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Places To Bird This Month PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Spraque   
Aug 01, 2017 at 03:00 AM
(Photo credits and descriptions of photos can be seen by "mousing over" each photo. )
This 2.3 km walking trail encircles five large hay fields west of our our house. This was a haven this summer for Meadowlarks and Bobolinks. Photo by Terry SpragueIt seems that no matter where you go today, it’s busy. And with Prince Edward County being a favourite destination for tourists, the situation doesn’t improve either in August for people looking for a quiet place to bird. The township road past our home now carries cars at almost freeway speeds, and in numbers that would be unimaginable by farmers of long ago who routinely puttered along these same roads with loads of hay, and often drove herds of cattle along them from one pasture to the next, without ever encountering a car, and if they did, the motorist usually had the patience of Job. We live on an island. Where are they all going, and in such a hurry?
During the busy summer season when important tourist dollars are flowing, it’s not so much a case of where you can go to bird, but when. Those who cherish quietude and remoteness have lost so much as everywhere you go, there are cars, people and excessive noise. I have always said, that no matter what society has taken away from me, they will never take away my mornings - they will always be mine. And we’re not talking 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., which may be early in the eyes of some people. Birders are, by nature, early risers, and this is the time to get out at a local park, hiking trail or roadside, while it is still a bit on the dark side, and hints of a rising sun are on the horizon. You may meet the occasional person, or have an early commuter heading off to work, but for the most part, the mornings are ours!  Bask in these special times of the day, and enjoy them.
Every morning, the weather notwithstanding, I hike along a special trail I have mowed (see photo, above right) around five neighbouring hay fields (2.3 km), by no later than six a.m., sometimes much earlier, as well as in the evening. The trail was made possible through the generosity of the property’s owner, artist Kent Monkman, who uses the acreage as a retreat. I like to time it so I start my walk just as there is a hint of daylight on the horizon and it is light enough to see without the aid of my headlamp. The mornings are special to me as, despite the oppressive heat and humidity we endured through July, the temperatures are tolerable that early in the morning, and bird activity, normally quiet during the hot, sultry days of summer, becomes alive again, if only for a short while.
My trail is 2.3 km in length, but the combination of a number of optional arteries from the main route makes the entire trail a total of 4.6 km.  Photo by Terry SpragueI look forward to exchanging pleasantries with the same birds every morning - the Savannah Sparrow that announces its presence by an insect-like lispy, buzzy song.  Eastern Meadowlarks had a great nesting season and they are everywhere, along with families of Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, and this summer, a pair of Alder Flycatchers where my trail goes through a low area of dogwoods.
But the star attractions this year have been the Bobolinks. They arrived this year on May 5th, a few days later than in past years, but it was several days before the females arrived, and then it was show time. The males erupted into a series of rollicking notes, full of kinks and twists that would be impossible to transcribe to musical scale. Shooting up into the air like skylarks, the males paddled along on the tips of their wings, seemingly propelled by the tempo of the song, then dropped into the grass while other males took the cue and repeated the performance. It was a stage show, highlighted by several encores. Call me anthropomorphic if you like, but it was like a dress rehearsal for my benefit alone.
In past years, the fields of hay west of our house have not been cut until July 15th, thereby giving the population of bobolinks in these fields a chance successfully raise their broods. This was due in no small way to the cooperation of the owner of the farm, as well as another neighbour he has to harvest the hay. At time of writing this, these fields still have not been cut this year. Unlike last year’s unprecedented drought, this year has brought an abundance of rain resulting in fields rank with thick hay. The Bromegrass this year has been shoulder height. The unsettled weather has delayed farmers, so it is probable these fields won’t be cut for some time yet, if at all.   It is early mowing of hay in June that destroys the nests. These nests obviously were quite successful this season as the population of bobolinks here has reached between 30 and 40 birds, and as of the end of last month, were still cavorting around in loose flocks. They will leave soon though as they have a long was to migrate, to Argentina.
 The trail goes through a variety of habitats. Part of my trail goes through an area of dogwoods and cedars where Alder Flycatchers nested this season. Photo by Terry SpragueBy 9:00 a.m., these sounds that I am accustomed to hearing on my walks become lost in the noise of continuous traffic as commuters go to work, dump trucks respond to the building boom, and the neighbours’ Harleys break the morning silence. The birds, themselves, gradually reduce their songs to a low ebb as the morning gets hotter, and their attention is now focused on staying cool.
To see and hear these birds in their glory, we must start early in the day - when the morning is still ours to enjoy. And if all you have is the roadside on which to walk, you might consider wearing a fluorescent safety vest as many roadside walkers are doing now to improve viability to oncoming motorists. Roadside walking isn’t what it used to be in the 1950s and 1960s when motorists were more forgiving in their attitudes toward road sharing.
There are no cars to worry about when we walk our private trail around the fields. Just splendid quietude, with only the sounds of Nature present to punctuate the silence.
(Photo credits and descriptions of photos can be seen by "mousing over" each photo. )
Last Updated ( Jul 31, 2017 at 11:02 PM )
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September 25, 2017 5:41 am