Sunday, May 31, 2009

Philadelphia Vireo, LB #476

Saturday, May 30: Connecting with Lance Tanino in Ascutney, VT at 7 a.m. we headed north to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a full day of birding at several locations off Crawford and Jefferson Notches. Our primary mission to get Philadelphia Vireo, a life bird for both of us and for me one that I have tried repeatedly over the years to see but every time came up empty. I don't believe either one of us held more than a long shot hope of seeing one, but even so we looked forward to observing northern warblers and perhaps one or two boreal specialties.

Our first stop was Zealand Trail and an easy 1.5 mile hike to a spot on the Zealand River, where Alan Delorey in his 1996 A Birder's Guide to New Hampshire mentions as a potential location for the vireo as well as boreal species. At the "meadows" (photo above) described by Delorey, we were not disappointed. Hearing a Red-eyed/Philadelphia-like song from a distance but moving nearer to where we stood, patience paid off with the sighting of a pair of Philadelphia's interacting with one another, and on one occasion a bird was observed by Lance carrying nesting material. Both birds were scrutinized at close range. I was able to snap off a photo (below) of one of the pair, albeit a poor image. The day could not have gotten off to a better start.

From 9:25 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I tallied 26 species: Turkey Vulture, 1; Broad-winged Hawk, 1; Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1; Alder Flycatcher, 3; Least Flycatcher, 3; Blue-headed Vireo, 6; Philadelphia Vireo, 2; Red-eyed Vireo, 2; Blue Jay, 3; Tree Swallow, 4; Winter Wren, 2; Swainson's Thrush, 3; American Robin, 1; Nashville Warbler, 1; Magnolia Warbler, 5; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 8; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 3; Black-throated Green Warbler, 10; Blackburnian Warbler, 2; Blackpoll Warbler, 8; Black-and-white Warbler, 1; American Redstart, 5; Ovenbird, 3; Common Yellowthroat, 3; Canada Warbler, 4; White-throated Sparrow, 5; and Dark-eyed Junco, 1.

We got back to the trailhead not a minute too late before the sky opened up with a downpour and cherry pit-size hail. After grabbing a snack and cold drink at a nearby store, we continued to the Caps Ridge Trail in Jefferson Notch. The trailhead is at an elevation of 3,009 feet, the highest point in the White Mountains that is accessible by way of a no-fee public road.

On the trail at 2:10 p.m., the hike is more rigorous than that of Zealand Trail, but well worth the effort traversing thick impenetrable spruce-fir forest to get near tree-line dominated by krummholz. Along the way we were challenged by an abundance of thrushes: mostly Swainson's but a couple birds that bore physical resemblance to Bicknell's/Gray-cheeked. Eventually we identified Bicknell's on the basis of calls heard in the vicinity of our destination, the prominent rock outcrop about a mile up from the trailhead. There, we were visited by a couple inquisitive Gray Jays that were fooled (but only twice!) to take gravel from Lance's hand (photo). Next time we must not forget to bring a more palatable handout for them.

Birds recorded on the Caps Ridge Trail included: Black-backed Woodpecker, 1; Yellow-beliied Flycatcher, 1; Red-eyed vireo, 1; Gray Jay, 2; Boreal Chickadee, 1; Winter Wren, 2; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 3; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Bicknell's Thrush, 1; Swainson's Thrush, 8; Nashville Warbler, 1; Magnolia Warbler, 2; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1; Black-throated green Warbler, 1; Blackpoll Warbler, 3; White-throated Sparrow, 4; and Dark-eyed Junco, 1.

Leaving the Caps Ridge trailhead at 6:15 p.m. we wrapped up our birding day at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail parking lot near the Mount Washington Cog Railway base station. Ten species, all observed previously during the day were recorded. Shortly after 7 p.m. we headed homeward both feeling very satisfied and rewarded with an excellent day in the North Country.

By the way, Lance is a resident of Keene, NH and an active member of the Monadnock Chapter of New Hampshire Audubon.

Lastly, a note about the photos. All were taken hand-held with my Canon Power Shot A 2000 IS digital camera. The poor quality images of the Philadelphia Vireo and Black-backed Woodpecker taken at some distance, under overcast skies were shot without benefit of the spotting scope. These particular photos have been enlarged and cropped to enhance details.

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