Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birding Marathon Months

Our birding marathon months of May and June are almost over. Today we completed the Breeding Bird Survey, having left home at 7 p..m. last night after doing evening chores early. It took 2 1/2 hours to drive to our camping spot at Valley of the Giants... a mere 12.7 miles from our back door, as the crow flies, but 62 miles by road, the last ten or so negotiable at no more than 15 miles per hour thanks to a cratered road.

My assigned start time was 4:58 a.m. at a 1/2 mile hike from our campsite. I was cursing Roy Gerig, the originator of this route, for starting the BBS there as I tripped over downed logs and fought my way through eight foot high salmonberry tangles in the dark... and fell into a hole made by uprooted giant trees. But when the Marbled Murrelets began calling at Stop #1, I forgave him. Somewhat.

Marbled Murrelets are robin-sized sea birds that fly inland to nest on the broad, moss-covered branches of old growth trees. It was many years before biologists figured out where these ocean-dwelling birds nested. It's a thrill to stand under a huge, tall fir in the middle of an old growth forest and hear sea birds flying in at dawn to feed their nestlings. I just wish they could fly in a bit later.

The return trip to camp was less eventful since it was now light enough to see the path (to use the term "path" loosely) without my flashlight... which had not saved me from the root hole. The rest of our route is on roads, some deeply potholed and only traverse-able at 15 mph, but at least they are drivable. Besides Marbled Murrelets, I found American Dippers at 3 stops... a new record for the route. And Purple Martins finally came close enough to stop #50 to be counted... if they had come during my 3 minutes, which they did not. I only have 3 minutes per stop to count all the birds I hear or see... mostly hear. Johnny took a photo of me tallying birds during my three minutes at one stop.
The Agency Creek Riparian survey about which I've written earlier was completed last week, with all paperwork duly mailed off last Friday. Hooray! I hate paperwork.

Also last week, I tried again to find nesting Black Oystercatchers at Road's End. I was not successful in confirming that any are nesting... or not nesting. The BLOY were not cooperative that day. But the wildflowers on top of The Thumb were lovely. And so was the view, as always.

Now it's time to stay home and catch up on gardening, weeding, hoof trimming and shearing, to name a few long neglected tasks. And to ride my horses. And take photos of interesting things on the farm. Like this flashy garter snake that sunned himself (herself?) yesterday on the raised bed outside our attached greenhouse/jungle room. A second identical snake slithered away before I took this photo. What a handsome pair!

We'll still be hitting the coast from time to time to check on Black Oystercatchers, but the major bird surveys are done for the time being. Surely I will remember next year not to sign up for quite so many...

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