Bird brained stories!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stranger things have happened......

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Lesser Yellowlegs in a cooperative mood, photographically speaking

After about three and a half years of serious birding, I hit the magical number of 200 North American life birds this past summer, most of which were seen within 50 miles of my home. Though I would read on the various bird lists of amazing sightings within the upper midwest, envying those able to run after them all, I have a job. And a family. And a desire to try and minimize my ecological footprint by avoiding lots of driving, fuel efficient though my car may be.

I would harbor dreams of attending a conference near Lake Michigan, thereby adding in lots of shorebirds and those migrants while being a good employee AND steward of our resources. Not happening. I was lucky to be granted a one day conference in Madison this year, no overnight stays, so don't even ask for reimbursement!

Really, I enjoy any birds I happen to see, even the ever-present Chickadees and Goldfinches at my feeders. The number of birds sighted isn't that important, other than the desire to enjoy a wider variety of avian friends. But....but.....

I just couldn't help myself recently when reports started to float in of a Plegadis Ibis hanging around a wetland area less than 50 miles from here. I know the location, but had only driven past it on my way to someplace else. So, bringing along my non-birding husband with the lure of a couple geocaches to be had along the way, we set off a couple of weekends ago, into the brisk and unseasonable fall weather.

As we approached the site, I spotted the bird at once. It was somewhat distant, and continued to be maddeningly non-distinctive. Most bets were that it was an immature White-Faced Ibis, and though my photos are "mood shots" only, by studying a blow up in Photoshop, it did appear to have the reddish eye tint that suggests this bird over the Glossy Ibis. Cool! A new life bird, and one that is vagrant!

But....but....but.....

There was a lot of activity in this little area. A pair of Wilson's Snipes were working an area in plain view the whole time. Usually they take seriously the old saw, "Heard and not seen," but today was an exception. Not a new bird for me, but a much better view than I've ever had before now.

But...but...but.....

Look at all the Lesser Yellowlegs here! They worked the pond ever closer to where I crouched in the brush, allowing many nice photos. And further back....a lone Greater Yellowlegs. New life bird for me! This was almost too intoxicating to handle, two new birds in less than an hour, at a distance less than an hour from home.

But...but....but.....

Along came a family of birders I know from our birding club, and as we watched through their scope, they picked out some Green-Winged Teal. A common enough bird, but one that had escaped my notice until today. Three new life birds? This was almost too much!

But...but...but....

As we watched a flock of gulls, one stood out, with a little black "earring" behind its eye. I remember noticing a gull flying with hardly any black on the wing, and thinking, "there's a gull with hardly any black on the wing," but the excitement of all these life birds was just too much a distraction at the time. We tried calling Dan Jackson, who didn't pick up, but confirmed later that yes, he had seen a Bonaparte's Gull hanging out here two days ago. FOUR new life birds?

As we finally headed off, greeting some birders from Illinois and Baraboo just arriving, I exulted in my great good luck. We found our two caches, so that made us happy, too. But...but...but....

Loading my photos onto the computer so that we could claim one of the caches, I started looking over the bird shots, only to discover that one of those Lesser Yellowlegs was actually....a Long-Billed Dowitcher! Racing from one bird id website to the next, I found several photos that looked like better quality versions of mine.

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Does size matter? Try telling the Long-Billed Dowitcher it doesn't!

That made FIVE, count them, FIVE new life birds in one afternoon. All in the same unremarkable pond I've passed on the highway many times. Stranger things have happened, but not to me, at least not in my birding life.

7 Comments:

  • OH WOW!
    What a day you had!
    WHOO HOO!
    Good for you!
    ~jane

    By Blogger Jane Swanson, at 8:54 PM  

  • You are such a talented writer!
    wow! Love the photos too!

    By Anonymous shirley, at 9:45 PM  

  • I can't help but echo the other comments -- WOW!!! Congratulations on seeing so many new birds in one day! I bet you're still grinning!

    By Blogger Amy, at 12:53 AM  

  • Sounds like a great day.

    By Anonymous Ural, at 8:59 AM  

  • what an awesome awesome day gwyn! :D

    By Blogger doris, at 12:49 PM  

  • What a wonderful birding day! Great photos but most of all I enjoy the delightful tale you have spun

    By Blogger Endment, at 6:13 AM  

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