Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
As we walk among the trees, we hear a Parula singing to the left. Then another answers from the right. Listening carefully, we can sometimes establish the "front" between two competing males. The iPod calls in one of them. "Who are you and what are you doing on my turf?" he demands. If no other male of his species is discovered he goes back to foraging. Occasionally, we manage to attract both males, and then the chase begins. Bird ethics prescribe only limited use of bird calling like this, to allow the birds to live their lives without interruption and needless expenditure of energy needed for attracting a mate and raising a brood. I agree, but it is fun to actually see the bird in question, rather than marking most of my list as "heard only."
I am so glad for those hours in the car listening to the birdsong CDs now. At least I have some clue as to what birds are around, even if I have trouble finding the little trillers in the branches straight above my head. The trip leaders here at New River are wonderful about making sure everyone gets to see the bird of the moment. I don't have enough words to describe the bright bright orange in the Blackburnian Warbler we found this morning. Bare branches add to the challenge of getting a good photo. The squeaky wagon sound did in fact come from a Black and White Warbler. Cute little Black Capped Chickadees (the northern guys) cleaned out a nest hole, removing wood chips and dumping them faster than the speed of light almost.Today's trip climbed 4,000 feet in elevation to Cranberry Glade, a trip to the boreal bogs of New England, right here in the Appalachians of West Virginia. The National Park Service has a boardwalk to protect the fragile bog habitat. Imagine this in the fall, with the trees and cranberry bushes all turning red.
The boggy environment does not carry many nutrients in the soil, and we found several carnivorous plants, which eat insects to obtain nitrogen they can't get from the soil. I've seen Skunk Cabbage in wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, and Pitcher plants in coastal Alabama where similar bogs can be found. The Eastern Skunk Cabbage produces its stinky blossom on the ground, before sprouting any leaves. The Western Skunk Cabbage grows a bright yellow blossom on a tall stalk, much different than the Eastern.
Due to the higher elevation in the Glade, spring is several weeks behind what we see elsewhere. Few trees are blooming, but Marsh Marigolds brighten the landscape in all directions. The food at the festival is excellent! All meals are included in the package, and they are far better than what I would find at the neighborhood fast food restaurants if left to my own resources. A hot breakfast greeted us in an open gazebo above the Gorge at 6:00 am. Heaven bless a good caterer! A display of moths clinging to the restroom walls under a lamp added an extra treat. This luna moth wins the prize for Flashiest Moth. Several other small greys would have been completely invisible on their normal tree bark perches (this was was park brown.) A few little white moths were just asking for trouble against the dark wall.
Tomorrow it may rain, but we are all ready for it. Let the birding continue!
Monday, April 27, 2009
In the evening, however, news of danger in the woods smacked us in the face. A grad student talked about invasive slugs. We learned about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an invasive aphid like creature which leaves white eggs on the hemlock branches, and will eventually kill the hemlock trees. American Chestnut, American Elm, Dogwood have all faced disease and lost or still struggle in the battle. Now the Hemlock joins them. Another speaker told us about White Nose Syndrome in bats, which causes infected bats to awake during hibernation, and eventually to starve to death. This was only discovered in 2006, yet some caves in New England have lost 90% of their bat populations in this short time. The biologists are getting desperate because they cannot determine which this is, how it started or how to combat it. Forest fragmentation was the final address.
You get the picture. The days were wonderful, and the nightly presentations so very depressing. Was it a good weekend? Well, that depends on what time of day you ask. My stomach still hurts when I think about it. I suffered a severe attack of White Knuckle Syndrome myself when we left the conference, because our Google driving directions took us over the top of Pine Mountain on a one lane road with no guard rails, and a two-lane road across Black Mountain, all within about an hour. It took almost 7 hours to drive across the mountains and work our way to an interstate highway to reach Fayetteville, WV.
Now we are in West Virginia at the New River Birding Fest and had great success with our warblers this morning. We also found many of the Blogger Flock and enjoy getting to know each other. Birders representing many states made the trip. Jim McCormac not only knows his birds and birdsong, but flowers and things that live under rocks.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
When we put in the stream, only 3 days ago, we hoped to get birds to come, but never dreamed the birds would be so large, or so soon!
Friday, April 10, 2009
The fun part is accessorizing the stream. Dick moves around some of the rocks and fossils he's been collecting for maximum effect. Every time he moves another rock even a little in the water, the flow and the sound are immediately affected. See the little gorge in the middle? By morning, the power of that little bit of water had moved all the small rocks at the bottom to the side so the liner was visible. This may be too much current for the birds to enjoy, so I placed a flat bottomed dish out of reach of the final waterfall to provide shallow still water for drinking and bathing. The dish is below ground level though, so we may not get to see the birds in it often.
The rest of the yard has been a constant mystery and delight this spring. Dick planted perennials for a large butterfly garden last summer, and we don't really remember what went where now. Every few days we peek in the pine straw for any signs of green, and push the mulch away to encourage the sprouts. Winterberry bushes looked completely dead, but yesterday I saw the first signs of small buds. He left a banana tree in the ground and just mulched it. Will it survive the winter? Some columbine seeds casually tossed in a flower bed are sprouting, but it will take a while for them to get big enough to bloom. We have seedlings for milkweed, but are waiting for the soil to warm before setting them out. There is one spot in the whole yard that gets full sun for them. Wood Poppy wins the prize for first plant to sprout and bloom.
This is all too much fun! Except for cleaning the mud off my formerly white sneakers....
Friday, April 03, 2009
One time, though, the shadow was not a Vulture, but a mature Bald Eagle. Too many trees for a picture, but it was still exciting. Salato Wildlife Center has two injured Eagles on exhibit for education purposes, and one of them decided it was bath time, just as we came to see them.