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BY8: In Which I Note 72 Birds June 25, 2012

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I wish I could tell you why I haven’t been writing. But beyond the usual—too busy, too uninspired, too tongue-tied—I have no answers. I have gone mute.

And speaking of mute, I added mute swan to my Big Year list on April 5, catching sight of some while on a train between New York and Philly.

It’s clear that my Big Year, too, is a bit of a joke, in that I have not been at all aggressive about my count. Last week, I finally hit (for myself) triple digits. Almost six months in. A serious birder would have managed to get there within the first few weeks of the year, at most.

So here’s my first report since February 22.

Spring was in the air on March 3, when I spotted my first red-winged blackbird and killdeer of the season. The rest of March brought chipping sparrow, song sparrow, hairy woodpecker, turkey vulture, common grackle, eastern phoebe, American kestrel (Oh, kestrel! It is truly March now!), American woodcock, wood duck, and northern harrier. Year to date: 40.

April was still pathetically slow, despite spring’s creeping in. On the previously mentioned excursion south, in addition to the mute swan, I added white-throated sparrow, Cape May warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, and northern mockingbird. Others noted in April were belted kingfisher, hermit thrush, field sparrow, rufous-sided towhee, yellow-bellied sapsucker, wild turkey, common snipe, barn swallow, and tree swallow, bringing the grand total to 54.

On May 3, for the first time maybe ever, I spotted the rose-breasted grosbeak before Tom and Robin did. It will likely never happen again. But for once, sweet victory was mine!

Then, on May 5, we took a deliberate walk during migration and chalked up 14 species in one day, our best single-day new-species count: magnolia warbler, black-and-white warbler, ovenbird, Baltimore oriole, blue-gray gnatcatcher, eastern wood-pewee, yellow-rumped warbler, yellow warbler, black-throated green warbler, common yellowthroat, gray catbird, white-crowned sparrow, veery, and brown-headed cowbird. Thank you, oh migrating warbling ones.

The rest of the month included warbling vireo, eastern kingbird, bald eagle, osprey, double-crested cormorant, scarlet tanager, black-crowned night heron, chimney swift, great-crested flycatcher, eastern screech owl, red-eyed vireo, brown thrasher, and ruby-throated hummingbird. Total at end of May: 82.

Bored yet, nonbirders? Eyes glazing over?

Until I went on vacation last week, I had only added one bird to my list during June: cedar waxwing (rather late in the game because I haven’t been fly fishing yet this year).

My goal for Cape Cod was 30 species—overly optimistic, but why not have a goal? I added great egret, snowy egret, willet, herring gull, piping plover, common tern, laughing gull, black-backed gull, boat-tailed grackle, common eider, least tern, fish crow, and American black duck—many of which I could have added much earlier if I’d still been making trips to Portland (and seriously, I’ve seen black ducks in Vermont, but while driving, so I never had a good enough look to legitimately count them as not-female-mallards). For the first time in a million years, I heard a northern bobwhite, which made my heart sing. On the whale watch out of Provincetown, I added only three (but three I wouldn’t see on land): sooty shearwater, great shearwater, and Wilson’s storm petrel. Then, near the end of the week, a common loon (they don’t migrate back to remote ponds til they’re three years old!). I didn’t get 30, but I got 18.

The common loon was my species #100.

The black ducks got me to 101.

Tim saw little green herons, but I don’t think I got a good enough look to count it. We were very bummed about two species we’d hoped to see but didn’t: northern gannets and American oystercatchers.

But perhaps the saddest note of all is that so far this year, I’ve failed to spot an indigo bunting—and I’ve already missed the best window.

Slinky June 8, 2012

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Laura says that to keep the squirrels off her bird feeder, she’s installed a Slinky, wrapping the length of it down the pole (a time-consuming endeavor). Whether it works or not, it sounds like fun. Slinky. Last night we walked up the hill to take a look. For a couple of days, it worked, she says. Now the Slinky is stretched out from the trying, and one squirrel has gotten up. The chipmunks, of course, run through the coils, as if it’s merely the Habitrail or play tunnel to a happy meal.