We paused on the ridge. Far below a Great Blue Heron stood frozen, head cocked, watching the still water. Kessy stood quietly as I peered through the budding Mountain Laurel to watch the grand bird. Suddenly behind us the woods erupted with the "rat-tat-tat-tat" of a drumming woodpecker. The hammering sound seemed to cover the air above and behind us. I could almost feel it. Backing Kessy along the ridge with my eyes searching the tree tops I searched for the bird I was sure would prove to be a Hairy Woodpecker.
|Great Blue Heron|
Over and over the hammering sounded. I kept moving Kessy this way and that along the trail bank as I sought a glimpse of the busy bird. Finally high on a dead branch I spied him. To my surprise it was the much smaller Downy Woodpecker. All that noise from such a little bird!
Kessy has become quite the bird-watching-trail-horse. It took her quite a while to learn to stand quietly and move gently every which way, up and down banks, into brush, over logs, all while I'm leaning sideways and stretching back searching for my feathered treasure. But she's a champion at it now. I'm even convinced sometimes she searching too!
We set off up the trail in Kessy's beautiful barefoot running walk shuffle, Saturday trotting with us. The trails we ride wind through the woods, tree walls on each side, and in many places a closed canopy above. We had already seen several Yellow Swallow Tailed butterflies but I was not prepared for what we rode into next. As we rounded the bend we road into a blizzard of Yellow Tails, perhaps as many as fifty, floated ahead of us, filling the air with soft black stripped yellow wings. It was like riding into a magical forest. One even brushed my face as we rode among them.
On both sides of the trail the woods were alive with birdsong. All along the trail we heard Indigo Buntings. They will be regulars for the next few months. Rufus Sided Towhees called, "Drink Your Tea," and Oven Birds called, "Teacher, Teacher, Teacher." With Kessy's deftness at sneaking into the woods we did manage to spot a Towhee, but the emphatic and elusive Ovenbird evaded our prying eyes.
|Eastern or Rufus Sided Towhee|
Back into the sunlight we gaited, then we stopped at large patch of tiny blue flowers appropriately named Bluetts. Scattered among them were the equally dainty pink Spring Beauties. I was still admiring the wild bouquet when a Common Yellowthroat Warbler shattered the silence with his excited "Witchity, witchity, witchity." They are usually fairly easy to spot, and Kessy did her best, but the sun was bright and while we heard more than one Common Yellowthroat, we never found one.
|Common Yellowthroat Warbler|
Time to move on again, I asked Kessy for a little speed, and away we sailed. I watched our shadow as she glided along, sure footed, never stumbling. Bird song filled the air above us and around us. The sun warmed my back. Saturday trotted alongside. Then a new songster joined in the concert. A familiar tune it was, but try as I might I could not place it.
Following the sound I moved Kessy up the bank and scoured the trees. The song drifted out from a patch of wild Dogwood and we inched closer. One tiptoed step at a time through the brush. The Dogwoods were thick here, but their leaves still tiny green swatches, and white flowers just beginning to unfurl. I asked Kessy to back into the sun so it would be on our backs just as the tiny yellow bird flitted to a higher branch only a few feet away. He thrust his beak skyward and let go his melody, a sweet shrill, "Tsee-tsee-tsee-titi-weet." Over and over he called. The sun sparkled on his yellow feathers and rusty streaked breast. A Yellow Warbler! We were so close I could see his beak open and close with each note! What a sight! … What a horse!
We were still to see two more birds on our way home. A Pileated woodpecker flew directly over us as we sat counting the Yellow Swallowtails on a blooming olive bush. Over 20! And a Black and White Warbler flew across the trail in front of us. What a perfect bird watching ride! What great bird watching partners are Saturday and Kessy!
Kessy, Saturday and I hope you enjoyed this ride as much as we did!
Check out more birds and their songs here at Cornell Lab of Ornithology - http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search -
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry