The morning of Saturday, November 17th dawned cold and clear. It was 6 in the morning, and my dad and I were up and eating breakfast, even though the east was just beginning to glow with the rising sun. I was anticipating a morning of birding Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, TN with the Memphis Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. I hadn't been out birding in a month and a half, and I was ready to get started.
It was not the best time for birds, though. November is on the border between fall and winter. The trees have (mostly) lost their leaves, but it's not quite cold enough to be winter. The birds notice this, too. The summer residents have gone, the migrants have passed through, but not all the winter residents have arrived yet. November is not known for its "birdiness", but birding is birding, all the same.
We met with the other participants in the amphitheater parking lot at about 7:30. I was surprised at the amount of people there. I was not used to large birding groups, and 24 people seemed like a lot. We broke up into smaller groups, however, with 8 people in each. My group birded the space around the pistol range, as well as the riding stables and Chickasaw Lake.
We had to drive to our destination, and as we followed the group leader, he kept stopping at every bird he saw. He was rather skilled in the art of keeping one hand on the wheel and the other on his binoculars without causing an accident. When we arrived, he lost no time in calling out birds.
"White-throat, White-crowned, Field! Lots of sparrows over here, guys."
Turns out the day was great for sparrows. We saw Savannah, Swamp, White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Field, and Fox. No Vesper Sparrows, though. They're usually seen at that location at this time of year, but we didn't see any. A notable sighting was Gray Catbird. November is pretty late for them, so it was rather unusual.
The brush piles and cotton fields around the pistol range produced many species, including my lifer Winter Wren! I'm pretty excited about that one. One species that failed to show, however, was Lapland Longspur. It's somewhat of a nemesis bird for me, and I was hoping to see one, but we didn't.
After we left the pistol range we headed to the riding stables and Chickasaw Lake. The lake was full of ducks, including Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, and Gadwall. As well as another lifer: Northern Pintail! We got other new species for our day list as well: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Great Blue Heron.
Around this time my dad checked the time, saw that it was 9:15, and decided that it was time to leave. So we did, and left feeling satisfied with another day of birds, birding, and two lifers. It was pretty fun!