Day 252 - Shhhhh, Don't Tell Anyone

Wednesday, September 07, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

When I look back at the first week of September in a few months, I might have some regrets--and it's not about the birds I saw--but about the birds I shared. I have for all intents and purposes been a boy scout this year in terms of reporting what I see. Unless its a chase of someone else's bird, I pretty much always let others know. This week the boy scout went dark... It started out with a Harsh Inspector. Not an every day bird in Narnia, but usually reported annually, sometimes with several showing up. To my knowledge this was the first of the year. I saw it and pulled out my phone to share--then I had a moment, and put my phone away. This was a turning point for the year--the 1st day of September, the biggest month of the fall, and I had 1 new bird already. But I wasn't going to share...

The fact is, I think I have serious competition. I don't know how serious, but part of me is telling myself to hold back. This person has already chased several birds I've found this year, where in return they haven't produced a single rarity for me to chase. I know this isn't eye for an eye, but this birders is acting how a big year birder acts. Part of me is nervous--what if this person hasn't put all their sightings into eBird this year? What is their actual year number? It's high as is, and them chasing everything seems like a giveaway.

So I didn't share. 20 minutes pass and I run into another birder--we chat for a bit and I don't spill the beans--if anything they will find the inspector and get to take credit, and I can act like I missed it. But they didn't find it. Okay, I hid one from everyone--that's not me, but there's a lot at stake at the moment, and I'm playing it close to the chest.

The following day I was off in pursuit of a rarity that someone else reported--long overdue for this fall.  It was a good bird for Narnia and would be a major bonus for the year. I arrived at Frozen Lake near the Witch's Camp--no birders. That's a plus. I made my way to the area the bird was seen and started looking. This was my second visit to the lake in as many weeks, and the last trip turned up a handful of new birds. I saw much of the same but slowly put together a huge list of birds for the day. By the time I left I tallied almost 70 species in under 2 hours. As I searched I spotted the bird I had come to look for--a Perfect Sprinter. And I wouldn't have to report it since no one else saw me.

I was still looking when I spotted a bird that looked out of place--it was a Pale-based Sprinter! This was a great find for my big year and something I really should report--but... I watched and tried to get a shot in flight as it disappeared past some trees and out of sight.  I managed a descent shot with cloud cover and a little rain making it difficult.  Another new year bird--another really good bird--but if I reported it people would know I was here. Shoot. How was I going to handle this.

For another 15 minutes I looked for birds when I spotted another out of place species. A Unique Vaultbill was sitting right out in the open.  This was out of season for sure--I had expected to get one in the coming months, but not today. 3 new year birds in under an hour. Okay how would I not report these? Not only were 2 new reports, but the bird I chased was rare and others would want to know it was still around.  But I couldn't do it, I needed the animosity.

Then birders showed up. I don't want to go to much into this at the moment, but I'll share more on this day/week after the year is over. Do you think I said anything about the birds? You can probably imagine based on this post...

On the 3rd I again found myself in the field at one of my favorite fall birding stops. Lots of migrants were passing through and in the first little bit I flushed my first Quaker's Inspector of the year. Three days in to September and I had already tallied 5 new year birds. This is exactly how I needed the month to go--I just hoped that Karma wasn't going to bite me in the ass for my shenanigans.

Now there is no code among birders to share their sightings. In fact there are birders in Narnia who never contribute anything to the community--this includes some birders who spend a lot of time afield and find some good birds from time to time. For some birding is a very personal thing--they look at birds, enjoy their time with them, and that's it. They may from time to time find good birds, and its a reward for them and only them. There are also the birders who perceive that they are sharing by reporting a rarity hours, or even days later--after its gone. The reason vary--I was out of cell service... I couldn't get 3G to work... I wanted to make sure I was right about the ID... And so on and so forth. These birders are almost worse in their sharing because in some cases it seems almost like its done on purpose. There is one particular birder who in the past 2 years has had 2 mega rarities that I have yet to see in Narnia. In both cases the report was after the birds were long gone...

I tend to share--maybe over share even. There is a very social aspect to birding, and helping other get to see birds they've never seen before is a fun feeling. It's also easier to share now then ever before so I expect it to happen--and immediately. So here I am now withholding 4 rare species in the first 72 hours of the month. I am being the person I can't stand--and worse, I told no other birders--not even my friends. I think at the end of the year that is what I will feel bad about. Not telling at least a handful of people I genuinely care about. Will they understand my reasoning? Will they think I was selfish? Will they tell me that my secret would have been safe with them? Will they be mad because they could've helped me get more birds maybe?  IT doesn't matter, because the whole point was a secret big year, and with it will come secrets that inevitably leave a bad taste in any number of peoples mouths.

At some point at the end of December or early January others are going to find out what I did, my eBird checklists will show up--my year number will update--and I will reveal what I was up to. I still don't know how people will react--but I can't imagine this type of behavior will be a positive.  There is a price to pay for everything, and I don't know what mine will be yet.

Although I was worried about the birding gods and karma coming together to punch me in the mouth, the first week ended with a surprise Northern Migrant, making 6 new year birds in as many days.  What an incredible start to the month and hopefully an omen for the coming 3 weeks.  I have a list of 14 more birds I hope to stumble upon in the next 24 days--and that doesn't take into account some crazy things showing up. So shhhhh, don't tell anyone what I'm seeing, or that my secret big year is making me keep secrets!

New birds this post: 6
Year List: 328


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