Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
2009 Was a Peculiar Birding Year
January 23, 2010
By Steve Grinley
While I’m away for a few weeks, Doug Chickering of Groveland has agreed to share some words about birds, as Doug does so well. Here he shares some retrospect of our 2009 birding year:
“Very early last year Lois Cooper and I had gone over to Cape Ann to see the Bohemian Waxwings that had been reported at cathedral ledge. We were successful and decided to make our usual rounds around the area. After visiting Jodrey Pier I suggested that we go over to Bass Rocks to see if we could find the King Eider. As we drove by the entrance to the Eastern Point area Lois asked me if we shouldn’t go out there like we usually do. I expressed an opinion that it was unlikely that we would find anything of interest there .
“The Vale’s had been there that morning and told us they saw nothing unusual. So we drove on. Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the VFW post parking lot when we received word – from Fay Vale – that Jeremiah Trimble had just found an Ivory Gull…. at Eastern Point. Ouch.
“Two months later Lois and I were returning from lunch in Essex when she suggested that we see what we could find among the Canada Geese that usually populated the fields bordered by Northgate and Argilla Roads. There were reports of White-fronted Geese in Saugus so I thought it would be a good idea. We pulled up at a place where we got good looks at a distant gaggle.
“”Look,” I said to Lois. ” There’s seven Snow Geese. You don’t see Snow Geese here very often. But there were no White-fronted Geese so we drove away. Imagine my surprise when I read that Rick Heil had found seven Ross’s Geese at that exact spot two days later. Ouch.
“We had a similar experience with Cackling geese many months later. Same perusal of geese at the same location and the same oversight, and we drove away from a life bird. It was that kind of year.
Of course we eventually got all three, so it was no disaster, but we drove away from that magic, moment treasured by us all. That special golden event in birding when your gaze suddenly falls upon a special, unexpected treasure. That rare bird that will soon draw crowds; that will cause people to drive through a snowy night to see… that bird is your bird. You found it.
“It was a strange year in many ways. The rarities were inexplicable surprises. One Ivory Gull wasn’t enough. There were two Ivory Gulls. There were two MacGillivray’s Warblers, there were two, maybe three Painted Buntings. There were fourteen Ross’s Geese, maybe more, and eight or nine Cackling Geese. A pair of Monk Parakeet’s made a brief and tantalizing appearance after fourteen year’s absence. What’s going on here? What a strange and wonderful year it has been.
“There are other memories and impressions that push to the front of my mind when I review the past twelve months on this last night of 2009. To me this was the year of Solitary Vireo. I saw them early and late and consistently. I can’t remember a year with so many Solitary Vireo’s. I don’t what it is about this bird but it stirs a special feeling in me.
“I can still picture the Cape May Warbler in the budding tree at the edge of the S Curves on Plum Island. It was a gray and cloudy day; the Cape May was unusually deliberate, cooperative and generally oblivious to the chattering appreciative crowd that had gathered to pay homage and to agree that there are too few Cape May Warblers in this world.
“I have a special sharp recollection of an August day when I showed a California friend Plum Island at the height of the shore bird migration. Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Sandy point, Baird’s Sandpipers at two locations. We had all five Peep sandpipers that day along with the Buffy, a Sora, a few Knots and a Black-headed Gull. An Avocet in full fig at Pikul’s Pans, that perfect May fallout in April; A Fox Sparrow at the ground feed, a Carolina Wren in the snow. It stretches on and on.
“I’m sure when I finish this…there will be many more memories that will come forward. It is always thus. Every year has its special places and events and every year is glorious in the field. Still this was a rather peculiar year.”
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