top of page

Maryland, North Carolina & Virginia

29th April 1988 - 13th May 1988.

29th April.

An early morning flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Dave departed for home and I met up with Greg Budney from The Library of Natural Sounds, now the Macaulay Library at Cornell University, also a sound recordist. We were in this region to collect sounds for the opening programme of 'Land of the Eagle'.

After collecting the vehicle, Greg and I set off for Maryland and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where our main aim was to record the nest activity of a Bald Eagle pair, as well as wider environmental sounds. New species for me will be in bold.

We checked into a motel in Cambridge near the reserve and had time to visit the area before it got dark, seeing Canada Geese, a Tundra Swan, 4 Ospreys, Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Common Grackles, American Robins, Swallows, 4 Bald Eagles, Mallard, Least Terns, 2 Song Sparrows, a Lesser Yellowlegs, 8 Blue-winged Teals, 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 Great Blue Herons, Tree Swallows, a Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, a Yellow Warbler, a Common Yellowthroat, an Eastern Kingbird, 3 Muskrats, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, 2 Hairy Woodpeckers, 2 Common Flickers, a Spotted Sandpiper, 3 Orchard Orioles and several Purple Martins.

As we drove towards nearby Taylors Island we saw a roost of around 1,000 Laughing Gulls.

Bald Eagle. 

30th April.

An early start to meet up with BBC cameraman Ian McCarthy and Maryon Smith a local Wildlife Film-maker who was acting as our fixer and researcher. 

But first Greg and I spent time recording around the lake and shore in the Blackwater reserve, seeing 3 Wood Ducks, Canada Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, 2 Common Flickers, Mallard, Common Yellowthroats, an Eastern Bluebird, a Yellow Warbler, 2 Eastern Meadowlarks, Least Terns, 3 Bald Eagles, 4 Ospreys, Blue-winged Teal, Swallows, Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, Teal, Tree Swallows, Sand Martins, 2 Northern Cardinals, a Gray Catbird, c25 Dunlin, 4 Least Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Plover, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds and a Turkey Vulture.

Later, we went to adjacent Taylors Island and found Ian and Maryon putting the final touches to the tower hide overlooking a Bald Eagle's nest which had 3 chicks.

As we couldn't do anything at the site today, we explored the area away from the nest, seeing a Pine Warbler, an Eastern Bluebird, Turkey Vultures, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Myrtle Warblers, a Blue-winged Warbler, Cape May Warblers, Eastern Towhees, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a Roseate Tern, an Alder Flycatcher, a Solitary now called Blue-headed Vireo, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, 2 Carolina Chickadees, Common Yellowthroats, 2 Yellow-throated Warblers, a Prairie Warbler and 2 Common Loons or Great Northern Divers.














Ian McCarthy and Maryon Smith at the tower hide, Taylors Island.

1st May.

Today we had to drive to Annapolis and back, to pick up some equipment, the only birds seen along the way were Purple Martins, an American Bittern, 4 Black Ducks, Mallard, Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls.

2nd May.

A day spent recording in the Blackwater Reserve, most noteable was listening to a superb Wood Thrush, which sang for ages, also there were 3 Orchard Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Canada Geese, 2 Wood Ducks, a species on our recording list but proved hard to get close to, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Warbling Vireo, a Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Towhees, White-throated Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, 3 Bald Eagles, Gray Catbirds, Chipping Sparrows, Bobwhites, 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, 2 Tufted Titmouses, 2 Ovenbirds, a Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Red-bellied Turtles, 3 Coypu, an American Bittern, Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Chimney Swifts, Purple Martins, Swallows and Tree Swallows.

Later, we went to Taylors Island where I was able to get a small stereo microphone near to the Bald Eagle's nest, and cable it back near the tower hide, ready for tomorrow.

3rd May.

An early start to record in the Blackwater Reserve, seeing much the same as previous days, including a White-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warblers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Great White Egret, a Bald Eagle, a Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Least Sandpipers, 3 Spotted Sandpipers, a Greater Yellowlegs and a Belted Kingfisher.

Then we went to the tower hide on Taylors Island, to wait for the adult Bald Eagles to return to their nest to feed the 3 chicks, which was the only time there was any calling.

While we were there we also saw 2 Brown-headed Nuthatches, a Common Yellowthroat and a Turkey Vulture.

4th May.

Another early start to record in the Blackwater Reserve, seeing the same as the previous days, including a Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Orchard Orioles, a White-eyed Vireo, a Yellow Warbler, a Green Heron and a Brown Thrasher.

Then we settled down, out of sight, by the tower hide on Taylors Island, to wait for the adult Bald Eagles to return to their nest to feed the chicks. 

While we were there we also saw Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, House Wrens, Common Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Eastern Kingbirds, American Robins and lots of grackles.

5th May.

Back to the Blackwater Reserve for the morning, we had been told of an American Black Vulture's nest, which we eventually found, in a hollow in the base of a tree, there were 2 adults and 2 well-grown chicks which made lots of barking calls and hisses as we approached.

Also seen in the reserve were Least Terns, Chipping Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, 2 Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, a Green Heron, a Snapping Turtle and an Eastern Ribbon Snake.

As we had recorded as much as we could of the Bald Eagle chicks at this stage, we decided to move elsewhere and come back in a few days, so returned to the motel to pack.


Maryon at the tower hide. 

6th May.

We left Cambridge and drove south across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where we stopped briefly, seeing c30 Turnstone, c60 Purple Sandpipers, an Osprey, a Peregrine and a Common Yellowthroat. Then west to Ashville in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

We were staying with friends of Gregs, Bill and Mary Ruth Duyck in Ashville, contributors to the Cornell Library.












