Friday, June 15, 2007

West Virginia Bonanza, part 2

June 9, 2007

Dripping wet morning, but not steady rain at least. Back into Davis for some C-store breakfast, and then wandering around trying to find the entrance to Blackwater Falls State Park. I finally found and followed some signs. Note to self... At first it seemed like I was just driving down nice smooth roads with nice smooth shoulders, and nothing remarkable. Kept following signs to lodge. Their Wifi didn't work, but it did lock up the computer. There were trail maps though, and I drove back and parked where one started opposite the trail leading down to the falls. At the parking space got my first Black-throated Blue Warbler for the trip. When I got in the woods, it was a drippy spongy mossy dark paradise for Boreal species. Quickly found Golden-crowned Kinglet, Purple Finch, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Hermit Thrush and others. These are winter birds, and not common in Arkansas, a true sign that I'd shifted bioregion.

I had an interest in Cranesville Swamp, a Nature Conservancy site that straddles the border with Maryland. Made a quick stop at Cathedral SP along the way, and found Rose-breasted Grosbeak. At the swamp, Swamp Sparrow was easy, but it wasn't as birdy as I'd hoped. It needed some care too, the signs were missing, the boardwalk was funky. After taking the wetland route, I went back through the surrounding mature pine woods, and that wasn't so birdy either. Maybe just bad timing, the place looked great, but I'd missed the dawn chorus so critters were harder to find. I drove out and around to the MD side and started getting some tics for there, nothing special, and couldn't really develop an alternate path into the wetland. I knew I was in the highest part of Maryland, and could probably find Boreal species. But for some reason I didn't grab a couple of opportunities that passed, like Garrett State Forest. Garrett County is the place to get those specialties, turns out, not the highlands I crossed later that day. I was needing to get some Wifi, and finally found a motel along the Interstate after several unsuccessful tries. Then I turned south onto a road marked in the mapping software as better than the worst class. It was as bad as anything I'd ever encountered, but not right away or I would have turned back. I did find some birds along there but was rattled from the vehicle abuse. For about six or eight miles it was from dead crawl to maybe ten mph. Somewhere in there it had been designated a four-wheeler use place, and those guys would just stare as I passed, heads in helmets slowly tracking my painful progress. It finally ended when I got back off the ridge I was crossing, but still many miles to a Highway. The campgrounds were small and required permits that had to be purchased back in civilization, so called. Thanks for telling me. I ended up back in West Virginia at Sleepy Creek WMA, where I parked and slept in what looked like an unused logging yard. There was a lot of traffic on the distant road, going down to the lake that was the focus of the area.

June 10, 2007

I went down the next morning and found a good size lake and several campgrounds, semi-primitive, inexpensive. I hung around at several boat-ramps hoping for ducks. Did find a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The birding was okay, but I couldn't get to the shallow end of the lake where I thought there might be better critters to see. Two more stops, one at Altona Marsh, which is bisected by a little used railway that makes perfect access to the habitat. I found quite a few of those old lines as I got into New England, where fairly flat topography and lots of industry (historically) had strewn track all over the countryside. That railway yielded Willow Flycatcher, House Wren, Sora, House Finch, and Belted Kingfisher. Another stop on the Susquehanna and I found a Warbling Vireo, another only-in-migration bird back home. I ended up with 120 species (63 new) in West Virginia, over a third of the state list, and the only place on the trip where I reached that plateau.

I was finally ready to get back to Maryland, and ended up in Catoctin Mountain Park. I think that's where Camp David is, there are roads not on the park brochure with ominous warning signs. The birding was fair, I walked trails and drove around the park and into the nearby town for food. I did find four warblers, including Black-throated Blue and Cerulean. The campsite was comfortable, showers good, and I needed a rest. Hung out reading and catching up on computer stuff and journal writing. Napping too. Got a good night's rest.


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