Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Search of Bicknell’s Thrush and more

1. 6-30-14 On Mt. Washington by Beth Maddus Kathie and Chris 6-30-14

Monday, June 30, 2014: After the fun of Plum Island birding, and the days spent in Connecticut for the Adams Family Road Race, we were finally back in Maine and off on another birding adventure. This one would take us to the western border of Maine and beyond. We got up very early on Monday morning and drove to Dixfield where we met my dear friend, Beth Standard. As soon as she was in the car we were on our way to Mount Washington in Search of the Bicknell’s Thrush. Bicknell's is not a pretty bird or a fancy bird. It is an elusive bird with a very restricted range and, barring a sweaty mosquito ridden hike up a mountain, the only way we were going to see one was to drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

2. in the white mountains-kab While I had hiked Mount Washington as a teen, I had never driven the auto road. We arrived around 7:30 a.m. and started up. Chris had done the research and we knew we had to be at least 3000’ up to find this elusive bird. The road was narrow and windy with few places to pull off or even pass another car. I was doing the driving and we had all the windows open in spite of the early morning chill so we could hear the birds. We started hearing and seeing them right away but with cars behind us and no pull offs, we had to keep going. Finally we found a spot with a place to pull off.

3. looking for birds-kab Chris and Micheal looking for birds.

We found a Black-throated green warbler in one location and an American Redstart in another. Every time we found a bird, another car would come by and either we would have to move, or they would scare away the birds! Chris soon got very frustrated. We all needed and wanted this bird, and this would be his only chance! I so wanted to find it for him!

4. morning blues-kab The morning blues of the white mountains.

Finally, at the 3.5 mile marker we heard it! I even saw it on a branch! We tried to pull off to see the bird. I found a spot to park and we all got out. We heard the Bicknell’s down on the slope. It was so near and yes, it did pop out where Micheal and I saw it, but Chris, in his frustration, had gone farther up the road and missed seeing the bird, though we all heard it! Time to move on.

5. beth-kab While we were being frustrated, Beth was all calm and peaceful, enjoying the beauty of the day. the road got more and more narrow, and eventually turned to gravel. There were steep drop-off on both sides. I held the wheel steady and continued the drive up. Finally we arrived at the Alpine Garden, another spot where Beth had seen the thrush, and we parked and got out. By now we were above the tree line and the vast openness of the Presidential Range spread before us.

6. junco on rock-kab But all we found in the Alpine Garden were juncos, so we moved on.

When we reached the summit Beth took a picture of Chris and I by the summit marker. We could have visited the Mt. Washington Museum, but we were there to see birds, not history, so after a restroom break, we headed back down the mountain. When we passed by the 3.5 mile marker we heard the birds once again, but by now the traffic had really picked up, so we kept going. Farther down the road there was another parking lot by an old trail leading into the woods. We were all ready to get out of the car, and so we pulled off and hiked a short distance down the trail, hoping for some serenity. But it was not to be. Others were on this trail as well. Still, we heard a warbler singing from the top of a tree…

7. blackpoll-kab …and Chris got his lifer Blackpoll Warbler!

Then, he noticed another bird in a spruce. He snapped a shot as the bird launched itself into the air. When we all looked at the photo we could not believe it! He got his Bicknell’s Thrush!

8. eaph-kab By now we were all hot, hungry and tired, so we hiked back to the car and drove down off the mountain and over to Pinkham Notch. There we ate our lunch at a picnic table under a tree with a pair of Eastern Phoebe’s keeping watch over their nest on a nearby building! when lunch was over we headed across the street to hike the Lost pond Trail.

9. tuckerman's ravine-kab As we started down the trail I looked back to see Tuckerman’s Ravine like a great green bowl trying to scoop up the sky! We crossed a little log bridge with  beaver’s dam alongside.

10. beaver dam-kab Beaver Dam

11. beaver pond-kab Beaver Pond

The Lost Pond Trail is also part of the Appalachian Trail, so I can now say I have hiked a section of the Appalachian trail! After the heat and humidity of the open, and the crowds on Mount Washington, this trail was sweet relief! It was shady and cool with few encounters with other hikers. Everyone felt their sprits lift. And, we started seeing more birds!

12. stream-kab The creek alongside the trail flowed along tranquilly.


13. cooling off-kab Beth and I both had our wading sandals on and took a walk in the amber water.


