Monday, January 30, 2012

Trying to Fill in Some Holes in the Afternoon

In this golden age of birding, ones purview has been greatly expanded by information technology facilitating the advent of the ‘power-birder’. Time permitting, I am trying to see as much of the goodies as possible this year, and hoping to find a few on my own too.

This past Saturday’s agenda was to start by trying  for the Eared Grebe and Eurasian Wigeon at Jamaica Bay. A beautiful fall day in the midst of winter, unseasonably warm weather was again a pleasure to be out and enjoying.

I began at West 10th in Broad Channel, and spied the usual suspects of gulls, Brant, Horned Grebe, and Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser. Of course the Bufflehead and scuap were nice to see up close and personal. After and hour or so a boater came motoring through the mass of assembled birds, put them up to the far side, and then swung around to leave, going thru them a second time. This made them fly over closer towards Jamaica Bay.

When they seemed to settle in to far to see well even by scope, I headed over to the refuge. Unfortunately, by this time the wind had picked up something awful, and looking south was untenable. The west pond was full of Ruddy Duck, but nothing exceptional. I then decided to head over to the east pond and get out of the wind chill.

The land birds here as by the west side were silent. Looking out I gained Snow Geese! Scaup and lots more Ruddy, but nothing more of note. By this time it was getting near 4, and I headed to the Alley Pond Restoration for another attempt at Wilson’s Snipe. This bird inhabits this location so my frustration is well justified for not finding them on most visits in the recent past.

Setting up at the north end, I scanned the Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, and Pied-billed Grebe. I then examined the sand spit at the south end, and trained my scope on the shore adjacent to it. And there it was! Finally, I found a Snipe after missing it so many times. As Eric Miller had suggested to me on a number of occasions, it was best to use a scope. That advice paid off.

So it may sound like I just acquired a scope... No, have had one for a long time, but mostly I had been lazy. In my defense, it can be a bit much carrying camera, binos, and a scope. That is until I started using a trick I noticed that Corey Finger uses. He angled the aiming bar down [ is that what it’s called? ] locks the up/down pan of the scope, and then hooks the bar over his shoulder such that he can walk with the scope and ~both~ hands free.

I tried this myself, and found that it works great as long as I don’t walk too far as the pan mechanism eventually slips a bit. Tightening the knob helps, but I got tired of twisting it so tight and then having to undo it when needed. Instead, I fashioned a small hook to hold the aiming arm in position, and this allows rapid set and release.

This hooked over the shoulder is more comfortable for me than on the shoulder, and does not need a hand to hold it in place. I can also keep it there while reaching for and or using my camera or binos.

Just like Thursday where Eric seemed to arrive synchronously, this time it was Mike Feder. He came over and inquired about the Snipe, a bird he was also in search of, and I had the pleasure of saying: “look through the scope”. So both he and I have satisfied one of our year list goals.

Shortly thereafter, some of the folks who had just returned from the day’s pelagic also showed up and they stepped up to get their view as well. We then all birded down the path hoping to scare some things up, but it was quiet. With light fading and dinner calling, further birding would have to wait til the morrow.

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