Some life birds kind of just show up — they are species you’ve either just missed seeing (or identifying) or else they’re a vagrant that hangs around (like this year’s Northern Hawk Owl or the Varied Thrush.)
Last Saturday, I got a life bird that I had to work for — hiking part of the way up Mt. Ellen with a group organized by the MadBirders.
About a dozen of us met at the parking lot of Sugarbush North ski area and climbed into the back of an old Army surplus truck, settling down for a bumpy ride up the access road. The truck belched blue smoke and roared as we ascended but the better birders were still calling out birds whose calls they heard over the racket. “Redstart, vireo, winter wren ….”
A little over halfway up, we came to the jumpoff point beyond which it was travel and bird by foot. It was pretty tough climbing up under the ski lift but the pace was reasonable and we paused to listen and look. One birder noted, “If my heart rate and panting would slow down, perhaps I could hear something.”
The Madbirders had done this trek the previous five years and had seen Bicknell’s Thrushes each time so they knew when to expect to hear the bird. And sure enough, almost on cue, we heard the chip note of a Bicknell’s. We played one iPhone call and soon had a bird in sight. Everybody tried to see it and most did — and all saw it fly.
We continued up toward the summit and saw another Bicknells’ and then another. It was a life bird for several of us and well worth the trek. The day was a gorgeous June Vermont day and the view up the spine of the Green Mountains and off into New York and New Hampshire was wonderful.
The Madbirders is a small high-energy club which offers a number of birding opportunities. If you live in Central Vermont, it’s a $5.00 fee well-spent. If you are visiting, check out their great web site and see if you can hook up with them. They are knowledgeable and very welcoming. Good Madbirding.