Saturday, November 7, 2009

River of Black Birds, Portsmouth, N.H. 11-6-09

5oo,ooo Blackbirds! That is my guess as to how many blackbirds there were and that is really a moot point because the experience of seeing that large a number of birds flying by is somewhat overwhelming. Everywhere you looked, it was blackbirds! This image was facing northwest-ish. It started out slowly, but that changed very quickly. There were three streams of birds - one north and south of our location and one overhead. That's not to say there weren't others; there were. They were scope range at best and more importantly, largely overlooked because of the distance to them. Plus there was an extraordinary number of blackbirds flying by at close range. The stream to the southeast was very large and dense, but you had to look through a scope to see it. Case in point. The image below shows birds passing in front of the moon . Not too far away, but in the lower left hand corner is a distant and larger group of blackbirds passing by that went unnoticed by me until I got home and was looking at the images on the computer. Image below is a 200% enlargement of the marked area from the image above.

This is an example of what it was like. It points out how hard it would be to try and get an accurate count of the total number of blackbirds flying in to the Great Bog roost area in Portsmouth NH.

Here is an image of the group watching the blackbirds flying overhead.

The dark pink area on the horizon in the center of the above image looked like this image below through my 400mm lens.
It was a life experience that is very difficult for me to put in words. Even the images don't convey the scope of the event. They do, however, offer fragments of a much larger picture. The image below is looking east and similar views were going on to the south and west when I recorded this image. The roost fly-in lasted about 45 minutes or so and the sound was impressive.What I would say, is that if this happens again next year, a trip down there to experience it first hand would be highly recommended. Who knows, maybe we could carpool next year!


I had a great time birding the coast of New Hampshire thanks to Steve and Jane Mirick, Len Medlock, Jason and all the others, and The River of Blackbirds is truly an unforgettable experience!


Thelma turned over 200,000! It happened at 4:20am about a mile west of Warner, NH.

Marv Elliott of the Rutland Audubon had the winning guess of Nov 4th. A special thanks to all 47 people that entered the Thelma Mileage Contest. Marv will be receiving a framed Red-tailed Hawk image from those taken at Mt Philo back in September. Again, thanks for taking the time to enter.


Peter Manship

images and story © 2009 Peter Manship All rights reserved