Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dawn Chorus & More

I've been re-reading some of Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds which is about all one can do with the weather we've been having so going back to some of my favorite chapters including The Dawn Chorus.  Donald and other savvy birders know the best time to bird by ear which is the hour before sunrise when birds awaken and their hormones rage reminding everyone in their vicinity whose turf is whose so don't even try it!  I'd be reminded of my special friend The Black-capped Chickadee who perched in my Mullberry Tree one April morning having his own dawn chorus and how that one little bird would change my life in a way I never would imagine.  Looking back on it now, it's no wonder I've always been drawn to the song of birds as that's what got me interested in them in the first place, so off I went to Brierly before sunrise to listen.

By the time I got there bird song would be heavy but was disappointed neither of the Chestnut-sided Warblers were out as it was one of the reasons I went as early as I did in an attempt to record their dawn song..  The Veery's would be out and singing as beautifully as always, but no special tune to start the day so off I went to find one who did.  I'd make my way to a spot many warblers are and the place would be alive with bird song from many species.  My ears would finally pick up on the lone Scarlet Tanager who'd be singing his dawn song so of course I had to record it!
As you will hear-there were birds singing from all over which made it rather tough to record the tanager with all the other competition!  The 1st picture of this post is the full length sonogram of all the birds and the one above is of the first 10 seconds of recording (full audio though).  Notice the chickadee singing Phee Bee which is what caused me to catch the birding bug.  I like to think it was the one on my tree five years ago letting me he he approves of my passionate hobby and sang that morning for my own good ;-)

I'd leave Brierly just as the sun started to awaken and decided to hit another spot nearby that's pretty birdy but the only caveat being no trails which means straight bush whacking.  I'd decide to give it a go and stay near the edge of the nearby field as there's a little trail there and was glad I did as it wouldn't take me too long to pick up my first ever Millbury Louisiana Waterthrush!

The bird is distant but can still be heard.  Mystified as this area is near still water with no running water that I know of so will need to investigate further and see if there are other ways to get in the general area without bush whacking for what feels like miles.

I'd hit another area in Millbury off Carelton Road which is more LA Waterthrush habitat as you can see in the photo above, but wouldn't you know I couldn't find any!  It would still be nice with many of the usual woodland birds and my first ever June Black-throated Blue Warbler here in town so don't know if they're breeding but taking it as a probable sign!

You'll vaguely hear the BTBW if you have your volume up high enough.  He was way out in the woods and I didn't bush whack as there were Ovenbirds nearby starting to squabble and won't bush whack if I think there may be nesting birds in any of the areas without trails of course.

And here he is, the Ovenbird himself!  I find it much easier to find these birds when they are calling and not singing as the song rings throughout the woods so getting a visual on it as your ears as your guide can be deceiving-but not so much with the call which has allowed me some of the best looks ever of Ovenbirds this year.

After that it would be back to Brierly as I'm trying to tackle all sections of it by the end of the year and was looking forward to trying to get to Soule's Pond to see if I could pick up any new species for my Brierly list.  The recent rain has caused more water overflow so many of the trails remain flooded as you can see in the photo above (wonder if I can ever wonder the woods this year without my rain boots!).

Woodpeckers would be everywhere including the Hairy above as well as my first ever Pileated for Brierly and a very cooperative Red-bellied Woopecker for some audio for Xeno-Canto.

This woodpecker was so close to me I actually got a little wind from his wings!  Amazing how close the birds come when you just stop for a few moments and listen (almost like they don't know your'e there).

Now heading toward the pond.  Don't think I can ever get enough photos of Brierly as it's magnificent once you get lost in the woods.  I'd finally make it to Soule's and NOT get lost which would be a first for me when I'd hear a close by Downy Woodpecker and its young when suddenly my ears would pick up on one of my favorite bird songs of all time which would be the Winter Wren.  The bird sounded as though it was only doing traces of its song and was so far out I got out my Sibley's Droid App to play other songs I may not be familiar with and after one song I'd realize the bird was closer than I thought as the little guy flew right in and almost landed on my boot!  I'd look down at him "naked eye" and be taken aback by just how tiny he is as I've always seen this bird with the bins and even that's a struggle.  He'd look at me and I at him and I had to force myself to suppress a serious giggle that was forming within because he was the cutest thing I believe I've seen all year and boy did he look pissed!  I'd apologize and move on or at least that's what I wanted him to think as I was hoping he'd sing his song as a victory celebration in getting rid of the other wren after one song (and a New Yorker song no less!).  I'd still remain fairly close and it wouldn't take too long for him to sing his lovely song and I'd be thrilled with my audio considering It's coming from my lousy Droid!

Swoon...Nature's Prozac here folks.  Amazing that such a song can come from such a tiny bird.

And a picture of the birds song.  If you look at it closely you'll see all three songs he sings are a little different which is something I can't train my ears on just yet so it's nice to look at bird's song through sonograms sometimes so you can see it with your eyes.

I'd be in my element at this point as I made my way back to the main part of Brierly and somehow I managed to get on a different trail which I'd realize would bring me to yet another portion of the beaver pond I hadn't discovered and I'd be thrilled to get not just one but two Green Herons including the one above.  This is on the other side of where we usually get this bird so hoping it's another pair.

Another treat would be the Blue Jay above who'd be very close and doing something I've never seen this bird do before which was almost a form of drumming with his bill (similar to what woodpeckers do and he'd be doing it on this meesly little branch no less (almost like caching)!

You can actually somewhat hear the faint drumming if you listen carefully on the 9 second mark.

I'd finally make my way back to the main trail while doing a mental inventory of all the lovely birds I heard or saw and wonder why I hadn't had any sighting of a flushed Barred Owl as it's almost a ritual at this point.  Moments later I'd see one fly past and comment aloud with a thanks!  Suddenly the owl would slow down and land on a tree and it would be then I'd finally be eye to eye with one of the Barred's at Brierly.  He'd look at me and I at him as I slowly turned on my camera being sure not to make any quick movements in fear he'd fly away.  I'd manage a few and then he'd turn around and leave the branch as quietly as he arrived.  I find it amazing that a bird this size with wings as large as his never makes a sound as it maneuvers the woods.  It wold be the perfect way to end my time at Brierly.

Take care all.


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