Sunday, November 18, 2007

Purposeful Birding

Birding is an adventure. I walk around and see what I can see. If a more experienced birder is along, I get to see more birds that I would otherwise have missed. When you go out looking for a particular kind of bird, however, you may be in for a disappointment.

Birding Rule #23 - the birds haven't read the schedule of when they are supposed to be at a particular location.

Last Saturday we drove to Brownstown, IN, to look for Sandhill Cranes in the fields along the river bottom. In other years, thousands of Cranes stopped here on their way south. This year has been very dry, though, and there was not ONE Crane to be seen anywhere. We saw a few Snow Geese, and a Snipe (which I always thought was a lie to tell a tenderfoot outdoors), some Kingfish, and lots of Killdeer. The Pine Siskin moved around too fast for me to actually spot. The harvested fields were full of Meadow Larks, and we found several Red Tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers. The male Harrier perched on a fence post far away, and even the experts weren't sure what it was. One other person saw him wearing white Cleopatra makeup around his eyes - a new field mark that I didn't know before. The white rump doesn't show when they aren't flying. The afternoon was pleasant, the sunset was breathtaking, and I enjoy meeting other birders with the Beckham Bird Club, so I consider the day successful even though we saw no Cranes. The birds that just pop up unexpectedly are the most rewarding to me. Yesterday it was windy along the river at the Falls, so I took a birding walk in another location. There are a couple of small beaver dams along this creek, and I was hoping to see some ducks on them. Sorry, no ducks, but I did see an industrious little Downey Woodpecker. When I got home and sorted through the pictures on my camera, I noticed a mass exodus of small birds in the backyard, followed by a Cooper's Hawk landing right outside the window. Finding no lunch, he flew into a nearby pine tree, preened a bit, then took off for another yard. See, this is what I mean. I get more excited about a bird that I see because I was at the right place at the right time, than one that everyone is looking for. This is the adventure. And by the way, while driving along the Interstate yesterday afternoon, I saw a V of large birds with long necks and long legs--the elusive Sandhill Cranes came to me, but it's hard to track them when driving 65 mph in the opposite direction. Adventure comes unexpectedly!

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