Yesterday Eric and I got up at 6:30 am to go birding in a new-to-us park about 25 miles north of home. We’d been told it was a great spot for sparrows like Vesper, Henslow, and Grasshopper, as well as Acadian Flycatchers, Barred Owls, Pileated Woodpeckers and Bobolinks. Since several of those birds would be lifers for us, we were quite excited about checking it out. We arrived in the park at 8:00 am and coated ourselves with insect repellent as we usually do before going into the woods. While we were still in the parking lot we heard and then found a gorgeous Veery singing loudly from the top of a tree, so we thought we were going to have a great bird day. Wrong.
We started off on the woodland trail behind the park office and had only taken a dozen steps when we were mobbed by deer flies. We couldn’t even hold still long enough to look at a bird through our binoculars because so many flies were biting us. I’d read that Deet repellents don’t work on biting flies, but because we’d made such an extraordinary effort to get there (I don’t get up at 6:30 for much of anything!), we went back to the car and added more repellent. I even sprayed my hair with that chemical goop because they kept hitting me in the head. Then we thought the flies might be less of a problem if we went the opposite way on the trail. Wrong again. This time we got maybe 75 yards in before it was just too much. I got a couple bites on my hands and couldn’t stand the buzzing in my hair, and even with constant swatting around our heads we couldn’t keep them away. So we ran — yes, ran — back to the car and quickly slammed the doors on the swarms. Whew! I’ve never been attacked by flies like that except in Michigan’s upper peninsula. So much for enjoying some early morning birding….we were both so disappointed.
Rather than go home defeated, we decided to try walking on the paved bike trail. It was out in the open sun though, so it was very hot and the bird activity was mostly too far from us. We ended up walking a mile and then turning back because the paved surface was too much for my already-bruised heels. (I’m supposed to be resting them but I just can’t stay in the house on the couch all the time…) We came home with a list of 16 species, but unfortunately none of them were new ones for us.
I immediately started asking other birders for suggestions to deal with those awful flies, because I really really want to get out on that woodland trail. Some people said they like these Deerfly Patches, and others swear by these LL Bean flap hats. A couple smarty-pants birders said to stay indoors….yeah, funny.
But I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I saw this:
It’s a mosquito net that goes over your hat. I thought this would be less hot than one of those flap hats, and it’s cheaper too. So I ordered a couple of them and told the other birders of my awesome discovery. It only took a few minutes for this comment to come back: .”You’ll be quite the sight with binoculars held up to your mosquito net.” Duh, I really didn’t think that one through, did I? How will I use my binocs with that thing on? What a doofus. Go ahead, laugh. I am.
So I went back to LL Bean and ordered the flap hats, although they’re backordered until the end of July. I also ordered a package of the Deerfly Patches to try, but I have a feeling I’m going to be grossed out about having dead and dying flies stuck to my hat while I’m birding. Ugh. Somebody needs to invent a better way to deal with these nasty flies!
Since I didn’t get any good pics on this trip, here’s my Grasshopper Sparrow photo from earlier in the week. I’m starting to enjoy sparrows — “Little Brown Jobs” to many people — they’re some of the hardest birds to ID, but they’re also plentiful now, between the spring and fall migrations when all the “exciting” birds come through. This guy was fun though — we were both curious about each other and I got to watch him for a good ten minutes. And then there were the dragonflies, like this one:
Hard to photograph, but every once in a while I get a good one!