Northern Wheatears rarely visit the metro area. They breed in the high Arctic, Alaska and Greenland. (This bird is of the Greenland race, see how buffy it is.) I missed a Wheatear last fall at Garret Mountain and by the time I was able to get to the Connecticut bird; it had moved on. So when I read that there was a juvenile bird at DeKorte Park at the Meadowlands, I cleared my calendar and asked my boss for a personal day. (Although she is not a birder, she is understands the life bird thing.)
It was raining when I got up this morning and there was no report that the bird was around. But by lunch time the reports started to dribble through just as the sun started to peek through the clouds; so I dashed off to chase the bird. When I arrived at DeKorte Park there were, surprisingly, not a lot of birders. And those that were there had long faces. The bird had been there had not been seen for an hour. While I walked the Transco Trail peering at rocks and trailside sumac, I chatted with folks (You know how I am.) I met BA, one of my fellow hawk counters. She is the one who I spied waving madly from the far end of trail. As I hustled toward her, I found my friends Diane and Suzanne were also hot on the chase. The bird was flitting (and doing a Phoebe-like tail pumping thing) along the rocky edge down a small bank. I watched it for almost an hour. It is beautiful – so subtlety colored. North American life bird 620, I think. I’ll have to go look.
If you go, it is on the right-hand side between the 2 orange hoses. It is about the size of a robin and prefers the rocks.
After dipping on the Barnacle Goose yesterday, I really wanted to get the Ross’s today, especially since it is so close by. I called my birding bud this morning at the crack of dawn (well it was really more like 8:30, which is still pretty early for a Sunday.) to see if she wanted to come along and got a reluctant Yes. It would be a lifer for both of us.
We arrived at the pond to see 2 young men getting back in their car with long faces. I rolled down my window to ask the all-important question. Did you see the goose? They both broke out into big grins and came walking over. Yes, indeed, they had. It was with a small flock of Canada Geese.
It was one of those rare occasions where you go to where the bird is and get out of the car and Voila! There it is. And I mean right there. No scope required. Nice. I love when that happens.
All kinds of things turn up in wintering flocks of Canada Geese. It pays to scope them out and read the local ListServ.
There is chasing, and then there is chasing, and then there is the possibly getting a lifebird a few blocks from my house. I got an email from the Director of Weis Ecology Center that she had a female RED Crossbill at her feeder. Red? Since she only lives around the lake from me, walking distance really, I threw on my coat, grabbed my camera and drove over. (I didn’t realize it was walking distance when I drove, OK?) When I approached the house, I could see activity on her back deck and after a few minutes of scanning the trees, her deck and her neighbor’s deck; I spotted a drab bird with a funky bill. I could only see the bird’s head popping above the deck railing. She flew, I smiled, Score! and settled in for a long wait at the end of her driveway. I wanted to see her again. But I never did.
Karla came out and invited me onto her deck and then we all went next door to her neighbor’s house and watched and waited from the comfort of their kitchen. The Crossbill was consorting with a flock of House Finches and a lone Pine Siskin. We watched hoardes of Finches come and go, eagerly scanning any and all birds high in the trees. But, to no avail. I am hopeful she is still around. I ended up spending a lovely day with Karla and her husband, met her charming neighbors, and watched and chatted about birds. My kind of Saturday.
Having things to do, a pie to bake and not wanting to wear out my welcome (as my mother would say), I left for home as the light lengthened and turned golden. When I got home, my own little flock of feathered neighbors were congregated in the forsythia next to the garage, (I swear they associate the sound of the garage door opening with food, like Pavlov’s dogs.) I filled my hand with black-oil sunflower seeds and stood stock-still as the bravest of the Chickadees landed on my outstretched fingers, selected a seed then flew to a sturdy branch to peck it open. I love that.