Monday, August 06, 2007

NNK Birding

I had notions of showing Phiance how a Camping Professional deals with the hot weather.

We had to get ourselves to K&Q County to meet the folks for a birding trip. I imagined it would be like so many mornings I used to get myself to CK or PRGSC early: we could ride with the windows down in the cool of the morning and get acclimatized so that we would warm up gradually to the highs in the mid 90s. We'd never think it was that hot: not like when you get out of the car that never quiet cooled down into a box store parking lot at 2:00 p.m. That's hot.

It seemed stuffy in the house at 6:05 a.m. I threw the door open to take stuff to the car. Oh, it's stuffy outside, too. Not quite wet-wool-blanket, but certainly close. As we merged onto the highway, air conditioning full blast, I muttered, Nice haze, Richmond. We'd been driving for about 20 minutes when we realized we needed to reevaluate that call. Maybe it's fog? Can it be foggy when it's about 75 degrees??

Through the dense humidity or light fog, we got ourselves to the rendezvous at 7ish. Our tour guides then took us to two of the several properties now a part of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Part of the work of this project involves acquiring large parcels of land by the river with the plan of keeping them natural. They seem committed to turning former agricultural fields into meadows -- which seems less natural than forest. Without people, it all goes to forest, right? Though I guess I have read that lightening-started fires lead to meadows that last a few years.

We visited two tracts of land. At the first, we saw old friends like barn swallows and goldfinches, and heard a bobwhite. At the second tract, where fields give way to some woods and there's large pond surrounded by a number of choke cherry (I think), we saw a healthy variety. I'll say right off the bat that I am not checking off one of the two life list species for me: the folks pointed out more than one Dickcissel, and I put my binoculars (and even Mom's awesome binocs) on it, but all I saw was some little brown bird. I could not see the bits of black and yellow that are its key field marks. I did see "intricately patterned" back of the grasshopper sparrow, so that's an official new one!

I've opened an e-mail debate with the tour guides on whether a mottled brown and black bird was a molting juvenile blue grosbeak or a molting juvenile cowbird, so the list generated by the fours of us will be either 44 or 45 birds long! (The Sibley's field guides, which we all use now, are big on helping you with various stages of plumage) I'll spare you the whole list; some favorites:

green heron
summer tanager
orchard oriole
Baltimore oriole
blue grosbeak (adult male; no mistaking him)
indigo bunting
ruby-throated humming bird

As we drove by homes and farms from one site to another, we came to a wide "creek" with a boat shed, signs of crabpots -- and seven osprey. They and bald eagles (we saw three all day long, I think, including two in a field by what looked like the home's well cap) sure have made a comeback!

Capital City weather: more hot and muggy, but I am off to the lib where it is always chilly
Watched: The Simpsons Movie and quite liked it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...lightening-started fires..."