May 17, 2006

Migration day

109 cliff swallow
110 white-eyed vireo
111 common yellowthroat
112 northern rough-winged swallow
113 great crested flycatcher
114 northern parula
115 chimney swift
116 orchard oriole
117 red-eyed vireo
118 eastern wood-pewee
119 Caspian tern
120 gray catbird
121 worm-eating warbler
122 prothonotary warbler
123 solitary sandpiper
124 ruby-throated hummingbird
125 house wren

MAY 13, KATY TRAIL, mostly cloudy, 50-60—Birding alone most of the time, I'd half-forgotten how fun a day in the field can be with skilled friends. The occasion was the annual International Migratory Bird Day, an event, I gather, not so much for data collection as for appreciation of the double lives many of our birds lead, one in North America and a second in central or South America. The 2006 theme is the boreal forest—see this article in Audubon magazine.

That's all for the good, but I was also interested in appreciating my year list. Increasingly high limestone bluffs along the Missouri River lined the 7-mile stretch of Katy Trail State Park we walked (at roughly one mile per hour). For the first couple of miles we had a wide agricultural riverbottom on our left. Then the Missouri ran close against the bluffs the rest of the way to Rocheport.

The highlight reel ran nearly continuously through the day: four Caspian terns flying up the Missouri River, a pair of hummingbirds working nectar sources on the bluff face, indigo buntings and cardinals crisscrossing the trail, prothonotary warblers in the thickety woods, swallows swooping over the river, and a bobcat pausing halfway across the trail to look at us—my first Missouri sighting.

We counted both species and individuals: 19 goldfinches, for example, and 28 Canada geese. In all we saw 57 species and estimated 794 individual birds. Thanks to Donna and Jim I also successfully updated my voice recognition software, helpful with hard-to-spot warblers and vireos. In the end we heard but did not see about six species, including the northern parula, whose buzzy song I've heard dozens of times this May without ever spotting the bird itself..


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