Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Good Day at Magee Marsh

The day began with a light mist but by 8 AM when we arrived at the marsh, the mist had subsided. Gray clouds stayed with us throughout the day but thankfully no rain fell, so it was just chilly for us. Five minutes after hitting the boardwalk we ran into a small group of birders looking at a black-billed cuckoo, a target bird for me today to add to the year list. The bird stayed around for maybe 3 minutes before flying off, so pretty good views were had by all.

A bit later we watched a small flycatcher flitting about, waiting for it to call to confirm our suspicion that it was a least. It finally called, confirming that it was a least flycatcher, another new bird for the year.

The rest of the morning we kept walking the boardwalk in search for whatever was about. The gray-cheeked thrush in the photo above was one of our finds. Unlike Monday and yesterday, most of the birds were feeding high up in the trees instead of down lower near the ground. This is the kind of birding that creates the condition known as warbler neck--too much looking high up, straining your neck in an effort to figure out what bird is in your binoculars. It is so much easier and more fun when the warblers are at eye level, and you feel like you could almost reach out and grab the bird. Best of all, you don't really need your binocs to identify the bird in view.

At one point we happened upon a couple that I had birded with in Nome, AK back in 2006. They were living in Alaska at the time, but have since moved to Nederland, a small mountain town near Boulder, CO. They were making their 1st trip to Magee, and were already converts, saying they thought it was better than High Island in Texas.

Since no canada warbler was making an appearance at Magee, we decided to drive the short distance over to Metzger marsh to see if its migrant trap was working today. For non-birders, a migrant trap refers to an area that is very attractive to migrating birds who need to stop to feed. Driving in we saw trumpeter swans--another new year bird. At the migrant trap we ran into other birders I knew. Everyone seemed to be looking for the canada warbler that had been seen a couple of hours earlier. One group saw it, but then it disappeared. About 25 minutes later it was relocated, and I had the chance to see it also, making it the 4th new year bird for the day. It was now 6 PM, and my wife was definitely ready to pack it in for the day, so we drove back to our motel.

13 more new birds were seen for this week, and the 4 new year birds brings the YTD total to 538. Tomorrow is supposed to be another very rainy day, so we may not be able to bird much, but who knows. Stay tuned!

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