Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 10 - The Great Pumpkin

Beautiful rolling hills/mountains totally tree-covered though they were hard to see in the early morning fog (I was on the road by 6am). No wonder they seceded from the rest of Virginia. I found the hills a bit deceptive. On multiple occasions I found myself asking “Why is my car taking these turns so funny?!” “Oh, its one of those funky shallow declines that your eyes have a hard time seeing and I am going 180 miles per hour!” Okay, not that fast, but you get the point.

My destination was Weymouth Woods in south central North Carolina. For the third time, I was making a try for Bachman's Sparrow. Longleaf Pine is the dominant tree. It was hot, sandy, and that “piney” smell was excellent. The property is managed (controlled burns) for Red-cockaded Woodpecker but the sparrows move right in after the burn is done. I had been to Weymouth on June 10th, 2009, but torrential rains minutes after my arrival prevented me from finding the sparrow. Arkansas was a bust last year (not enough time on site). So, upon my arrival at 11:30, what did I hear? Thunder. I asked the interpreter on staff about expected storms. “Don't worry – that is coming from Fort Bragg”. Oh. I covered the area where I had been told by the staff the bird would be, but after a few hours, Bachman's Sparrow was beginning to seem more like a Bachman's Warbler (extinct since the 1950's) Other cool birds here include Red-cockaded Woodpecker (visible from my car), Brown-headed Nuthatch (very noisy), Fish Crow, Pine Warbler, Hooded Warbler by the creek, Eastern Wood Pewee and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I even managed to eclipse the 100-bird mark for North Carolina while here. Even with the extra eyes of Greg (from Buffalo), we couldn't find it. He had to leave by 2pm, but I kept trudging along up and down the same service road. Dinner was on site. The staff wished me luck as they went home at 5:00. They even suggested some alternative locations outside the property.

By this point, I was starting to feel like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. There was time to run to other the location but I was not interested. My bird is HERE and they (the other birds on the back-up site) are likely on the same schedule. Two options - hang here and relax or hustle there...and then wait. Wait here was the vote (a vote of one). That is what Linus would do.

The Great, the Bachman's Sparrow, arrived at 5:42. He was standing on a burned up stump. Other stuff around his perch was burned up, too, so I had a neat view of a little tan-breasted, white-bellied sparrow in a sunbeam out on a dark background singing his larynx out. The distance was a little more than I would have asked for so I ran back to the car for the scope (a 2-minute penalty for leaving it in the car), but upon returning, he was gone and quiet. I was not about to wait longer for it to show again. 6 hours was long enough.

With life bird #628 in the bag, it was on to Delaware and Maryland. As I drove, I realized camping was out (rain appeared on the horizon) and I was only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Petersburg so I made the detour. Howard Johnsons got the call for the night.

At the pub (yes, the Ho Jo's pub), while doing trip notes, I had the Budweiser American Ale (#574). In the dim light, it appeared amber in color. All in all, it was a light weight ale - malty tastes, yeah, but not much really there. Little aroma. Little body. Sub par, at best. However, it could be a beer that might help people make the transition from the swill to the good stuff. By the way, the karaoke was horrible. Singing drunks should be arrested on felony charges.

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