Monday 4 December 2023

New England - May 2023 - Day 5 - New Hampshire, Vermont and home

Another early start saw me arrive at Moose Bog for about 8am having birded slowly along the road on the way up there. I kept on investigating little pull-ins, things like that, and it took me over two hours to cover what should only have taken an hour. So much for single-minded focus. 

Once there I headed through the mosquito-infested woodland and down to the short boardwalk. Boy were they hungry today. It was immediately worth it though, with a Black-backed Woodpecker heard calling almost as I arrived. It took a while to track down, obstinately staying on the hidden side of distant tree trunks. Eventually it gave itself up and I was able to get good views through the scope and take a record shot. The Moose was still present on the far side, and the woods had many more Warbers at this time of day - I was able to track down Nashville and Canada, as well as Northern Parula and Magnolia Warbler. Frustratingly the Merlin App also recorded Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, one of my trip targets, but it proved impossible to locate. My rule with this App is that I whilst I can use it to pick out species, I can't tick anything until I've actually seen it and proven it is what the App said it was. It is pretty good, but it certainly isn't 100% reliable - it must drive eBird reviewers nuts, and at several spots I saw 'birders' simply walking around holding their phones in front of them!  For some, this is what birding is in 2023. Technology is great, but at the expense of fun? I'm sure the Flycatcher was there somewhere, the call was nice and clear, but rules are rules. I had another go in Ohio this September and dipped there too... Brown Creeper and both Kinglets were seen, and a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatch were very vocal.

Black-backed Woodpecker

At around half eleven, having retraced my steps a little back towards New Hampshire to take in a site I had missed out on the way up - Fort Hill WMA. This was great, a nice lake and good vegetation. I had a Wilson's Snipe displaying high above me, Bobolink in a field, Swamp Sparrows, lots of Warblers, Veery, and a Warbling Vireo. When I got back to the car I happened to glance at my leg and noted a Tick crawling up it! Oh no! I now recalled having had to brush against some bushes as I negotiated a tricky puddle. That is all it takes. I took my optics off and started undressing. Sure enough there was another one inside my shirt. Amazing. I basically stripped off - luckily it was a remote location - and subsequently found another on my shoulder. You cannot feel them at all. Satisified I was clear, I got dressed again and carried on.

I popped back into Moose Bog but it was a shadow of the morning's activity - now I understood why I'd dipped the Woodpecker a few days ago. As this was the last day and I was flying out that evening, the trip now reverted to State birding and trying to increase the trip list. I added Brown Thrasher on someone's front lawn in Troy, VT, and at Lake Carmi in a shower a large mixed flock of hirundines included about 20 Sand Martin in with loads of Tree Swallows, Barn Swallow, and a few Northern Rough-winged Swallow


Red-winged Blackbird

Swamp Sparrow

My final destination before Canda was Missisquoi NWR, a huge area with loads of birding spot. By the time I got there my time was extremely limited, but in this vast expanse of pools and wet meadows I picked out Caspian and Black Terns, breeding Osprey and lots of other good birds. I'd spent little time in Vermont as I crossed south, so the State birds came thick and fast, with the final ones being Common Goldeneye and Common Tern at Highgate just before I got back on the I7 to Quebec. I spent about fifteen minutes packing everything away and getting ready to travel, and then crossed back into Canada. The airport was about an hour away so I had enough time to spend a few minutes adding birds to my Canadian list at Pike River before high-tailing it to Montreal. 

As I approached the airport I happened to scratch the side of my head next to my ear and was horrified when a Tick fell onto my lap. Oh dear. I had clearly not checked myself thoroughly enough. As soon as I got through security and into the lounge I went and had a proper go, and this time found one embedded in my back, though it can't have been properly dug in as I got it off easily. Still, what a little sod! Now properly paranoid I checked as much more of myself as a could, and finally satisifed that this was it I got dressed again and it was soon time to leave. The story does not end there however. I woke up about 40 minutes from London having requested to be left sleeping until the last moment, and noted that my right hand was rather tingly, maybe I had slept on it funny. I went to the toilet to freshen up and brush my teeth etc, and in horror noticed a Tick on my wrist! This one was a little harder to get out but I managed it and flushed it down the toilet - it was still totally flat so hadn't yet started feeding. How on earth had it still been on me, I had checked myself thoroughly several times, combed my hair, looked through my clothes.... My slightly numb hand was the start of Tick paralysis, yuck! Research established that Ticks need to be attached for around 24 hours before you are at real risk of catching any of the nasty diseases they carry, and so at 16 hours since I been birding in Vermont I was fairly confident that I would be OK but I wouldn't really find out for several weeks! As it has now been over six months I reckon I am fine, but a real eye-opener as I had been so careful for almost my entire trip, trousers tucked into socks, regular checking and so on and had still been done! 

I ended the trip on 160 species, and the list will be in the next post.


  1. Ticks are a curse. I'm not surprised you kept finding them, they can slip through a tick check so very easily, even when you have someone else to do it for you. We are a tick hotspot here in Wisconsin. You can get permethrin-impregnated clothing, which helps. Anyway, I enjoyed the write-up, loved the picture of the Bobolink, one of my favorite birds.

    P.S. I think you've mistyped your sparrow caption.

    1. My paranoia levels were off the charts, and they still got me - one brush with one bush!
      PS Thanks for the typo !