Day 12 - Go Big or Go Home

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 13 Comments A+ a-

I had an itch last night.  It was brought on by a post on a local bird list about a vagrant that was seemingly being harassed.  I had not gone to see said vagrant yet, not because I thought there would be another one later (which is certainly possible), but because the bird had been long staying.  And unless an act of nature prematurely ended its winter visit, it will likely continue through February and potentially into March.  But I know a lot of birders have gone and seen said bird, and with a holiday weekend looming, I decided to take action and make sure I got it before it was too late.

 These Shovelers were not the quarry today...

Birding ethics are something that I take very seriously.  Every birder at some time or another makes a poor decision that isn't in the best interest of the birds we enjoy.  But some birders behavior is so atrocious, it makes other birders not want to share their sightings or take part in the shenanigans.  Even me chasing this bird was likely putting undue stress on a an out of range bird.  The circus that sometimes surrounds vagrants has turned birders against photographers, and even worse one another.  With a shared interest in birds, it's surprising that not all birders think of birds and their well being in the same manor.  One of my pillars for ethical birding is taking pride in not harassing the birds I watch.  Whether with overuse of tape; pressure with photography; or getting too close--every birder has a choice in their interactions.  And those interactions leave a lasting impression on other birders.

Now that I've gotten my soap box stored for the week, let's talk birds.  I was out the door in the dark this morning for a bit of a drive, which went smoothly.  I was visiting a state park and after waltzing through the entry station I was focused.  It wasn't long before a glorious American Patriot soared overhead.  I admired it as it sailed past and lit on pile of rocks in the distance. The first of a handful of new year birds on this impromptu outing.

I spent the next 20 minutes waiting for the sun to break the horizon as twilight slowly gave way.  I snuck to a roost I've had luck with in previous years and sure enough found a pair of Pale Thief's hiding out of the public view.  Soon enough the sun was up, things warmed ever so slightly, and I was on foot hiking through the forest in search of my quarry.  Stunning Pessimists seemed to be flushing from every brush pile; new year birds and always a joy to see. I continued, checking several places where the cagrant had been reported but wasn't having much luck.

Eventually I wandered to an area that is particularly birdy most of the year and pished.  I looked up and the Fantastic Skulker glided by landing out of sight.  Success! This was the target bird--the vagrant I was looking for.  I slowly backed up and around the tangle where the bird was and spotted it sitting mid-canopy. I raised my camera to get a shot for the year but it quickly fluttered away.  I walked back to where I originally saw the bird and stood waiting.  It was only 2 or 3 minutes when out of the tangle the skulker glided in to the trees right above me.  I snapped a few obscured pictures, but still captured the reason its called Fantastic!

I was relieved, and wanted to leave the bird in peace, so I slowly headed away from the area.  I only made it about 100' when I froze at the sight of an animal I had never seen in my dozens of years on this planet. I was shocked--it was a creature of exquisite beauty and I struggled to get my camera up and focused.  It was almost like a mythical creature.  I know they exist (not just in Narnia) but had never before seen a Bamboozler... Sorry I can't tell you what it is, or show you the photos.  I want to share these ones badly as it was an amazing animal.  But it isn't found in probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the lower 48.  That would rule out a lot of territory and it's too early for that. Needless to say I enjoyed the show, and if you follow along through the end of the year, I will share tons of photos in early 2017 while I recap my year and tell the stories behind the stories I'm 1/2 telling now.

After the mythical beast disappeared I hurried back to my car for the drive back to society.  I still had targets to look for and scanned the road edges as I drove.  I came around a bend and in a distant tree I spotted a familiar shape. I raised my glasses and found a Menacing Cleaver perched surveying its surroundings. Another new year bird.  I had to cross a bridge before leaving and stopped to look at what was below.  A Bulky Cruiser accompanied a variety of yolk-sacs, and green-rumps. The cruiser was a nice find for the day--I expected to add one this weekend, but now it was a done deal.

I wasn't done yet.  I headed back to civilization and took off through some neighborhoods till I eventually found a Murdering Boaster in someones yard.  This species frequents the area and I knew it would be an easy pick up.  I still had a bit of a drive through the city and as I neared home I took a side trip. I was close enough to a couple ponds that I could check for anything random.  I had marauders on my mind but the first pond was void of anything out of the ordinary.  My second stop yielded just one Common Marauder; my 8th and final new bird for the day.  I checked a nearby lake as I wandered the last few miles but the only marauders were way to far off to get a good look at.

