Day 180 - Tick Tock Goes the Clock

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

Tick tock. Tick Tock. Tick tock. The clock approached noon on my secret big year. Every second, minute, hour, and day that passes, the pressure is on to fill in the missing pieces of the big year puzzle. My leg is shaking as I type this, in the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking about this damn year and how it is going. I'm happy with my progress and the year I have had will be great, even if it ends up falling short of a new record. So much focus on that record. At the end of the day it's just a number, but the whole point of this is to top it. And as the clock tick tocks, the finish line gets closer, and I feel the pressure. Tick tock. Tick Tock.

After the small success in the middle of last week, I still had holes that needed immediate attention. I took the weekend to work on pinning down a few. I had a list of just 7 possible species. 7. Think about that. 6 months ago I had a list of 400 some odd birds to choose from. As the year winds on that has narrowed. And every trip I take has an ever shrinking list of targets. Now, saying I had 7 targets is a stretch. Realistically, I had 3 birds to get. The other 4 were long shots They are rare at best, and accidental in some cases--perhaps under reported or detected? Still, this meant I had 3 birds I had to get.

The first bird I set out to find was a species of Cloak. In Narnia this cloak has been known to occur for some time. The extent of it being either a vagrant/accidental or a regular but restricted breeder remains unclear. Some recent evidence seems to point to the latter making it one of a handful of very difficult to get breeders. Narnia has a short list of suspected breeders with limited range. In recent years the number of reports has increased, and there seems to be one area where the bird has been seen repeatedly. However there have been no reports in 2016. I set off for a walk along the area the birds were known to occur, but despite several hours of searching I failed to turn up the cloak, or very many other birds for that matter. The cloak was not one of the 3 expected, so it wasn't a huge miss. Had I found one, it would have been a huge addition...

A few hours later near where I looked for the cloak I was walking and listening for a couple of birds that were starting to get active. A little help from some playback and in less than 15 minutes I had both. Two out of the three birds I needed were added. A Secretive Cougher and a Rookie Thinker were both odds and ends I should have seen by now. I resorted to using playback as a last resort, not knowing when I'd be in there habitat again, or if this would be my last shot at either. Neither are all that rare, but they tend to go undetected by most birders due to their secretive nature.

As the day came to an end it was time to look for one of several owls that are still missing from my year list. I've seen/heard all the common and expected, but have 2 species that are much more uncommon, limited in range, and needed for my year. It was so quiet when I stepped out of my car to start playing for the target this night. I played the tape and another species responded. I tried again a couple times an nothing. I moved on to another spot and ran through the same process. Again, another species called out from the woods, but not my target. It was late, and I had potentially waited to long to start trying. I should have started earlier. Although this species is not typically expected on a big year, I had planned on it for mine, so was quite disappointed.

The next morning I was out in search of anything new. My plan for the day was to bird my way to a nearby gorge where I could check for the last somewhat expected target. I had little hope for anything new where I started my day. It was late in the breeding season, migration is long over, and I'd already gotten every single species I could from the area in previous visits. So it was a complete surprise when a Benefiting Sentinel popped into view--this was my later in the day target bird. Surprise! Holy crap, I had my 3rd main target of the trip. This was good news. I actually worried that this may just go down as a miss this year--I knew there were a few around, but I thought I might be spending the better part of 2 days looking for one. What luck!

I made the decision to wrap up my birding for the day and head home. I had been on so many of these little outings this year, I felt it was worth calling it a weekend. I potentially could have tried again for 2-3 species that might be around. I'll never know if I would have got them, because I pulled the plug and opted to get out of the field and relax. So not a big year mentality, but some days you just have to hang up the binoculars and focus on the other important things in life. If it comes down to December 31, and I am 2-3 birds shy of a new record, I can point to this weekend as a reason why. Or any number of other outings I suppose.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The clock doesn't stop. At least for today though, I am happy with my 6 new year birds in the past 10 days. Perhaps I'll kick my feet up, enjoy a cold beer, and clear my mind of all this secret insanity...

New birds this post: 3
Year List: 307


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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...