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Jordan Lake in words

December 7, 2009

Yesterday morning I committed the cardinal sin of bird blogging, I left my camera at home.  I committed the cardinal sin of birding too, which is leaving your coffee (which was already made and ready to go) home as well.  The reason for this forgetful streak?  I’m sure fathers, new and old, can sympathize with the hurried birding trip tucked between baby’s first morning bottle and any responsibilities to the wife.  In my haste to fulfill my obligations to my family I completely neglected those to my blog and to my caffeine addiction.  You might make the argument that my priorities were ultimately in the right place, but I dunno, it was fresh ground so…

In any case, my subsequent run out to Jordan Lake in Chatham County went un-photo-documented, which means I’ll just have to dust off the old thesaurus and try to replace my typically blurry photos with equally blurry prose.  You’ve been warned.

Jordan Lake is a large reservoir south of Chapel Hill that has historically been a pretty good place to find unusual birds, or when they’re not forthcoming, the regular webbed foot brigade that are somewhat more difficult to find elsewhere.  For a quick fix, I headed out to Ebeneezer Church Recreation Area, a boat ramp-slash-public beach-slash-picnic area that has a broad view of the deepest part of the lake, where the best change for anything unusual and the most numbers of anything usual.  Bonaparte’s Gulls were in abundance, bounding over the surface of the lake like overeager Labrador pups and making the whole scene feel a little more like real winter birding in a place where rarities are actually possible.  It’s a feeling that really only the sight of flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls can convey to me, because take away the Bonies and you’re just looking at flocks and flocks of Double-crested Cormorants.  And not that there’s anything inherently wrong with DC Corms, it’s just that, to me, Bonies are a reminder of winter birding’s greatest possibilities and Corms are a reminder of fish guts.  But that’s just me, I can’t explain it.

In any case, it was almost as if the spirit of the Bonaparte’s Gulls was palpably in the air when I turned my scope into the north wind and, with trembling hands (not because of the Bonie spirit, but because I also forgot my gloves), focused the knob in a small dark bird just off a point on the other side of an inlet.  A bird which showed the steep forehead and dainty bill of an Eared Grebe, because it was, in fact, an Eared Grebe.

Eared Grebes are unusual in North Carolina, but seen annually across that state.  And actually this particular spot on Jordan Lake has been pretty good for them in recent years, it’s where I found the species two winters ago during my North Carolina Big Year.  Still, it’s a good bird to see even if there’s scarcely a serious Carolina birder that doesn’t have this bird on their state list, or even their county list.  No matter!  Given the short time frame I was working with and the symptoms from my inadvertent withdrawal from sweet mother java, it was a better bird than I had any right to expect.

But I can hear you clamoring, “What about this county list you’ve been working on, did you add to that?”.  Patience, dear reader.  Despite the rarest bird of the day not even being a new bird for the county, I did manage to turn up some additions to that list, in as much as I guess I never bothered to make a list until now because that’s the only reason I can explain why I simply hadn’t seen Ruby or Golden-crowned Kinglets in Chatham County yet.  Apparently the best way to add birds to your list is to not really pay attention to what you have or haven’t seen.  Then, when you finally do, everything is new!  It’s a cheap ploy, but brilliantly effective.

So all in all a pretty good day, with or without a camera.  But I hope I don’t forget it again.


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