14. 6-30-14 Lost pond trailHappy faces on the Lost Pond Trail


15. 6-30-14 Kathie in NH by CRohrer We finally got to the lost pond. I did not see any birds close by and the water was so reflective that I did not attempt a photo, but Chris took this one of me as I sat on a nearby rock watching dragon flies! Yes, I was very happy! It had been a very long time since I had gone hiking in the woods. I had birds and I had friends, what more can one ask for?

15. 6-30-14 tree and rock-kab We all admired this tree and rock growing together along the trail.

After hiking back to our car, we drove back into Maine and turned down a road Beth knew that ran through the national forest on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. Here on this road there were few cars and lots of birds. We pulled off wherever we felt like it. When we pulled into a parking lot to watch some birds a truck suddenly pulled up to tell us of a moose in a pond just a short distance up the road. I must say we quickly forgot the birds and jumped back in the car, then drove slowly on the dirt road so as not to disturb the moose. It was quite exciting because this would be Chris and Micheal’s first moose. As we emerged from the trees and into the open expanse of the water there he was, a young bull moose, just as the man said.

17. moose-kabWith no other cars in sight, we just parked in the middle of the dirt road and watched! First we photographed from inside the car, then we got out and took photos at our leisure! How different this was from our experience on the Mt. Washington Auto Road!

18. moose-kab I don’t know how long we stayed there watching that moose, but soon we were distracted by birds once again when we heard  least flycatcher calling form the nearby woods. Then we were focused again, but though we looked and looked, we just could not get our eyes on that bird and we KNEW it was right there in front of us! We counted 20 species in that short 3.5 mile drive, our highest count of the day so far. But it was late and we had a very long drive back, so we dropped Beth off and headed east. I had one more stop I intended to make before we headed home.

I use to live in Livermore Falls, Maine and I knew there was a great birding spot located near Wilton, Maine called The Foothills land Conservancy. Beth and I submitted the first bird counts there in July of 2008 when I fist met her. Since then someone else has submitted historical data for that location, but we submitted the first checklist and I nominated it for an eBird Hotspot way back then. It is a great place to bird with some sot after species. I saw my first ever Black-billed Cuckoo there with Beth. I was hoping to find one now for Chris Rohrer.

the sun was sinking low and the humidity was high as we parked the car and got out. It had been a very long day and we almost quit our count as the mosquitoes swarmed around us, but we keep on and hiked the trail all around the perimeter of the property. It paid off as we got our highest count in the shortest amount of time for that day with 29 species in an hour and a half! and, just toward the end as shadows lengthen a black-billed cuckoo flew out from the trees and across the open meadow into the next hedgerow! but, this is how I know Chris was really tired; he did not get a shot of it! While he saw the bird, he did not get on it with his camera, and Chris is always so fast to focus! So, he saw the bird but no pic! As we headed back to the car we stopped one more time to spot an Indigo bunting signing from a branch in the deep purple shadows of dusk!

19. indigo bunting-kab Indigo Bunting, Foothills Land Conservancy, Franklin County, Maine


20. 6-30-14 Foothills Land Conservancy by CRohrer Kathie on the trail at the Foothills Land Conservancy 6-30-2014


  1. That's right!!! We did that birding trek to the conservancy as well!!! We really exhausted ourselves that day. I have to say I enjoyed the Lost Pond and on.....nice and quiet and FULL of wonderful birds. That last part of the day was just magnificent. In fact, I would say the conservancy was one of the wonderful highlights of our birding treks. Pretty amazing place.

    1. Chris, the same here. Mt. Washington was a necessary evil, but the day got better after that and the Foothills Land Conservancy is an undiscovered and under-birded jewel in the birding community!

  2. What a wonderful day you had. You certainly have some beautiful scenery in your area too.

    1. Happy Wanderer, Maine has gorgeous scenery everywhere! It is, indeed, a beautiful state!

  3. Great outing, Kathie! Beautiful scenery, birds and I love the moose.. Happy birding and have a great day!

    1. Eileen, have you ever been here? You would love it! Thanks!

  4. Congratulations on finding a Bicknell's!! It's still on my wish list! It breeds in a couple of places up here, but remains elusive to my nockies!! Great post showing a beautiful area. Glad you had such a good time.

    1. KaHolly, it was a very good day but lots of driving! I was exhausted by the end of it! And glad to get the Bicknell's on my Life List!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.