Birds and…bagels? This annual opportunity, hosted by Dr. Susan Adamowicz, allows seasonal staff a chance to see wildlife — mostly birds — in a setting we don’t normally explore. And besides, there’s free breakfast. Now in its 6th year, this tradition is a delight to newcomers and returning birders alike.
The day was bright and warm, an ideal early-summer opportunity for heading out at first light and endeavoring to make a perfect record of the morning. Seven of us: four seasonal staff members, two refuge volunteers and Susan, all started from her home, surrounded by towering white pines and red oak trees, and walked down the road to a nearby utility right-of-way. New powerline structures created a long corridor through the woods, bordered by tall trees, but with a covering of dense shrubs in the understory. The sky was clear and open, the sun burning away clouds and providing us an unrestricted view of a bright sky. Perfect for bird spotting. Refuge volunteers Sue Keefer and Steve Norris acted as our expert bird guides, eagerly sharing their seemingly-infinite knowledge of the avian community.
We ambled slowly down the powerlines, our progress constantly distracted by distant calls or flashing glimpses of movement in the shrubs. Searching for warblers in dense shrubs is a Herculean task. But careful listening was well-rewarded: a red-eyed vireo singing in the distance, American restarts chipping to each other, common yellowthroats defending their nests, chestnut-sided warbler fledglings practicing their songs. We often had to pause and listen, the first call catching our attention and the second or third helping us to identify the bird. But sharp eyesight gave us rewards too: Steve spotted an indigo bunting perched high on the wires, Kim caught a glimpse of a blue-headed vireo darting from a bush, Ben found a pine warbler flitting in the canopy of pines, and Sue Keefer found us a black-billed cuckoo sitting silently in the thick canopy of an oak, forcing us to play hide-and-seek to identify him. There was too much to see. As focused as we were on birds, we still managed to spot several mammals including dashing chipmunks and a loping gray fox.
As with most forays into nature, time got away from us and we had to rush back to Susan’s house for coffee and bagels. While eating, we decompressed and reviewed our species list, excitedly recounting our favorite finds.
38 species in fewer than 2 hours: a new record for our Birds and Bagels trip! Many species from previous years (such as eastern towhees, red-tailed hawks, and cedar waxwings) made appearances along with new visitors like the black-billed cuckoo and wild turkey. For many in our group (myself included) it was a marvelous snapshot of summer birding in Southern Maine.
See the entire bird list from our trip on eBird: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30369918