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Pennsylvania Dreaming

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We now return to our regularly-scheduled apolitical ain't nature wonderful programming. Here's a dripping hillside.

Canada warblers were building a nest on this weeping hillside. Imagine. Oh, beautiful bird, but too skulky for me, with your fanning tail and yellow eyeglasses, to present here.
My group suggested calling last weekend's event the Oil Region Warbler Festival. They were everywhere, with yellow warblers leading the pack. Sweet, sweet, sweet, they're so sweet. It could also safely be called the Oil Region Oriole Festival. Pairs of Baltimore orioles were flying around at eye level, gathering nesting material, everywhere we looked. Males fighting, rolling on the ground, a riot of orange and black, rich whistles ringing. This is one of our own birds low in a birch at Indigo Hill, checking out the Bird Spa. I'm pretty sure I'm never going to get a better oriole picture than this, given their penchant for treetops.

On my trip to northern Pennsylvania last weekend, I gave the keynote address and led two field trips for the Oil Region Birding Festival. It's so exciting to help with a first-time festival, to see the organizers scrambling to make everything come together, and to help by entertaining the participants. Toni Kresinski and other festival volunteers made me feel welcome and took good care of me at the beautiful Cross Creek Resort near Titusvile, where the event was centered. I got to meet fellow blogger Delia Guzman, who followed instructions and blurted BLOG! before she even said hello. It was great hanging out with sharp-eyed Delia, who treated our group to our only flicker and best wood thrush, and showing her some life birds (I think she got 23!!) There she is, partially obscured, in the red shirt, doing the Life Bird Wiggle with a bunch of other (female) trip participants. All the males mysteriously disappeared when I went to line up this photo. What's with that? What guy wouldn't want to do the Life Bird Wiggle for publication on the Internet?? Pfft.
I also got to hang out with my friends Marcy and Kathryn, and we stayed up too late eating olives and almonds, drinking a little wine, and yakking. We decided we need a girl's retreat here every year.

One of the best things about this festival is that it was billed as an event for beginning birders, and they showed up, about 115 strong. Advanced birders would have been just as thrilled with the flood of Neotropical migrants coming through the Oil Region last weekend. The birding was excellent and steady, with exciting fallouts of warblers, thrushes, tanagers, cuckoos and others along Oil Creek. This somewhat unattractively-named river is absolutely beautiful, as is the whole region; it's named because it's where petroleum was first discovered and pumped--The Valley that Changed the World.
Oil reserves long since depleted, it's time for the Oil Region Alliance to take action to boost ecotourism, and that's just what happened last weekend. There's so much to see here. Only four hours from my southern Ohio home, it's possible to get into a whole lot of nice boreal birds and flora. For instance, the area is just lousy with breeding rose-breasted grosbeaks; people treat them as just another feeder bird!
I think it should be the Oil Region Grosbeak Festival. Hmmph.
Find me a sharper bird than a male rose-breast in spring. Please. Isn't he overdoing it? When I see birds like this, I pity the poor Brits, who go all gooshy over reed warblers because they have such a stunning eyeline...we really do have an embarrassment of bird riches in this wonderful country. I took this picture on my own feeder, just before leaving for PA. When I came back, they were gone...maybe some of the birds I'd helped fatten with sunflower seeds were singing to me in Titusville?

Speaking of boreal birds, veeries love the sugar-maple and butternut dominated forests here. Oh, beautiful bird, if only you'd have sung for my trip people...I was left to play a pale imitation on my iPod when this gracile thrush finally disappeared into the shadows.
Leggy, ectomorphic and ethereal, the bird fits its haunting, flute-in-a-well song beautifully.

There's way too much beauty in the Oil Region of northwest Pennsylvania to put in one post. More anon!

I'm taking off first thing Friday morning for the Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival on beautiful Lake Superior, May 18-20. I'll be giving the keynote on Saturday, May 19 at 7 p.m at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland, Wisconsin. I'm so excited to see Superior, a lake I've never laid eyes on, except from the air. Oh, and that Gordon Lightfoot song. I'm hoping my kayak doesn't tip over, because Superior, they said, never gives up her dead. Think I'll take the little ol' Olympus point-and-shoot on that trip, just in case. The Canon would drag me down too fast.

There are piping plovers there, my old friends from Nature Conservancy days. I'm planning for a kayak birding trip and a hike to the Sea Caves. The organizers have done a beautiful job getting the information out for this first-time festival, with a great color booklet and schedule of events and good publicity. The weather looks iffy, but bad weather looks worse from inside a window. I'm figuring it'll be 50's and rainy, and anything else will be a gift. Hard as it is to leave southern Ohio in May, I'm fueled by the fun I had re-discovering boreal wildflowers last weekend, and the road is calling. I'm excited to help Ashland and Bayfield County Tourism and Chequamegon Audubon forward ecotourism in this gorgeous area. You can be sure I'll have my camera along. Traveling that far north in May will take me back to the beginning of springtime. This is like the spring that never ends.
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