Two more for Durham County
Durham County, North Carolina, despite not being my home county, is my best county by a fairly wide margin. The combination of lots of time spent birding while I worked in Durham along with a large reservoir that attracts both waterfowl and shorebirds have conspired to raise my county list in this municipality higher than all others in which I’ve slung binoculars. I’m at nearly 200 species for the county, which is a pretty decent count for an inland site, and have been creeping towards the double century mark for much of the last year. I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but it’s definitely a milestone I’m interested in putting in my rear view mirror.
In the last couple days, two birds were reported in various parts of Durham County that would be new birds. The opportunity to rack a couple up in short order was too good to deny. After dropping my son off at school I headed out to the Hickory Hills boat ramp of Falls Lake to hopefully have a look at a Surf Scoter.
I was all by myself as I pulled the old scope out of the car and began casing the wide open part of the lake. I had no luck at all when a second car pulled up and a haggard looking couple sloughed out. I couldn’t imagine what they were doing there. The women walked down to the edge of the water on the opposite side of the ramps to have a smoke. The man ambled over to me and engaged me in the classic non-birder conversation all scope-watchers know too well. It began with, “what are you photographing?” and headed downhill.
There were no birds out on the open water. I began packing up and said my good byes to the odd gentleman when his lady friend pointed out a duck sitting way too close to the shore, thinking it was really funny. I glanced over to see n all dark duck swimming along not more than 15 feet from the shore. You know how these stories go. It was my Surf Scoter.
One bird in hand, I headed down to Duke University’s “SWAMP”, a managed wetland just off the campus, where an American Bittern had been hanging out for the better part of a week. Seeing the full-frame, grip-inducing, photos friends and fellow county listers had been coming away with while I was in Virginia was almost too much to bear, but thankfully it had stuck. I had tried for this bird Sunday afternoon with no luck, however, despite reports throughout the day. Apparently it had slipped away while I was there in that way that bitterns are known to do. I returned Monday with a mission and was promptly rewarded with the bird not more than 10 feet off the trail, practically in my face. Good stuff.
The scoter and the bittern were numbers 196 and 197, respectively, for Durham County. 200 would appear to be just around the corner.