Sunday, May 30, 2010
Welcome to the Hotel....Pennsylvania?!
Henslow’s Sparrow, Mourning Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo. Do I have your attention yet? I saw all these birds and many more on my trip back east last week. Where, exactly? Some famous hotspot, surely.
Well, not exactly--the Holiday Inn Express in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Huh?
I always manage to transform "nonbirding" trips into birding trips. It has become tradition to strike out on foot from the hotel and see what birds are around. I’ve marauded around hotel parking lots in New Mexico, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, California, and just about everywhere else in the United States. None of my previous hotel experiences, however, can compare to the Holiday Inn Express in Grove City.
My eldest brother’s graduation and subsequent wedding were the reasons for the trip. I was too insignificant to matter much in the wedding preparations, so I found myself with loads of free time on my hands. My options were either to watch television in the room or go birding around the hotel.
What kind of choice is that?
In the few days my family was in Grove City, I put in over twenty-five miles of walking from the hotel. The schedule went something like this: roll out of bed at five-thirty. Grab backpack. Lace boots. Scramble down the stairs, swipe an oatmeal muffin and a slab of jelly toast from the breakfast bar, and head out the door. Then, for the next few hours, stroll down quiet country lanes (with only the occasional Amish buggy or oversized tractor threatening to squash me) looking for birds.
Oh, Highway 208 isn’t really a quiet country lane, but once I got off the main road I was plunged into almost complete solitude.
The quality of the birding was astonishing thanks to the broad suite of habitats within a few miles of the hotel. Many of the highlights of eastern birding came flooding back to me as I explored those back roads-—the snore of a Blue-winged Warbler, a male Blackburnian Warbler flashing through an oak overhead, the melodious jumbled song of a Bobolink sailing over a green pasture…
Instead of rambling on with a dry trip report, I'll let the photos do the narrating.
Prothonotary Warbler--all right, I'll admit it: this actually wasn't from Grove City. I made a brief stop at Crane Creek in Ohio mid-week. The birding was mediocre, but I enjoyed stellar looks at this male Prothonotary Warbler hopping within feet of the boardwalk.
Gray Catbird--the area around the hotel was crawling with catbirds. Brushy areas abounded, and there seemed to be a catbird every fifty feet or so.
American Robins--surely one of the most common and familiar species in North America. Sadly, they aren't as common in California as they are in Pennsylvania. I would see hundreds in a few miles of walking.
Spotted Sandpiper nest--I was tromping around in a grassy area near a small lake when I flushed an adult sitting on the nest.