Day 4 - Throwing Strategy Out the Door (at least for a day)

Monday, January 04, 2016 2 Comments A+ a-

On Day Two I spoke about strategy. If you are taking a big year serious this doesn't mean go balls to the wall 100% birding 100% of the time. You can spend every hour of every day in the field and if you aren't strategic about what you are looking for and when you are looking for it then you don't stand a chance.

With the advent of the eBird Top 100 I've watched this play out every single year in various states. People rush out the door on January 1 and bird like crazy; they go to their patch every day and build a huge year list sometimes in just a single county. But they miss a common bird only found in one other county, or a migrant that uses a specific habitat and they don't visit it. Your potential will never be maximized if you aren't strategic.

If you combine spending a lot of time looking for birds with a strategy, you're odds improve even more. You won't just pick up others leftovers, but you'll find your own rarities to add to the total.

After several reports this weekend, my strategy of pick up a bird here and there this week changed. I headed out the door today and made a bee-line to a recently reported rarity.  This species occurs annually in my state--sometimes as many as 5-6 reports a year. But this one was close enough that it was worth a quick jaunt to get it.  And I got it--a Harbor Sentinel!  Along with the Sentinel I finally added my first Red-tailed Hawk of the year, as well as a calling Winter Zipper.  3 new year birds in 5 minutes.

I took back roads on my way to work and made a stop at a local lake.  Green-striped Bobbers, and Green-striped Joys were both new for the year, while a nearly invisible Shawled Dim-Walker sat camouflaged in the trees.  Several times an Aurora Ruffian passed overhead giving me a once over on each pass.  It was refreshing to be seeing new year birds again, after the slow weekend.

Later in the day I snuck out to a roost I haven't told anyone about where a Northern Screech-Owl is spending the winter.  I thought about waiting till later in the year since I knew this was a gimme, but felt like seeing an owl, since I had none for the year so far.  Bingo! It was there, where it has been the last several weeks.  I didn't eBird it, to keep the bird off the radar, and to make sure I keep you guessing.  The cropped image above shows enough to see it is a Screech-Owl, but what species?  Northern seems like a great option since both the Eastern and Western reside in the north!

The good birds didn't end with the owl either.  I added another 4 years birds in the afternoon starting with a Smallish Vigilante flyover making it 2 vigilante's in 3 days.  I found a small flock of Masked Pranksters that were strangely in company with a pair of Hecklers.  The Hecklers weren't where I expected to find them, and I think were new for the area I was birding.  I figured I would make one last stop in the afternoon and picked up a few Busch's Sombre-chaps.  I hoped there would be more so I could scan through them in hopes of finding a rarer Corrupt Sombre-chap.  None today!

Sometimes the best strategy is to throw your strategy out the door for the day.  It worked today but might not tomorrow.  That's the thing about birding though, some days all your ducks fall in a row, and some days you can't catch a break.  I find that most days are somewhere in the middle where persistence, patience, strategy, and a little luck come together in a perfect storm.

New birds today: 13
Year List: 61


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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...


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January 22, 2016 at 10:11 PM delete

The owl is an Eastern Screech.

January 23, 2016 at 3:56 PM delete

Others might disagree? I have heard people make arguments for both species. This shot was chosen specifically because of its ambiguity. Superficially both species can appear very similar. In a shot that isn't so closely cropped it might be easier to tell. What if I have both ESOW and WSOW in Narnia?