Monthly Archives: January 2008

I have my work cut out for me.

Clements Checklist of Birds of the World

I keep lists in every field guide I carry, usually on the inside of the back cover spilling over onto the front if I am fortunate. I have a pocket-sized daily birding dairy that I carry and little bits of paper with birding notes are stuffed in odd corners of the desk. I also make notes on the entries themselves. I am on my 2nd copy of the Birder’s Life List & Diary from Cornell Lab. While this has been working for me for the domestic birds; the international ones are not accounted for anywhere. I have been relying on memory and that has proven less successful of late. My lists are floundering! Horrors, I even noticed that the Turkish birds are jumbled on my domestic list.

Enough! I decided this winter I would sit down with all of these random books and created a master list. I purchased the new edition of Clements. (I had no idea that it was a veritable tome.) I am barely into the Columbiformes. It is a slow go, but I am determined. I want all of these finished before I leave for South America.

How do you keep your lists?


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I and the Bird #67

Come On! Let’s go to Australia. Trevor is hosting I and the Bird #67. I love reading bird stories.  It’s armchair birding at it best.  Consider submitting something for the next edition of I and the Bird.

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Long Wait for the Hoary Redpoll


I was late. I knew it. I had procrastinated. I should have been there by 7 but it was closer to 10. It had taken me an hour to drive north, longer than I had expected. I rationalized that the bird was being seen as late as 10, so I would be fine. I pulled into a parking space beside another car. I looked over to see a man and a woman with their binoculars. Whew. Good. I was OK.

I raised my binoculars to look at the feeders. They were directly in front of the parking spaces; exactly where the email said they would be. There was lots of Goldfinch on the thistle feeders and Juncos on the ground, but no Redpolls that I could see. I scanned the trees on the rise beyond the feeding station. Hmmm, Chickadees, a Nuthatch, Sparrows: both House and White-throats, wait…there was also 1 immature White-Crowned Sparrow.
I looked at every tree, every branch of every tree, even to the twig level. Nothing. I started the search again: thistle feeders, bushes, platform feeder, some sort of cherry tree and back. Around and around.

I settled in for the wait. Scanning here, watching there, A cherry red Cardinal drew my eye to yet another feeder behind the house. I added that to my rounds.

I waited. And watched.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker made a brief appearnace to nosh on some of the cherries.

Another car pulled up beside mine and the man whipped out his bins. We were now 5 people intent on 3 thistle feeders. We waited an hour each in our own car. The original car started it engine, the man rolled down his window to say that they had seen the birds at 9:45. But they had been scared off and had not return.

They pulled away.

I waited.

The man on the other side of me pulled out too.

I waited.

The owner of the house came out to say they should be back at any time.

Another car pulled up and waited for awhile. Then they left.

I looked at my watch. At 11:30 I decided I would stay until Noon. My stomach growled.

On yet another round, from thistle feeder to tree, I saw a Redpoll backlit against the sky. I could just make out the red poll. I frantically searched for more. I was looking for a small flock of 3 or 4.

First one bird, then 4, materialized and dove from the tree to the feeders. Bingo. Redpolls. I carefully scrutinized each one. I was looking one for that was frostier than the others. Two of them were very dark. Three others were much lighter. I looked at each bird carefully. Then there, directly in front of me was a very white bird. It raised its head as it nibbled seed. I had an excellent view of its head, rump, undertail. White, white, white.

Wahoo. My first Hoary Redpoll.

I sat all alone in the parking lot. The 2-hour wait had paid off. The birds would scatter then return several times. When another car pulled up the birds flew off but did not return. I started my vehicle. My wait was over, let theirs begin.


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Winter Finch Invasion


I started to hear talk of a possible winter finch invasion sometime in the fall. There were notices published on the various ListServs about the dearth of food sources in the north woods. You could hear the muttering through the emails. Then the odd winter finch started showing up at feeders. There was a building excitement over random Purple Finches and Pine Siskins. Then reports started trickling in of Evening Grosbeak. Now, that is a beautiful bird and worth seeking out. But the holidays came putting a whammy on it.

So it was not until a few weeks ago that I was able to go with a friend to the Catskills to look for winter finches. We drove 2 hours with detailed directions and a local county map. It was a brittle, cold but sunny day with lots of snow cover. The wind was fierce every time we got out of the car.

I was hoping for a Hoary Redpoll, she for Pine Grosbeaks.

We crawled up and down the back roads peering at pines trees, commenting on the delicious looking pinecones and where, oh where, were the Crossbills?

We saw 100s of Common Redpolls, no Hoary. We missed the Evening Grosbeaks by 15 minutes. Disheartened we drove to the stand of crabapples where the Pine Grosbeaks were reported. When we pulled up, it looked like we had missed out again. But as we pulled beside the trees, dozens of Pine Grosbeaks were nibbling the crabapples. Then, something spooked them and they irrupted and flew off.

We decided to eat our lunch and wait. Shortly, the birds returned and we were able to get excellent looks at them. They are as ridiculously tame as the Birder’s Handbook says.

We ended the day at the Wallkill with great views of Short-Eared Owls.

I love winter birding. You never know what may show up. I am still on a look out for a Hoary Redpoll.


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