It’s a double record, the 2012 Tamworth area Birdathon/Bloomathon: 125 species of birds and 79 species of wild blooms identified Saturday, May 19th. The whole long spring conspired to the record, with early warmth culminating in the first completely cloudless B/B day in at least a decade. There were none of the early blooms, like Trout Lily. But there were later-spring blooms that we don’t often get, like yellow hawkweed and daisy and Bird’s-foot Trefoil by the West Ossipee bridge. Yet, in a dark woods near Paugus Brook, under leaf litter, were a few remnant flowers of Trailing Arbutus, where we’d gone in search of Snowberry and Indian Cucumber-root, both of which disappointed us – closed flower buds with no color showing, so we couldn’t count them, in accordance with the rules established in a century past by inimitable Tamworth B/B proponent Betty Steele. We were looking for Hobblebush too, and none was showing any sign of bloom anywhere in central Tamworth woodlands. What happened to them? By luck, Lynne Route saw some on Sandwich Dome. In Moultonborough, John Cooley found Pitcher Plant and Dragon’s-mouth Orchid – firsts for the B/B list. And, like every year, Tony Vazzano saw the Early Saxifrage near his Sandwich home. Chris Clyne, who has led the bloom count since Betty passed on, says “You just don’t know, from year to year, what snow plows and floods like Irene will do to small habitats where we find some of these plants. But most had been out a while and weren’t hard to find.”
And then the birds…. At 11:00 am, we stood by the back pond in the Ambrose gravel pit, in the wide expanse of IST (imitation shorebird territory), under a cloudless sun-drenched sky, counting what we had seen. At 4:10 am precisely, a Barred Owl and a Whip-poor-will had conspired to wake Ned Beecher; the Whip continuing uninterrupted for precisely 10 minutes. Tony had birded from 4:15 to 4:45, getting many, including Woodcock and Wood Duck. He did an hour of work, and then went to guide a bird walk in the pine barrens in western Madison, getting unique species regular there: Eastern Towhee, Prairie Warbler, and Field Sparrow, plus Merlin, and Fish Crow. John had been at Kiah Pond in Sandwich, picking up warblers, a Turkey Vulture, and a Red-tailed Hawk. (In recent years, B/B day rain has kept the raptor count low.) Chris had heard the turkey at yoga class in No. Sandwich.
So there we were, at Ambrose, finding almost no shorebirds (the down side of sunny skies: the migrants hadn’t been forced down to wait out weather). We’re closing in on 100 species, and Bob Ridgely arrives. He’d been up early to hear the usual by his house near Thompson Preserve: warblers, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Marsh Wren, a Brown Creeper, Virginia Rail, and Wilson’s Snipe, and he’d been to the Community School for the American Bittern, and he’d been here at Ambrose. “So you haven’t even gotten to my good birds yet,” Bob said. Oh, we realized, this is a guessing game. Owls? A Great-horned? “Yes, from the house before dawn. But also a Saw-whet.” (First time we’ve had that in many years!) Kestrel? “Here at Ambrose.” How about swallows? Northern Rough-winged? “No.” (We ended up never getting it.) “But a Bank, here at Ambrose.” Sparrows? “That’s it – yes, a Vesper. Haven’t seen one here at Ambrose for a long time.” Then Bob drove off, to become a grandfather for the first time.
The end of the day brought reports from Tiffany Grade and Lynne Route, from the lake and the mountain, respectively: White-winged Scoter, Ring-billed Gull, Bald Eagle, DC Cormorant, WW Crossbill, Bicknell’s and Swainson’s Thrushes, Boreal Chickadee, and, from the summit of Sandwich Dome, a flying Peregrine. (Having not heard the montane thrushes on her way up, Lynne smartly took a nap before heading down toward evening, when they start to sing again.) Appropriately, Jane Rice, closely associated with the Loon Center and the Lakes Region Chapter that benefit from this fundraiser, had the Common Loon, as well as Chimney Swift and Junco.
The Tamworth Area B/B Team: Tony Vazzano, Lynne Route, Bob Ridgely, Jane Rice, John Mersfelder (RS Hawk!), Tiffany Grade, John Cooley, Chris Clyne, Ned Beecher