The September Scramble is a recent addition to HMBC’s calendar, 10 hours of birding Five Rivers in the height (hopefully) of fall migration and despite its name it’s more of a Ramble, or an Amble. It’s just a great way to get out and enjoy late summer, the most beautiful time of year in the Northeast.
I started my day about 7:00 AM, a cool bite in the air and mist rising from the ponds.
White lace spiderwebs floated on the grass.
As I paused by the Wood Duck Marsh to watch a pair of Green Herons, a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped down from his snag, diving into a clump of honeysuckle. A Blue Jay erupted from the other side screaming in protest and escaped to the top of the pines, pursued by the hawk. The clamor roused the rest of the flock and they chivvied the hawk mercilessly from tree to tree. The hawk was making the strangest distress calls — guttural yawps that sounded more like a Green Heron. I kept checking the tree to see if a heron was in fact in there with them, but it must have been the hawk.
This continued for some time, drowning out other birdsong. But in the distance I heard a call, repeated three or four times — cu cu cu, cu cu cu. It sounded like a Black-billed Cuckoo but I was never able to locate the bird, and crows (and there were crows nearby, stirred up by the hawk/jay ruckus) can make a similar sound.
As I moved away from the ponds the sun rose higher burning the fog off.
It was reasonably birdy out, several mixed flocks featuring American Redstarts and Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, Canada, Prairie and Black-throated Green Warblers along with the usual resident species and any number of mysteries. The woods of the North Loop trail were quiet, so I paused to appreciate this little mushroom grove on a fallen log.
There’s a section of closely-spaced spindly pines that I always think would make a great setting for a horror film. Image trying to force your way through, branches grabbing and tripping you, as the shamblers get closer…
Around 3:30 I was done for (did I mention I’d been on an all-day hawkwatch the day before?) and I headed for the parking lot past the ponds. And there on a snag was the Sharpie again, surveying his territory in peace, for the moment.
40 species for the day (not counting the dubious Cuckoo). Last year’s group total was 61 (38 for me) and this year, barring any late additions, is 63. Obviously, I’m missing or misidentifying a lot of birds.