Saturday, April 26, 2008

What a Day

What a day for a birdwalk.

My new friends Stirling and Lyn picked me up just before our scheduled meeting at 6:30 a.m. and caught me filling up bird feeders. I hurried out the door; we got as far as the end of my block when we realized I’d forgotten my Sibley’s…they graciously insisted we turn around so I could retrieve the field guide and we were off on our adventure.

Two of us had never been ‘birding’ before, so we were quite excited. We were to meet up with the AVAS group and their 4th Saturday Birdwalk at the Greenway and Nature Center of Pueblo. I was looking forward to meeting the group leader, Donna, who has been instrumental in helping me get started birding and meeting other birders. I met several other members of AVAS, including Leon, who brought his scope and tripod and shared it with everybody and Bill (always nice to meet the President!). Also with us was Skip, who Stirling had tried to plan as our guide to Wood Ducks last week…another really nice and experienced birder. It’s true…birders are nice people!

As we arrived at the meeting spot and did introductions all around, we noticed there was a plant sale going on at the center. It was very hard for me to stay on task…I love a good plant sale! But, off we went down the trail to water’s edge where we immediately saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler…a first for me; first Warbler, even! Standing in the same spot, we also saw White-crowned Sparrows, which seem to have become ‘my bird’ as I was able to spot them several many more times throughout the hike. I had so much fun! In addition to a beautiful hike on a fabulous day full of so many firsts in the bird-department, I also saw blooming daffodils and wild iris, bright yellow forsythia, several crabapples and one of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen; the Redbud…in full bloom; a cloud of pink. Donna pointed out another pretty little bush with small yellow flowers that were clove-scented. She told us they were currants and that the birds love the fruit. I loved the scent.

Leon set up his scope so we could see a whole line of Violet-green Swallows sitting pretty and preening; stunning birds…and another first for me. I imagine I’ve seen them flying about before, but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually see them and they are a picture of loveliness. The row of them on the power line looked like a painting of cute, little, white birdies…splashed in neon-green and tails dipped in purple.

Down by the river we also saw evidence of mud-nests under the pylons that held up an overpass. I’m not at all sure if these were nests of the Violet-greens or the Barn Swallow someone saw in the area.

Moving along the path along the river, we saw several Grebes, a Scaup and a single female Bufflehead, as well as some Canada Geese and the ubiquitous Mallards.

It took us awhile to identify the Grebes; as we’d see a small raft of them on the water and move to scope them…they’d dive and there was no telling where they’d pop back up on the surface. Finally Leon had them though; a beautiful dark bird with a long snowy white front to its neck and breast. The difference between the Western and Clark’s Grebe is subtle…but we saw both birds. I think it was Bill who spotted the Eared Grebe, but I missed it, darnit.

There were several dark, snaky-necked Double-creasted Cormorants both in the water and the air. I read that somewhere in the world, fishermen tie a cord around the necks of ‘trained’ Cormorants who dive for fish but are unable to swallow until, after keeping several for themselves, the owner removes the leash and allows the bird to gulp it's dinner.

On the other side of the path, in a large, dry pasture we saw several Killdeer…still another first for me! Those funny, long-legged things remind me of shore-birds.

Another rather interest-ing sight were the several felled trees we saw, each pointy stump surrounded by a pile of wood-chips; beavers are active on the river. Who knew?

Probably the highlight of the trip were the many Wood Ducks we observed. They seem shy creatures and would try to keep the width of the river between us and sometimes took to the sky. Several times small groups of males flew by, just above the water. They look quite different in flight than the ‘paint-by-number birds’, as Lyn called them, did paddling on the water.

As he did several times, along our hike, Leon set up and spotted birds on the water for us…I’ve not often seen Wood Ducks and think Lyn has it right, they do look like someone created a paint-by-number image. I’d like to go back sometime and see if I can’t find the Mandarin Ducks that apparently breed in the area; talk about an exotic-looking bird. Leon tells us they’ve been in the area for years and have established a regular little colony…enough to call them feral rather than escapees.

Our little group had to leave early, but just before we left the others and while we were all watching more of the Yellow-rumps, I believe I saw a Black Phoebe; tiny little dark charcoal-gray thing with a snowy white breast and a beak so tiny I knew instinctively knew it is a fly-catcher, too.

Yes, it was a fine day for birding and it just got better and better. I came home to find yet another first to add to my list! I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at my feeders…about the most romantic-looking bird I think I’ve ever seen; totally black head, flashy black and white back and wings and yet a pure white breast stained blood-red right over its heart. Wow.

This is the list of birds we saw (though surely incomplete for the whole group, as most kept going as we left):

American Robin
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Audubon's
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Myrtle Population
Black Phoebe
White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove
Ring-billed Gull
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Clark’s Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Northern Shoveler
Lesser or Greater Scaup
Red-tailed Hawk
Turkey Vulture


Birdnerd said...

So glad you had a good time! yes, birders are a nice lot. You saw a lot of great birds....I'm jealous of the RB Grosbeak. I birded all day with a group today and we saw about 56 species with tons and tons of warblers moving through. Also, I picked up that Beginning Birding workbook and think it will really help in future classes that I teach. Thanks again for the tip.

Beverly said...

awwwwwww...thanks! I did have a good time and hopefully will get to do it again soon. I'll go 'help out' with the May 10th count, too...that should help!

I'm glad you thought the book will help. I took a class once, on how to teach...that book seems to me it's on the right track. I think I'll post a piece on the book here, so others might find it.

But...back to birds; FIFTY-SIX!? Too cool!!!

NW Nature Nut said...

You saw a lot of fun birds. I love the wood ducks too. The mud nests are probably barn swallows. I think VG swallows only nest in cavities. So you turned Laura onto the Beginning Birding book? That looks like a nice workbook. I am taking a birding by ear class from her next month, and I bet she incorporates some of it into the class. By the way, the Mallard Duck video is running now. Maybe just a blogger or youtube glitch. Thanks for visiting.

Beverly said...

Yes, I understood the mud nests were done by the Barn Swallows (which we saw, too), but didn't know the Violet-greens nested in cavities. Neat!

As far as the book goes...I finally added a piece about it here...including a pic of the cover and a link to Amazon. I'd worry about buying this one it IS a workbook, afterall (it could be well marked-up) The author also lists CDs he recommends for learning bird-songs.

And now I'm off to see your clip!