Up There Early

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.

Muddy Trail

Morning Fog in Waterbury

Bolton Valley Wind Turbine

Turbine Up Close

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