Saturday, May 26, 2012

Whip-poor-wills & The Curse of the Ring-necked Pheasant

I'd head back out to Lancaster today to do some birding and get a super early start to get the Whip-poor-will's  on Pine Hill Road.  I'd get there for 4:45 and hear one as soon as I rolled down the window.  HA!  I'd think.  Like taking candy from a baby and a good sign for what's to come.  I'd roll down my window, take a sip of coffee and ready myself for the Whip-poor-will chorus....Hmmmmm...He stopped....Well I'll just wait some which is exactly what I did as I sat in silence in my dark car on a dark road for a bird that refused to re-sing.   After about 5 minutes of waiting, the daytime crew would take its place and I'd hear a Chipping Sparrow followed by an American Robin which I found fascinating as no one gets up earlier than the robin , at least in my part of town.  I'd head to Bolton Flats glad I got to Pine Hill Road as early as I did because if I were five minutes later I wouldn't have gotten the bird.

It would still be semi dusk by the time I got to Bolton Flats and all of the birds would be up by now and singing up a storm including the American Bittern nearby which is such a nice sound to hear first thing in the morning.  I'd get out of my car, put on a ton bug spray and then prepare myself for the hike through the swamp for my two target birds, the Common Gallinule and Marsh Wren's.

So on would come  the old hip boots and I'd also be sporting a back pack to put my camera and cell phone in just in case I fell in the swamp which I have the potential for considering how clumsy I am!  I'd take my time and bird while I made my way down the path.  It wouldn't take me long to hear the now familiar "PizzA! of the Acadian Flycatcher.  My ears would tell me it was close by so searched for it.

And there it would be in plain view but terrible lighting as the sun was still so low, but I'm really starting to like the silhouette pictures if anything to get an appreciation of shape vs. color which is how you often see birds when birding.

And speaking of flycatchers there would be quite a few Willow Flycatchers as I made my way toward the T including the one above singing up a storm.

 But soon enough my primary passerine birding would end as I entered the swampy, murky water in hopes for the Gallinule and wrens.  The water would be deep in some areas and visions of a couple of years ago with Alan would come back as I tried to recall the more challenging areas of the trench.  I'd make my way to the island and search trying to remember the directions Alan had given me via email.  Hmmmmm.....Something about the beaver dam and cattails and I'd look and see neither.  I'd survey the area again and realize he must have meant the T so headed back but not before noting seeing a Wood Duck and Hooded Merg together (both females) that I thought was rather interesting.  

I'd be in deep concentration trying to head back to dry land and come across a branch or something and start to lose footing so grabbed onto some tall grass and as I did this I could feel something hit my boot hard just above the knee.  My reflex would take hold as I screamed like a girl and get a full case of the wussification woolies!!  Remembering how I scoffed such females on my Facebook page just a couple days prior I regained my composure hoping no one heard me as that would be down right embarrassing, especially if they were a Facebook friend as they'd call me on my hypocrisy !  I'd then realize I was stuck something fierce in the mud and the woolies would return so I did what I often do when stuck in a sticky situation and that is whip out the binoculars to get my mind off of my current encounter if only for a moment.  I'd be glad I did because I would see a Red-winged Blackbird chasing after and dive bombing a fierce bad ass Wood Duck (you all know how vicious they can be, HA)!  I'd make my way further down the trench and get stuck again and now my calm demeaner was diminishing.  F*ck, I'd yell and fairly loud through gritted teeth.  I'd better get this damn bird after all this I'd think to myself, talk about working hard for a bird.....I'd make my way a couple more steps and start sliding again when I'd hear it.  "Cow Cat"........Hmmmmmmm..... a Ring-necked Pheasant..  Another FOY bird I'd think....... hell I'll take it even if it's iffy.  Id' then remember what happened last time I got the pheasant and how I didn't get another FOY birds for at least a month and how convinced I was it was a curse.  Nah, I'd think, just a coincidence that's all I'd reassure myself as the gallinule is a given surely it is and it must be higher on the taxonomic hierarchy that the pheasant I'd reassure myself yet again as I tried to remember the structure in my Peterson guide......

I'd finally make it to dry land and the passerines would still be out including this very handsome American Goldfinch who was gracious enough to pose for the camera

And this Tree Swallow just preening and chilling!

