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Crabtree leaves me not crab-by, or something

November 8, 2010
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Terrible, just terrible….

Here was my plan for yesterday.  Cruise around some of the backroads of my home county in the hopes of picking up some waterfowl here and there to boost my home county list that I’m suddenly concerned about since Corey Finger gave me trouble about being 13 birds behind the eBird leader.  I have decided to concentrate more on that county since in bragging about my Durham County list in that same post I apparently woke a monster who has since left me rinsing the dust out of my hair in that county.  It’s going to take some serious work in Durham to pull even again.  It’s not like I’m not up for it, but the extent to which I was left behind was sort of shocking.  Note to self, be prepared to back up words with actions.  No laurel sitting!

In any case, that plan fell apart when eBird (whose notable sightings widget has been acting a little wonky lately, anyone else notice?  Maybe because I see both sides)  alerted me to a reported Surf Scoter in Wake County (a county, it should be noted, I have absolutely no chance of taking the eBird leader spot anytime soon).  Surf Scoter is not a rare bird in North Carolina, it’s practically guaranteed on the coast in the winter, but any scoter inland is pretty interesting and I do need all three for my triangle list so I decided to toss off the chance for Orange County riches and go off on a low scale twitch to Lake Crabtree County Park, a nice little reservoir just under the airport.

Long story short, the Surf Scoter, along with several other interesting birds reported the day before, had apparently vamoosed.  All that remained were a handful of Cormorants, a small raft of Ruddy Ducks and a single Lesser Scaup doing a poor enough Ruddy Duck impersonation to catch my eye.  Birds in the far range of my scope were deep in the heat haze such that the only species that I could pick out on the far shore was a single adult Bald Eagle picking away at something at it’s feet, hopefully not the Scoter I was hoping to find.

Occasionally birds are not the most interesting thing around, and I was soon joined in my lakeside survey by another birder, a French guy I’d met before and who has been an avid eBirder in his time here.  He’s been getting out a lot and seeing many good birds in the area, and it was nice to touch base. Besides, I had a couple outstanding eBird reports I wanted to bring up, not least of which was the suddenly mysteriously missing Surf Scoter.  All kidding aside, it was interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has a great deal of birding experience in Europe, but only a few months in North America.  He said that he felt like he was a new birder but with all the long-ingrained instincts of an experienced birder.

It’s definitely a paradox I’ve noticed in myself on the occasions I’ve had to bird in other countries.  The birder’s intuition is not something you lose wherever you go; you’re certainly able to predict where and when you might be able to find birds, you’re highly attuned to bird movements around you even if you don’t have the immediate ability to identify what you find.  It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re in a very birdy location.  It’s likely worse in birders switching between the old and new worlds, in that I can go to Central America, for instance, and feel fairly comfortable because the bird families and niches are so similar. There may be different species of wrens or doves or jays about, but wrens, doves, and jays, with very few exceptions, act the same way in North Carolina as they do in Guatemala.  But if I were to bird Africa or Southeast Asia I wouldn’t know the first thing about Babblers and Bulbuls and Sandgrouse.  I’d be lost without any context.   Anyway, it was an interesting conversation, s’all I’m sayin’.  It also got me jonseing for a Lammergeier, apropos of nothing in particular.  For all our great birds in North America, we sadly do not have Lammergeiers.

Anyway, having not found a lot on the outlook, I headed over to the opposite side of the lake to walk back in the marshes a little bit.  I spooked the Bald Eagle I’d see before, and turned up a pair of Dunlin and and a few Northern Shoveler foraging on an exposed mudflat.  Those are both fairly expected birds in the triangle in November, but what surprised me was a Carolina Anole sunning on a fill rock.  Not too often to come across a herp this late in the year.  It even dropped below freezing last night!

The cattails were full of sparrows of several varietels including Song, Field and White-throated and Junco.  A few Swamp Sparrows made an appearance in the wet meadow, as they are wont to do.  There’s never a bad time for a Swamp Sparrow, and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say I think they’re easily one of the nicest examples of sparrow-tude around.

Best bird of the day award goes to the totally unexpected Yellow Warbler hanging out with a big flock of Yellow-rumps.

It’s getting awfully late for a Yellow Warbler to be hanging around these parts, but it certainly makes for a nice burst of color for a season that uniformly defined by shades of brown and gray.  And it would make a really cool addition to a North Carolina November list, that is, if I were into month listing or anything ridiculous like that.

Note to self, look into “month” listing…

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7 Comments
  1. November 8, 2010 10:40 am

    Sorry to hear that the scoter refused to cooperate. Maybe your Ebird related fortune will be more fortuitous the next time.
    How I wish there were Lammergeiers in North America!

  2. November 8, 2010 11:22 am

    Ah, the Lammergeier (aka Bearded Vulture). It is not for naught that this has been my absolutely favourite bird for 25+ years now. Yes, it is that wonderful, and then some.

  3. BirdTrainerRobert permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:48 pm

    Lammergeier is a top-o’-the-wishlist bird for me… just gotta get overseas and do some birding over there!

    On another note, I’ve birded with Thierry a couple of times, and he’s a damn good birder. Kinda humbling to be out-gull-id’d by a guy who’s been in the country less than a year, even though he’s a bit of a veteran birder overseas.

  4. November 8, 2010 7:52 pm

    Lammergeier is near the top of my world wishlist.

    Better luck next time with the Surf Scoter. The trouble with inland county birding is that it becomes very difficult to add new species once you hit a certain level.

  5. November 8, 2010 10:29 pm

    I had three lifers in NC and one in VA today! Southwest of Monroe I added Purple Finch, Field Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow all at one location. Right after crossing the state line at I-85, I stopped at the welcome center and saw four Eastern Towhees.

    Once again, I missed Chapel Hills this trip and blew right through Durham. One day I will have work that will take me closer to your place.

  6. Nate permalink*
    November 9, 2010 2:22 pm

    @all- Lammergeier *sigh*. Now to spark the discussion of where a Lammergeier would show up if it were ever to vagrate to North America. I say Newfoundland.

  7. November 9, 2010 5:35 pm

    Huh?
    Newfoundland?
    You’ve got to be kidding, it’s got to be the Great Lakes, right?

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