Today the Cattaraugus County Bird Club had their Annual Waterfowl Fieldtrip along the Allegheny River and Conewango Wetland Area. We had a wonderful birding day with 53 species of birds and we survived glacial like temperatures!
Archive for March, 2008
by Tim Baird for Catt. Co. Birdclub
Cabin fever more than anything else brought me out on the 25th of January. A temperature in the low teens, strong northwesterly winds, and a deep snow cover held little promise of bird activity. My decision to hike the upper elevation forests of Allegany State Park was stimulated more by a need for exercise than a desire to watch birds. Of course one of the perks of having an interest in birds is that you can enjoy their company whatever the task at hand.
It takes the first few paces of a walk in nature for the mind and body to adjust to the surroundings. Once one is set in the scene, the enveloping details begin to emerge. On this day, the sound of a cold wind punctuated by occasional cracks of protest from frozen trees dominated. Wisps of wind blown snow unable or unwilling to settle down to earth coursed through the leafless forest. Being outside in such conditions tends to focus my thoughts inward. Fifteen minutes passed, and no birds disturbed my arctic meditations.
Thirty minutes later the first sign of birdlife; a branch above my route cradled what appeared to be the remains of an American Robin’s nest. How exposed it now sat in contrast to being once hidden from the eye by leaves that have long since departed. An increased intimacy with birds surfaces whenever we discover a nest. Twenty minutes more and I find another bird sign without the bird. Feather imprints in the soft snow indicated where a Wild Turkey took flight. I had been walking now for over an hour, and I had seen no birds, heard no birds. The rarity of this experience began to dawn on me.
Slow bird days in winter are not unusual, but I could not recall being out for so long without any contact with a living bird. Perhaps my senses were becoming as frozen as my surroundings. I know my hearing has lost some acuity, was I missing distant bird notes? Even if that were the case, by this time I should have encountered some birds near enough to note despite senses weakened by cold or time. Where were they? Was this forest really without birds or was my meditative mind closing them out?
While I stood watching a gust of wind liberate snow from distant trees, my thoughts turned to May when these woods would be alive with birds and bird sounds. From the shrubs near the trail, a Common Yellowthroat will be proclaiming territory, and a Red-eyed Vireo will be in continuous song as it searches for insects among the leaves of nearby trees. The voice of a Hermit Thrush will emerge from the depths of these woods and betray his presence.
I was hearing them all in my mind’s ear.
Another half hour and I returned to my car without a bird on my list. I had walked for the better part of two hours and as many miles without encountering a living bird. I closed my eyes and listened one last time. Mixed with the sounds of the winter wind I thought I heard a distant song. Yes, I had heard it. The song of an American Redstart rode the wind through the woods and settled in my thoughts. I left with my spirit renewed.
This is a Bird Study Club where members are able to get information on upcoming programs and field trips for the Cattaraugus County Bird Club.
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