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Crowdsourcing Local Rarities

July 11, 2011
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Big Year birding makes you a lazy birder, which is honestly the exact opposite of what you’d expect. One man can only cover so much ground, and in the heat of mid-July while waiting for the shorebirds to begin showing up in numbers I’m not covering much ground at all.  In a normal year this wouldn’t be a concern.  I’d happily bird my local patch looking for breeding sign and working on filling in gaps in the eBird charts for local hotspots.  Fun birding, and important too, for a generally underbirded time of the year.  But lately I’ve been spending my time with my ear to the local listserv and my eBird needs alerts praying for good birds in Orange, Durham, Chatham, and Wake Counties.  It’s lazy birding, true, and I’d much prefer finding the good birds instead of chasing them.  But when you want to add birds to a stagnant summer list, you have to make allowances.  I’m only one man, but the best birders in the area are at my disposal.

Saturday I was sitting at home playing with my son when the call went out.  A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was found in western Orange County, practically my back yard.  I dressed Noah and let him grab a couple trucks, tucked him in his carseat, and booked out to Dairyland Road, a scenic little loop that runs through the dairy and cornfield country west of Chapel Hill.  I found the site easy enough – the small crowd of birders on the side of the road was a pretty sure sign – and set to scanning the fields without getting Noah out.  When the bird didn’t make itself known, I grabbed my bins, camera, and boy (the bins round the neck, the camera across my shoulder, and the boy on my shoulders) and walked up to see what the hubbub was about.

It turns out that there wasn’t just one Scissor-tail, but two.  And they weren’t vagrants, but a nesting pair, a first record for the county.  The female was sitting on a nest built on a TV antenna behind a farmhouse.  It really couldn’t get much easier than that.  I never saw the male, with eggs likely I’ll surely have a chance to come back.  Noah was getting testy, but he had to be happy he got Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on his state list.  I know some longer time birders that don’t even have that…

The two days prior I had been eagerly watching eBird reports of a few dispersing waders visiting the back end of a lake south of Raleigh.  While Noah was taking a nap on Sunday I drive out to have a look.  The lake was low enough to accommodate a handful of Killdeer and the Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets that can be found at practically any medium sized body of water around here these days.  I pulled out my scope for the first time in several weeks and scanned the far shore, initially concerned that nothing but the big herons were around.  Walking the edge of the lake shore for a few hundred meters I found a shallow lagoon on the very farthest part of the lake.  Through the glare and heat distortion I managed to find three, then four, then an amazing five mud-colored immature White Ibis picking along the shore, the first I’d had in the Triangle for several years.  The distortion was fierce, but I still managed to note a couple smaller white herons among the Great Egrets, whose lanky, thick shapes suggested Little Blue Herons, which just so happened to be a new bird for the Triangle, #226.

I pulled out my camera to get not much more than a record shot.  The two brownish shapes to the left are two of the Ibis and the white blur to the right of the Egret neck is one of the Little Blues. Consider that documented!

I suppose thanks are in order for Jacob Socolar for finding the Flycatcher and Thierry Bresancon for the discovery of the waders.  I couldn’t do it without you guys, but I promise I’ll try to pull my own weight around here soon.

175 down, 41 to g0

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3 Comments
  1. July 11, 2011 7:43 am

    I have never seen a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Fork-tailed? Sure! Scissor-tailed? Sigh…

  2. July 11, 2011 8:37 am

    I’ve only seen a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher once in my state, and it wasn’t on a nest.

  3. Nate permalink*
    July 19, 2011 1:46 pm

    @Corey- and here I am jealous of your Fork-tailed…

    @John- They tend to show up just about everywhere on the east coast at some point.

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