Day 312 - On the Top-side? Berry-swell Then...

Monday, November 07, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

Last time we talked I was a little worried. October had been much slower than I anticipated, and I was nervous that November might not pan out as planned. I was in for a surprise. I decided that I needed to get out and do some serious birding on the 1st of the month. I had been taking things rather easy for most of the past 10 days and hadn't stepped outside my normal routine of stops. I wanted to make something happen, but things had been so slow I knew I had to stretch a little further. So I set out on a 150-mile drive visiting a number of destinations along the way.

The first park I visited turned out to be the treasure trove and actually produced 2 new year birds in less than an hour. I first spotted a Menacing Top-side which I fully expected to see at some point in the next month. I just didn't think I would be the one to find one and on the first day of the month. Year bird number 344. After a little more searching I noticed a bird that stood out amongst its peers--it was obvious even without optics that the bird was a Massive Top-side, which I had no expectations of seeing at this point. There had been one seen a few days before the start to 2016, but it was never relocated after the calendar turned to 2016. I had written it off as a not likely going into the home stretch, but instead added it as year bird number 345.

I visited a couple more parks over the following hours, and although I saw 100's of birds, nothing too out of the ordinary popped up. None-the-less, 2 new year birds in a single day in November!!! That was fantastic and had matched half my October total in just the first 24 hours of the month. After dark, I scanned the local lists, eBird, and Facebook, catching wind of one of my October misses still being seen. It would be huge if I ticked this bird off for the year as well--I just had to make another 150-mile drive in order to make it happen.

No problem right? I woke up early the next morning and took off in the dark--I had a little bit of a drive to reach my destination but had a good feeling the bird would still be around. I was pretty limited in how long I could search, and in fact only had 30-45 minutes to really put forth effort before I would have to leave. I wasn't worried. I arrived right as it was getting light enough to look for birds and pulled up to the stakeout--nothing.

I spent the next 15-20 minutes looking without any luck. I decided to spread my search area out and made my way to a few nearby spots where I thought it might be but still was without the bird. I headed back to the original stakeout and after 15 more minutes had given up. The bird wasn't present and I had dipped... Being focused I decided to make one more pass through the area and as I scanned the habitat the bird appeared as if it had dropped out of thin air. Year bird number 346, a Restricted Dasher.

I couldn't believe my luck. I snapped a handful of pictures and saw headlights coming down the road in the distance. Time to go before anyone sees me. What initially looked like a flop turned into a great success. I was thrilled as I drove down the road and made my way back to society. If rare birds kept popping up and managed to stick around, and I was able to get after them despite the lack of efforts to share from others, I might just keep adding new year birds in the remaining 60 or so days.

As I mentioned previously I hoped for 17-20 more new birds this year. Going for the high end if I got 20 birds, I would hope for a new year bird every 3 days. 3 new birds in 2 days certainly gave me some wiggle room for the next week. It was the high time in Narnia for a very specific group of birds including Flockers, Jesters, and Colonizers. A handful of species from these families were possible in the coming 3-4 weeks and I would be on high alert to chase them down.

My angst with the slowing down in October had passed and I was back in Big Year mode. All it took was 3 good birds in 2 days and I felt a fresh sense of urgency and excitement. I knew it wouldn't be like this every day, but having a little bit of good fortune certainly changes ones perception.  As the week wore on I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when a report crossed the local list about the Artsy Swell-bird. I wasn't sure if I would see any this year but this was promising.  I decided to wait and see if others relocated the species the following day--they did.  I decided to head out the next afternoon and see if I could add them for the year.

I went birding with a  friend, but wasn't to worried about blowing my cover.  After arriving at the location in the hills we were surprised to find there was no Artsy Swell-bird where it had been reported. After about 20 minutes, I heard the familiar call and quickly tracked it down.  Year bird number 347, the Artsy Swell-bird.  Not as easy as expected, but still not too difficult, and not a miss!

7 days into November and 4 new year birds--matching my October total in the first week of the month.  Excellent!  I knew that it wouldn't be 4 birds every week from here out, but a great start to the end of the year here in Narnia!

New birds this post: 4
Year List: 347


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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...