Greg in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

7th May.

Not an early start, after breakfast Bill showed us how to get to Bent Creek and which trails through the woodland were best, then he left us to explore on our own.

An area of decideous woodland in which we saw Carolina Wrens, Eastern Towhees, a Gray Catbird, Tufted Titmouses, Red-eyed Vireos, a Parula Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, an American Redstart, a Carolina Chickadee, 2 Chestnut-sided Warblers, at least 2 Acadian Flycatchers, American Crows and Blue Jays.

Later, back in Ashville we saw c12 Cedar Waxwings, Mourning Doves and several Pine Siskins. 

Blue Ridge Mountains

Mourning Dove

8th May.

An early start back in Bent Creek, to record woodland atmospheres and any birds we could get close to.

There were 3 Wood Thrushes, 2 Ovenbirds, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, 3 Black-and-white Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Towhees, a Worm-eating Warbler, 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, Indigo Buntings, a Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouses, a Scarlet Tanager and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

We returned to Bill and Mary's for lunch, after Bill took us to a nearby tree and showed us a rufous phase Eastern Screech Owl sat on eggs in its nest hole, which he had been photographing.

In the afternoon Greg and I drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway stopping in various places, seeing 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Downy Woodpecker, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 4 Pine Siskins, 2 Carolina Chickadees and 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds.







Worm-eating Warbler. 

9th May.

Another early start at Bent Creek with the first bird seen a Whip-poor-will and 2 more heard, there were also 2 Wood Thrushes, an Ovenbird, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Chickadees, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhees and a Striped Skunk.

Later, we went to North Mills River where there were Wood Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireos, Gray Catbirds, Northern Cardinals, Pileated Woodpeckers and American Goldfinches.

Then back to Bent Creek where I really wanted to record the grasshopper-like song of Worm-eating Warbler, eventually I managed to get close enough to get a good recording. 

Also here were 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Towhees, an Indigo Bunting, a Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed Vireos, Ovenbirds, Black-throated Blue Warblers, an Eastern Wood Pewee, a Ruffed Grouse and a Scarlet Tanager.









Worm-eating Warbler. 

10th May.

Before leaving the Blue Ridge Mountains we had an early morning visit to the old fort on Curtis Creek Road, seeing 2 Louisiana Waterthrushes, 2 Eastern Wood Pewees, Red-eyed Vireos, a Black-throated Green Warbler and a Parula Warbler.

Then a long drive east to Chincoteague Island in Virginia.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Habitat at Bent Creek,Blue Ridge Mountains

11th May.

A visit to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where we saw Eastern Willets, Grey Plovers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Knot, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Great Blue Herons, Great White Egrets, Snowy Egrets, 7 Tricolored Herons, 3 Green Herons, 6 Glossy Ibises, Laughing Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Least Terns, Common Terns, 4 Gull-billed Terns, 2 Black Skimmers, Bobwhites, Boat-tailed and Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, 6+ Yellow Warblers, 4 Parula Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler, a Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, a White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireos, 2 Northern Harriers, 4 Ospreys, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Swallows, Tree Swallows, Canada Geese, 6 Snow Geese, 3 Mute Swans, American Robins, Indigo Buntings, Blue Jays, Fish Crows, Starlings, House Wrens, Carolina Wrens, Eastern Wood Pewees, Black Ducks, Mallard, a Black Rat Snake, 2 American Toads, 2 Hudsonian Whimbrel, Sika Deers, Eastern Cottontails, Common Yellowthroats, Eastern Towhees, Cattle Egrets, 3 Brown Thrashers, Mourning Doves, Gray Catbirds, a Baltimore Oriole, a Blue Grosbeak, a Prairie Warbler, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2 Blue-winged Teal, Killdeers, Double-crested Cormorants, Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Gadwall, a Little Blue Heron, a Myrtle Warbler, 3 Night Herons, 2 Royal Terns, Sanderlings, a Turnstone and a Horned Lark.


Eastern Kingbird. 

12th May.

A return to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, seeing much the same as yesterday, plus Wilson's Snipe, hearing several Clapper Rails, there were now 11 Glossy Ibises and 11 Hudsonian Whimbrels, 2 Forster's Terns and in the marsh a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

As we drove along a track by the coast to view the goose flock, we noticed that the track ahead appeared to be moving, over a short section infront of the van there were millions of ticks, so we decided to leave.

We drove back to the Cambridge motel in Maryland, where the first thing we did was take a shower and check for ticks! Later, we made an evening visit to the Blackwater Reserve, in the lake were lots of Bull Frogs whose chorus with other frogs was amazing, also heard was a Virginia Rail and we saw a Bald Eagle, 2 Ospreys, 2 Brown Thrashers, Least Terns, Orchard Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks.






13th May.

Our last day before Greg returned to Ithaca, New York State and I returned home. An early start back in the Blackwater reserve where I finally recorded the Wood Ducks displaying and also their distinctive flight calls, also seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Towhees, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Bobwhites, Common Yellowthroats, Orchard Orioles, Brown Thrashers, Bull Frogs, 2 Black Rat Snakes, a Pickerel Frog, Canada Geese, Mallard, Turkey Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Summer Tanager, 3 Eastern Bluebirds, White-eyed Vireos, Blue Jays, Great Crested Flycatchers, Tufted Titmouses and we went to see the American Black Vulture pair with their 2 chicks again, getting some more recordings.

Finally, to Taylors Island where I had left a microphone in place by the Bald Eagle's nest, the chicks now a bit bigger made stronger calls when the adults returned, later I retrieved the mics and we returned to the motel to pack.

bottom of page