My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Roadside Birding

Hermit Thrush

There is no surprise that the North East has been blasted with a cold front and the storm has rudely moved through the area dropping over a foot of snow. Last Thursday I found myself here in Allegany State Park driving the roads looking for birds that are not well equipped for our kind of winters.

Hermit Thrush hates the snow Early Thrush Gets the Worm

Hermit Thrush searching for worms and bugs

I located many American Robins, Common Flickers and Dark-eyed Juncos anywhere there was dirt along the road. When I looked closely between all these birds there were numerous cool birds (in my case, three)! The first “cool” bird was a Hermit Thrush (CHECK, first for 2007)! It was observed working the roadside for any kind of worm or bug that it could find. I followed it for about a mile and took a hundred or so pictures of it. It was fun watching him because the thrush would fly about 5 feet, land and then perk its head up searching for food. If it found something the bird would quickly hop over to its location and then swallow its food whole. It would then fly further up the road in search for more food!

American Pipit

American Pipit feeding on the side of the road

Returning back to the Red House lake area, I had come across my second “cool” bird. It threw me for a little loop because it wasn’t anything that I was expecting to find. I kept on focusing on its tail which had a similar pattern as the Dark-eyed Junco and Vesper Sparrow. Although it had some comparable belly markings as the Hermit Thrush! Hmmm what the heck is this thing?? Then I noticed one of its behaviors that gave away its identification!! This “cool” bird was bobbing its tail like a Kestrel or Hermit Thrush (ok, not the best example since I am trying to say it isn’t a Hermit Thrush)!! Duh-Tom, this bird was a Water Pipit CHECK, first for 2007!! Ok, they now call them American Pipit but it’s hard for me to change my ways. Throughout the rest of the evening, I probably located 3 or 4 different Pipits along the roadside.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow finding roadside seeds

I spent a great deal of time looking at every little sparrow that I had come across. Most were Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows and even a few Fox Sparrows (although the Fox’s are very camera shy). Suddenly this one “cool” sparrow showed very little fear of my truck and I practically pulled right up to it. CHECK, first for 2007, Savannah Sparrow!! I am soo glad I found these three “cool” birds because the Savannah and Pipit’s are birds that I always need to work hard to see yet alone photograph!!

Phoebe and the Worm Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe eating worms from the road

Continuing on the post that the weather can seriously stress many of our early migrants and this snow will reduce the available food for those that are in the area. Many of our insect eating birds will come out of the woodwork and maybe by watching birds under these circumstances will assist us in understanding how they are able to survive these hard times.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow finding roadside seeds

17 responses

  1. Wow-nice activity along the side of the road. I always enjoy seeing a hermit Thrush.-I don’t think I would have identified the Pipit. I started seeing them for the first time last year. The one that I took a picture of had a lot more streaking and had a much more lanky in appearance.-

    7 April 2007 at 2:23 pm

  2. What fun finding all of these birdies by the roadside in the snow! Hopefully they’re finding enough to eat.

    7 April 2007 at 3:52 pm

  3. Michael Head

    Wow! A foot of snow? I don’t think they got that much along the lake. I am in Cincinnati this weekend grandkid watching.

    Great photos in what must have been very overcast condition.

    7 April 2007 at 5:38 pm

  4. Coolness! Love the Pipit! Hermit Thrushes are one of my favorite birds! Did you wish you had a bagful of mealworms to toss at it? Poor hungry thing! 🙂

    7 April 2007 at 6:52 pm

  5. ninehtotoo5

    I did some of my roadside birding in the Quaker area of the park today, and I found a “timberdoodle” doodling. Got a video clip too. Let’s see if your audience recognizes the nickname of this pudgy crepuscular acrobat..

    7 April 2007 at 8:36 pm

  6. I hope there’s enough food on the roadside for these birds, and they don’t get into too much trouble with the passing motorists. This must be so hard on them. Beautiful photos of them, though.

