The birding team of David Smith and Deb Weston are stepping up their Quarry Farm game again in anticipation of fall migration. As we watered and fed the farm animal sanctuary residents, Deb’s car passed the front gate sometime around 7 this morning. Shortly thereafter, a large heron-ish bird flew up from the nature preserve and overhead. To say that it flapped its great wings in its journey southwest just doesn’t sound like the correct adverb for such a graceful movement.
“So jazzed to see the Great Egret,” texted Deb from the trails. She said that David and his wife Julie have seen them in Putnam County. “But it was super cool to see it in the quarry actively hunting—until it saw us.”
There was a Great Blue Heron stalking the quarry wetland, not far from the egret, and one lone female Wood Duck. They heard but didn’t see the Red-breasted Nuthatch and were pretty certain that they saw an Ovenbird but neither of them felt confident enough to add it to today’s ebird list. Today’s list also included nine warblers: Black and White, Tennessee, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Bay-breasted and Blackburnian.
“Our record for fall from last year is 42 and that’s what we got today,” Deb added.
The Quarry Farm tally on ebird is now at 138 species.
As Deb waits in the leafy shadows for landing birds, she trains her hefty camera on insects. Gerald O. Coburn would be thrilled. He photographed and documented most of the dragonfly and butterfly species noted here, as well as many birds. Deb told me last week that she would have really liked my dad. I told her that I think the admiration would be mutual. Dad would have seen her car pass by his own driveway, fired up his ATV and firmly directed her to grab her camera and hop on, wasting no time to see everything that sought warmth and breakfast with the sunrise.
Mary Poppins had a bird woman who drew birds in with feed. Cartoonist Gary Larson sketched a before-and-after of Screen 1) pigeons swooping in and leaving Screen 2) a pile of empty rags topped with a hat and a few tuppence.
The Quarry Farm has a bird woman named Deb. She doesn’t need no stinkin’ feed and l’m pretty sure she doesn’t deal in tuppence. She told me last week that she has plenty of patience and enough Advil to watch and wait for the birds to show themselves. As we stood on the curve of Cranberry Run, I asked her what bird was calling above. It was a Baltimore Oriole. I asked for another audio I.D. a couple of minutes later.
“It’s a Baltimore Oriole,” she replied without so much as a sigh. Apparently Deb has enough Advil to deal with hopeless birders like me, too.
Deb introduced The Quarry Farm to someone who speaks bird even better than she does. When David Smith tunes his ears to birdsong in the floodplain, a thrush becomes not just one thrush but both a Swainson’s Thrush and a Wood Thrush. All the yellowish bird shapes silhouetted against the sky become a variety of migrating warbler species.
Thanks to Deb and David, this year’s Spring bird hike checklist is whole lot longer than those of past years. They looked at their previous records and chose the 2021 date. This morning was clear, floodwaters from earlier in the week had shrunk to a couple of vernal pools, and 14 birders walked the trails to record 44 species. Most of these birds are just passing through, but not before Deb could take their picture.