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My Life’s Birds: #500

May 25, 2011
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January 28, 2011Bass Rocks, Essex Co, Ma – Milestones.  In the completely arbitrary and navel-inspecting game of bird listing those big numbers with the zeros at the end are important.  Or, at least, they are in our own minds.  We want those birds to be special, colorful and charismatic.  Sure little brown streaky jobs count the same and often surprise us with their appeal, but I’d like those birds to happily slot themselves into my list as noble 479, or 326.  There’s is nothing wrong or ignoble with those fine tallies, and the memories of those birds will stay fresh.  But if it’s not too much to ask, those birds that lift your list into another category, even if it’s important only to you, need to have pizazz.

I arrived in Massachusetts to meet the Bloggerhead Kingbirds for the third straight year on the Friday afternoon before the competition.  Captain and all around great guy Christopher Ciccone of Picus Blog met me at the airport and we headed to the hotel to await the rest of the team.  The New York City contingent was making their way north by way of a Green-tailed Towhee twitch in Rhode Island, but Mike from Feathers and Flowers was right on time and the three of us headed out to do a little scouting and photography in Essex County while we waited.

I was sitting on 499, and Christopher knew it.  So the first place we headed was not a spot that we needed to comb for half-hardies or a feeding station where winter finches were known to be possible.  No, even if it was detrimental to our attempt the next day, we went to a spot on the shore where nothing really out of the ordinary was likely to show up.  But Christopher pulled out his scope and almost immediately put it on a full adult male King Eider diving in the surf.  High fives were exchanged, and long looks were enjoyed.  Had we had beer, I would have insisted one be opened.  As it was, I had to wait until dinner that night.

Let it then be known that we did end up fulfilling our responsibility and doing some scouting.  We found a Glaucous Gull at the fish pier in Gloucester (or at least one that seemed at least 75% Glauc.  We rounded up).  We made sure the Thick-billed Murre in the same harbor was still around (it was).  And we were sidelined by a pair of Peregrine Falcons that teed up on top of the Gloucester courthouse (sitting on the East and West tins of a weathervane).  But the sea duck was by far the star of the show.  A highly appropriate 500.

On to 600.

KINEID by Gary_Sutherland via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)

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