Victor Emanuel and his long time friend Dennis met me for lunch at Smith Oaks Sanctuary around noon. Most of the larger tour groups had long since disappeared to forage for themselves. As a result, the sanctuary felt rather empty as we took to the trails after we had finished our own midday meal. We immediately encountered a nice mixed flock that was comprised of various species. Dennis shortly called out that he had a spotted a Blackpoll warbler. He immediately got me onto the bird for year bird #329! This is a bird for which I have been diligently looking, but have managed to miss up to this point. I think everyone at High Island but me saw this bird yesterday! My other target bird for the day was Bay-Breasted warbler (I somehow missed this bird yesterday as well). We found a beautiful male of this species shortly after the Blackpoll disappeared. This was year bird #330 and can be identified in the rather poor photo below. These were two birds that I was starting to worry I might miss, so getting these nailed down today was a big relief. Warbler activity remained high throughout the afternoon and peaked right at sundown. When all was said and done, I racked up a very good list of warblers for a day that started off so slowly. This is just another example of how it pays to keep pounding the trail knowing that eventually you'll find something. I also tacked on Western kingbird for #331. I will surely see thousands more of these as I move further west.
Dennis and Victor in action!
A treetop Bay-breasted warbler!
Blackpoll warbler - Taken in Newfoundland last year.
Note the bright orange legs on this guy!
My warbler list for the day (19 species)
Black-throated green warbler
Golden-winged warbler (at least 3)
Cerulean warbler (1 male)
One thought that I had today was the possible use of birding as a therapeutic for various physical, mental, or emotional abnormalities. For example, I know that art has been used to help people improve their emotional states, and I understand that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a recognized treatment option in some instances. I feel like birding could be used to accomplish similar ends as some of these practices. Birds are beautiful, and they are certainly a living, animate part of almost every landscape on the planet. I find birding in its most basic form to be incredibly relaxing. I feel more connected to the natural world, and I generally feel less stressed when I am in the outdoors. Birding also provides a moderate amount of exercise, and exercise is well-established practice for the attenuation of both physical and emotional states. This is not coming from any sort of professional opinion on my part. I was just wondered what affect a really good introduction to birding might have on folks who are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with either physical or emotional challenges. Learning about birds, their identification, and their life histories would be a tangible and structured project that might actually benefit some people. I have no idea if this is completely crazy, but I do know that birding is like therapy for me. It reminds me that material things and just that, and that I am part of a living planet that stretches far beyond other human beings. Just how far is what I think birding can start to show people.
How birding makes me feel!
I will be pounding the trails at High Island all day again tomorrow. I am hoping to find Black-billed cuckoo or Yellow-bellied flycatcher. I thought I had found the latter bird at the end of the day today, but I think the setting sun made the Empid appear artificially yellow. I did not have time to go through the other marks before it disappeared, so this bird will remain as 'unidentified'. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.