Sunday, September 21, 2008

IBA Class Trip to Barre Falls Dam and Rutland State Park

A small group of us met at Barre Falls Dam at dawn for what we hoped would be a great first class trip to see fall warblers on the move and, hopefully, catch some hawk migration.It was only 32 degrees and even though we were greeted by a chorus of Towhees and one lingering Wood Thrush, we didn't have anything flying over so we weren't sure whether or not it would be a good day for migrant landbirds.
It was cheery to see that the Nodding Ladies Tresses were still blooming as we headed down the hill from the parking lot to the dam to check on the ravens that Deb and Dan Berard had seen earlier. Somehow having orchids in bloom when there's frost on the ground seems incongruous, but it was good that we stopped to check the flowers.......since that's when we came across our first wave of warblers!
And it was a good one! We had good numbers of Black-throated Green warblers....
But the greatest numbers of warblers passing over were Blackpolls. And of course they were all in their fall plumage. Some might call this plumage "drab", but I'm always amazed when I look at the subtlety of the colors and faint streaks.
Of course with all the warblers passing through you know you're going to get Sharpies looking for an easy meal....or sometimes just hassling "the locals". This Sharpie came bombing through the trees near some of the foundations along Prison Camp Road and made a quick turn when he saw me and landed long enough to catch his breath and let me get a few quick shots. We also had great views (no photos) of 2 Sharpies giving some Pileated Woodpeckers a hard time. The Bluejays, in turn, were letting the Sharpies know they weren't totally in control either.

As morning wore on some of the bird activity slowed down....actually it's just that the birds were no longer concentrated in those few sunny spots and started to feed throughout the entire park. Therefore, we spent some time looking at the other highlights at this time of year. And one of them is certainly the concentration of Closed Bottle Gentian that blooms right along the road near one of the beaver marshes. You would think that something this colorful would be easy to spot, but somehow it blends in with all the foliage and lots of people just pass by and don't even see it.
As we moved back up Coldbrook Road we picked up another wave of warblers and when we stopped this Mourning Cloak landed on my car. It then proceed to land on this remnant of web worm and sun itself. It stayed for so long that for a while we all thought it might be stuck. It wasn't and eventually flew off maybe looking for the perfect place to hibernate for the winter.

We continued to pick up different species of warblers and hit a small pocket of Magnolia Warblers and this somewhat cooperative Parula. I think we ended up with 13 or 14 warbler species for the day -- certainly a good inland movement!

We ended the morning back where we started -- at Barre Falls Dam -- looking for migrating hawks. However, since more than 4,000 Broadwings moved through this same spot on Thursday, we didn't have much in the way of Broadwings. While we had a couple of BW's and Sharpies, plus the local resident Red-tailed Hawks, we had to be content with these Savannah Sparrows who kept flying under the picnic tables and posing in the close ornamental trees.
Since it was a "morning only" trip we ended shortly before noon....a great early fall morning!

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