Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dreaming of Warblers But Seeing Grebes

Red-necked Grebe in Schuylkill River. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

I've been dreaming about birds recently. I've never done that before as I recall, though I do think that we dream far more than we think. And the only reason we think we dream more is that sometimes we happen to wake up more. If we wake up when we're dreaming then we tend to think that we're dreaming more. I'd guess that we normally dream the same amount.

In any case one of the dreams was about being out looking for warblers. I can't remember which ones. My guess is that the impetus for this dream was my resuming of my reading of The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Actually it's not so much reading it as looking at the sonograms of warbler songs while listening to a download of those songs.

I've written before how much I enjoy hearing bird songs and calls and being able to identify birds based on this. I don't say this to brag. I know some people find bird song difficult. I don't. I've always loved it. But the real pleasure in it is that it makes birding a far more involving activity. It is not just seeing; it is also hearing. There is something so satisfying about walking into a woods, field, beach or whatever and knowing what is there based on what you hear. It's even more enjoyable when you're hearing the first song of a bird that has been gone for 3-6 months or more.

Because I know that there is still a lot more to learn I finally paid for and downloaded the songs from The Macaulay Library to go with the sonograms. I hope that the combination of seeing and hearing the song together will help me to know it better. So that I think is what prompted me to dream about warblers.

And warblers will soon be here. But not quite yet. I was reminded of that when we went birding at Flat Rock Park today to look for winter birds, some reported Hooded and Common Merganser as well as Scaup. We found all three. The mergansers are not a great surprise for this time of year though the Common are in fact far more common that the Hooded. Both I think are quite beautiful.

We went more for the Scaup, which we found fairly early on. We don't see Scaup very often so I wouldn't begin to call myself an expert. These are the first we've seen in the nearby Schuylkill River. Still I'm pretty sure what we saw were five Greater Scaup, not the slightly more likely Lesser Scaup.

But that wasn't the thrill of the day. That was taken care of by a bird that sure looked like a grebe we'd never seen. We followed it up and down the river, trying to get it in the scope,  sketch it and photograph it. After about 30 minutes I was pretty confident that we'd found our first Red-necked Grebe. I confirmed it when I got home.

Above is a small and quick watercolor sketch based on the field sketch I made as well as photos that I took. I wish it had gotten a bit closer so that I could have gotten a better look. I could of course go to reference materials of others to help me out but I like to show more or less what I saw. So this has just about as much detail as we could see, even with the scope. Perhaps it will lead to something more developed at another time.

I'd like to think that I could go out tomorrow and try to  get a better look at it. But with another snow storm on the way I imagine I'll be stuck at home, perhaps dreaming of warblers.

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