Friday, June 27, 2014

Donut Hole Trail - 3rd Installment

Happy Hikers
Once again, Barbara and I joined Frank on an overnight hike along the Donut Hole Trail. This part of the trail is in Clinton County near Lock Haven. We stayed overnight at a quaint hotel in Lock Haven on Thursday night. We took in some local fare at "The Saloon" and turned in early. 

Lock Haven Town Hall
We dropped Frank's brand new Jeep at the ending point in Farrandsville and Connie dropped us off at the starting point near Hyner Run State Park. We made great time over the first part of the trail. Then, we couldn't find the trail. Then,we realized that we weren't on the trail. We wasted 2 hours. Ugh.

I didn't lug binoculars or a camera on the trail. I decided to put my ears to the test on this trip. We made out pretty good considering the warblers were still singing up a storm even on June 21st. I thought they would be quietly tending nests by now but they were singing away. Some are easy to identify like Ovenbird "teacher, Teacher, TEACHER!" and the thrushes flute like songs. Buzzy Black-throated Green and Blue warblers were singing throughout the woods. Other birds were tougher to identify. I recorded those with my iPhone to identify later. One of my triumphs was identifying a pair of Mourning Warblers who were scolding us for being to close to their nest. I matched the chip call to the iPhone. We never saw the birds but we didn't have to. 

4 Pileated Woodpeckers put on a show for us at one of our rest points. They were really squawking up a storm. The best critter of the day was a Hognosed snake. It looks like a baby Rattlesnake which scared us a bit. Look closely. The snake was only about 1 foot long. 

Hognosed Snake
Did I mention that I was sick? A summer cold has had a grip on me for over a week. I trudged through but it wasn't easy on the first day. I came in last. Sigh. 
Medicine - can of beer
To top it off, we were so late that we had to camp in someone's front yard while a bulldozer graded the road. 

Tents - with spotlight

The second day was a different story. I was determined to get to the car before dark and we did. This is one of very few breaks that we had. 

Rest stop
Roxy was a real trooper.
If you can figure out this bird call - post a comment. 


Monday, June 2, 2014

All the Way to Pittsburgh

Why would I drive to Pittsburgh after driving all the way across Pennsylvania into Ohio 2 weeks ago? The only reason would be for a wedding. Connie's cousin Danny married Emily and it was one of the best weddings that I have attended in a long time. The ceremony was quick and to the point. She looked fabulous, her family was a blast and Danny is happier than I have ever seen him.

Of course, I took the opportunity to go after a life bird while everyone was sleeping off their hangovers. I was up and out of the hotel at 6 AM (with a mild hangover) and up to the grasslands by 7. The "grasslands" turned out to be a couple of fields that had grown over a strip mine. It turns out that grown over strip mines are actually good habitat for some birds such as my target - Henslow's Sparrow plus other cool birds like Bobolink and Meadowlarks.

I'll save you the suspense and get to the same old story - it took me a long time to find the Henslow's Sparrow and when I did, it wasn't the wonderful experience that I had imagined. All of the other birds sat up and sang, did their flight displays, posed for photos but not that Henslow. No, he hid in the middle of the field. He didn't sing for 2 hours. Then he sat up on the top of a piece of grass for about 20 seconds - you know, just long enough for me to find him before he dove back into the grass.I'm counting that as a life bird but hoping to see another one soon.

Here are some photos of the friendly birds starting with a Savannah Sparrow. This was his favorite post. He let me get really close with the car.

Savannah Sparrow
Bobolinks were all over the place singing their weird songs and fluttering around. I love these birds.

Bobolink - weird beak

This is Grasshopper Sparrow which looks alot like the Henslow but has a better song.  This guy was going gangbusters singing, singing, singing away. He looks like it takes alot of energy doesn't it?

Grasshopper Sparrow
Meadowlarks were all over the fields too but I couldn't get a photo of one sitting still. Here is one flying around showing off.

The bird that stole the show was this male Northern Harrier which is also known as Gray Ghost. They hunt birds over the marsh and fields. He put on a show cruising over the fields and occasionally diving down to try to catch a meal. Look how menacing he looks coming across the field.

Northern Harrier
 Here he is focused on something that he heard or saw in the grass - just about to pounce!

Gray Ghost
Maybe that's why the Henslow's Sparrow was too scared to sing!  I was back at the hotel by 10:30 in time to say goodbye to the bride and groom.