I have to complete my surveys for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies‘s Mountain Birdwatch program in the first three weeks of June. Today is June 15 and I hadn’t gotten out there yet. The days when I could have done it we had rain. Birds don’t sing much in the rain, and I wouldn’t hear them anyway, so today I finally got one in. I had to work today but I’m down to one week left, so I didn’t want to take any chances that the weather would turn again. It will rain more soon and I have two surveys to do.
The survey consists of observing for five key species of birds at high elevations in the northeast. The route I did today is the one I have done for 11 years now, since the first year of the program. The deal is to observe them between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM as they tend to be most active during this “dawn chorus” time. That means getting to the first of my five survey points by 4:00, which means hiking by 3:15 if I hoof it, which means hitting the road to the trailhead by 2:30, which means getting up at 2:15, assuming I have everything ready the night before, which I did.
I made it up there in time and sat in the dark for about 15 minutes before any birds sang. I heard a White-throated Sparrow first, as I typically do. I also recorded Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpol Warbler and Winter Wren. The most important species, Bicknell’s Thrush, was silent. I got to the end of my muddy and wet one-mile route, sat at the last survey point, and got nothin’. This is terribly disappointing, of course. Hearing that they are still up there gives me hope. So I went to Plan B.
Plan B is to offer an audio playback of Bicknell’s Thrush calls and songs, in hopes of attracting them, to see if they really are out there. This did the trick. A little brown thrush did come in at the first point I tried the playback, but I couldn’t tell for sure that it was a Bicknell’s, so I tried again. This time I heard the distinctive buzzy call and, to borrow from Wordsworth, my heart leapt up. Satisfied, with some data that will hopefully be enough for now, I headed back down. It was 6:15 and the sun was up.
I hiked past Bolton Valley Resort to get to the survey route and got to see the wind turbine they put up in the last year for a new angle. I got some first had experience with how a large turbine sounds. It did make some noise. Not so much that it would be a nuisance in a city with lots of noise anyway, but some. It was good to see it up there, presumably creating electricity while its blades spun.
So I was successful. I am now tired. When I do this thing on a weekend, I take a nap at some point. I’ll have to head to bed early tonight. Hopefully my children will do the same.