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New Birds While Hiking

September 24, 2011

We actually did do some real hiking in earlier days. We even had boots with lugs! And I always believed that standard equipment for any walk/stroll/hike were binoculars. One of my favorite areas  is Western North Carolina – there are so many trails in the mountains, including the famous Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia. Most people who hike the AT don’t do it all in one piece, but a few days at a time or a day or two here and there, which can encompass a lifetime of hiking/strolling. I’ve managed a couple hundred miles so far, but one of the outstanding walks I remember most was a day my son, Charlie, and I decided to hike on the AT in Graham County, N.C. , from the crossroads of Tuskeegee to Stecoah Gap.

As usual, I had a small notebook with me so I could record sightings – birds mostly – and anything else I found interesting. We found tanagers, woodpeckers, warblers, juncos, kinglets, and even a grouse. We came to Wauchecha Bald with fantastic views of the lush eastern forest around us. We heard vireos calling, a broad-winged hawk whistling, great-crested flycatchers and saw lots of chipmunks, squirrels, a box turtle, and at least 3 snakes – none identified in my notes. Nearing the southern end of our walk,  we sat down near a boulder under the trees to pass the time until our ride was due to pick us up. We had our books to read (never go anywhere without a book), our snacks (never go anywhere without something to eat and drink), my notebook to sketch in, and we were prepared to pass the time pleasantly.

It began to get cloudy, and off in the distance, we could hear rain approaching through the trees, the sound progressively getting louder and louder. We frantically repacked our books and snacks, grabbed our ponchos, got everything protected in our daypacks – with the sound of falling water getting closer and closer – then slowly, gradually the sound went farther and farther away – until it was gone. We never had a drop of rain fall on us. Suddenly, there the birds were! Something magical can happen after a shower – I’m not sure if all the birds want drinks off the leaves or the rain stirs the insects among the leaves and the birds come to take advantage of easy-to-grab food, or that they just want to take a leaf bath. But there they were – dozens of birds making chip notes, moving among the leaves, fluttering wings (that was probably the bathing part), and coming closer. I managed to see indigo buntings, titmice, red-eyed vireos and some birds moving around so fast, I couldn’t identify them all. And there in front of me was a new bird – one I had never seen before – a thrill for a birder  – one you have to look up in your bird book to make sure that’s what you’re seeing. Sure enough, it was a chestnut-sided warbler – a small bird with a golden crown on its head and a beautiful chestnut-colored shoulder and sides. I was thrilled to see it and before I could close my bird book, there was another new bird coming into view – another warbler, mostly yellow underneath with an all gray back, a white ring around its eye, and a lovely necklace of black lines around its throat – a Canada warbler.

My notebook says: ” I never saw such a wave of warblers in my life – I couldn’t identify half of them! And two lifers!  Worth all the strenuous steep ups and downs of the trail.”

I was fortunate to have such a cooperative and patient trail companion with me – and he later turned into a birder himself! Thanks, Charlie!

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. Sandi Pray permalink

    Beautiful story of a lovely day remembered :)) I could close my eyes and be there with you…

  2. A great story, and a reminder that reality is where the real magic is…

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