Sunday, March 13, 2011

Never mind the Waxwings. Here's the Red-wings.

Ok. That's a bullshit title. I just did it because of a great punk album. I spent Saturday not birding at all but hanging with the family. I had so much fun, I almost forgot I was doing a Big Year. My Aunt Pat even came over to sit with the twins so Rachel and I could go out for dinner and a movie. We ate at a cool spot in Peterborough (just 20 min. north of Orono). It was a French Quarter New Orleans place. Good ribs, good beer. Then, we walked to the theatre and watched The Adjustment Bureau. Good movie. I really liked the idea behind it. Maybe you need to feel like you're losing something to make you fight to have it. And there was an amazing lack of CGI. The effect used was so simple, very nicely done.

But, this blog isn't about food or movies, its birds this is all about. Sure enough, my iPhone dings on our way out of the theatre. It was Margaret Bain. Her note explained she had a line on some Bohemian Waxwings (BOWA). Just what I needed to hear. I had planned to go birding Sunday morning but the only real lead I had was on some Ross' Geese that were seen a few days earlier. I decided to take the shorter trip and find the BOWAs that Margaret said were nearby. The Ross' Geese were not reported for a couple days and it was a way further drive to them. Losing an hour last night didn't make it any easier to get rolling this morning. Listening to The Jesus Lizard's Gladiator helped.

I arrived at the house where the BOWAs were seen the day before. They weren't in the tree out front. Though I had permission to go around the back and look, it always feels strange. Wandering into a person's back yard. A person you have never met. A person who's not even home. But who's husband is home, sleeping off a long night shift while some Mohawked stranger wanders about the yard, peeking into every corner looking for a bird. I did hear them. The birds that is. The BOWAs I so desperately wanted even just a glimpse of. I got sort of excited. I had searched for these many times before. Uselessly searched, that is. I have never, in all my life, seen a BOWA. I stumbled around, looking quite stupid I'm sure, in the deep snow in the back yard. Then the calls stopped. A small flock of birds darted out from two properties away. Much to my dismay, they went in the opposite direction. My heart sank. I think that was them but I never got a good enough look. They could have been Starlings for all I knew.

I got in my truck and drove around the concessions a bit looking for them. No luck. I stopped at one area that was just nice to look at. There was a stream bursting at the seams. The water rushing like mad under the culvert in the road. I turned off the truck. I sat, quietly listening to the rushing water. I started to daydream about fishing, my other outdoor activity, and how in just about 60 days, I could hit the stream near Orono and bring home a nice Brown Trout for dinner. Fry it in butter with some fresh herbs from my own garden. That sounded nice. Then the quiet dream was interrupted by a sound. Not the most beautiful of sounds, as far as bird songs are concerned. But It was sublime. I looked up in a tree and saw, at very close range (not unusual for this bird) a Red-Winged Blackbird. Looking pretty dashing with his deep velvety black feathers, and those super-red shoulder patches, lined with pale yellow. He was a sight to behold. A common sight (for half the year), but pretty amazing all the same. I listened to him for a while, knowing Spring was here, and then slowly drove on. I went back to the house and wandered the yard one last time. No Waxwings, but I did see a pair of Common Grackles in the tree where the Waxwings were just 24 hours ago. I didn't get my target but got two new species anyway. Not a terrible 2 hour trip. Though I can't wait for those Spring days when you get 12 warbler species in two hours. You know the days, going home with a day list of 50-70. C'mon Spring.

Red-Winged Blackbird by kevincole

Common Grackle by qmnonic

March 13th, 2011 day list
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year

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