Monday, June 8, 2009

Cuckoos, Flies, Caterpillars, Pies and the Club

Connie and I went up to the camp in Potter County this weekend to do some work in preparation for the July 4th trip. We needed to cut down some limbs and prepare a spot for the Bounder since we'll be taking it up for the first time over the 4th. What good timing too, because the Potter County Bird Club - of which we are members - was having their first summer picnic at Lyman Run Lake on Sunday. We would finally be able to make a meeting after being members since Sept.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and decided to just stay around the cabin. All of the usual birds were there plus we heard 2 Pileated Woodpeckers calling in the woods behind the camp and found a Green Heron in the pine trees out front. The Bluebird baby was fledged so I took the old nest out of the box. They were building again by Sunday afternoon. I'll bet we see another baby on the 4th.

The trip turned out to be a good one for Cuckoos. We spotted a Black-billed Cuckoo along the stream path on Sunday morning. He (or she) accommodated us by hanging around for awhile. We saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Lyman Lake later in the day with the bird club. This bird also hung around so that we could get good looks. And then another Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Nelson Run Rd today.

The trip was also full of black flies. We couldn't sit outside for more than 30 seconds without being swarmed. No amount of deet seemed to keep them away. They didn't bite but they were maddening just the same.

And tent caterpillars. Everywhere. It sounded like it was raining in the woods but it was just caterpillar poop falling from the trees. I'm not kidding. The ground was covered with little black dots of caterpillar poop and half chewed leaves. There were caterpillars all over the place including on us. What a shame. Bringing the story back around - someone from the bird club told us that Cuckoos are one type of bird that actually eats tent caterpillars. Maybe that's why we saw so many Cuckoos on this trip and have never seen one in Potter before.

The Bird Club picnic was great. We arrived late and found only one person at the picnic pavillion. He told us that the group was up the road looking at a Pied-billed Grebe nest. We went to join the group and found them with scopes trained on the nest. It is very unusual for Pied-billed Grebes to nest so far south. We made our introductions to the group and lingered to see the female leave the nest and get some fish, several babies try to swim and the male diving, swimming and calling on the lake. There was also a male Common Loon on the lake. Another unusual sighting. The club members think that he is either a young male that isn't interested in nesting yet or an injured bird that couldn't make it further north.

More Pies and The Club
Mary coordinated the picnic. Larry manned the grill and cooked the hotdogs and hamburgers. All of the club members brought a dish and each was delicious. What a nice group of people. Everyone introduced themselves and made us feel welcome. Connie made baked beans (so did 2 other people). We all ate very well including desert which included a Lemon Chiffon Pie. David led the meeting with unusual sightings in the county and a recap of the Austin Bio-blitz that was sponsored by the high school. Scientists from all over descended upon the area around the ruins of the Austin dam (the dam that could not break but did in 1911 after only 2 years) to count and document anything living.

The day was capped off with a Bald Eagle catching and eating a fish at the lake! A pretty good trip over all.

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