Saturday, April 28, 2012

On the Road for Spring Migration

I left my house just after 6 AM on Thursday to begin my drive to Columbia, MO.  I planned to stop and bird on the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, NC but as I approached there the skies opened, pouring down rain along with some rolling thunder. So I drove on thru Asheville heading towards Tennessee.  My next target area to bird was a road called Max Patch that is about 25 miles west of Asheville.  As I neared the exit the rain let up, so I decided to give it a try.  Over the next 3 hours I wound my way thru the mountains, stopping first to look for golden-winged warblers that breed along Max Patch.  I found 2 playing tag with each other, and a third calling further up the road.  I also saw hooded, chestnut-sided and yellow warblers plus American redstarts and several least flycatchers.

Further up the road I found black-throated blue and black throated green warblers, indigo buntings, brown thrashers, American goldfinches, gray catbirds, red-eyed vireos, and downy and pileated woodpeckers.  At my last stop I was able to find a beautiful male Canada warbler singing away.  I gave it up when the rain returned along with some small hail.  I still had 5+ hours of driving ahead of me to make it to Oak Grove, KY where I spent the nite.

I was up at 5:30 AM yesterday to make the 2+ hour drive over to Big Oak Tree SP which is located near the bootheel of MO and the Mississippi river.  I had stopped in there a few years ago for the first time, and found the birding to be quite good.  I spent 3 hours birding and had the place all to myself.  There were not nearly the numbers of birds that I saw before, but I had a pretty good variety.  I began with a blue-winged warbler and also saw golden-winged, Nashville, black and white, prothonotary, blackburnian and yellow-throated warblers.  It was pretty dry this time, so I only saw 1 swainson's thrush and a fly-by veery.  There were lots of blue-gray gnatcatchers, a few red-headed woodpeckers, a single pileated and a single yellow-bellied sapsucker.

On my way out of the park I found a dickcissel singing away (click on any photo to enlarge).  I saw 2 more as I drove north along with lots of horned larks, several loggerhead shrikes, and a flock of savannah sparrows.  I made it to Columbia by 5 PM to be welcomed by my friends' canada geese and a pair of nesting killdeer.

This morning Marty and I drove about 5 miles to an experimental farm where much to our surprise we found an immature bald eagle, and also a northern harrier and a pair of dickcissels.  There was not much else of note, so we drove about 15 miles to check out a pretty gravel road that is criss-crossed by a stream.  We found prairie and blue-winged warblers singing at the head of the road along with a a field sparrow.  Once we got down to the stream area we located a very cooperative worm-eating warbler singing at length.  Then we tracked down a Kentucky warbler plus a northern parula, a few ovenbirds, a blackburnian female, eastern phoebe, gray catbird, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and a fly over red-shouldered hawk.

Since I am in MO, and have not said anything about trying for the tropical mockingbird I mentioned in my last post that is at Sabine Woods in Texas, you have assumed correctly that I decided not to drive an extra 1000 miles to try to see that bird.  There is also a rarely seen bahama mockingbird in Florida as I write.  Instead of chasing either, tomorrow Marty, Nola and I will be heading into Kansas for 4 days of birding.  Stay tuned!

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