Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How to Turn Blah, Blah, Blah Into Oooo! Lala!!

For many birders, this time of year is rather blah. Not a lot of birds around, and those that are around are 'seagulls' and ‘LBJ’s ( little brown jobs). Where are the colorful Warblers?  In South America where many of us wish we could be as well.

For those afflicted, er... addicted, er...  passionate about birding, this is a great time of year. Sure the birds aren’t as colorful or plentiful, but the former is dispelled by the obliging Painted Bunting in Prospect Park, while the later, well what’s wrong with working a bit harder some times? 

Mostly, its the vagrants. At this time of the year the unexpected is expected, so what is lacking in quantity is made up in quality. AKA 'something good.'

As the year is drawing to a close, I as well as others trying for a big year (as many species as we can see within this year), are hoping that something good shows up, and that we will be able to get to it within our time and responsibility constraints.

The good news was that as if by magic a slew of 'good' birds got reported. A Pacific Loon, upstate, then a Ross' Goose out on the island, yet another Kittiwake report from out on the island, and then a very special surprise.

I am still waiting on details about the Pacific Loon. It is so far away that I want it to establish some site fidelity before going after it. Closer to home, a learned that a Rufous Hummingbird was coming to the feeders at a private residence, and better still, I had been invited. Trouble is, the home owner did not want the bird publicized. More accurately, he could not have the bird publicized. Seems he has an overpopulation of asshole neighbors.

Well, I rounded up a posse and we met to go and see “Lala” as the hummer was being called. Why? Because it is supposed that the hummer hailed from California, AKA lala land. We took up station waiting for the bird to appear while exchanging greetings. And then I spotted the bird perched on a twig. 

Rufous Hummingbird

At first the hummer was shy, but soon it grew tolerant of our presence and feed on the Salvia and the feeder. Yes! YB 325 for me and John Gaggle-o-geese, and lifer for Arlene Rails, Phil Jabiru, and Pelican. A great start to a unseasonably mild day. All of us remarked how great it was to get such great looks at this bird that was far off our radar.

And then it got better! An email came through that Dovekies had been found at Mattituck. And that was nearby! We raced over there and set up scopes.  We did our due diligence searching; I spotted some likely candidates on the far side of the far jetty. The birds in question gave fleeting views between waves and diving frequently, but eventually they rested on the surface affording good looks.

Of course we all wanted the birds to be Dovekies as reported. Certainly, it would have been a year bird for me and a lifer for some, but the birds we were watching were clearly Razorbills. Two Dovekies were reported, but we spotted two Razorbills. You may draw your own conclusions.

Certainly Razorbills are nothing to sneeze at, and we enjoyed our looks but there were other birds we wanted to chase. Our next stop was admittedly a longshot, but what they hey.  Kittiwake at Agawan pond was a bust as soon as we arrived - there was a distinct paucity of gulls of any sort.

When we exhausted this location, we headed back to Eastport to try for the Ross’ Goose. After the report from the morning that the bird was present, another shortly thereafter said it had flown out. Now that it was about 2pm, we were hoping it had returned. Nope.

Okay, so after a brilliant start, the day was in gradual and then serious decline.  But just when we thought all was lost, came the email alerting us to none other than a Tufted Duck at Capri Lake, practically in my back yard. I alerted Phil who had bailed earlier, and he met us there.

Though spending some time looking before we arrived, Phil was flummoxed by the duck’s plumage. It was not in the sharp black and white, but the less common rich brown. Some searching and the bird was spotted at the back edge. Yes! YB 326 for me and another lifer for Arlene.  Ahhh. Another great day out birding.

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