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The Perfect Day

March 24, 2008

Now that the calender has officially turned over to Spring I feel as though I can really enjoy it instead of fretting over unnaturally warm temperatures. If it hits 70 degrees before the tip off of the college basketball tournament then something is up, but now that the tip is past, and the Heels rolling thus far, well, the temperature can do whatever it wants from here on out. Especially if it means birdies, and that’s just fine with me.

And so, on this quintessential spring day in Carolina I headed out to the nearby Mason Farm in the hopes that early migrants would be on the menu. The day started promising, in a matter of minutes I had heard my first of the year White-eyed Vireo (singing emphatically from a willow) and the first of what would be many, many Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. The first Gnatcatchers are always exciting. It’s nice to see something different after months of only Yellow-rumped Warblers. Kind of like when you see the first Yellow-rumps in September after months of only Gnatcatchers. And the cycle continues anew…

Better still were winter birds preparing to ship out. The sparrows continue to congregate in large numbers, mostly White-throats and Fields with the odd Song and Swamp, and in the swampy back of the park I was privileged to hear a sound I had never heard before. Singing in a maple was a male Rusty Blackbird, decked out in his breeding finest. I’m unfamiliar with the song, but it sounded to me like a cross between a Red-winged Blackbird and a Common Grackle, which is strangely appropriate for a bird that in nearly every way, seems like a cross between a Red-winged Blackbird and a Grackle.

The best bird of the day came later, though. While walking through the woods trying desperately to find that one missing Hairy Woodpecker, I flushed a Barred Owl from a nearby tree. If flew into the woods a bit across the trail but perched close enough that I could watch it for some time. Barred Owls always look particularly creepy to me, maybe it’s those all dark eyes, but it was a great experience with a bird I see all to infrequently. Though it was this time last year I ran into my last daytime Barred Owl, probably young on the nest in early spring necessitating the daytime activity. Pretty cool in any case.

A good morning’s birding followed by a great afternoon’s basketball watching, even though my bracket has been completely and totally busted for a day now (curse you Georgetown!). At least the Heels won.

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