Monday, May 27, 2013

I saw a Saw-whet!

Last weekend Mark K., Ali Iyoob, Natalia Ocampo-Penuela, Jacob Socolar and I birded around Boone for some of the tough-to-find birds that breed in the NC mountains.  It ended up being pretty wet, so I didn't get many photos, but the warblers we saw are pretty tough to capture anyway.
Canada Warbler (female)
Excellent looks at Canada Warblers were nice, but one of our main targets was Golden-winged Warbler, a species listed as near-threatened by the IUCN.  Golden-winged warblers breed in brushy early successional habitats and thus a reason for its decline is said be Re-forestation.  It sounds a bit crazy to blame thriving forests on the plight of a song bird, but historically these creatures probably relied on habitat maintained by large grazing mammals (i.e. Bison) and fires, which have since respectively been extirpated and suppressed.

They can reliably be found at a handful of well-known breeding sites in the mountains of NC, but we had a surprisingly difficult time tracking a them down.  Success came finally late on our final day when we visited Shady Grove Gardens and Nursery.

Golden-winged Warbler - blurry photo by Mark K.
But the best bird of the trip for me was the Northern Saw-whet Owl we heard and, after a couple hours of searching, were eventually able to spot in the boreal forest at Roan Mountain.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl - photo by Mark K.
Despite all the rain this was a really fun trip!  It's hard to go wrong in the NC mountains in May.


Some notes for listing nerds:

Since I found Golden-winged Warbler, Willow Flycatcher and Northern Saw-whet Owl on this trip, the only remaining North Carolina breeding bird species I need is Swallow-tailed Kite (and it's breeding status was only confirmed a few weeks ago). 

I'm not much of an ABA area birder. This is mostly because my travel opportunities since I got into birding have either been international or along the East Coast.  Thus, I haven't birded west of Appalachia and my ABA area list is only 23 ticks ahead of my North Carolina list (343).

Next week I'll get to bird in northern Minnesota and hopefully pick up some lifers I'll have no chance of ever seeing in NC: Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Sharp-tailed Grouse and if I'm really lucky, Spruce Grouse or Great Gray Owl. This trip should push my NC vs. ABA list gap up to 28 or so, but I'll still have opportunities to narrow it back down to 23...or lower. That is until I go bird in California and my ABA list explodes.

Here's a list of birds that are on the NC official bird list that I have only seen outside my home state:

Monk Parakeet
Ring-necked Pheasant
Roseate Tern
Common Ground-Dove
Snowy Owl
Long-eared Owl
Mourning Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
White-winged Crossbill
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Gray Kingbird
Mottled Duck
Swallow-tailed Kite
Black-headed Gull
Western Kingbird
Philadelphia Vireo