New Birds in Camp

Black-billed Cuckoo, Cold River Camp

In the area around AMC Cold River Camp this summer there has been a large outbreak of spongy moth caterpillars (lymantria dispar, formerly known as gypsy moths). Cuckoos specialize in eating caterpillars and are attracted to areas where there are caterpillar outbreaks, so it was predictable yet also surprising that cuckoos were much in evidence too. Before this year I have only briefly seen or heard yellow-billed cuckoos in camp a couple of times; this year I heard black-billed or yellow-billed cuckoos in camp or on the trail just about every day. Black-billed were common in camp, and I was able to get some pictures.

Black-billed Cuckoo, Cold River Camp
Black-billed Cuckoo, Cold River Camp

There was not much caterpillar damage evident in camp, but in other places it was severe. On the ledges of Blueberry Mountain going up the White Cairn Trail most of the trees were stripped of leaves — it looked like early spring — and there were many moths flying about.

Caterpillar damage on Blueberry Mountain
Caterpillar damage on Blueberry Mountain

One morning before breakfast, from the lodge porch I saw a large bird with pointed wings fly over camp, fold its wings, and dive down toward the other side of the blueberry field. Other birds raised the alarm, and the raptor flew off, apparently empty-taloned. I couldn’t see markings on the bird, but by size, shape, and behavior it seemed like a peregrine falcon. Peregrines are known to nest a few miles away on cliffs in Evans Notch, but I had only seen one in camp once before.

The next day I was birding before breakfast, following the sound of a cuckoo. As I looked for the cuckoo, instead I found a blackburnian warbler in a large dead pine tree. And as I looked closer, I realized that in the same tree was also a peregrine falcon! It sat there for several minutes, before flying off carrying a bird which it must have caught before it landed in the tree.

Peregrine Falcon, Cold River Camp
Peregrine Falcon, Cold River Camp

Several times I heard an indigo bunting singing in camp, always in the same area near the entrance, in an area where some pines were recently removed and new trees are springing up. I have often heard indigo buntings at the edges of fields up and down Route 113 near camp, but not often right in camp before. I wonder if the logging opened up new suitable habitat?

Indigo Bunting, Cold River Camp
Indigo Bunting, Cold River Camp

Every night an orbweaver spun a web next to the trail between the lodge and our cabin. It waited until after sunset to start, and by the time we headed for bed, the web was well underway. We stopped each night to watch, by flashlight, the spider hard at work. Each morning, though, the web was gone, perhaps consumed by the spider to provide the resources to spin another web.

On Basin Pond there was a loon swimming and diving in the end near the boat ramp. A light breeze made for nice reflections on the surface. Eventually the loon swam to the far end of the pond, where we could see a second loon swimming, so perhaps they are nesting there.

Common Loon on Basin Pond
Common Loon on Basin Pond

As we walked around the Shell Pond Trail, we came across a fairly large milk snake. The snake moved away from us at first, but then as I got out my camera, it turned back towards us. We could see parts of its body moving through the ferns, and then eventually had a good look at its head.

And finally here are some random pictures, including glorious sunrises from two different mornings.

One thought on “New Birds in Camp

  1. So nice to hear about – and see pictures of – birds that are showing up unexpectedly instead of just a steady report of birds that are not showing up after years of being regulars.

    Liked by 1 person

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