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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Moseying at Moosehorn, Maine

 When I left Baxter State Park earlier today, I bee-lined it straight back to the coast and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. There, around 4:25, with only seconds to spare before the place closed for the day,  I got my Blue Goose Passbooks stamped. Next I decided to explore the area a bit more, secretly hoping I might run into an American Woodcock in broad daylight I-should-live-so-long.

Mysterious black shadow in the meadow

I drove across the road from the Ranger Station onto a loop auto road. I hadn't gone too far when I spotted a large black lump, where there hadn't been when I traveled the same road some days earlier.

Then the black lump lifted it's head and stared at me. YIKES! It was a little Black Bear. My guess is a biddy baby born last year some time, and on his own now. I think he was eating grass like the Grizzly I saw in Yellowstone some years ago.
Little Bitty Black Bear

I shifted the car a bit so as to get a different shot as the biddy bear crossed over the dirt road, but he hightailed it into the forest where it was too thick to see more than the occasional hint of black fur. I drove the park loop.  When I passed by the same spot again, the bear was back on the road, and just as quickly racing off into the thick trees. I'm sorry it was such a shy bear, but of course, that's best for the bear in the long run.

I went back to Calais where again, I took a room at the International Motel - I like that place. I settled in for the night, but then thought, why? Weren't there nice nocturnal species out there to gawk at? So I was off back to Moosehorn, to the same loop road where I saw the biddy Black Bear.

Driving along the road, at twilight, I heard a Veery, a type of Thrush singing its errie flute-like song. One of them danced onto the road, and I got a horrid blurry shot of it through the windshield - that was going to be the pattern for the night; blurry windshield shots. Still, at least I saw the bird.

Beaver Pond with lodge and a dam- at twilight I watched a beaver swim
by as a chorus of unbelievably noisy frogs serenaded me
Gawdawful, through lower windshield Veery shot

Driving along the road, at twilight, I heard a flute-like, yet somehow eerie song. It was a Veery, a type of Thrush. One of them danced onto the road, and I got a horrid, through the windshield, blurry shot of it. That was my pattern for the night - loads of blurry windshield shots, horrible all, but still invaluable to me, blurry or not.

Then I heard something, live, in the moment, something I've only ever heard on recordings - The monotonous song of an Eastern Whippoorwill; heaven for my ears. The song was weird. Repeated over and over and over, as if the bird were an old, stuck vinyl record; "WhippoorwillWhippoorwillWhippoorwillWhippoorwillWhippoorwillWhippoorwill, and on and on and on! Geez, bird - take a breath why don't you!?

After a few minutes the bird I assume, listened to me; song stopped cold. I was thrilled and yet a tiny bit sad as I heard, but did not see the bird, and therefore I won't count it on my ABA birding list, in the same way I heard, but did not see a Mexican Whippoorwill once in Northern California, and did not count that bird either. Damnitalltohell.

If only I took a clear shot!
I continued to drive slowly - maybe 2 mph on the loop road, stopping to record the LOUD frog calls that filled the night with a nearly annoying cacophony of sound. Then I heard the wonderful, rediculous MEEP, MEEP, MEEP, I'd last heard in Minnesota; an American Woodcock. I head a Woodcock in the air, calling, stopping the car, I listened. I was overcome by naughtiness. I played a Woodcock call on my iPhone, and shortly afterwards I heard and in the dim light, saw the bird calling from behind the car, out of the way of the headlights.  Damn me, but I was rewarded for my wanton ways. I played the call again, and the bird landed in front of the car. I took a series of awful, blurry, through-the-windshield shots before it occurred to me to turn on the video. I got only one parting view of the bold little bird. Listen for the bird's call just before it flies. It sounds like an insect's trill.

The bird had been triffled with enough. I drove away, slowly watching, in hope of running across wildlife on the road. I watched a beaver swim across the moonlit pond. Then, I saw a tiny, but suspicious blot on the road, leap up into the air and disappear. I swore, because I suspected it had been an Eastern Whippoorwill. Then I swore liberally because it dawned on me, that was my LIFER Eastern Whippoorwill! That was it. A glimpse of the new bird and it was all over. Or so it might have been. Then I thought, when I drive by, it'll just land again, right? So I upped my speed, drove around the circular road and came back to the same spot, this time at .000003 mph.  My stealth paid off! I drove up on the bird, headlights blaring, but the little Whippoorwill sat tight.

Brave little Eastern Whippoorwill, for the record, around 6 inches long.
I took dozens of photos of the bird, through the windshield (ergo crap photos) before it dawned on me to try a few pictures while outside the car. I s-l-o-w-l-y exited, but the bird didn't budge. Then I moved to the front headlights and still the bird sat tight. It didn't look frightened - it didn't look brave - frankly, it looked like a stuffed bird. Mind... occasionally it opened it's gape, seeming to split it's entire head in half, because it's mouth extended, I swear, behind it's eye. Somehow the bird seemed to cut the silly human lots of space and I am forever grateful to it.

Here is a bit of video I took from outside the car. Ok, now, not much happens in this clip. The bird sits. The bird bobs its head a bit. The bird - get ready for it... ready... steady.... yawns (starting at 0:59). At least , for most of this clip you can hear the frogs calling, and there is even a Barred Owl call, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" (0:10). Oh, you're quite welcome National Geographic!

I think the time the bird sat in the road with me staring at it was maybe 20 minutes. There was no way in hell I was going to drive towards it, and make it fly from the road, so I did a 33 point turn around on the narrow one way road. I was so happy when I was finally in the opposite direction, and able to drive away, leaving the stalwart little Whippoorwill undisturbed, with its pet twig, on the road.

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