Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Afternoons in Blackwater

Master Coffee Roaster and Avid Birder Andy Sprenger, along with his fine young son James, accompanied me to BLACKWATER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE on Maryland's Eastern Shore this afternoon. We got there around 2PM. I would highly recommend visiting this National treasure at this time of day, as the crowds were all but gone. We had the refuge almost all to ourselves.


We travelled all over the refuge, driving the loop and then headed South for the sunset SEOW SHOW. Our goal was to see the wintering ROUGH LEGGED HAWK. We also were hoping to see those SHORT EARED OWLS fly at dusk with the NORTHERN HARRIERS at sunset. I am happy to report that we were quite successful. Yes, today we were also hoping for GOLDEN EAGLE (*that would've been my third lifer for the weekend), but we couldn't find one.


As evening approached, we noticed that there was a controlled burn of the marsh taking place on the distant Eastern horizon. It got darker as the sun set and the flames became clearly visible. Now picture this: a SHORT EARED OWL hunting over the marsh, turning upwards and then diving down in the grass after some prey. The sky behind the owl was a deep blue and smokey gray, contrasted boldly by the bright oranges and reds of the distant flames. If ONLY I could've captured that sight with my camera.


Highlights of our afternoon included, but were not limited to, watching thousands of SNOW GEESE fly in, seeing Blackwater's famous BALD EAGLES, the plentiful numbers of low-flying NORTHERN HARRIERS, a few dozen NORTHERN PIN TAILS and COMMON MERGANSERS, and this tricky SPARROW identification. We went over the possibilities and had second, third and fourth thoughts about this particular bird.


Thank you to all who confirmed the ID.




I just had to TRY! Despite the limitations of an iPhone pressed against a scope (along with my shivering frozen fingers), I hope my photo offers you a better idea of the scene on this dusky Carroll County hillside. This owl was the first to appear (far, far away perched on top of a dead tree on the horizon). Three other SHORT EARED OWLS arrived mere minutes later, presenting even better views. But it was much too dark and I was far too cold to attempt any photography.

You will not hear me complaining. TWO life birds in one weekend is a weekend well-spent!

Have a great week,



Ryan Farrell said...

Dan, I'm far from an expert on sparrows, but this one seems like a song sparrow to me.

Nervous Birds said...

Thanks Ryan! It is and was and forever will be!

It's officially been deemed a SONG by several folks on MDOSPREY. The bird was seen in a loose flock of SONGS and SWAMPS, but looked like neither.

All the same, I do appreciate you taking the time to respond.


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