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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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!
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?
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.
With 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!
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!
- Foothills Land Conservancy-an eBird Hotspot
- A Birder’s Bird-Chris’ Post
- Las Aventuras
- Our Big New England Birding Adventure