stopped for a snack and he decided to follow us down the path, finding rocks and flowers.

The massive migrant push manifested itself almost entirely in Palm Warblers in my neck of the woods.  They were all over the place on the paths and in the Sweet Gum thickets.

I had a masochistic hope for any migrant Empids, but it was not to be.  Loads of Pewees though, they’re made a major push through the area in the last few days.

Just as the birding began to heat up, Noah decided he was done.  So we headed out.  We had the next day anyway.

Day 2 – My dad and I returned Sunday morning sans Noah, much to his protestations as we walked through the door.  The morning started better, with more sun and more activity, including several Gray Catbirds still in body molt.

The Palmies from the day before had been almost completely replaced by Magnolia Warblers, and my dad worked a crowd into a fury in short order with a well-timed Screech Owl whistle.  We were surrounded by Mags, as well as Redstarts, Parulas, a mystery Empid (that looked to my eyes like an Acadian), a Great Crested Flycatcher and loads of White-eyed Vireos.  The colorful birds were stayed away from my camera though, all I could manage was a scolding House Wren.

The best bird of the day came towards the end, when I heard a bizarre grunt from a row of Poplars.  We had our eyes trained on a flock of Pine Warblers looking for something different but there was a quality about the vocalization that both bothered and seemed familiar.  Soon it soared over, an avidly vocalizing Common Raven, an early record for me and not at all expected for the species in the triangle.  Easily the best bird of the day.

Other than birds the day was mostly slow, a handful of Odes of the expected species were all I could find.  I managed to photo what I think is a female Great Blue Skimmer here.  I like this photo because the bug turned to look at me right before it flew off.

The big push of migrants was less obvious here (from what I understand the mountains have been hopping though), but it was a fine couple days in a place I always enjoy.

  1. jmj permalink
    September 13, 2010 10:50 am

    I’ve been taking my 3-year-old daughter out a bit as well. I tend to not get much actual birding done when she’s along, but it’s still fun anyway. And hopefully I’m planting a few seeds for the future 😉

  2. BirdTrainerRobert permalink
    September 13, 2010 11:22 am

    Just went to Mason Farm this morning and found a Bay-breasted Warbler, some FOS Cedar Waxwings, and a Veery. I’m kind of wondering when it’s going to pick up around here, I haven’t run into any really large flocks yet!

  3. September 15, 2010 9:27 am

    I like your pic of the Palms, you can see a bird standing and a bird in flight at the same time!

    I sometimes wonder if I should count birds seen with my son as a “complete list” for ebird. Obviously I see quite a few less birds with him, so my samples might not have the same “quality” as without a one year old on my back.

  4. Nate permalink*
    September 15, 2010 11:42 am

    @jmj- Indeed! That’s what I’m banking on!

    @R0bert- Bay-breasted is a very good bird for the triangle. I had one last fall at Duke Forest, but that was my first.

    @Laurent- I wonder the same thing and decided to count them as a complete list. Even if I don’t cover the area as thoroughly as I would without him, I’m still counting everything I “see”. I figure it’s not so far off from a beginning birder covering the same place that might miss some of the more secretive or difficult to ID species.

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