Sunday, May 19, 2013

OAS birding field trip at the Warner Robbins AF Base.

Birding at the Warner Robins Air Force Base is a real treat.  It's by invitation only.
With a little less than 10,000 acres altogether, this place has over 6,500 acres of beautiful and rich natural habitats including a little more than 2,700 acres of forests.  It's located in the Ocmulgee River basin with two creeks bordering it, the Echeconnee Creek and the Sandy Run Creek.  The Ocmulgee River itself is pretty close but does not go through the base.   

Bob Sargent led the group.  Dr. Sargent is the Manager of the Natural Resources at the base.  We were 20 birders.  Maybe not quite 20 "birders".  There were one or two guys with serious faces that just look like they were "implanted" in the group to watch us so we'll "behave" on base...

...but things changed after we handed them binoculars and they started watching some pretty birds.  They really got into it, smiling and birding, even joking at the end like new birding converts! Or maybe this was just my imagination thinking we were been watched by some "spies" in our midst. 

With lakes, ponds, creeks, and woodlands, we were able to see and hear a great variety of birds.  Our first excitement came with a Northern Waterthrush.  Past mid-May, it is rather unusual to see this bird around.  He lingered near the creek banks and islands, giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy him.  He was busy getting food for his trip northward so he ignored us.  Good fly back home, birdie!

By the way, Bob Sargent spotted the Waterthrush and we really appreciated that he was such a good leader for the group.  There and throughout the outing, he gave everyone a chance to find the birds, he explained about the birds, the calls and songs, the habitat when appropriate, he welcomed people's participation... Thanks Bob!

Before our Waterthrush, we made a stop and saw (and/or heard) over a dozen of bird species including Red Bellied, Red Headed, and Downy Woodpeckers, Yellow-throated, Red -eyed and White-eyed Vireos, Tufted Titmice, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Acadian Flycathers, and several Great Crested Flycatchers.

The more we moved around the base, the more we all appreciated it.  You quickly forget you are on a military base when you get absorbed watching a Red-tailed Hawk controlling his prey, or a gorgeous Yellow-throated Warbler.  Then you're reminded by an innocent comment...

..."I'd love to explore this nice area".  The response was a quick "Oh no, we can't let you walk around here like that!" To which I replied "someone forgot to tell us we'll be prisoners here!" Then came the nice reply "it's not like that.  You are our guests here, and we want to make sure..." something about been escorted around safely. 

All of the sudden it hit me.  The person I was talking to was Kim, a Colonel in the Air Force.  So in fact, I'm being "chauffeured" by an Officer of the U.S. military in one of most unique areas of Middle Georgia, doing something I love to do, birding.  Kim looked like what great female leaders look like, strength and power under control with a pleasant personality.  Back to birding.

After a little over five hours, we've identified 70 bird species including the Kentucky Warbler that Jerry Amerson got, that I've included in the count for eBird.  He heard it, and I trust Jerry.  The Kentucky was there while we were there, so were the Yellow Warbler (by the Purple Martins Condos), the Black-and-white Warbler (that Austin saw first), the Prothonotary Warblers, the Common Yellowthroat (that we saw from the bridge and in the rain), the Pileated Woodpeckers (by the lake where the Alligator Weeds were) ... 

Most of the birds mentioned above have been seen by most in the group.  Two Wild Turkeys roamed the pasture grounds peacefully at one place.  We used a scope at another place to appreciate the Eastern Meadowlark.  Otherwise, the Canada Geese, Great Blue Herons, or Mallards did not need a scope.  There were enough Summer Tanagers and Swallows for everyone to just pick his own to watch. 

As we were winding down our birding outing, we realized we have not seen a shrike yet.  Bob knew exactly the spot for it.  Little did we realize a "surprise bird" was waiting for us.  A Northern Harrier!  Harriers come to Georgia for the winter and this one apparently stayed a little longer for us before making his trip back home.  We got the Loggerhead Shrike too.  And that wrapped it up. 

That was a great birding outing.  Comments are welcome.


Anne said...

Great report, Andre! Thanks for sharing with those of us who couldn't make it this time!

Andre Coquerel said...

Was fun with great folks, especially from the AF base.

Kim Ramos said...

Thank you Andre. I fully appreciated having you in the car. You definitely enriched the birding experience. Especially your descriptions of the difference between pewee and phoebe calls.

Andre Coquerel said...

Thanks Kim!