View from the Summit of Crane Mountain
And here I will relate my Mountain Birdwatch adventure on Crane Mountain. (For the link to Mountain Birdwatch, please scroll down to my previous post and search for the blue highlighted "Mountain Birdwatch" text and just click.) First of all, I'm so glad that Crane Mountain was assigned to me. Evidently the person who covered Crane last year was not able to do it this year, and, as a result, I had a fairly short drive to the trailhead in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 16, rather than a long drive to a mountain in the High Peaks. I say "fairly short" because I didn't realize until I was in the car at 3:30am that I wouldn't be able to drive at a normal daytime speed. I forgot to factor in the need to drive at 20-25 mph, all because the roads belong to wildlife at that hour. Not one but two foxes ran across the road at various points. And a doe was so mesmerized by my headlights, she took a long time to recover and meander off the road.
With no moon, the world was dark. Yet at half past three, as I left our house, the east was light! The strong cup of coffee, brewed at the bewitching hour of 2:45 am, kept me alert. Let's face it, though, I was tense with this mission ahead of me. I slept with the light on all night. Now this wasn't intentional, but I think my unconscious was trying to ensure I'd get up when the alarm went off.
When I arrived at the trailhead, I ate the yogurt I had brought with me. I then slathered on a heavy application of my non-Deet bug repellent/SPF 30 lotion. As I prayed that the mosquitos would not eat me alive, I slathered on extra bug stuff around my hairline, a favorite target.
I put on my headlamp, got out of the car, and heaved my pack onto my back. Inside it was my Sony CD player and 2 smallish speakers, and lots of water, my Mountain Birdwatch notebook, birding guide, and extra clothing. If I failed to hear the endangered Bicknell's Thrush on my route, I was to retrace my steps, playing genuine Bicknell Thrush calls and its song at each of the five stations.
A quick glance at my watch--4:20 am. How did it get to be so late so quickly? I set off for the trail, signed in, and started climbing. It was not pitch dark, but the rocks on the trail were barely visible, even with a headlamp. I scrambled up the mountain as fast as my legs and lungs would allow me, pushing relentlessly, and yes, stumbling, I'm embarrassed to say. I had to make tracks fast because I knew how important it was to be at Station 1 early, before five if I could. Bicknell's do not sing all day, nor all morning.
Thirty-five minutes later, I was there--almost to the summit. After that push, I was starving and so out of breath. The instructions gave me permission to spend thirty seconds
(!) orienting myself before beginning the survey. As soon as I was breathing halfway normally (more like two minutes), I started the ten-minute site survey, identifying and recording every bird song I heard and its location. A hermit thrush, a Swainson's thrush's liquid, rising tones, black-throated blue warblers, and more, but no Bicknell's. When I finished, I realized I was having fun. I sat on a rock in the middle of the trail, surrounded by spruces and balsam firs. I chomped on a granola bar and wondered where the heck my graham crackers and almond butter went to. I also wasted valuable time pouring a half cup of coffee from my thermos. I sipped and looked off into the distance and marveled at the tinges of aqua appearing on the horizon.
Only then did it dawn on me to check my watch. 5:20 am. I gazed at the time, stupefied. I couldn't believe I had sat there ten minutes wasting all those minutes. It was as if someone else had done it.
I scampered off and reached the second, infamous Crane Mountain ladder with its 15 steps, screwed into a sheer rockface. Up I went (some people say it's scarier going down the ladder, but I think it's more daunting when you see that ladder going straight up the cliff.) Anyway, I had no time to think about it.
At station 2 I felt certain I wouldn't hear any Bicknell's. The spruce-fir cover at this location on the summit was not dense enough for a Bicknell's. No way. But I complied. I felt similarly at Station 3, which is near the overlook that looks down on Crane Mountain Pond.
This is a dreadful place to leave off. All I can say is I will be back with more soon.