Tag Archives: Mourning Warbler

2017 “Bicknell’s Thrushes of the White Mountains” Trip report

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Three weeks ago (OK, so maybe I am a little behind in my blogging and trip reports this summer due to an extremely busy tour and guiding schedule!) I conducted our annual “Bicknell’s Thrushes of the White Mountains” van tour to New Hampshire. This favorite outing features multiple opportunities to see one of the most sought-after, range-restricted, and enigmatic of North American breeders: the Bicknell’s Thrush.

For the only time this whole, busy, month, the weather could not have been better for the entire weekend! In fact, we began the tour close to home at Old Town House Park. Not for any “target birds,” but simply just to take a walk at a birdy place – full of Eastern birds our five visitors (of the eight on the tour) from California would appreciate – and enjoy such a beautiful morning. It was just that nice out.
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Bobolink.

We then worked our way around the Falmouth-Portland waterfront hoping to rediscover the Little Egret of the past two years(quite possibly oversummering in Delaware this year), still enjoying the morning, but also enjoying hearing a calling Virginia Rail at the end of Providence Avenue in Falmouth among other locally common species.

But then it was time to head for the hills. We picked up sandwiches, picnicked and sight-seed at Glen Ellis Falls, and paid a visit to the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center.
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After scoring a Philadelphia Vireo at my “secret spot,”
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…I began to stress about the evening’s outing up Mount Washington, the success of which is completely weather-dependent.
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We then checked into our hotel, had a short rest, and then thoroughly enjoyed our usual early dinner at the Saalt Pub in Gorham, once again keeping an eye to the sky (and some people come back on this tour a second time just to eat here!).
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But the timing of the weather could not have been any better. As we arrived at the base of Mount Washington to meet our Mount Washington Stage Company van and driver, the skies began to part.
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And as we climbed Mount Washington, we could not have dreamed about better weather in one of the windiest places on Earth.
Up at the “cow pasture” even the American Pipits were basking in the rare calm winds and sunshine. In fact, this one bird perched on a rock, preening for several minutes, was about as good as a look as I have ever had from the Auto Road on an evening tour.
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It was hard not to enjoy the privilege of being on the mountain after-hours, and the privilege of being atop the mountain on a truly exquisite evening!
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But then it was time to get to work. We were in the realm of the thrush – the only bird that mattered for the weekend! – and once again, the calm winds were incredible. If anything, the clearing skies made for a little too much light, and the birds remained in the shadows, and when the sun finally did set, it got dark quickly.

Some folks saw one particular bird very well, and everyone at least glimpsed a bird as it darted between openings. Incredibly though, we heard at least 15 birds, as the benign conditions and flexible driver (thanks, Wink!) permitted us to walk a good portion of the length of the road that passes through the birds’ narrow band of habitat. It was by far the best vocal performance I have experienced here in a very long time.
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Day Two of the tour began with a stroll at Trudeau Road, where Yellow-bellied Flycatchers and other boreal-transition species were vocal and often visible.
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Then, we took the aerial tram up Cannon Mountain, where once again we had incredible conditions. In fact, if anything, it was a little too warm with summit temperatures already a balmy 72!
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Although it was fairly quiet overall with increasing temperatures and increasing winds, we did get a good look at a Blackpoll Warbler, among other summit denizens. Most importantly of course, we saw another Bicknell’s Thrush (and heard at least three more), and this one was seen quite well by just about everyone!

Despite being high noon and a scorching 82-degrees, we easily found the Mourning Warbler along Base Road, and then moseyed our way into North Conway for our traditional late lunch at Moat Mountain Brewery to celebrate another successful Bicknell’s Thrush experience!

We’ll announce dates for the 2018 outing this fall, but be sure to keep an eye on the “Tours, Events, and Workshops” page of our website – this perennial favorite fills up quickly!

