Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Birding Appalachia Part II: Better Quit While You're Ahead

Driving back down from the Heintooga Overlook, we got enough cell-service to receive the text that Butler's Birds Jr. was still asleep for his first nap, and there was much rejoicing! There was also time, as a part of this rejoicing, to pull over and appreciate the Plott Balsam overlook. We squinted from the grandeur, and almost immediately I recognized a much more familiar song. 
The first sighting is always the hardest isn't it? It wasn't even great BLWA habitat but sure enough, with only the most minimal of effort (and getting snagged by some bikers to take their picture near the overlook sign).

Butler's Birds Jr. is an early riser, pretty much 5:30am on the dot. However, with the daylight savings change he was technically sleeping in until 7:30 or 8:00am (!!!). As such I planned on sneaking out before sunrise to hit up the trails around the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center (like the Southwest Research Station in the Chiricahuas, except much nicer and less busy) where someone had reported Golden-winged Warbler. I would get out, get a couple hours' birding, and get back in time for our schedule departure, based on his anticipated wake up from the 3 days previous.

I checked the maps and website. I made my plan. I packed extra socks. My kicks were pumped.
The access gate at mile 7 of 9 was locked. WTF!? WHY DID YOU NOT SAY ACCESS IS RESTRICTED ON YOUR WEBSITE!? I had to cover that last two miles from the station and trailhead on foot. Uggghhh. 

Time was not on my side, nor was the sun, but this portion of dirt road was actually very birdy and I logged many newer birds for the county/area, like Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler, and Grosbeaks. The best spots were the occasional clearings along the woods, where Chestnut-sided Warblers were numerous, noisy, and nom-nom-noming away.

There were also Least Flycatchers hanging out and vocalizing on the reg. Sometimes they were prominent, and sometimes they were very shady, like nocturnal.

Keeping on a pretty quick pace, I reached the Learning Center (from which point I had a notion of the Golden-winged Bailiwick farther past) around 6:45am. It was a pastoral scene, where the Catbirds sang, the Bluebirds blued, and the Flicker foraged with the Towhee. 


...and then I got the phone call. Butler's Birds Jr. had NOT slept in as expected, but was awake as of 6am. Given his nap/grumpiness schedule and that we still had to cover 6 hours that day to get to our new home, this meant we needed to leave immediately, that I had to leave immediately, in order to leave immediately. There was much immediacy. And the Chestnuts played on.

Cedar Waxwing cares not for the problems of hurried parents. Cedar waxwing cares only for berries. 

Takeaways and reminders from the morning:

I love my son very very much and love being his parent. Parenthood often sucks though.
Least Flycatchers behave weirder than other Flycatchers.
I can jog 2 miles with camera and other gear in under 15 minutes, albeit down hill.
If you go huffing and puffing with heavy feet down a dirt road with lots of blind curves, you may scare a small park ranger lady into thinking she's about to be mauled by a bear.
Chestnut-sided Warblers are great.


  1. Oof. Well, it gets easier! Eventually. I'm doing a camping/road trip with the fam next month combined with some birding, it's going to be intense but I think everybody will have fun...honestly it's just getting to the area and driving back that really gives me The Fear.

    I think you will meet GWWA sooner than later, and it will cripple you, so enjoy having your full mobility while you can. There is no jogging for miles with gear after GWWA melts your face off.

    1. Sloughing about in the woods as an amorphous puddle of goo sounds great; I'll take the GWWA please!

      Good luck with that trip man. Our 7-hour days worked pretty fine, taking breaks every 2 hours and having plenty of blueberries and Pink Floyd (seriously) to keep the kid happy enough.

      Looking forward to hearing more!

  2. "this meant we needed to leave immediately, that I had to leave immediately, in order to leave immediately. There was much immediacy."

    This made me laugh and cringe. I would like to say it gets better, but I have not found that to be true--the reasons for immediacy just change. I feel like I have to bird like Jack Bauer, if Jack Bauer were birder, albeit without the extreme luxury of 24 whole hours.

    1. Cheers Josh : /

      Yeah 24 hours sounds like child's play. I could thwart terrorists and pull lifers with much nonchalance if I had Jack Bauer's timeframe. Even if I had to stop to poop or something, which never comes up in that show I think?

  3. Or you could just be a deadbeat dad, just get your priorities straight man. This ain't Butlersbabiesand things. Just kidding, kind of. I have made that dash with the camera, and I don't even feel stupid doing it anymore. I have graduated to unabashed bird nerd.

    1. Well you do have very impressive lists. Who am I to argue!?