October Big Day: I meet local legends

Saturday was eBird’s October “Big Day” in which all birders, from the backyard feeder watchers to those with huge life lists, are encouraged to get out and count. I headed to my nearby hot spot, the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm, about dawn and had a middling day as far as bird spotting.

But I got so much more out of the day.

I pulled into the parking lot at the same time as a couple who clearly were ready to bird. We traded notes on recent sightings (I was thrilled the day before to see my first black-throated blue warbler) as we headed onto the main trail. I waved farewell to strike out solo on the long, main path toward the woods and the old AT&T Building One site.

On the edge of the woods, I spotted a merlin on a treetop, and I was able to get a distant photo from my modest 75-300mm refurbished Canon lens.

The merlin, presumably the one who’s been hanging around the Pole Farm in recent days, perches atop a bare tree.

On into the woods I went, and there was a fair amount of activity in one corner of the Building One area. Amid the mewing catbirds and flitting sparrows, I spotted a small greenish bird and managed to snap a few photos.

But I wasn’t sure what it was. A female common yellowthroat? A vireo of some sort? Another warbler?

This little greenish bird turned out to be a ruby-crowned kinglet, and I assume it’s a female as it’s lacking the red crest.

I reversed course and headed back toward the parking lot, and as I emerged from the woods into the open fields I could see the birding couple down the way. They were patiently strolling and, I presumed, finding twice the birds that I was.

When I reached them, I said hello again and asked if they would help me identify that green bird. The man looked onto the screen of my Canon and said without hesitating, “ruby-crowned kinglet.”

I was thrilled — I had tentatively identified one last fall — and this was my first confirmed sighting. One thing led to another and I introduced myself as Dan, and he replied, “I’m Old Sam Peabody.”

Old Sam Peabody? I’ve seen his name repeatedly, and he’s No. 2 on e-Bird’s Mercer County, New Jersey, region. The lady with him? Blondcrested Warbler, and she’s No. 4 on the list.


They are delightful people, and as with the best of birders I’ve met, willing to share what they know and help us up-and-comers.

Saturday held more adventure, and I’ll save that story for another post.

The kinglet takes off.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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