Cochran Shoals 11/3/12

My friend and I visited the Cochran Shoals unit of the Chattahoochee River this past Saturday morning. We were lucky enough to be accepted by a Master Birder group walk being lead by the Atlanta Audubon Society. We saw 44 birds, the most I have ever seen at Cochran Shoals! This included 6 woodpecker species, 3 species of nuthatches and creepers, both kinglets, and 5 Emberizids. It was a bummer that my camera was out of battery at the very start of the trip, so I am unable to provide any pictures for this post but it is still worthwhile to write about.
We begin our journey scanning the river for oddities and we hear Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets behind us, the first of the season for me. We whip around and us our naked eyes to look for signs of movement of the tiny, energetic birds. We spot one, then two and three. After we are satisfied with the flitting of our happy little friends, we move on, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers (also first of the season) and White-breasted Nuthatches serenade us with song, but we remain steadfast, always vigilantly observing the trees for any sign of animal life. We pause to survey the plethora of “Butterbutts” all around us. My friend notices one bird with a blue-gray head, one different from those surrounding it. It was none other than a Blue-headed Vireo, my first one in a long time. Boy, did we get great looks! I was certainly much more still than the kinglets and warblers and it sat on bare, open branches. A Winter Wren shyly calls in a pair, alluring us to its hiding spot of choice. It is much smaller than the more familiar Carolina Wren, though it sings a more brilliant and complicated song. Continuing along, we stopped to scan the water again, this time looking specifically along the rocks for Spotted Sandpipers and what do you know, there was one running around, characteristically bobbing its tail! This was my first one since spring I believe, so I was pretty excited. A little further down on the way, past all the multicolored Yellow Poplars, Eastern Sycamores, River Birches, Water Oaks, Loblolly Pines and Sweetgums, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was spotted, one of my favorite birds to see in Atlanta! While he did not treat us to such a long look as the Blue-headed Vireo did, it was still a highlight! On the other side of the path, a Brown Creeper made its way up a tree, eluding our sight at every chance it got. Just before we v-off onto the marsh walk, a Hermit Thrush kindly perches in plain sight 15 feet from the edge of the feet-and stays there! I have never gotten such a great look at a Hermit Thrush, and I don’t think I will get such a great look again for a while! We set foot on the marsh walk and an orchestra of White-throated Sparrows immediately begins singing their uplifting “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody.” Flocks of Cedar Waxwings and Red-winged Blackbirds soar overhead possibly in a frantic rush to get out of eyesight of the calling Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a dead tree not 20 yards away and Gray Catbirds hop around in the small trees along the path. We turn back and get back on the main path. We arrive at the sparrow fields, where tall grass and small shrubs and trees litter the ground in a fairly open space. Myriad American Goldfinches and Eastern Bluebirds call and fly this way and that when some Chipping, Song and Swamp Sparrows appear and broaden the variety of birds. That Saturday was indeed the most productive I have ever seen the sparrow fields, and one of the most rewarding field trips I have taken to Cochran Shoals.

Birds (44 species, 0 lifers):
Canada Goose 30
Mallard 5
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 – Juvenile
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Mourning Dove 10
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Blue Jay 3
Crow sp. 10
Carolina Chickadee 10
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Brown-headed Nuthatch 3
Brown Creeper 1
Carolina Wren 2
Winter Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 40
Hermit Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 4
Brown Thrasher 2
Cedar Waxwing 30
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
Eastern Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 10
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 10
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 5
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 10

Trees (9 species, 1 lifer):
Southern Catalpa
Yellow Poplar
Water Oak
Eastern Sycamore
River Birch
Eastern Redbud

Lepidoptera (1 species, 0 lifers):
Gulf Fritillary