Friday, May 02, 2008

Dawn Chorus

I am Bird.
I Sing from above in the River of Time
I fly swiftly, watching all in the Forest
I hide in the branches and leaves
I may leave the Forest in Fall, but return again each Spring
I make the Forest dance.

When we drove into the parking lot at the lodge, we were greeted by our old friend, the Red-eyed Vireo, calling, "Here I am, where are you?" Ah, this is going to be a good birding weekend.

The air conditioners in the lodge at Natural Bridge State Park hadn't been turned on yet, so we all slept with the door cracked open a bit. About 5:00 am, the Dawn Chorus awakened us to a more pleasant alarm than usual. The chorus continued all day, whether we were around the lodge, or hiking up a trail.

A friend asked, "What's that little brown bird we see?" "Tail cocked up and sings REALLY loud? That's a Carolina Wren." Sure enough, the loudest bird on any branch ended up being the Carolina Wren. You wouldn't expect something that small could make so much noise. I am familiar with the songs our local Wrens sing, but these mountain birds came up with a few more I hadn't heard before. When you throw your head back, you can sing louder, they say.

On our first trail in the Red River Gorge, we heard birds singing non-stop along a rippling brook. It was very pleasant, but frustrating too. We would recognize a mnemonic of a song we heard on the CD, but could not place it with a bird. The first bird we actually saw on this trail was back at the parking lot, and it was a Louisiana Waterthrush, our first warbler. The field guide does not list the mnemonics used on the Peterson CD. "Weesa, weesa, weesa" said one invisible bird in the treetops, while another answered, "A-weet, a-weet, a-weet-teo." Our friends thought we were nuts. From now on, I carry the Peterson booklet that came with the CD - Birding by Ear. It does have an index in the back based on the song. Eventually we overcame a bad case of Warbler-neck (a common birder's ailment in the spring) and found the black and yellow Hooded Warbler singing A-weet, a-weet, a-weet-teo, and the Black and White Warbler who serenaded with Weesa, weesa, weesa, or the Squeaky Wagon song. No pictures, of course. The both move too fast among the branches for photography. I did get a picture of the Northern Parula, though, but the Waterthrush came out a little too fuzzy to post here. I've always said that when I can find and identify Warblers with ease, I will truly be a birding expert.

Since our lodge rooms were in the treetops, I expected to see all kinds of birds right from the balcony. Our room was at one end of the building, and I didn't see quite as many as expected. The great little Wren pictures are from our balcony. A couple Eastern Phoebes came to visit and sing, their Fee-b-lee sounding nothing like the clear Fee-bee of the Carolina Chickadee. A pair of American Crows must have been nesting on the hillside since they swooped back and forth outside my balcony all day long. When the sun shines on their feathers, a Crow can become beautifully iridescent. The other end of the lodge was next to some elm trees bearing seeds. I never would have thought of elm seeds as bird food, but we found Cardinals, Goldfinch and Indigo Buntings, and a Mama squirrel chowing down on them right outside the dining room window. I doubt that the birds every watch the people dining nearby the way I leaned out the window to watch the birds at their dinner!

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