Eye Candy for Bird Enthusiasts

Blog post from Sue Wemyss ~

Today was International Migratory Bird Day.  I’d heard there was to be a bird walk at the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge with Dave Govatski this morning.  Dave is incredible:  super friendly and full of knowledge about birds, trees, and seemingly everything in the natural world.  I was very happy my schedule was open to join this guided bird walk.

It was pouring rain when it was time for me to leave Randolph to drive to the meeting point in Jefferson.  But I’ve got good rain gear and I figured it couldn’t possibly keep pouring for the entire morning.  So, maybe I’d get wet . . . I could always come home and dry off afterward.

There were at least two dozen people who showed up at the trailhead/parking area off Airport Road.  Dave welcomed us, we all introduced ourselves, and it was nice to learn there were a number of other birding guides present, in addition to Dave.

The walk into the main pond is about 1.6 miles along an old railroad bed.  The first time Howie and I went birding there, we didn’t even get to the pond—stopping so often along the way to search for the birds we were hearing!  Today we mostly kept moving to the pond, stopping only occasionally to listen to various birds singing.  Most of the identification of species during this time was by ear.  I’m not very good at this yet—identifying bird calls, but I was happy to recognize the call of a winter wren, one of my personal favorite birds, and the classic “Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody …” call of a white throated sparrow.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren-Dwayne Java, Flicker Image


I was happy when the big group split up into smaller groups once we neared the pond.  With the masses following Dave out to the viewing platform on the pond, I chose to go with Chris, along with about five others.

Just past the first trail turnoff, we hit our first jackpot of bird activity.  It was an open area where trails and old rail bed cross. Birds were flitting busily from tree to tree, catching bugs.  Warblers which have been south through the winter were back: black-throated greens, black-throated blues and many yellow-rumped warblers, all of which are very striking with distinctive colorful markings.  Just to see and focus one’s binoculars on a constantly flitting warbler is a big accomplishment in my book!  I was able to get several nice looks at these birds and drink in their natural beauty.

Then, we started seeing the truly spectacular and less often seen warblers in the trees.  The flame orange throat of a Blackburnian Warbler was shockingly bright and beautiful.  A Northern Parula with its bright yellow chest, blue head and back and white wing bars was a treat for the eyes.  Finding and seeing an American Redstart, whose stand-out coloring is patches of orange on its sides, wings and tail seemed like such a gift of nature.

The bird sightings continued for hours!  I saw over thirty species myself, and heard reports of many more from others.  With every beautiful bird sighted, I felt like I was drinking in full glasses of nature.  Soon I felt brimming, almost bursting with all I was seeing and experiencing.  I only wished my favorite birding partner Howie could have been there too, to take it all in.  We will have to go back, together.

The best of the northern NH birding season has arrived!

Sue Wemyss
Ski School Director, Kayak & Active Programs Instructor
Great Glen Trails

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