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Posts Tagged ‘Rose-breasted Grosbeak’

Derek and I spent Monday and Tuesday driving around the north end of Lake Champlain, first north up through Vermont, then across Quebec and finally south into New York.  Our first major stop on Monday morning was Dead Creek WMA IBA in Vermont.  We hoped the birds we saw there would include shorebirds, but this stop was the first of many that was not what we expected.  It was beautiful, but we did not even see any shorebird habitat.  We tallied only 13 species, all birds that we see at home in North Carolina or Maryland – robins, goldfinches, an Osprey.

We saw shrubs with red berries everywhere like this one with a Song Sparrow at Dead Creek WMA IBA.

We saw shrubs with red berries everywhere like this one with a Song Sparrow at Dead Creek WMA IBA.

Our next stop was Charlotte Town Beach which proved to be an even bigger surprise.  This tiny beach on the edge of the lake with more trees than sand is an eBird hotspot with 226 species reported from over 2,600 checklists.  It is renowned by the local birding community as one of the best places on Lake Champlain for lake watching.  A Little Gull had been reported here recently and I need it for a life bird.  However, we saw just a few Ring-billed Gulls and only four other species.

The view from Charlotte Town Beach. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

The view from Charlotte Town Beach. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

The north end of Lake Champlain contains several islands and we thought it would be fun to drive through them.  Again, we were surprised and mildly disappointed as the islands were so large we could not see water except when crossing the bridges from one island to the next.  Our longest stop was at South Hero Marsh Trail.  We had our first of several experiences trying to track down the bird making sounds that we could not identify.  After ten minutes of careful searching, we found the source of the sounds under dense vegetation on the edge of a wetland – a chipmunk!

Green Heron in the swamp along the South Hero Marsh Trail

Green Heron in the swamp along the South Hero Marsh Trail

A real bird that we saw was a Merlin who flew in as we were heading back.  She landed on top of a snag and began eating dinner.  We waited until she was finished before we continued along the trail so that we would not flush her and cause her to lose her meal.  Later scrutiny of our photos showed that her “dinner” was only an appetizer or dessert – a dragonfly!

Merlin on the South Hero Marsh Trail

Merlin on the South Hero Marsh Trail

We finished the day with an American White Pelican at Campbell Bay, a rare bird for Vermont.  We were lucky to get good looks at the bird in intermittent drizzle and still enough light that we could see Canada across the bay.

On Tuesday morning, we birded at St. Albans Bay Town Park, Vermont.  We finally found a few shorebirds, two Least Sandpipers and five Semipalmated Plovers.  This helped me reach my goal of 50 species for Vermont.

Semipalmated Plover in early morning light at St. Albans Bay Town Park

Semipalmated Plover in early morning light at St. Albans Bay Town Park

 

American Redstart at St. Albans Bay Town Park

American Redstart at St. Albans Bay Town Park

We continued north into Canada where our first birding stop was Philipsburg Bird Sanctuary, just across the border.  The entrance to the park was so overgrown with weeds that I drove by it twice before I could find it.  The parking area and trails were also overgrown, but this mostly boreal forest park is beautiful.  We observed a good variety of birds ranging from southern birds such as Red-bellied Woodpecker to more northern breeders like an American Bittern that Derek found.  We also saw an Osprey and our only Bald Eagle for the trip so far.

Part of a beautiful large field in the middle of Philipsburg Bird Sanctuary

Part of a beautiful large field in the middle of Philipsburg Bird Sanctuary

A quick stop at Parc Jamison to look for shorebirds produced no shorebirds, but surprised us with a Great Egret.

McFee Brook Interpretive Center was next, with signs only in French “Centre d’interprétation du ruisseau McFee.” This was a small park with a long boardwalk over a wetland.  I imagined that it must be an excellent place to see birds on a spring morning.

