5/7/2021 - 5/9/2021
The internet is a funny thing full of dichotomies. Mostly, it is the collective wisdom and crazy ramblings of our species. It is everyone, everywhere, at once, but only as viewed through the veil - or maybe a lens that shows too much or too little and only whatever the other person wants you to see. As all of this is poured out into social media and laid out for casual consumption in an ever-convenient stream, it is hard to remember that you cannot be everyone and everywhere at once. You cannot see it all. You cannot be in all the places at all the right times. And, if you are competing against it, you will lose every time. It does not stop me from dreaming big every time I head out with my camera, though.
So, it was with big dreams that I stepped out of the house Friday morning to go look for migrants. Reports had been coming in all week about how great migration was going. My location of choice was Ft. Ben. I had obligations that afternoon and could not stray far from home. The park was alive with bird song when I arrived. I hit up the usual areas, but I was not finding much in the way of migrants. The big surprise of the morning was a semi-cooperative Scarlet Tanager that was working low in the trees. While he was keeping low, he was moving warbler quick from tree-to-tree. I ran into Mark Rhodes and talked to him a bit, he had found the Brewster's Warbler and had heard a Mourning Warbler. I tried tracking them down, but did not have any luck. Eventually, I ran into Mark Welter, and we decided to run a loop up the main road. Changing things up did not change our luck a lot. We were picking up warblers in ones and twos, but not much of anything different. We did find our first of year Magnolia Warbler. And we eventually found a Chestnut-sided Warbler; after running back into Mark Rhodes, again. The truth is, we were in a lot of the wrong places at the wrong times. Other birders were having better success, by all reports. We rounded out the morning with around 60sp.; not terrible. But it was not exactly what I had dreamed of....
I headed home, checked in with work and had a meeting, then headed out to take care of some things. I got back home and sat down to watch for grosbeaks. While there, I noticed that there were some warblers working through the buckeye tree. I grabbed the camera and headed upstairs to watch out the office window. It was a Nashville/Tennessee show. There were 3 or 4 warblers ducking in and out of the limbs and flowers; feeding on the nectar. I managed a few shots and scored what was probably my favorite Nashville Warbler shot, ever. So, take that big dreams! Maybe I should have just stayed home all day. Oh, I also had a Northern Flicker skulk in and try to pretend to be a warbler.
Saturday, I was hoping to make up for my lack of photos from Friday. So, I dreamed my way over to Eagle Creek Park. I have always had better luck shooting there. I did not have to be anywhere that day and planned to make the most of it. I arrived at the marina and, surprisingly, pulled in to a completely empty lot. No birders. Not even anyone fishing. The place was alive with song and crawling with warblers. I did not try to count. I would put the count at around 100 birds - and they were pretty much 50/50 Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers. All the trees and bushes edging the marina were full of warblers. In the time there, I found 1 Yellow Warbler mixed in with them. I headed up road and into the woods there. Things changed up quickly, and I was hearing Ovenbird, Redstart, and a variety of other birds up in the denser area. I was hoping to pull a Mourning or Canada warbler, but I did not hear any. Birding the path up the ridge towards the Discover Center, I pished up an Ovenbird and a Redstart. A Black-and-White Warbler popped into view at the same time as the Redstart, and I suddenly was not sure what to shoot first. Things never got crazy, but I was constantly running across something, and I was having fun. I moved from the marina to the beach area and found a lot of the other birds I was looking for: Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, and Chestnut-sided. I spent a while pishing and praying the Blackburnian would come down. Instead, I got a consolation pair of Black-and-white Warblers. Hard to complain about.
I roved around a bit from there and bounced between the Circle Drive area, the skating pond, and the Discover Center. Things were slowing down though. I started seeing a lot less warblers and more flycatchers. The best surprise of the day was a Great Crested Flycatcher. I long to photograph this bird every year. Most years, I fail. This beautiful bird hopped down low and scanned around for a little bit. It is hard to get a decent shot of them; they always have their head tilted at odd angles. At the skating pond, I got my first looks at Eastern Wood-Pewee. The Discover Center provided me with my first Least Flycatcher, and back at Cricle Drive, I had my first Eastern Kingbird.
The day was clear and sunny, and the lighting was getting pretty rough. I headed back home and took a few more grosbeak shots, because... why not?
Sunday was a wash-out. Heavy rain until around 3:00 PM kept me inside; watching and waiting. I had a drenched first-year, male, Baltimore Oriole stop by briefly. The grosbeaks are still here, and I am hoping they stay for a little while longer.
While I seem to have missed out on the big Golden-winged push, the arrival of Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and a host of other species means that migration is in full swing. Until I can make it out next weekend, I will be dreaming big and hoping to find some Mourning and Connecticut Warblers next weekend.
Thanks for reading,