Bright lovely dawn came early this morning—but a minute or two later than yesterday. And the air had a bit of a nip to it. I’d guess it was about 60 degrees (F) when Jack and I hit the wooded Beech Hill trail.
The chill—while subtly ominous for the last day of July—seemed to discourage the deer flies, at least. Not a lot of birdsong early, but I happened to look up into the grove of young aspen that warblers like and saw a downy woodpecker poking around in the bark of a small dead trunk. While working to get a decent photo in low light, I heard voices. Mens’ voices from behind us on the trail. Soon after, we moved aside to let a rolling conversation of trail runners pass. I thought it might be bad news, bird-wise, as the birds would surely flee the talking runners; then again, the runners would clear away the invisible spider webs that usually catch me in the mouth or eyes on the way up the trail.
I like to look at the bright side.
Still, not a lot of birds while ascending—until just below the summit. Then all hell broke loose. Well, maybe not hell, exactly. More like Seventh Heaven, in fact, for a warbler-lover like me.
The past week or two I’ve learned to urge dog to go slow when we emerge from the woods into the last grassy slope below the spruce grove at Beech Nut. That’s because of the bird activity along that relatively short section of trail. Song sparrows, white-throats, yellowthroats, flickers, towhees, phoebes—perhaps a score of individuals among these species, young and old—have been flitting from thicket to low tree to trail to thicket again. So we slowed. And right away I saw, framed by greenery not twenty feet away, a handsome male black-throated blue warbler.
I spent the next five minutes, without moving a foot, working to grab photos of the black-throated blue, a black-and-white, a young chestnut-sided, a yellow warbler, and a chasing pair of chickadees. The sparrows were there, too, and the towhees. And sure enough flickers were bounding through the air up among the spruces. But seeing so many warblers in one spot—especially after seeing so few yesterday—threw me for a loop. A good loop. Seventh Heaven.
Coming down the open trail, we came upon small flocks of young sparrows and towhees. The chipping sparrow’s song made it five sparrow species again for this day. A hairy woodpecker was calling at the parking lot; also a wood-pewee.
Just past the main kiosk we came upon a big pile of dog shit in the trail, so I used one of Jack’s bags to collect the turds. It was the third pile of strange poop I’d collected on the hill. (I much prefer the familiar, warm offerings of Jack to the offerings of strange dogs with irresponsible owners, so strangely cold and incognito.)
Coming back up over the hill I heard a black-throated green warbler, and we flushed a mourning dove. Then, coming back down the lower wooded trail, we came upon two great crested flycatchers calling in the canopy. Been a good while since I’ve listed them.
Note: En route to the hill early, we’d passed a flock of wild turkeys. Some large, some pint-sized. It is, after all, that fledgling time of year.
Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6:30 a.m., I hiked all trails.
1. Red-eyed vireo (voice)
2. American crow
3. Black-capped chickadee
4. Eastern towhee
5. American robin
6. Downy woodpecker
7. Gray catbird
8. Common yellowthroat
9. Cedar waxwing
10. White-throated sparrow
11. Alder flycatcher (voice)
12. Black-throated blue warbler
13. Chestnut-sided warbler
14. Black-and-white warbler
15. Yellow warbler
16. Song sparrow
17. Eastern phoebe
18. Northern flicker
19. Field sparrow (voice)
20. Savannah sparrow
21. Blue jay
22. Herring gull
23. Chipping sparrow (voice)
24. Black-billed cuckoo (voice)
25. Hairy woodpecker (voice)
26. Eastern wood-pewee (voice)
27. Black-throated green warbler (voice)
28. Mourning dove
29. Hermit thrush (voice)
30. White-breasted nuthatch (voice)
31. Great crested flycatcher (voice)
32. House sparrow
33. Northern cardinal
34. Wild turkey
35. Canada goose