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Late May in the Appalachians

Posted Tuesday 27th May 2008 at 01:37 by Terry O'Nolley
Updated Tuesday 10th June 2008 at 01:39 by Terry O'Nolley
I birded Green Ridge State Forest (western Maryland state forest that is situated on the foothills of the Appalachian mountains - 2,000 foot elevation approximately) and a sight nearby this weekend and it was fantastic!

What was special about this outing was not so much the bird list but, rather, the bird [b]quantity[/b] and the sweet, fresh air quality.

There is something about mountain air...

Getting to one of the birding sites was quite an adventure. My friend found a promising spot and told me that it looked good. I took his word and we headed out. The problem was, he just looked at a topographical map and found a terrain feature called "Bald Knob" on "Mt. Savage" mountain. As we drove towards it we noticed that we were in a populated area. Hmmmmm... what to do.... We asked a local where it was and they told us that the turnoff was "right next to the VFW hall".

OK. So we headed back to the VFW hall and saw a tiny road that was barely wider than a goat path. I pointed my Nissan Sentra at the goat path and let 'er rip!

The "road" was cobblestone that was probably laid back in the 1790's and the grade was so steep that I was scared to slow down because I thought I would slide back down.

After an [b]incredibly[/b] jolting 10 minutes or so, we reached the top and we still had all of our teeth fillings.

We were initially disappointed when we noticed a school and subdivision development at the top of the hill so we pressed on to the back side of the hill and hit paydirt - a quiet road leading into mostly undisturbed territory with a few houses and a lot of wooded acreage.

I followed the road until it ended at a large farmhouse and got out to ask the owners if it would be OK for us to bird their property for a few hours. They asked a few questions, gave us a few pointers and graciously allowed us the use of their land for the afternoon. During our brief conversation, we learned that their farmhouse was built in [b]1780[/b]! ([b]pic. 1[/b])

They also had a free-roaming Guinea Fowl that followed my car around. I was afraid I would run it over after they gave us permission to bird and I had to back out of their driveway!

The 3 hours of birding that followed was incredibly rich. Just walking around on the side of that hill at the outskirts of the Appalachian range and hearing the constant birdsong was magical. I got my 5th lifer of the year that afternoon. - a Chestnut-sided Warbler. ([b]pic. 2[/b])

I was temporarily stymied by my first sighting of juvenile Baltimore Orioles foraging along the side of an old path only a few yards ahead of me. ([b]pic. 3[/b])

Some highlights included a Scarlet Tanager that put on a great show and an endless amount of warblers that were just flitting about everywhere.

The next morning we hit Green Ridge State Forest and walked along a ridge for several hours. We had a couple close encounters with Yellow-billed Cuckoos [b](pic. 4)[/b] (this is when I learned what Cuckoo calls sounded like because I thought I was listening to the alarm calls of an Accipiter or owl and was really amped up) and were constantly having to decide which of the birds that just showed should be focused on.

My goal for the trip (beyond just having the opportunity to bird in such a beautiful place) was to tick a Cerulean Warbler. I heard three of them:

[url=http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/audio/Cerulean_Warbler.html]Click here for Cerulean Warbler song[/url]

but I never got a sighting I was comfortable with (once the bird that was singing and that I had figured where it must be darted out and flew away from me over the ridge and down into the treetops below. I couldn't make out a single fieldmark and I am not 110% it was the bird that was singing - even though it was - so I still can't tick it).

Some of the birds seen included:[list][*] American Crow[*] American Redstart[*] American Robin[*] Baltimore Oriole[*] Barn Swallow[*] Black-capped Chickadee[*] Blue Grosbeak[*] Blue-gray Gnatcatcher[*] Brown Thrasher[*] Canada Goose[*] Canada Warbler[*] Cedar Waxwing[*] Chestnut-sided Warbler[*] Chipping Sparrow[*] Common Grackle[*] Eastern Bluebird[*] Eastern Kingbird[*] Eastern Phoebe[*] Eastern Towhee[*] European Starling[*] Gray Catbird[*] Great Crested Flycatcher[*] House Finch[*] House Sparrow[*] Indigo Bunting[*] Mallard[*] Magnolia Warbler[*] Mourning Dove[*] Pine Warbler[*] Red-eyed Vireo[*] Red-winged Blackbird[*] Ruby-throated Hummingbird[*] Scarlet Tanager[*] Tree Swallow[*] Turkey Vulture[*] Yellow-billed Cuckoo[/list]
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BirdAdvocate's Avatar

Thanks for sharing a wonderful trip.

Your remark about mountain air reminded me of the last time I drank from a cold mountain spring. Both are mighty fine experiences!
Posted Tuesday 21st April 2009 at 16:03 by BirdAdvocate BirdAdvocate is offline
 
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