Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Chipmunk Invasion & My New Love-the Wood Thrush

I'd wake up well before the sunrise this morning in order to do my new found obsession of recording birds so would be up at 3:45 with a goal of being out by 4:30 in hopes to pick up some birds singing their first morning song.  I'd question my sanity on why I was getting up at such an hour as I put the coffee on and could still smell the fire from my neighbor Tim's party last night and wouldn't you know they'd still be outside, singing the Eagles and drinking beer.  I'd remember those days and be glad I was about to start my day instead of sleeping through it like Tim and his guests most likely would.  I'd take some extra time to pack my bag with both food and water as the entire trip would be done by foot as my son needed the car so decided to head to Martha Deering which would be 5 miles there and back plus and additional 4 of hiking to equal 9 miles on foot so needed to make sure I had the calories to support it.

 I'd get to my spot where I always stop to look for a Least Bittern though I know the odds are low but do it just the same as you never know!  This has always been a quick stop by car so was happy to see a trail I could do by foot that would allow me to hike the whole length of the river to see what I could find.  There'd be no bittern of course but did pick up some Wood Ducks with ducklings as well as a Great-blue Heron.  Soon enough I'd be away from the river and deep in the woods with a powerline nearby and bird song would be wonderful including two Hairy Woodpecker's counter-drumming which allowed me the chance to do my first ever drum recording.  Wooot!

How cool is this!  Seriously, it seems as if a whole new world has been bestowed upon me since I made a goal of studying bird song more as I'd pick up on the counter drumming immediately and spend about 5 minutes recording them as one would drum, wait and the other would follow.  It always leaves me with more questions than answers as I try and understand what's going on between my chosen subjects.  Are they both males and defiending their turf or a couple who are drumming for contact calls?  I'll probably never know but it's fascinating to listen to.

I'd continue along my way and be impressed with all the provisions made on my newly discovered trail including the bridge above.  Not sure who did it but wouldn't be surprised if it were the Mountain Bikers in a way to connect Rayburn to Martha Deering to make for a nice, long ride.

Make shift rock cairn's along to create a whimsical touch.

By then the sun would start to shine and the earth awaken as I made my way toward Martha Deering.  Sounds of birds would be everywhere with peeks of sun shining in my eyes and the smell of the wet earth would invigorate me.  I'd pass more Hairy Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood Pewees, Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers as they called from the tree tops and it wouldn't take long to hear the song of the Wood Thrush some distance away.  It sounded different to me so willed it to keep singing in an effort to get closer to it for recording.  After a couple of minutes of hiking I'd stop to let my ears tell me where it was and once again they led me to the singing bird.

Of all the things recording birds the past couple of weeks has taught me is how to really focus on the sound of the bird in relation to location.  You need to be as close to the bird as possible to get the best recording which requires intense concentration and forces you to slow down.  Once you get on the bird and start recording, you must remain completely still as any movement will interfere with recording.  I believe it is the stillness that wills the bird closer to you as you aren't fiddling with your binoculars or camera settings so the bird goes about its day unconcerned with your presence.  I'd spot the bird, hit record and be swept away by his song.

Don't know if it's because I'm more aware of song in general but this thrush sounded different to what I was hearing throughout the month of May.  Almost slower, more musical and spaced further apart.  Once I hit the reocrd button I focus only on the song of the chosen bird and hear nothing else so would be surprised my Droid could pick up on the Brown Creeper I didn't even notice until I ventured down the trail more.

I'd finally make it to Martha Deering and stop for a water breakbefore heading to Grafton and would notice that something had picked up since the wee hours of the morning which were the many Chipmunks who'd be calling from everywhere and making me crazy as it required more concentration in hearing the birds.  The other thing I'd notice were a lot of horse droppings along the path which meant watching where I was going  in order not to step in it as it would literally be everywhere so guessing Martha Deering and the Grafton Land Conservation has become a favorite among horse riders.

All would not be lost though once my ears got used to the Chipmunks and would hear and spot a Scarlet Tanager nearby who'd turn out to be the female above.  I'd get to an area where a Baltimore Oriole was doing an abbreviated song I've noticed since the first of June and wanted to record it but the relentless Chipmunks made it impossible and was highly annoyed.  Despite the noise it wouldn't take long for me to realize I had a Yellow-throated Vireo singing nearby making me very happy as it would be another June record for me in town which means potential breeding.

You will understand what I mean by all the Chipmunks once you hear the recording above and I'd hear this the ENTIRE TIME I was in the woods I kid you not!  Was happy just the same to get a recording of the vireo though.

I'd finally make it to the Grafton turn around point and it wouldn't take long to get good and lost.  I'd kick myself considering I knew these woods well when I was trail running them, but that was two years ago and realized I was over confident.  I'd get caught up in one of those mountain bike loops where I'd go around in circles trying to find my way out and be uncertain of how to get out of Grafton and back to Millbury.  I'd grumble to myself and knew one thing and that was despite the MassBird posts on lack of chipmunk sightings there is no shortage in my area and horses sure do sh*t a lot as  I took a nasty spill in some turning a corner!

I'd finally resort to whipping out the Droid which already had a low battery due to all the recording I was doing and go to the map section to help get me out of Grafton and wouldn't you know, it worked like a charm so will remember it next time as there will of course be a next time.  I'd hear another Wood Thrush the closer I got to Martha Deering and had to stop to record this one despite the low battery as it was throwing in notes I'd never heard before making it very recording worthy.

Notice the chipmunks calling in the back ground!  I seriously wanted to grab one by the tail and toss it across the woods at this point as not only was their annoying call imprinted in my brain after hearing them for 4 hours straight, but they were messing with my recordings no less-little buggers!

I'd be bone tired at this point and all my photos would come out lousy so would put away my camera and recording and plop myself on a rock for much needed rest.  It would be then I'd realize there were at least two Wood Thrushes nearby including the one above with food in the bill I'm guessing to feed young.

Going away.  I'd watch and listen to the two of them for a while and never realized just how tame these birds can be if you have the patience to remain still as they'd pay no attention to me after a while.  Soon enough I'd get back to Martha Deering and realize I'd done over 10 miles of hiking with another 2 or so to go.  Normally this wouldn't bother me as I'm used to 11+ distances but the most miles I've put in by foot this year was five and my lower back was protesting something fierce.  I'd use the last of my phone battery power to call my son and ask him to pick me up at "Little Dorothy (a pond nearby) as I wanted to go to the grocery store to get him his pizza rolls he wanted as well as the beer I craved after all that hiking.
I'd arrive at Little Dorothy bone tired and sit for the first time since 5am. I'd finally have welcome relief from the Chipmunks as none would be heard while I sipped my water and watched a Mallard with her ducklings nearby.  She'd keep them close to the vest and whenever one went astray she'd make this grunting type noise to call it back with its siblings.

I now sit here in front of the computer re energized as there are Killdeer across the street who've been around past few days so guessing they're setting up shop.  Will be heading over there for hopeful pictures ans audio.  Just cross your fingers there are no Chipmunks nearby.

Take care all.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I had no idea what a wood thrush is until today. #learningisfun! ;) I love hearing birds sing or for whatever reason they make those sounds, it's like the kind of music you won't get tired of listening. Your vireons though, they don't wanna play. I enjoyed reading either way, and I love your shots.


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