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