Saturday, April 19, 2008

Red Bridge Round Up

Red Bridge photo courtesy of David Backlin. Taken in June 2005

Clouds gave way to sun as a large group of GOAS birders ventured out to the Mark Twain National Forest in southeastern Christian County. The Red Bridge Road loop over to Busiek State Forest is my favorite neotropical migrant birding field trip. Last spring the area was phenomenal because a very late hard freeze left the canopy leafless. This combined with weather that created fall-out conditions brought large flocks of warblers down to the understory to feed. On a memorable early May morning last year, we logged over a dozen Blackburnian Warblers and over a dozen Philadelphia Vireos along with the flocks of many others, giving us over 20 warbler species for the day.

But this is early warbler season 2008, not peak warbler season 2007. Compared to last spring's blistering birding, the numbers and variety are down, but we are still two weeks away from the May Madness that grips our local birders. A lot can happen in that time.

On my way to the meeting point, a beautiful male Red-headed Woodpecker flew across the road just in front of me. This is perhaps the least common of the 7 woodpeckers that inhabit our area. It's always a thrill to see one, but this sighting follows a fairly lengthy dry spell of about 7 months.

At the meeting point for the GOAS field trip, we were greeted by sparse warbler song. I fine-tuned my ears to differentiate the distant warbler songs for another season. Our first was the handsome Ovenbird, following quickly by the ubiquitous Northern Parula. The squeaky song of the Black-and-white Warbler echoed in the valley. Soon we caught glimpses of all three. A Worm-eating Warbler called out from the steep, rocky hillside. Despite a concentrated effort, I was unable to local the secretive bird.

We had the pleasure of birding with David Ringer today. David is one of two young birders that fledged from the active group of GOAS birders during the mid to late '90s.David Ringer, left, Lisa Berger, and Jane Simpson, enjoy the view from the bridge at Busiek State Forest.

Both have become excellent birders and writers, and both have carved their niches out in the blogosphere. David hosts Search and Serendipity and is the co-founder of the Birdstack listing website. The other GOAS fledging is my son Nathan, who keeps things hopping over at The Drinking Bird. So, many of you already know both of them, or at least have read their birding stories and spin on the culture of birding.

We headed down to Red Bridge, an old bridge crossing the clear Bull Creek. We quickly added Louisiana Waterthrush and Kentucky Warbler to our growing list. While climbing up to the pine covered ridge, we heard the burry Yellow-throated Vireo and watched as a small kettle of Broad-winged Hawks circled above.

At the top of the ridge, I spotted a Hermit Thrush with his rufous rump and tail. I watched as it bobbed its tail and adjusted its wings with each call note. Immediately thereafter, an amorous pair of Black and White Warblers danced closely in the branches directly above us. Pine warblers, Ovenbirds, and Ruby Crowned Kinglets added their voices to the growing cacophony.
With time restraints arising, we headed over to Busiek State Forest to conclude our trip. We immediately picked up a Yellow-throated Warbler and a White-eyed Vireo. I then climbed up to the glade to scout it
out for the group. It was there that
I photographed a cooperative Eastern Towhee and an Eastern Fence Swift and saw/heard three Prairie Warblers.

So, I think that makes a nine warbler and two vireo day. It's a start, and it forced me to hone my ears for the coming three weeks of birder madness. There is gold and precious jewels in them thar trees and bushes. I can't wait to find my share!

1 comment:

Greg said...

I forgot to mention American Redstart! So, that's 10 warbler species.