A Great Blue Heron in a small pond at McFee Brook Interpretive Center

A Great Blue Heron in a small pond at McFee Brook Interpretive Center

We had lunch at Cantine Lolo in Lacolle before leaving Canada.  We ate a simple meal while we sat outside at a picnic table and added a few more birds to our Canada list.  The menu was in French only and the person taking our orders had poor English language skills.  However, another customer overheard Derek placing our order and came to his aid.

After eating we turned south and back into the US.  Beekmantown Rest Area provided a nice welcome home with clean restrooms and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at its feeders.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) at a New York rest area. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) at a New York rest area. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

Our last stop of the day and was Noblewood Park where we looked for a Little Gull that had been reported.  This park is almost directly across Lake Champlain from Charlotte Town Beach where we had looked for the gull the previous day.  The entrance is through thick woods and after parking it’s about a half-mile walk to the beach through more trees.  The gull had been seen much closer here but we did not see one among the 180 Bonaparte’s Gulls resting on the sand bar not too far from shore.  Little Gull is an uncommon but annual visitor to the lake, so I still hope to see one before the trip is over.

The sandbar seen from the beach at Noblewood Park. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

The sandbar seen from the beach at Noblewood Park. Photo by Derek Hudgins.

We finished the day with a drive to Tupper Lake, deep in the Adirondacks, where we would spend the next four nights.

 

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The Kentucky Warbler was about 20 feet from us, eye level, in perfect light.  He had to have known that we were watching him, but he appeared unconcerned about our presence and sat there singing.  Birding does not get any better than this.  It was one of those magic moments that Diane and I both treasure.  We were alone on a forest service road in Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest and it was quiet except for the birds.  This spot was perfect breeding habitat for Kentucky Warblers – low ground with lots of brushy cover by a little creek.

I was too lost in the moment watching the Kentucky Warbler to even try for a photo, but I was able to get this shot of an American Redstart the previous day.

American Redstart (male)

American Redstart (male)

Diane and her husband planned to visit their daughter in Indianapolis and Diane wanted to meet for a few days of birding.  We decided on Shawnee State Forest and I was pleased that Diane liked it as much as I had on my first trip.  We arrived on Monday afternoon, April 28, and were able to bird for a couple of hours in relatively dry weather before dinner.  Unfortunately, we had awful weather for the rest of the trip.  The next day it rained until noon and was uncomfortably hot all afternoon after the sun came out.  The following day it rained non-stop.  And, then it was time to leave.  But, still, we found quite a few birds including Hooded, Prairie, Black-and-white and Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, Scarlet Tanagers, and unusually cooperative vireos, all allowing us quality views.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

We found this gorgeous male Rose-breasted Grosbeak one afternoon and he was still working the same tree when we came back a few hours later.

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum

There were fewer wildflowers than last year when I was two weeks later.  But, the forest was still lovely with Trillium grandflorum dominating the roadsides.  Little patches of bluets were everywhere.  Wild geraniums were beginning to pop up here and there.  There were a few irises.  Ferns were just starting to unfurl.

On our one hot afternoon, the birds were quiet, but there was an abundance of butterflies.  My favorites were the Zebra Swallowtails, a life butterfly for me.

Zebra Swallowtails

Zebra Swallowtails

Our pet-friendly cabin in the state park was a perfect base for our stay.  The state park is inside the state forest.  The screened porch in the back was great for watching birds when we were tired of driving in the rain.  Jack and Diane’s two dogs found the cabin as comfortable as we did.

A cabin in the woods also let me find a few spring moths.  I was too tired to stay up late, but saw these pretty little moths just before bedtime.

Shawnee moth 1P

Shawnee moth 3

 

Other birders reported Cerulean Warblers in the cabin area. We did not see them, although we thought that we heard them a few times.  It was our only real miss, not too bad considering the weather.  We enjoyed the forest and the birds so much that we talked of going back next year.  I hope that we are able to return to my new favorite spring birding location, Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest.

Our cabin in Shawnee State Park

Our cabin in Shawnee State Park

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