    I just went over to the Cornell Bird site to listen to the song of the hermit thrush. I just love that sound. It instantly transports me to warm sunny summer days. I hope the weather warms up for them soon.

    7 April 2007 at 8:38 pm

  7. Marg

    I am feeling so sorry for the little guys these days, I saw a Phoebe yesterday and it did NOT look amused. I love the Pipit photo!

    Since I can’t get out for banding I can at least get to the Park to feed everyday this weekend. I didn’t see the Red Breasted Nuthatches today til I was leaving and then they seemed quite frantic that I might have forgotten them, of course I didn’t!

    7 April 2007 at 8:54 pm

  8. @ Larry – thanks and if you head over to my flickr page, you can see another picture (which I didn’t include here) which shows more of the bird. That angle was more of a birdquiz picture (but didn’t want to be that evil)
    @ Pam – I agree! Lets hope they are doing good!
    @ Mike – isn’t this crazy? I can’t wait for this snow to stop!
    @ Liz, I sure do wish I had some mealworms! Thanks
    @ Grace – can’t wait to see your video!
    @ Robin – Sad to say that I had found a few that didn’t fly quick enough. One day I will have to blog the story on how the Hermit Thrush got its song! Old Indian Legend.
    @ Marg – I feel soo bad for the phoebes! I saw your blog posting for your first bird banded! Glad to see you got the blog working again.

    7 April 2007 at 9:05 pm

  9. Seeing that phoebe feeding on the ground just breaks my heart.


    Loved yesterday’s pics of the swallows. Seeing them all bunched up together makes me smile.

    Hope they’re doing okay and warmer weather is ahead.

    7 April 2007 at 9:24 pm

  10. You are really on a roll, Tom. The swallows yesterday and now a myriad of birds, most of them I’ve never seen. It must be hard on them… Like Laura said, a Phoebe is too sweet to hang out on the roadside… Sigh. This MUST be the last cold front. We are way below freezing here, too. The birds are frantic. Also, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one out there taking photos from my driver seat :o)

    7 April 2007 at 11:16 pm

  11. I wish I had a breeding colony of flies and spiders for my little buddies scrounging out there.
    Great pictures today Mon@rch!

    8 April 2007 at 12:28 am

  12. We didn’t get the snow – just the cold! I’m jealous of the Am. Pipit…I haven’t seen one yet in the US 😦

    I saw one Savannah Sparrow yesterday too, along with dozens of Hermit Thrushes and several E. Phoebe’s. My feeders were very busy yesterday with the cold – at one time a flock of 30+ Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackles descended on the feeders scaring the Dark-eyed Junco’s and Mourning Doves.

    Happy Easter & Good birding!

    8 April 2007 at 7:59 am

  13. @ Laura – I hope they are doing good also! Thanks for your kind words on the Swallow pictures!
    @ Mary – car photography is the less disturbing to the birds! Great way of birding also!
    @ Susan – I would be happy with just the mealworms! LOL Thanks
    @ Matt – With this storm they have really started popping up everywhere recently! We don’t’ see them every year but they are fun birds! Sounds like a great day at your feeder! Happy Easter to yourself.

    8 April 2007 at 11:02 am

  14. Great passerine shots! I only recently saw my first Hermit Thrush – what cuties. Love the WT Sparrow shot, especially.

    9 April 2007 at 12:16 pm

  15. Thanks Adam! The Hermit Thrushs are regular’s in our forest! Thanks!

    10 April 2007 at 8:47 am

  16. Very cool that you got to see a pipit – that would still be a lifer for me! It’s interesting what you can see when you stop to take a look among the ‘common’ birds in your travels.

    Unfortunately, I think I do the opposite too often – see ‘cool birds’ that turn out to be more common ones.

    10 April 2007 at 4:50 pm

  17. Marty, they are fun birds and do run into them from time to time! Then again, isn’t that the rule of birding?

    12 April 2007 at 9:40 am

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