Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mt. Washington Auto Road

Okay, my last post about the Catharus thrushes was a bit of a set up for our trip to the Mt. Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire, which is of course synonymous with the only breeding bird endemic to the northeast: Bicknell's Thrush ("BITH").

Formerly lumped together with Gray-cheeked Thrush ("GCTH"), BITH has a distinct life history in that populations breed at lower latitudes than GCTH, and BITH winters exclusively in the Greater Antilles while GCTH winters in Central and South America. BITH is also a habitat specialist, breeding only at elevations above 3000', making it vulnerable.

Our first attempt at finding BITH was on a recommended trail which leads to the summit of Mt. Jefferson. No luck, although it was interesting to experience what is essentially a boreal forest habitat transitioning into alpine barrenlands. Also interesting were the breeding warblers (primarily Blackpoll) and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.

Our next attempt was the Mt. Washington Auto Road on which you can drive all the way to the summit of the tallest peak in the northeast (6288'). At this location we were successful at elevations between 4000' and 5000'. We heard the birds singing, and saw several birds, although admittedly better views would be desired. We had only glimpses of birds diving between cover, as well as one bird perched in the mist.

The View From Mt. Washington

Did I mention the mist? After seeing the birds we continued to the peak where visibility was very poor.

I didn't get any worthwhile bird photos, but Hannah spotted a bear on the return trip. He seems to be missing an ear!

America's National Dish

Another highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to do some fine dining.

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