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The other side of birding with baby

November 1, 2010

Now that the mornings are chilly I’m not sure how I’m going to go birding with Noah.  The kid refuses to wear any sort of head covering whatsoever, and even though the winter breezes are mild here in the bright sunny south, I’m not exposing those little ears to frostbite, or even mild discomfort-bite, if I can help it.  So I may have to institute a temperature cut off for mornings out, drawing the line at around 45 degrees or so, until either he learns to bundle up like a reasonable 1 year old or spring comes.

Aaaanywho, Noah and I didn’t have a lot of time Saturday morning on account of his sleeping in.  It’s all well and good for me to wake up, throw on some jeans and a fleece and be out the door and in the field in 15 minutes, but for a kid not only is there an amazing amount of paraphernalia involved in getting them out the door, but they generally need to be fed and changed and all that jazz.  So when Noah decides on the rare occasion to sleep in a little bit, we don’t get out in the field until nearly nine.

Fortunately, the colder morning and the lat start conspired to get us out right about when the birds were moving however, and when we arrives at Sandy Creek Park in west Durham, a place I’d never been before but one that looked like it had some ponds that might hold a new Durham County bird or too, things were really starting to get moving.  So I packed him up and off we went.  We soon flushed a dozen or so Mallards from the little pond.  One stuck around.  It may not not have been the most exciting start to the morning, but it was a bird I could photograph, so… you know.  Here’s a Mallard.

The birds working the trees around the ponds, which I soon learned were the remains of an old sewage treatment plant, were by and large Yellow-rumped Warblers.  They were everywhere.  The enormous flights that passed over the eastern seaboard this weekend translated to big movements here too, and while a handful of Kinglets and Chickamice and Carolina Wrens filled in the gaps, I’d say about 85% of the bird life present took the form of a Myrtle Warbler.

A short offshoot of the trail that ran by a marshy area provided the best bird of the day, my first Durham County Rusty Blackbird, not only a county bird (#150!) but a species that’s getting hard to find anywhere in the triangle anymore.

A broad grassy field turned up some goodies like Field and Chipping Sparrows and my first Dark-eyed Junco of the season, suggesting that it’s time for me to shift fully into a Emberizid mindset, one where I have to increase my sensitivity to streaks, rumps and subtle eyerings and to switch over to concentrating on weedy fields rather than treetops.  It takes a couple weeks every year to learn to largely ignore the masses of flitting warblers that a few weeks ago would have had me scrambling for the binoculars but now consist of a single, abundant species.  Holding on to the warbler eye into November is as sure a way to make a birder crazy as there is.

So it’s sparrows and waterfowl for the foreseeable future.  Good thing I like them.

  1. November 1, 2010 11:19 am

    I’m there with you on the birding with toddlers. I’ve been there…four times…and still kinda there.

    Did you tip off the Big Year guy there in NC on the Rusty? I know that was one he was after.

    I should be in NC next week, but I’m usually hitting a couple remodel homes and passing thru with little to no time for birding. I’ve been trying to schedule myself with an overnite stop near Chapel Hill, but it hasn’t worked out…yet!

  2. November 1, 2010 11:48 am

    Can you tie a hat onto Noah? Or has he learned to untie things too well?

    I’m looking forward to the coming winter because it should give me a better chance to practice bird photography on birds that are large and out in the open. Less foliage should help with the songbirds too.

    Congrats on the Rusty Blackbird. I’m still looking for one in my county.

  3. BirdTrainerRobert permalink
    November 1, 2010 12:01 pm

    Hey! Stop getting county birds!

    I love Sandy Creek Park, a nice little spot. Plus, it’s like a three minute drive from my place, which kind of makes it my go-to hangout. There’s never anything amazing there, but there’s just enough to keep you coming back.

  4. November 1, 2010 1:53 pm

    Same for me. Except that 45F is unrealistic for us michigander. I think 32F should be ok. It has to.

  5. Nate permalink*
    November 1, 2010 2:19 pm

    @Robert- I didn’t know there was a Big Year guy looking for a Rusty. That seems to be a pretty outstanding miss this late in the game. Let me know if you find yourself in the triangle!

    @John- He can’t untie, but he can scream bloody murder pretty well, which is what we deal with when I try to put on a hat. I need to find a time where his screaming isn’t a problem to just let him run around with it so he gets used to it. That’s how we do it when he has to wear new shoes too.

    @Robert- Rusty was a completely unexpected county bird! I was impressed with Sandy Creek, it has some nice habitat. And that big field across the old bridge was crawling with sparrows. I’ll have to hit that a little harder later in the year when I have more time.

    @Laurent- You may only have a couple more weeks where you even see 32F!

  6. November 2, 2010 12:53 pm

    Congrats on the county Rusty and my hat goes off to you for being so dedicated about bringing young Noah outside for birding. I have hardly brought my two year old daughter whle birding in Costa Rica because its hard to keep her from running off and in most places I visit, I dont want to run the risk of her stepping on or grabbing (accidentally or otherwise) a Fer-de-Lance, Eyelash Viper, or Coral Snake.

  7. Ted Floyd permalink
    November 3, 2010 11:43 am

    Key point: Very young children are much hardier than their wimpy parents. Just wrap ’em up, strap ’em in, and go! I really learned that lesson on the occasion of my daughter’s first Pacific Ocean pelagic trip (when she was 2). The grown-ups were all puking sick, and complaining about the cold mist and colder wind, and all bundled up and such…and my daughter, sans jacket or hat or gloves, was up on the boat’s railing, cheerfully calling out cetaceans and albatrosses.

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