Well another weekend means another birding excursion. I listened to the rare bird alert hotline, and checked out the Audubon website, and decided to take a trip to Plum Island to catch some of the migrating ducks. I studied the bird book so I would be able to quickly identify any of the new ducks I might see. I got up early Saturday morning to head for the shore.
But as I sat with my morning coffee patting the cat in my lap I wondered, why am I doing this? I mean with the high cost of gas and all the errands and housework I should be doing why am I spending the day traipsing around Plum Island in search of birds? I mean who cares? What difference am I making? This Big Year competition, am I just a joke?
Young or old we have all been there, hit that wall, doubted our efforts, like studying for that test or dieting. You get in a mood where you wonder is it worth it, who cares. I was indeed in a very "fowl" mood. Missy bit me, growled and jumped off my lap, so much for improving my mood. I had prepared for the trip and gotten up early, heck the housework can wait till Sunday, I headed for the shore.
I arrived and stopped at the first overlook pool to scan for ducks. An elderly couple pulled up at about the same time. The man gets out of his car and scans the pool and yells to the women "Northern Pintails!" "Quick come see!" He does the birders happy dance and gets out his notepad and writes down his sighting. There are a couple of versions of the "birders happy dance" the male version usually involves chuckling like Daddy used to and saying something like"gosh will ya look at that" in an excited voice. The female version, no surprise, is more animated and usually involves a little jump up and down. I just looked at the flock of Pintails...eh seen them. My fowl mood hadn't improved. I move on.
There are a few cars pulled over to the side of the trail, this usually indicates something good has been sighted. I pull over and get out. There are about 8 people gathered around with scopes set up and mega camera set ups. There not 100 yards off the road is a Snowy Owl sitting atop a small pine tree. A car from Rhode Island pulls up and three 20 somethings jump out, a girl and 2 guys. They are all excited to see the owl, the girl does the birders happy dance and punches the guy in the arm, saying "Told ya it would be worth the trip! Now you can add the Snowy to your list!" Eh.. seen it, my fowl mood hasn't improved I move on.
I spend some time at the bird blind watching a mixed flock of Black Ducks, Mallards, and a lone Redhead. Eh.. seen them, I decide to move on. As I get to the parking area a woman from Connecticut pulls in and as she is getting out asks me if there was anything interesting at the blind. I tell her there is a Redhead mixed in with some Blacks and Mallards. She does the birders happy dance and says " Wow A Redhead! That's a life lister for me how exciting!" She fumbles to get her scope out of the back seat of her car and thanks me as she rushes up the trail. My fowl mood hasn't improved. I move on.
I stop to eat my lunch in the car and wonder why I can't seem to shake this fowl mood. I mean have I become so jaded that I can't enjoy what nature has to share? The day hasn't been a total bore, I've seen some new birds, a group of Northern Shovelers and some Horned Grebes. But I wanted that thrill of an unexpected sighting, something to take my breath away. I wanted a birders happy dance sighting.
After lunch, I begin to head back off the preserve. I enjoy talking with other birders and watching a Northern Harrier eat his lunch of some prey he has torn apart. I decide to stop at Hellcat trails before leaving the island and take a walk along the wetlands boardwalk. I head to the observation tower and then it happens. Yes I do the birders happy dance! There in the pond is a pair of Mute Swans gliding across the water. Their magnificent beauty takes my breath away. I've seen swans before but not in the wild. I thought that swans, like Flamingos, were an ornamental captive breed. But here before me was a grand pair, in the wild, these birds are not small, they're quite impressive. I head home with my mood much improved.
Oh and before you all laugh about the "birders happy dance", Chris & Beth remember how you felt when we saw the flock of Night Hawks, and Sissy remember your loss of words and wonder when the Eagle swooped down and grabbed a fish right in front of you. Come on, we all need a birders happy dance moment now and then.
Current Big Year total--119,
Happy Birding, Jane