Sunday, September 27, 2009
A Yellow-throated Warbler at Bolen Bluff
This month's good news on the home front is that Glenn landed an interesting-sounding freelance gig that will look great on his CV (and replenish his photo-gear budget). The bad news (for me) is that said gig is back in California and starts tomorrow—where he'll be until Thanksgiving. So much for his very first East Coast fall migration!
But before his departure, we made a point of trying to squeeze in as much birding time as possible. Last week, I took him to Morningside Nature Center to see, and photograph, a couple of birds new to him: Red-headed Woodpeckers and the locally famous Brown-headed Nuthatches, whose only regular spot in Alachua County is at Morningside.
The Red-headed Woodpeckers were noisy and abundant, giving us a morning full of good looks and pix. We found three Brown-headed Nuthatches only feet from the parking lot, squabbling with each other in a tree by some picnic tables. But they flew off before we could get any decent photos.
Glenn won't count any bird as a lifer until he gets a good sharp photo of it, so the Nuthatches remained an unattained goal. So we went back on Friday (the one day I don't teach--I made up for my day playing hooky by working most of today)--and found the park filled with people bearing leaf blowers (WHY? It's a freaking NATURE CENTER) and the birdy area where we had seen the Nuthatches the preceding week ominously surrounded by orange netting and peopled by guys in hard hats. Uh-oh. It looked like someone had decided to "improve" the park with some kind of development. At any rate, the roar of power tools and leaf blowers drove off any birds that might have been around.
So much for a quiet morning looking for Nuthatches!
We beat a quick retreat to the Bolen Bluff trail, where we figured (1) there wouldn't be any construction or a whole of lot people and (2) we'd find some warblers or other cool stuff. We were right on both counts.
On the woodsy northern part of the trail were big flocks of chattering Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. We scanned the flocks for warblers and found an American Redstart and several Yellow-throateds.
We ran into other hikers who told us there was "lots of stuff" out on the prairie. It wasn't clear what kind of stuff they were talking about, but we went out anyhow. Just as the woods gave way to the prairie, we saw a bold little Northern Waterthrush, hopping about on the trail, bobbing its tail. The brush and trees along the edge of the prairie trail were filled with Palm, Prairie, and Yellow Warblers:
We also spotted a Northern Parula (whose presence in the open brush rather than in the woods threw us for a loop). And all through the woods on the way back to the trailhead, we could hear calling Ovenbirds. This gave us an eight-warbler morning—a good number, even if comprised of unsurprising birds.
Later, we learned from friends with connections to the park service that the work being done back at Morningside was not, as we feared, a nefarious attempt to cover the center of the park with concrete, but preparation for their annual native plant sale. And we were assured that if someone did try to pave over Morningside, there would hell to pay; there would be no way local birders and park lovers would put up with it.
It's always a happy surprise to find that not all civic authorities are short-sighted and evil. But it's sad that this should have to be surprising.