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Backwards Bobos

May 11, 2012
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Here is a half-hearted apology.  It’s been a busy week, and I’m a little sick, and I’m crabby because nocturnal flight calls are a really cheap way to lose my hold on the #2 eBird spot in my home county, and I’m even more pissed that it rained and filled the dry pond where I could have picked up my much-needed county Least Sandpipers.  And what little energy I have for spending all of my evenings writing is pushed towards the ABA Blog and saving something for 10,000 Birds next week.  Which sounds like complaining, and sure, the eBird stuff actually is complaining (but if you put as much time into looking for spots in Orange County to fill holes in your list as I have only to get knocked off in little more than two months, you’d complain too), but I still feel guilty that this blog has languished much of the week.  Turns out having a job and a half, and a toddler, and some (a few) other interests is a hard act to juggle.  This is the lowest thing on the totem pole, and the first to fall off.

Anywho, on my way back to the Carolina Bird Club hotel last week following the field trip I led to Howell Woods the people in my car got the word via our fancy smartphones, that Bobolinks had been reported in the North Carolina State U farm fields south of Raleigh.  NCSU is an agricultural school, so it has this property that it oversees so that students can practice managing and maintaining a farm.  It’s also generally considered to be a pretty nice birding locale, particularly up to the point that the grass is chopped, because Bobolinks and other grassland birds are regular there this time of year.

Most everyone in my car was in a Bobolinky mood, and since the farm was only a short detour on the way to the hotel, we easily made the executive decision to go have a look.  When we pulled up a big group of birders were gathered in the road margin staring in to the field.  We didn’t have to question what they were looking at.

For me, it’s not really spring until I get to see these bizarre blackbirds working a farm field over.  The week before I’d found a really large flock in Durham County, but they were half a mile distant.  These were closer, and singing that jingly, spazzy song that sounds like someone sneezing into a melodica.  And the fact that, unlike every other species of North American bird, the dark part is on the bottom and the light part is on the top.

I don’t precisely know the evolutionary advantage of this reversed palate, but it’s bizarre and unexpected, and I have to admit I really like my birds bizarre and unexpected.  And vocal.  And here so briefly that every encounter with this seems like both a gift and a relief.  I suppose it’s safe to say Bobolinks bring out a lot of conflicting emotions in me, which is sort of appropriate given their patchwork appearance.

We stayed for a while until the Bobos moved beyond optimum viewing range, and the other group moved on to look for Grasshopper Sparrows and Blue Grosbeaks and my small group continued on to a shower and a meal.  But Bobo time is good time, for one of a North Carolina spring’s jewels.

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