They say February is a terrible month to bird. I’m not so convinced about that and for me it is a special time in birding as February last year was when I really started to bird. So all the birds I’m seeing now are the ones I saw for the first time in my life for the most part last year.
Imagine if you had never seen one of the beautiful winter ducks in your life. Or even an Eider in winter plumage. Imagine if you had never considered there were ducks anywhere other than the place where the ones your Dad took you when you were a kid to throw bread to were, let alone in the winter. Well that was me a year ago. It was all new and it never occurred to me to look at the ocean with a pair of binoculars and look for ducks. And they are pretty oh my they are a sight to behold. Behold our lovely Long-tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Mergansers, Buffleheads, Harlequin Ducks, just to name some of the more spectacular winter fowl.
This all followed very quickly after my indoctrination into birding as the superstar Eurasian Kestrel was hanging out not far from where I live. One day in January kind folk with field guides helped me learn the difference between the Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and the Rough-legged Hawks all of which were putting on good shows daily at Hartlen Point last winter. The Snowy Owls I could at least recognize myself 😉
So I got hooked, and it was cold oh gosh it was cold. And I couldn’t go too far with all the nasty weather so I started bundling up and walking places close to home like Rainbow Haven (and David Currie took me there to see our wintering Yellow-rumped Warblers), the Salt Marsh Trail, the Shearwater Flyer Trail, and Hartlen Point and really all I saw were the winter ducks. One day I was about a half hour onto the trail in the freezing cold and near froze my hands off to photograph a pair of Hooded Mergansers in fact. And I’d do it again. And I am doing it again, but thankfully this winter has been much tamer.
Today it was a gift of a day sunny and warm and kelp flies in full force and I thought maybe if I zipped down to Hartlen Point I would find some Horned Larks as they do come in the winter and they do like the kelp flies.
The first bird I saw was the Rough-legged Hawk which is amazing as I’ve not seen one yet this year and really been hoping to. And the coolest thing is this makes bird number 100 for my winter list. And the other really neat thing is I would never have kept a winter list if it were not for bumping into Richard Stern some time ago who mentioned I should see if I can get 100. And the thing is, Richard is the Raptor man so I think this is very fitting.
Birding serendipity is really my thing and I had a strong urge to walk around Hartlen today that I could not shake. I had been invited to bird elsewhere but passed it up and now I know why.
See…you just never know what you might find when you are looking for things with wings.
The Rough-legged Hawk put on a great show for me pretty much the whole 3 hours I was there and tonight I am still smiling.
I had been trying to get Patches the Lesser Black-backed Gull for my 100th bird but I think mother nature is letting me know I am not meant to bird in parking lots. We know this anyway, right?
Well I’m sure I’ll get back to the parking lot to look for Patches, but nothing beats a long walk in the sunshine on a winter day with an old friend flying above you.
PS – here is a much better photo of a Rough-legged I took on March 14th, 2015