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Clear Lake, Wednesday 18 Sep

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  • Rich712@...
    Chirp, As the year is winding down and I am missing a number of higher elevation birds from my county year list, I decided to head up the road into the land of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2013
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      As the year is winding down and I am missing a number of higher elevation birds from my county year list, I decided to head up the road into the land of fir and spruce.  Get me under a nice canopy of trees and my birding list takes a dive.  If I am standing in the forest and a tree falls nearby, does it make any noise?  In my book, no.  So with my vision limited by vegetation what chance do I have of locating birds by their high pitched calls.  Every hundred years, a creeper will land at eye level on a trunk directly in front of you.  A junco might drop to the ground to investigate seeds.  Or a jay might try to snatch a snack right out of your hand.  Other than that, to find birds in the deep forest you need ears.
      With that in mind, I enlisted Elizabeth Bohn to accompany me and act as my hearing aids.  Target bird for the day was Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  For those blessed with hearing, this is a species (along with Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Brown Creeper) that serves as constant background noise on a trek through the woods.  Put in a good pair of ear plugs and they become far more challenging.  No clues for when you should look left, look up or glance over your shoulder.
      Clear Lake is a known haunt for these burnished cousins of Black-capped Chickadees.  Plus the lake is a breeding spot for Barrow's Goldeneye, another species missing from my year list.  Long before Rimrock Lake, the trees were noticeably swaying in the wind.  Nothing like the sound of wind through the pines or in my case, the sound of nothing.  Decided to try the east side of Clear Lake with the dam and spillway.  How do you spot a small bird twitching in the forest when every tree, bush, leaf and needle are shaking as if afflicted with terminal Delirium Tremes?  A hearty Steller's Jay and an American Dipper (spooked off the fish ladder by a low-flying military jet...yep, that I heard) kept us from dipping on birds completely.
      After admiring the whitecaps on the water at the boat launch, we drove around to the Clear Lake Day Use area.  The gate, to my surprise, was open.  I thought they locked up shop when the campground host packed up on Labor Day.  Best of all, the trees were attempting to stand still as if posing for photos for someone using an old-fashioned, slow shutter speed Brownie Kodak.  And the movement was provided by the birds!  Flitting here and there.  We staked out a spot near the fishing dock where Yellow-rumped Warblers were flashing and dashing.  I was using my very dated BirdJam iPod speaker set up in hopes of luring in a chickadee.  The visual volume readout bar indicated I was booming away at 80% power but with the unit held at my hip, I heard nothing.  I had to bring it up to my ear to hear a faint tsidi-tisidi.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth is ten yards away with her modern iPhone wizardry also using playback.  And I think I hear her unit buzzing in my ear...odd, I thought.  Then she drops her hand as if cutting off her unit and moves towards me mentioning that I must be playing.  And I'm still hearing her unit or so I think.  Then, I look into the dry twigs a broomstick length away from my head and I see this frazzled little bird with chestnut flanks shouting at me to shut-the-heck-up!
      One down!  A scan of the open water and a family of Barrow's Goldeneyes saw my list.  From the second bird blind down the path, and these setups really make you bird blind with all the vegetation obscuring the water you wish to view, we skirted to the side of the blind and spotted a Red-necked Grebe.  Could have been two but it took so long to confirm the first that the second bird disappeared.
      The biggest thrill came as we finished a sandwich at the table just left of the fishing pier.  Glanced eight feet up in a small conifer and caught a bird in solid black and white.  It moved quickly to an adjacent tree again flashing black and white.  Clear view of the flanks revealed jet black streaks on a white background.  I was positive it had to be either a Black-throated Gray Warbler or a, gasp...could it be, Black-and-white-Warbler!  Finally, we tracked it to small deciduous trees at the lake's edge where the Yellow-rumps were seen and had close eye level looks.  As dramatic as an old Alfred Hitchcock film starring a Townsend's Warbler where the yellow would appear as stark white!  We even were able to see the Technicolor dash of yellow in front of the eye.  If Ansel Adams had ever immersed himself in bird photography, I'm sure he would have loved Black-throated Gray Warblers.  Expose for the mask and develop for the belly.  And his Zone System for 10 scales of gray would have been fantastic for the feather tones in between.  What to do with that dash of yellow though?
      Long of wind, short of sound
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