And of all things  a Pileated Woodpecker!  I may be mistaken but I believe this is a Bolton first for me.
The sun would be out by now so the butterflies would be out as well.  Now that I was on stable land I called Alan to confirm my suspicion on the T entrance and sure enough that's exactly where I needed to go all along.  HA.  While I was happy there was still hope, I'd dread having to venture back out in that water but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do, especially when ones last bird is a Ring-necked Pheasant!

So off I went as I passed by yet again more Willow Flycatchers.

And one of the many Yellow Warblers.

I'd make my way toward the T and decide to go left to see if I could skirt around the deepest part of the trench as I remembered how murky it was last time I was there and wanted to avoid it if possible.

I'd be happy to be on dry land thinking I was clever and come across this little friend.  Hmmmm, wonder if this was the bloke I literally bumped into just a half an hour or so ago. ;-)
I'd be in my element at this time as I'd be in an area of Bolton I'd never really explored before and there was a lot to take in, including an Osprey nearby as well as this rugged looking drake Mallard who looked as if he was in bad shape after a bad night of boozing it up!  It would be here that I'd hear the now familiar "Cow Cat" of the Ring-necked Pheasant which would be my reminder to get a move on as I had places to go and birds to see!
I'd start toward the tree line and hear one of my favorite songs which is none other than two Savannah Sparrows with their "take, take, take, take it eeasssy song and happiness would once again take hold and optimism would take over.  I'd get closer to the area and realize the vegetation was far too thick so had to go back to square one and start over again.....So much for your genius idea I'd think as the Pheasant would crone nearby, almost laughing at me. 

I'd finally make my way into the trench which was so murky in the beginning that I was getting stuck at every step.  I'd then search for dryer brush to land on which would cause me to get all wobbly with the uneven footing and it would be then that I'd realize a stick would be poking my shin.  How'd that happen I'd wonder and I'd soon find out that it punctured my boot and I had a huge gash right below my knee.  SHIT I'd yell and then hear the "Cow Cat".  Analysis paralysis would take hold as I'd contemplate venturing further into the trench and wonder if I was in fact cursed by the pheasant.  Hell, I've gotten this far so there's no turning back I'd think so off I went as water was getting into my boot. :-p.  I'd get myself in a mess again and then I'd hear it......Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck, which would be the Three Stooges call of the Virginia Rails.  I'd look around confused wondering where the hell they could be and then panic would take hold as I worried whether or not they had babies with them....I'd stand there paralyzed for a bit hoping a Sora would break my pheasant curse and that would never happen either so I headed back toward dry land in order to not traumatize the rails on a venture that was already proving unsuccessful.
Surveying the damage once I got onto dry land and realizing I spent close to an hour and a half in a swamp and never even saw the lousy beaver dam!..."Cow Cat"!

Yellow-throated Vireo on my way out..I'd also see a man in a crisp, clean white shirt and realize immediately that it wasn't a birder as what birder wears white!  I'd realize at this point that I probably looked as ragged as the Mallard earlier in the day so tried to compose myself as best I could....The man would look at me intrigued and ask if I found anything interesting.......No, just a Ring-necked Pheasant and Acadian Flycatcher I'd reply back hoping I wasn't blushing too hard....

I'd get to my car, check myself out in my rear view mirror and not only have mud on my face, but in my hair too.  HA, that guy probably thought I was swamp woman from the lagoon or something.  So funny!

His very cool car..Heck, the thing was so tiny if I had a couple of ores I could have used it as a canoe and paddled myself to the gallinule. ;-)

I'd make one last trip to Sterling Peat in a desperate attempt for an Orchard Oriole to break the pheasant curse and the place would be dead except for at least 4 Spotted Sandpipers like the one below and their side kick the Killdeer

So there you have it folks, I'm cursed once again , I'm convinced of it!  Will be out bright and early yet again tomorrow to see what I can do, but I don't have much to chose from.  The birds I really need are the ducks and gulls (besides the Ring-billed) and they won't be back until after breeding season so I'm kind of in a pickle.  Cross your fingers for me for the Worm-eating Warbler please as I have a date with him bright and early tomorrow morning!

Take care all


Danni said...

You just need more waders! Or glue? Cool pics as always.

dAwN said...

Ha ha..good story. Glad you made it out of the mud. Hope the curse it broken soon!


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