204 Species Counted During the 2013 Birdathon/Bloomathon!
By Ned Beecher
This has been a delightful spring, and it may have peaked on Birdathon/Bloomathon day, Saturday, May 18th: clear blue skies and bright sun, with just a few afternoon clouds to temper it, few bugs, with temps starting in the low 40s and climbing close to 70. To that day, we brought a remarkable team of experienced birders (brought together thanks to Tony Vazzano) and Chris Clyne's persistent efficiency in scouting blooms.
The result? A tie with last year's B/B record total: 204 species, including 77 blooms and a record number of birds: 127. Setting a new bird record - even without some shorebirds we've had in past years - is only an indication of increasing organization of birders, not as an indication of more birds (although a few species have moved in, like Red-bellied Woodpecker). The fact is, species and birds have declined since B/B began decades ago.
This year, it starts, as usual, with a Barred Owl in Sandwich and a Whip-poor-will in Tamworth, just after 4. Then the notes fill in as dawn progresses: robin, catbird, vireos, Song Sparrow, House Wren, waterthrushes, nuthatches, a bevy of warblers - and then the rising of the Wood Thrush and White-throated Sparrow singing spring.
Tony scouts his neighborhood in Sandwich, getting the early woodcock, then listens to warblers as he works for an hour. Bob watches his feeders and out over the Thompson Preserve, getting the Lincoln's Sparrow, Wilson's Warbler, Marsh Wren, and Virginia Rail, then visits the expansive, open Ambrose excavation site, where there's a Vesper Sparrow, and a pair of American Kestrels are nesting in a box he put up for them two years back. Ned checks water bodies of central Tamworth, catching a glimpse of Common Merganser and a song of Scarlet Tanager at misty Great Hill Pond. And then they meet in Tamworth Village, seeing the Orchard Oriole and Cliff Swallows before getting a snack with the Fish Crows at West Ossipee, siting a Northern Mockingbird near the Madison mill, and scouting the West Branch pine barrens for myriad Prairie Warblers, a Towhee or two, and a chance flock of six White-winged Crossbills. Back at Ambrose, a pair of Osprey perches together, seemingly pondering nesting. At the marsh west of Jackman Pond, two bitterns show their necks.
And Chris is out early, checking the usual spots for usual - spectacular - blooms: Fringed Polygala near Meader Road, Foamflower and Hooked Crowfoot at Durgin Bridge, cherries and shadbush, Marsh Violet at the Alt's conservation land, Mertensia in Tamworth Village, Striped Maple and Trailing Arbutus near Fowler's Mill Road, Trout Lily (just barely still blooming), and variously-colored violets strewn widely. By noon, she has sixty+ species, and she is noticing more poison ivy impinging on some of the best bloom sites. Others are looking too: John spots Pale Laurel and Bog Rosemary, Jane has columbine, and, in the afternoon, Ned joins Chris to see Blue-eyed Grass and daisy just showing color by the Rte. 25 W. Ossipee bridge. Along Depot Road, there's still Bastard Toadflax (and they can still hear Betty Steele saying it).
Meanwhile, Jennifer scouts the mixed habitat of Tamworth's western hills, confirming Purple Finch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and one of many White-crowned Sparrows seen that day. Jane visits the Castle in the Clouds, picking up Indigo Bunting, junco, Ruffed Grouse, and Red-Tailed Hawk as the day warms. Tiffany checks the lakes, seeing a cormorant and a Bald Eagle, even though the nest at Squam has apparently failed this year. Near the Castle, she finds the Blue-winged Warbler, bringing the wood warbler total to 22 species, even though there seemed to be few migrant flocks around. (We remember a B/B - was it 15 years ago? - when just one migrant flock at Thompson yielded 18 or 19 warbler species!) Lynne finds one of them as she climbs Sandwich Dome: the elevation enthralled Blackpoll, along with the Boreal Chickadee, Brown Creeper, and a Peregrine Falcon.
To see a full list of bird species click here; for a complete list of spring wildflowers click here.