Thursday, September 28, 2006

Birds of Blackwater NWR

While birding Blackwater NWR near Cambridge, Maryland, on a recent trip, our group encountered a black band across the road. It was moving, like a many segmented snake.

Upon closer inspection, it morphed into a mixed flock of black birds. Some were red-winged blackbirds, some were brown-headed cowbirds, and a handful were European starlings in brown-spangled winter plumage. We had no luck picking out a rusty blackbird, Brewer's blackbird, or yellow-headed blackbird (that species with the most melodious of songs).

On very close inspection, via the spotting scope, we could see that the flock was mostly cowbirds (boo hiss!).
Still, it was an enjoyable phenomenon of fall migration.

Later, while driving from the refuge toward the Eastern Shore town of Cambridge, we happened upon a merlin. I had been wanting to see a merlin for the entire trip and tried to turn every kestrel into one. John Schaust, the chief naturalist Wild Birds Unlimited HQ in Indiana spied this beauty for me as we drove past it. Thanks John! That evening we added a peregrine falcon along the Choptank River, making it a three-falcon day! Sweet!

Blackwater is a gem in the National Wildlife Refuge system. If you have never been, mark it down on your list of must-bird spots of the eastern U.S.

Here is what sunset looks like along Blackwater's wonderful wildlife drive.


At 7:11 AM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

Gotta love those long, bird-snatching middle toes on that merlin! Hurry home, darlin.'

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Doc said...


As someone very new to birding I have some elementary questions for you. Is there any particular format for recording birds that you see? Is there a birding log book that you can purchase? I appreciate your answer for a "newbie"

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:03 AM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Awesome. You get to go to such great places. But Maryland???? Aren't you exiled from that state forever?

At 7:45 AM, Blogger BT3 said...

There are a zillion different ways to record your bird sightings. I still use the printed checklist mode when I am in the field, but lots of folks use a more modern method. There are online sites where you can keep your checklist, there is birding software for your PC (Thayer, BirdBrain, Avisys, etc) and there are even handheld computers (like the Palm Pilot) with field guide and list keeping software (Handheld Birds from PullUIn Software is the most recent).

For my lifelist, I use the Birder's Lifelist and Diary, published by Cornell Lab. I just get a big thrill chekcing off a new species with pen and paper.

I snuck into MD under the protection of the Federal Government.

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Freudian Slip said...

I love the picture you took of the sun setting with a bird in the back ground. Very cool stuff!

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Flu-Bird said...

I once saw a pair of WESTERN KINGBIRD chase a RED TAILED HAWK i mean these little birds are totaly fearless


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