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My Life’s Birds: #484

March 30, 2011

January 23, 2009 Center Harbor, NH – After a certain point, there are two ways a birder can go about adding life birds to his lists.  The first is the twitcher route, chasing rare birds in the immediate area.  This is the way of the chaser, the birder who enjoys the thrill of vagrants and the camaraderie of the binocular’d set.  But this approach is high risk/high reward, and wholly dependent on the supply of vagrants to one’s region.  Some birders in south Texas and Arizona and Florida and even California can get away with this, racking up tons of extralimital species over the years, but for most of us, this is a long, hard, ladder to climb one species at a time.

The next, and my personal fav, is the travel option.  Simply by heading to a place you’ve never been before you can find buckets of new birds without working too hard at it.  Granted, the up front effort is a little more significant, but the birds to bucks ratio is weighted significantly in favor of a new place under the sun, and when the opportunity presents itself you owe it to yourself, and your list, to grab it with both hands.

And that’s how I found myself one January afternoon, in New Hampshire in the company of some serious and seriously entertaining bird bloggers.  This was the first Super Bowl of Birding go-round of the Bloggerhead Kingbirds, and the original group consisting of Christopher, Corey, Patrick, Quintus and me, were heading north for a Northern Hawk-Owl, the sort of incredible raptor mashup you can only find in the far arctic reaches of North America and a bird that wasn’t even on this southern guy’s radar a few months before.  The fact that I was hob-nobbing with some of bird bloggerdom’s finest citizens just made the whole situation all the more enjoyable.

We arrived at the spot in question to find the Hawk-Owl teed up on top of a bare tree.  We watched it pass back and forth over the immaculate snowy field, more like a harrier-owl than a hawk-owl, or in truth much more like a harrier-accipiter-hawk-owl than anything, as it seemed to be the grandsire of those four offspring come to life in barred, mottled, more or less owl-shaped form.

It’s just a staggeringly incredible bird.  Worthy of the true biblical definition of awesome in that it actually invites awe.  The Northern Hawk-Owl plans a party, it picks out the decorations and food and plans a guestlist entirely of awe, at which point it sends out terribly clever e-vites to awe’s many email addresses, even the defunct ones just to be on the safe side.  And awe comes, bringing the really good wine and with several attractive friends.  I don’t know how else to put it.  Look, it’s bizarre and amazing and clearly even the memory of it has me rambling incoherently like a game show host on ecstacy.  But that could be memory of my companions as well, so your mileage may vary.

In any case,  #484 was a good one.  And this northern reaches thing was going to do wonders for my life list.

NOHAOW by N8 the Drinking Bird via flickr (CC BY-NC-2.0)

  1. March 30, 2011 9:45 pm

    I would love to see a northern hawk owl! … and I agree, love to find new places, new birds and awe…some experiences.

  2. March 30, 2011 10:11 pm

    I agree, it is a “staggeringly incredible” bird. But are you trying to say that your fellow Bloggerhead Kingbirds babble “incoherently like a game show host on ecstacy”? Because that is just unfairly accurate…

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