Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Hello everyone! The busy commercial holiday season is upon us. End of the year tasks to finish up, decorations to finish, cards to stuff and stamp, gifts to acquire, hours of baking to prepare for family/friends gatherings all adding to a stressful end of the year. Thank god I do not have to worry about performance reviews anymore – well, beyond my wife’s daily assessment of my worthiness hehehe. My go to stress relief has always been physical exertion – younger years getting bruised up in the dojo, later years having the pavement hammer my knees and now, well, I seek the calming therapy of nature…and, of course, getting every ounce of energy consumed running the hills and valleys on the now very muddy trails.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

My friend Ryan and I added a new element to our trail run today – orienteering. That would be a fancy of way of saying we got our asses lost ha! I happen to pride myself on having a fairly decent internal GPS. As long as I can keep track of which direction I am heading at any given time and roughly the much easier measurement of distance Bri will make it back to the car. If all else fails, point the feet in the right compass point and walk straight – at some point something will look familiar or worse case a few cuts and scrapes later you’ll be back to the start. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten lost on the SECOND time at running a course before today. I also try to lay out my course to always turn one direction until I have to turn the other (a concept left over from my coding recursion days). The course we were replicating today was set up by another group we joined a couple of weeks back. Left, right, right, straight, right, left, left, straight then right and the mess continued until somehow they led us back to the parking lot.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the latest addition to the bird list!

Trying to replicate that on our own for only the second time at this location turned out to be “interesting”. Caught up in the moment the first time, didn’t notice the crisscrossing trails and intermingling of hiking trails, horse trails and disc golf holes. Run to an intersection point, taking poll on which direction to head and if we conflicted, pull out the map and figure out where the hell we were. Became quite humorous after a while as we attempted to match the Runkeeper GPS with my small map printed out before heading out. Fortunately, we both could run the entire day without dropping, so there wasn’t any huge fear of accidentally taking a longer route – not to mention I could always grab a stick and take out Ryan’s legs if we encountered a Bear or pack of Wolves. A couple of hours later we emerged out of the woods, shoes covered in mud, sweat pouring off us, both sporting huge smiles without a single bit of holiday stress in our thoughts. Absolutely the best form of therapy there is.

This also happens to be the exact feeling when I’m chasing one of these.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Not exactly sure where we were (this time with Ron), muddy from the flooded trails, tired from lugging The Beast around the entire day and huge smiles on our face after spotting today’s featured feathered friend. I mentioned in previous posts all the rain Dauphin Island received in the weeks leading up to our April visit. In most of the birding spots, the trails were still passable, however, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary had many of their passages completely flooded with water levels well over our feet. We successfully dodged, jumped and backflipped our way to their pond overlook without getting our feet too soaked – things drastically changed at that point. The boardwalk to the back portion of the sanctuary was floating on the water – sinking under any real weight. My courage was dampened thanks to the Alligator we had just seen lurking in the pond. Note to self, find a stiff stick and keep within distance of Ron’s knees! Like today, we had quite the discussion on next steps (“nope, no reason I’m holding this stick, just thought it was interesting … might need to draw out plans in the mud…maybe knock down some spiderwebs…scratch my back… rest The Beast..yep, that pretty much covers it – age before strength, please go first”).

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

As luck would have it, Ron spotted a Yellow-Throated Vireo sitting in the tree intently watching our debate. Gator concerns vanish, stick dropped, get The Beast on target. Have plenty of experience with Red-Eyed Vireos (link here) and the White-Eyed variety (link here), but never encountered on of these. Absolutely gorgeous. The first series of shots in this post were from that initial encounter. A little earlier in the day giving me a deep background to contrast the colorful Vireo. The later shots are from another encounter with a brighter backdrop – possibly heavy reflection coming off the water there.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

After fighting all day to keep the hyper Warblers on focus, the Yellow-Throated was a dream. They are much more methodical in their hunting and from our experience extremely tolerant of people – especially ones with black bazookas pointed directly at them. A little research on Cornell’s site confirmed this first impression. Characterized by very meticulously searches for insects slowly hopping through the tree canopy. Directly quoting “The aren’t as frenetic as Warblers; they tend to take long pauses before chasing after another meal and often sing while stationary giving you ample time to see them.”

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

The two encounters we had did not include a lot of singing, but they definitely gave us plenty of time to get our settings dialed in. Haven’t seen Ron’s captures yet – assuming he has some nice tins as well. I looked at our bird checklist from that trip and pretty sure this was a +1 for him as well. From the tallies on that list, I went +22 and Ron went +21 which included the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (link here) which should count a lot more than 1! Tip of the hats to Dauphin Island’s spring fallout.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

At the end of the pictures for this particular post – I’ve drafted up a part 2 with additional shots. Plan to get to those early next year – too much holiday stress with the unique bird goal hehehe. Not really much to leave you with regarding interesting tidbits for the Yellow-Throated. Assumed there wasn’t much point in mentioning it has a yellow throat. The back half of the underbelly is bright white (per the above angle). They sport yellow spectacles worthy of being in Elton John’s collection. That feature along with lacking any streaking on the breast/sides will help you distinguish it from the very similar Pine Warbler. They have thicker bills as well, but that type of relative characteristic usually doesn’t help you that much in the field. Lastly, look for the Yellow-Throated hanging closer to the interior of the tree and/or bare branches.

Will put a bow on it there. Hope you enjoyed the latest addition to the unique bird count. That puts me officially at 298. Three little ticks to go to reach my goal. Getting more confident now this is in reach. More confident than I am on Ryan and I’s attempt to successfully navigating McNaughton Park again next week – we should have dropped popcorn as we ran.

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