"Evolution of the tent" (2009 left, 1970s right)
Now for some specifics:
Saturday morning at 4:30 I dragged myself up and out to hi
t some spots looking for birds. Part of my goal was to see if anything unusual was around while another part was to re-locate the birds I had scouted at various points the week before to ensure that I knew where they were most likely to be for the "Birders who blog, tweet, and chirp" get together.
I hit the coast before traffic got bad. Had the usual suspects off the coast ranging from Northern Gannet to Common Tern to Bonaparte's Gull. I found some Roseate Terns offshore but with the tide still pretty high there was no hope for any in the harbor. Inland I went.
Pease was no disappointment as I quickly found every bird I targeted there including Upland Sandpiper, Vesper's Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Eastern Meadowlark, Common Raven, Osprey, and American Kestrel all showed off for me too. Since everything was going so smoothly I skipped over Chapman's Landing as I had success with both species of sharp-tailed sparrow a few times including the night before.
I nailed down the Gonet road (thanks Len!) and Main St. nest sites for Mississippi Kites. Numerous birds were singing and I picked up a few species of warbler and the nesting Baltimore Orioles. On a whim I decided to check the Waste Water Treatment plant in Exeter. I was already plenty late for the Plum Island event and I figured I might as well make my time worth while. However, the only bit of excitement was the Willow Flycatcher. A few months ago this bird called and we were unable to find it. This time it was wide out in the open showing off.
A few other stops, some wrong turns, and one iced coffee later I was at the entrance to Plum Island/Parker River NWR. I called to check in and got the report that they were running a bit behind but were working their way out. A few minutes later I was able to sync up with the group. Naturally, the group photo waited until I arrived.
A few willet's, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Least Bittern, 1 Bobolink later, and many conversations later we moved on to the next pull off. One step closer to NH. As Chris put it... "birding and socializing continue(d)". People got plenty of photos of Savannah Sparrow and Great Egret before moving on to pick up Least Tern in an unpleasant haze...Snowy Egret... Belted Kingfisher... and we were off the Island!
At this point Lunch was needed for most and more coffee and espresso was needed for me. And then... it was on to NH.
We skipped the coast - low tide had come and passed so finding a Roseate Tern would have been a matter of scanning groups of feeding Terns - and with weekend traffic on the coast - our group would have been too large to truly manage.
On to Newmarket we went. As expected a Kite was on nest when we got there. We patiently waited for another to swoop in but were disappointed. On to Chapman's Landing we went.
Chapman's Landing turned a bit frustrating with the harsh backlighting we were given. 4 Nelson's were moving around but none perched with their fronts towards us. Many more saltmarsh's were seen. Perhaps the most frustrating thing was this one Nelson's that perched up with its back to us and sang its little heart out without giving anyone a satisfactory look at the physical features you would associate with Nelson's.
Chapman's Landing can be a bit of a challenge in that you have Saltmarsh and Nelson's to deal with and chances are they hybridize with each other.
Here I abandoned the group (sorry!) because I was running late for dinner. I was tempted to speed but refrained during the 105 minute drive. As I was arriving at dinner I got a call from Chris saying that the group was at Pease safely and looking for birds.
Jason and his tent with a front yard
After dinner with Ben I headed up to the Jefferson Notch area to meet up with Len and Jason for our camping and birding expedition to celebrate Jason's 26th birthday! I had to set my tent up in the dark but I added some nice decor thanks to Dawn. However, I did finish setting up before Jason who was attempting to set up the super ultra dome 5bazillion complete with built in skylight. The hilarity of the situation cannot be fully recounted.
My button on my tent
After trying for Northern Saw-whet Owl in the rain and failing we decided to call it a night. A few short hours later we were disassembling the tents (still in rain) as we were told by a "reliable" source that the showers had mostly passed. We headed up to Jefferson Notch and began climbing. Not much was singing besides the 5+ Winter Wren and 17+ Blackpoll Warblers we counted (also had Magnolia and Black-throated Green). All of a sudden an unknown note came from the bushes. Excitement builded as we realized it was a thrush and then let down followed as we all turned to each other recognizing it as a Swainson's Thrush. Onward and Upward we moved.
Len may have had a tent with holes... but he was the only one with a pillow
We took our time in the rain (which was not seeming to end) and in the steeper sections I paired looking/listening/calling for Bicknell's Thrush with frequent breaks. Then finally, the moment we called, a bird whizzed right over my head. The three of us got on it and it began to sing... THAT'S IT! Bicknell's Thrush! Well before breakfast the 3 of us had secured a life bird and Len and Jason had secured fabulous photos. Before long a second bird appeared and we were beyond ecstatic. The whole thing was topped off with a Black-backed Woodpecker drumming in the distance.
I got photos of them getting photos of the bird
We headed down to the cars as the rain picked up. Turns out our "reliable" source wasn't so "reliable". A brief stop at Trudeau Rd. turned up Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and a few others. Time for coffee and breakfast we decided. We joined up with Ben for some delicious food then headed back out in search of more birds. 5 river crossings later the rain was coming down harder than ever so we moved on to identifying trees.
Naturally in a complete downpour hunger sets in and you desire ice cream. So we had a lunch of ice cream. Then we spent quite some time discussing things and planning our attack. Then miraculously the sky cleared. We tried to mini-golf but it was closed... eventually we ended up having a real dinner/lunch and sampling some of the beer brewed at the Woodstock Inn.
Skies still clear we headed back to Trudeau Rd. Len attempted to call in a Black-backed Woodpecker:
And indeed.... we ended up seeing Black-backed Woodpecker (although not for another 30 minutes). We picked up Black Bear on the ski slopes, saw some toads, and quizzed each other on tree identification. And then... we headed home.