The 2014 “Claybrook Mountain Lodge Birding Weekend” Trip Report

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White-throated Sparrows were one of an impressive 87 species of birds recorded in just 2 days of birding on this enjoyable, “Maine Woods Immersion” tour.

The “Claybrook Mountain Lodge Birding Weekend” tour is one of my favorite outings that we offer. Its focus is not about species, but learning about habitats, and immersing ourselves in the birds, plants, and wildlife of the Maine Woods. This is a different style of tour than what usually occupies me in June. Following private tours for “target species” and three trips for Bicknell’s Thrush, this is a welcome change of pace. It’s a nice way to end my June guiding busy-season.

While the goal of the trip is to see a lot of species, and we were all excited to reach – and then eclipse – the 85 species spotted on this trip in 2012, the list is just record-keeping; it is not the primary purpose. Instead, our goal is to spend two days immersed in birds: learning songs, observing behaviors, and simply enjoying the diverse avifauna that summer in Maine has to offer.
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We began on Friday afternoon, with the group assembling on the porch and lawn of the Claybrook Mountain Lodge. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest was found, a Great-crested Flycatcher sallied for bugs around the garden, and a various birds foraged in the trees, from Red-eyed Vireos to an American Redstart while Tree and Barn Swallows zoomed around.

After our first scrumptious dinner, we enjoyed some casual birding in the evening light, and then headed out at dusk for a little owling. Of course the Barred Owl – as is often the case at this season – waited for just about everyone to fall asleep before finally calling nearby.

On Saturday, a stroll before breakfast resulted in lots of “awwww’s” when a family group of recently-fledged Eastern Bluebirds were discovered.
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Fueled by a hearty breakfast, we boarded the van and Greg Drummond – a master of the Maine Woods – took us around, as we worked our way up and down Long Falls Dam Road. We sampled a variety of habitats, starting in the mostly-deciduous woods around the lodge and working our way in and out of spruce-fir-tamarack dominated bogs.
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Some of the bogs we visited hosted some of the species reaching the very southern limits of their breeding range, such as Palm and Wilson’s Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. Meanwhile, species such as Pine Warbler are at their northernmost reaches. Over the course of the day, other avian highlights included two well-seen American Bitterns, at least four different Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest holes, displaying Wilson’s Snipe, Common Merganser chick riding Mom’s back across Flagstaff Lake, and lots of good looks at a wide range of species.

Of course we looked for Boreal “specialties” including the likes of Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays, and “spruce” warblers such as Bay-breasted and Cape May. While it is unfortunate that the boreal forest pockets that we did hit failed to produce any of these birds today, it is the habitat that is the primary focus – I have other tours if the “Boreal Breeders” are primary targets. They would have just been another layer of icing on the cake. The dearth of finches in Maine this summer was also apparent – only Purple and goldfinches were seen this weekend.

In addition to spending time to stop and smell the Twinflower (which at one point resulted in the startling discovery of a Dark-eyed Junco nest), we spent a lot of time studying and discussing habitats. Birds are our priority, but a host of other species was enjoyed, from a variety of butterflies to a range of amphibians. In fact, after adding a Northern Leopard Frog early Sunday morning, we heard – and for the most part, saw –  all of Maine’s frogs and toad: Green, Mink, Bull, Pickerel, Leopard, Spring Peeper, Gray Tree Frog, and American Toad!
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The world’s most aggressive young Garter Snake –of the checkered and non-gartered “Maritime” subspecies – put on quite show and we all enjoyed seeing so many Snowshoe Hares on our morning drive…and lots of Moose sign.

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Plants were not ignored either. In addition to looking at the trees that make up the various habitats here, we checked out a range of wildflowers, and especially marveled at the magnificent plants of the bog, such as the insectivorous Sundew…
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…and the surprising flowers of the Pitcher Plant.
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Butterflies included numerous Northern Crescents and Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, but also some clusters of the bog-breeding Harris’s Checkerspot.
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All the while we learned about life in the Maine Woods from Greg. Whether it was explaining Moose tracks, showing bear scratches, or explaining the good, the bad, and the ugly of timber and wildlife “management,” his wealth of knowledge about so many topics is one of the best aspects of this tour – I for one learn a ton from him every time he points something out.