The morning was over.  I had traveled about 150 miles and killed 4 hours.  More importantly I picked up 2 good year birds that I don't have to worry about going forward.  Some days on a Big Year you have to throw caution to the wind and go big or go home.  Today I went big and it paid off.  Next time, I might strike out!

New birds today: 8
Year List: 84

FOLLOW ALONG:

Next Day

Previous Day

I'm on a mission to see as many birds as I can in 2016... within the borders of my home state. The only catch is I'm not telling anyone that I'm doing a Big Year...

13 comments

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Anonymous
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January 13, 2016 at 5:42 PM delete

If someone managed to guess the identity of one of the 'code-named' birds, would you tell them? I believe I know what a 'Murdering Boaster' is.

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January 13, 2016 at 10:11 PM delete

For that one--absolutely! There are some where I might be more coy, but I would admit which species the Murdering Boaster was if you guessed!

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Anonymous
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January 13, 2016 at 10:39 PM delete

Well I thought it was Fish Crow, but since you're so willing to tell me what it is, I'm guessing that's not the case. Is it American Crow? If it is then why didn't you just post the real name?
(I think it's a crow because a group of them is called a murder, and crow is a synonym for boast)
Common Maurauder is some kind of gull I think, Herring perhaps? (I know you didn't say you would reveal that one, but I just thought of it)

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Anonymous
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January 13, 2016 at 10:41 PM delete

Oh dear, I believe I just figured out your time zone. Well that narrows it down a bit (it's 11:39 here, but it says the comment was published at 10:39).

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January 14, 2016 at 4:13 PM delete

Bamboozler. I am going to post my guess to that one here just for posterity's sake, so I am not looking for confirmation/rejection of my guess. I quickly came up with a short list in my head when you provided the clues, but in the end, I think you saw a mountain lion (Puma concolor). Their range would be about right to fall somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of the lower 48. They are a mythical creature, rarely encountered, even for folks that spend a lot of time outdoors. The name you chose is throwing me off a bit. An animal that gets called a Bamboozler would need to be a trickster or a cheater? Based on name alone I would have guessed a fox like a gray fox (though their range is more like 3/4 of the lower 48) or maybe a kit fox (1/3 of the lower 48), but if you spend as much time out birding as you seem to do, I have to believe you have seen both of these species before. Though for as much time afield as I have spent, I have never managed to see a badger, so I suppose anything is possible. You also reference Narnia, and the main animal character in Narnia is the lion named Aslan, though an African lion, a lion nonetheless. If that is true, I would say you are more likely in the West, because if you saw Puma concolor coryi (Florida panther) you may not have made the Narnia reference in the first place because most people just call them panthers. But maybe its just you that is the Bamboozler in this case? Throwing us off the trail!?! Dah!!

Now I just have to wait to find out. And see the photos. For a year. >:(

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January 14, 2016 at 5:38 PM delete

American Crow it is! The Marauder however is not a Herring Gull :)

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January 14, 2016 at 5:39 PM delete

Ha ha, maybe? I set the timezone on blogger to central since it's the widest zone and right in the middle of the country. That doesn't mean I am not in the central time zone, but things aren't always as they seem :)

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January 14, 2016 at 5:42 PM delete

Geoffrey,

Whoa, you went deep there. That was an interesting set of conclusions, and I like the way you think. I will let you think about it for a while, before I confirm or deny some or all of your suggestions :)

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Anonymous
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January 14, 2016 at 6:32 PM delete

Oh, good. I didn't know that you could do that. I still think that you're in the northeast (and probably one of the smaller states, because I already have 91 in DE).

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Anonymous
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January 14, 2016 at 6:33 PM delete

Hooray! Why did you make up a name for a bird that eliminates exactly 0 states?

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Anonymous
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January 14, 2016 at 9:51 PM delete

Did you get the vagrant?

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Anonymous
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January 22, 2016 at 10:14 PM delete

Because you said 'Dozens of years on this planet', you are at least 24 years old.

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January 23, 2016 at 3:56 PM delete

I will confirm, I am older than 24 :)

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