Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New River Day 2: Cranberry Glades

Luna Moth 4-27-09 Fayetteville, WV

A day that starts out with a Luna moth can only get better and it did. Our early morning hot breakfast at the Burnwood picnic area had to hold us for several hours as we drove to Cranberry Glades in the Monongahela National Forest. We drive north under sunny skies gaining altitude as we travel until we reach an elevation of 3400 feet. Since I live out west at 3300 feet, this does not seem too high to me, but I can see the vegetation change the higher we go. When we finally get out of the bus at Cranberry Bog the trees are barely blushing with new buds compared to the tiny celery colored leaves back in Fayetteville.

Right off the bat our faithful guides Connie Toops, Geoff Heeter and Keith Richards find us some chestnut- sided warblers. While I have seen and photographed this bird in its winter plumage in Arizona, this is the first time I have seen it in its breeding plumage with the lovely chestnut streak running down its side. A pair of males are fighting over territory from opposite sides of the road, flying back and forth and singing their challenge songs of spring.

The day starts off cool as we meander down the ½ mile board walk but soon the brilliant sunlight warms the air around us. Everyone is mesmerized by what we are seeing. It’s hard to know where to look first with all the bird activity around us and new life bursting from every tree and branch.

A frog sits in a pool alongside the walkway watching us with wet dark eyes. Yellow-rumped warblers flit about the treetops gleaning insects and singing as the day goes by. A small olive green warbler, plain and tiny, perches atop a distant pine tree. We are only afforded a quick glance or two but the consensus is that we have seen a Mourning warbler, which is a Life Bird* for me.

Yellow-rumped Warbler 4-27-09 Cranberry Glades, WV

Blackburnian Warbler Cranberry Glades, WV 4-27-09

Farther down the trail a small black and white bird with a throat of flame flies high into the sky. It lands on an open branch revealing its flaming throat. Looking through my binoculars, I can’t believe that dazzling shade of apricot and fire. It is a Blackburnian Warbler, another life bird for me. I fumble between binoculars and camera. I cannot get enough of this bird. I photograph it, look through my bins and take my turn at the spotting scope. I have only seen this color in a flaming sunset before, and now I am seeing it on the throat of a bird. This vision will be emblazoned on my mind for the rest of my life I am sure. This is a magnificent bird and yet another Life Bird for me.

Golden-crowned Kinglet 4-27-09

As if my heart were not full already a sweet little Golden-crowned Kinglet flies down and sings briefly on an exposed branch.

We all watch in awe as bird after bird is revealed to us. Everywhere we turn there is something new to see. Flowers are blooming everywhere, yet on the rolling hills of West Virginia the deciduous trees are still bare at this elevation.

A ring of spruce and pine wraps around the open bog in a bright green circle. Above the sky is a pale blue dome. I can't help but wonder what it will all look like in a month when everything is green and lush and bursting.

Susan and Nina 4-27-09

I look to see Susan scanning the skies while Nina searches the ground below. Each has their own interest, their own view of this world we are walking through today. Each has her own story to tell of this wonderful experience.

The birds are everywhere, and I am doing my best to census them. Besides adding species to my list, I am trying my darndest to count how many birds I am seeing. Even a trip to the outhouse yields yet another bird as I wander up the path. First I hear a rustle in the leaf litter beside me, then I find a pair of dark-eyed juncos digging in the leaves. This is why I watch birds, because birds are everywhere.

After living in the desert for two years now, I am intrigued once again by the advance of spring in a deciduous forest. The bare-branched trees always look like hands raised to the open sky. Now with the new red, lemon and lime green buds on the tips of the twigs it makes a subtle pattern as the trees grow up the slope. Looking through my lens it all gets flattened into a textured painting in my mind. I wander back down the path to capture one more photo.

Close beside the boardwalk what appears to be a red and green bird growing out of the soil is actually the bud of a skunk cabbage. These plants covered the floor of the swampy woods I grew up in. I do not see them in Arizona. As memories flood my mind, I find myself wondering: How did I get here to this tundra-like world on the east coast? It is so like places I have been before and so unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a merging of habitats for me. I feel like I am in New England and the Rocky Mountains all at once. I am here, today, in this new place as well as in the past. I am a growing thing and this is a new spring time for me.

Cranberry Glades Bird List:

  1. Mallard
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Broad-winged hawk*
  4. Hairy woodpecker
  5. Northern flicker
  6. Blue-headed Vireo
  7. Blue jay
  8. Common Raven
  9. Black-Capped chickadee
  10. Red-breasted nuthatch
  11. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  12. American robin
  13. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  14. Yellow-rumped warbler
  15. Black-throated green warbler
  16. Blackburnian Warbler*
  17. Black and white Warbler
  18. Mourning Warbler*
  19. Eastern towhee
  20. Chipping sparrow
  21. Dark-eyed Junco
  22. American goldfinch
  23. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  24. Brown-headed cowbird
  25. Pine siskin

*Life Birds (A Life Bird is the first time a birder has seen a species and can add it to their Life List. A Life List is a list of all the bird species a birder has seen in their life. I like to include the dates and places I have seen birds. I keep my Life List in a book and eBird keeps track of it for me when I submit my bird counts.)


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

A lovely recount of the day Kathie. You're so right in that we all took away a slightly different view of the Glades.

Arija said...

I am so glad you enjoyed your trip to the full. It looks like an absolutely wonderful experience.

Arija said...

I am so glad you enjoyed your trip to the full. It looks like an absolutely wonderful experience.

Gaelyn said...

Kathie, this is such an amazing trip, so many birds and lifers too. I love the idea of you weaving in and out of present and past as you journey through this environment so different than AZ.

Hope you'll stop by for an award I've passed on to you.

Susan Gets Native said...

I was scanning for raptors....
A beautiful account of the day, Kathie. Such an unusual place...unlike any other.

Deborah Godin said...

I've been wanting to see a luna moth all my life. Now that I'm back in their territory, I might just try the sheet and lamp outside at night to see what I can attract!

Jackie said...

That moth is beautiful. And the skunk cabbage bird is pretty amazing too.

Larry said...

Nice description of the day.Congratulations on the lifers. That moth looks like some kind of exotic kite as in flying a kite-not a bird.