So this tour benefits from Greg’s knowledge and expertise…and Pat’s home cooking!  Perfectly-simple sandwiches on homemade bread are packed for lunch, and when Greg takes us to a place like this to devour them, well, it’s as good as life can get.
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It was hot, and birds were quiet in the afternoon. We checked a few patches on the way back to the lodge – as much for the forest as its birds – but everyone welcomed the designated naptime.  Another delectable dinner fueled our bonus evening tour, when Greg took us out once again to hit some local hotspots, and our list grew, as did our collection of breathtaking views and lovely photos.

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We were up and at it again shortly after sunrise on Sunday, but I postponed our planned walk of the Drummond’s 200-acres of carefully-managed property (we compared and contrasted these woods to those ravaged by the likes of Plum Creek). Instead, we set out in pursuit of Mourning Warblers – breaking my rule of not going after “target birds” on this trip!  But after failing to turn one up at several seemingly-promising stops on Saturday, and after hearing how many people had not seen a MOWA for their year, ABA, or even life lists, I decided to bend the rules a little. Besides, we are in one of the best areas for this charismatic species.

Besides, I think Greg likes a challenge!  A loop through some likely spots in the area failed to produce however, but as Greg passed by one last clearcut, he slammed on the breaks. And sure enough, within just a couple of minutes, we all had our binoculars on a most-cooperative Mourning Warbler! I think Greg was as happy as anyone…as usual, I was relieved as much as anything (I’m not supposed to get guide-stress on this trip!).

Returning to the lodge, we took a walk through the woods, adding a couple more species to the list, and checking out the famous “bear pole” where generations of Black Bears have come to sent mark – and take chunks out of the last bear’s efforts.
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Following lunch on the porch, we began our journey home by caravanning down to Gilman Pond.  Osprey and Common Loon at the lake we added to our list, more Bald Eagles were spotted, and at the farm along the road, Canada Geese, Bobolinks, and Killdeer were our final “new” birds for the trip.
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But I was presented with one last challenge. A persistent call from the edge of the pond in the meadow had me at a total loss.  Then, there was a second individual, confusing things further. I wracked my brain and went through every possible species I could think of – from the common to the rare. I was leaning towards Common Gallinule – a rarity in Maine, but not a stretch given the nearby habitat – when somehow I spotted a distant shorebird head poking through the grass.  As I got the scope on what was probably a Wilson’s Snipe, the bird took off, flew closer to us, and called. Then, our mystery sound burst from the grass, and fluttering towards the adult. “Baby snipe!” I exclaimed.  Mystery solved. And with that – and with rapidly rising temperatures – the trip concluded. A learning experience for all was just right to bring a successful Claybrook Mountain Lodge Birding Weekend Tour to a close.

When all was said and done, our 48-hr trip list was 87 species of birds, including 19 species of warblers. While this is not a “listing” trip with focused effort on specific species (well, mostly; see above), our objective is to see a wide range of the breeding species of the Maine woods. That, we most certainly accomplished. Here’s the complete list.

(* indicates juveniles or active nests observed; doesn’t include the array of other breeding behaviors observed, such as “carrying food” or “agitation.”)

Canada Goose*
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Mallard*
Hooded Merganser*
Common Merganser*
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern (4!)
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Wilson’s Snipe*
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker*
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker*
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker*
Eastern Wood-Pewee
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER
Alder Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe*
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven*
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee*
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling*
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
MOURNING WARBLER
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
PALM WARBLER
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
WILSON’S WARBLER
Scarlet Tanager
Chipping Sparrow*
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco*
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

I hope you will join us when we return in 2016! (For more information on this, and other Freeport Wild Bird Supply tours, visit the “Tours, Events, Workshops, and Programs” page of our website.

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