Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

Yesterday morning we were up bright and early at 5:30 (which is not unusual for 'good' birders) in order to load up and head out into the woods to hopefully see the very elusive and also endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker. C and I have been on this quest for quite a few years now, but had been unsuccessful thus far. I first became acquainted with this bird when I read Janisse Ray's wonderful book, "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" and I was instantly wrapped up in its plight and that of others who call the piney woods their home. So, yesterday morning as we tromped through the stand of longleaf pines in the dark, I was reminded of Ray's wonderful descriptions of this habitat, which is also home to the Gopher Tortoise, another endangered species. You see, in order to view the RCWs it is necessary to catch them as they emerge from their tree cavities at dawn, before they spend the day out foraging for insects in the forest. They do not return home until dusk (unless they have hungry young in their nests to feed), and then they immediately enter their tree cavities and don't emerge again until the following dawn. When they first emerge, they spend a few minutes chirping and flitting about, so you stand the very best chance of viewing them then. Six of us hearty souls made the trek, and we were rewarded by viewing not just one but FIVE RCWs! WooHoo! It was a very exciting few minutes for all of us, and just between you and me I will tell you that I was brought to tears. I'm not what you would call a serious birder, and I don't keep a 'life list', but I feel so honored to see these lovely creatures.

I think one of the most wonderful parts of yesterday morning's walk in the woods was the fact that it was totally dark and silent (except for the noise of the wire grass brushing against our pants' legs) when we first arrived in the nesting area, and then the sun slowly began to rise, and dawn was upon us. As that happened the birds began to chirp. During our 'briefing' the night before, we learned the lovely call of the Bachman's Sparrow, and saw many pictures of it to help
us identify it in the field. While not endangered, the Bachman's is considered 'near threatened' because as with the RCW and the Gopher Tortoise, its piney woods habitat is rapidly being destroyed. The forest service is doing all that it can to preserve some of these areas from developers, and I hope that they are not too late.
So, as we were waiting for the RCWs to emerge from their nesting cavities, we were serenaded by perhaps 25 Bachman's Sparrows. Their song is lovely and sweet, and we were surrounded by this incredible choir. You can hear it here.............just imagine 25 or 30 at dawn, out in the woods: marvelous!

As we walked back to our vehicle, we were able to see several very large gopher tortoise holes...lucky for us and the tortoises, none of us stepped in any holes!

It was a great trip: we met a lot of fine folks and saw some very beautiful birds. Barker greeted us warmly this morning and hasn't left our sides since we got home!

Hope you're having a great day!



Gerrie said...

woo hoo, indeed!

Eva said...

My parents were birdwatchers, too, and to a certain degree, I am. My most beautiful observation were bee-eaters in Portugal.
I just listened to the voice of this sparrow -- completely different from our sparrows, rather like warblers.

Vicki W said...

That is very cool!

Jeannie said...

What a wonderful song. I am so glad you got to see the birds you wanted to see. It should be warming up in your neck of the woods because we are supposed to get snow! ;-)

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

What a over the top successful adventure you had this week.

Elizabeth said...

I would ahve joined you with tears. Moments like those are so special!! Thanks for sharing so much with us!!