Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29: Mount Washington

After last night's late night at Fenway, I was barely awake early this morning when we embarked on a bird tour to the White Mountains, on a quest for the rare and elusive Bicknell's Thrush. The thrush breeds in dense boreal forest, a very limited habitat due in large part to deforestation of its breeding grounds and its winter home in the Caribbean. Here in northern New England they are limited to just a handful of mountaintop breeding sites, including Katahdin, Mount Washington, and Bigelow Mountain. So not only is the bird scarce, but its preferred habitat of impenetrable spruce thickets--combined with its disinclination to jump up and sing from visible perches--also makes it challenging to see those few that are around to be found.

To help us see the thrush, our guide, Derek Lovitch of Freeport Wild Bird Supply, chartered a private van tour that took us up the Mount Washington Auto Road after-hours, which was a treat in itself. We had the mountain to ourselves for a couple of hours, so we were able to walk up a stretch of the road to look for alpine birds like American Pipit, visit the mist-shrouded windy summit (where we couldn't see any of the buildings), and put in a concerted effort to find Bicknell's Thrushes in the appropriate habitat and elevation.

As the thrush's crazy, flute-like song rose from the wall of flagged and stunted spruces, dramatic clouds shifted and scudded overhead, glowing in the day's last light. A combination of rain and sun produced a fragment of a rainbow, visible touching down on a distant peak. We were ultimately rewarded with good looks at birds flying back and forth across (and at one point on) the road. But even before we saw the bird, my spirits were already high; I was most definitely wide awake, maybe for the first time all day.

A single thrush sings
under scudding sunset clouds.
My heart touches the sky.

Visit Freeport Wild Bird Supply for more information on this and other bird tours.
And/or you can read our guide's blog post about this trip.

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