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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Great Birding at Mt. Young

Today we decided to hike up Mt. Young. Since it's an uphill hike, I was lazy and decided to take my binoculars but not my camera, so no pictures today. It was a bit overcast and being in the woods there wasn't much photo-worthy today anyway, but it turned out to be some great birding.

We only detected about 15 or so species, and both heard and saw most all of them, which was great for improving my knowledge of bird calls. The only species we saw and didn't hear were the turkey vultures, of which there were four soaring around at the top of the hill. One of the birds we heard and didn't see, however, remains a mystery. The song was very distinct and coming from the tree tops, keeping the bird out of view. I've learned that using mnemonics are helpful when learning bird calls or for remembering those that you hear in the field, and Keith came up with the very accurate "get get get out of my way beep beep!" for this call. I listened to a lot of possible candidates online after getting home, but still wasn't able to pinpoint the caller.

On the climb up we heard lots of pacific-slope flycatchers, orange-crowned warblers, dark-eyed juncos, and red-breasted nuthatches. After getting to the top and sitting down to take in the panoramic view looking west over Haro Strait, I heard my first year bird of the day: the "whip, three beers!" of the olive-sided flycatcher (154). The next two birds came right to me, as well. Perched at the very top of a pine tree was a female red crossbill (155), a fantastic find! I have seen crossbills once before on San Juan Island but often get frustrated looking for them throughout the Pacific Northwest as they are usually reported as heard calling as they fly by in a flock overhead, which is not conducive to relocating them. This bird was very cooperative, though, and in addition to providing a great view also called a few times. Maybe next time I'll be able to ID them flying overhead too!

Right after the crossbill flew away, I heard another unfamiliar call from behind me and saw a chipping sparrow (156) at the top of a madrone snag! This is one bird I've expected to find on the island and I've been looking for it in some of its common hang outs, but I this time I guess I just had to wait for it to find me!

On the way back down the hill, one more unfamiliar call echoed loudly through the trees. Patience paid off and I spotted the singer: a Hutton's vireo (157). Actually seeing the bird singing really helps me cement its call in my memory, and just before the parking lot I was able to pick out another singing Hutton's vireo from the cacophony of other calls.

I didn't think there would be too many more days this year when I would get as many as four year birds in a single day, at least not on San Juan Island. Great stuff, and it helps me to close the gap on Dave in the year bird race, as he had pulled ahead by a full ten species after a recent oceanic trip.

1 comment:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Great day's birding there Monika - I'm getting nervous

Dave (still 160 - bring on Sunday!)