-Mon, Mar 27 2023-
The week dawns clearish and calm: a deafening 31 degrees. American Robins have their strategy, screaming and yelling since 4 AM, but it’s still not enough to blunt the roar of interstate traffic and the thundering trains, the honking of impatient commuters, air horns of frustrated dump trucks, and incessant beeping of work vehicles.
Nevertheless, 18 species are on the boards by 8 AM—same number as yesterday, just no raptors, proving once again that the winds make all the difference. Indeed, no vultures show up at all this dawn, while yesterday they were circling by well before seven.
The Eastern Phoebe is settling in, making the rounds of its territory, from branch to treetop, calling and singing, up and down the borders of the river and the creek. I can’t tell if a potential mate has shown up yet.
The robins just don’t give up: five mob and chase reach other in a blur across the parking lot into the bushes by the creek.
At 7:36 AM, a pleasant surprise shows up: the year’s second Eastern Meadowlark. Like the first from last week, it flutters over weakly from north to south, well out of its element.
I had thought that rain threatened, but it’s turning into a very nice day after all. Back down from yesterday’s 33 species to the baseline with 22 species, but still, not bad for a Monday.
In the afternoon, the nice day turns toward rain as the edge of another rain belt grazes us. I move the office to the porch to see what raptors show up. In over two hours, in addition to the locals, I am able to spot two Sharp-shinned Hawks flapping and gliding just above the crest of Bald Eagle Mountain, heading northward. They’re the first of this species I’ve logged since I heard one on New Year’s Day up in First Field.
Dave texts from somewhere on the property: Brown Thrasher. I ask him about the Cooper’s Hawk—I’ve not seen it here in town in weeks; is it nesting yet? He saw it yesterday at eight AM but hasn’t heard its “kek-kek-kek” call yet. Typically, it nests in the woods above his house. Whether the town Cooper’s (possibly plural) and the mountain Cooper’s are the same bird is hard to know, but I suspect they may be. (In the evening, I spot a lone Cooper’s Hawk soaring west from Sapsucker Ridge in the are of Grazierville, the first I’ve seen from here in quite some time.)
Turkey Vulture High
The evening balcony sit starts at 6:44 and goes for an hour. It’s nice to see the phoebe perching and sallying, as flycatchers do (both of the New World and Old World varieties). At dusk, it tumbles up into the air, I suppose to grab an insect, then alights on a topmost twig, repeating this several times. Perhaps this is also related to courtship; after a few minutes of this, replete with numerous ‘phoebe’ proclamations, a second shows up, calling. They chase each other off through the fruit trees on 10th Street.
A storm comes up from the east with some faint thunder, purple clouds, and spitting rain. Birds stream away from it heading west, none more determined than vultures. At first, they circle for awhile over the ridgetops before meandering over my head toward the roost. But ass the weather turns more threatening, they pop up, one after the other—mostly Turkey Vultures—from behind Sapsucker Ridge and stream in a line, wings tucked and flapping as needed, to escape. The count goes from 40, to 50, to 60…
The storm doesn’t materialize, and the Turkey Vultures keep on coming. As the number approaches 100, I remember I had the all-time high hotspot and county total last spring. I check it: 122 on April 14th of last year. By 7:30 today, I’m at 108 with light fading fast, so it doesn’t look like the record will fall today. Then, 12 more circle up from behind Bald Eagle Mountain. I wait.
Finally, at 7:37 PM, I can barely make out a pair beyond the towers. What are the odds? Naturally, I stay out until only the robins sing, but the total remains a tie.
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