Boys, today I had the great pleasure of seeing probably one of the best yardbirds I will ever score. It was so unexpected that I couldn't believe it as I was watching/photographing it. I waited until it was confirmed by quite a few people before I even believed it myself... Without further adieu:
I was out working sparrows and I heard several RBGUs screaming up at altitude. I glanced up and saw the silhouette of a large falcon soaring above me. Now I was excited just at scoring Pere a second time as that has proven to be a difficult bird to get here. As soon as I put my bins on the bird I noticed the dark axillaries and didn't believe what I was seeing. I watched it do a full circle of soaring and the darkness didn't disappear as the birds angle from the sun changed. At this point I scrabbled back to my car about 15 ft away to grab my camera. I got it setup, zoomed it up and squeezed off three photos of the bird with the first one being the best by far (above). I took a break from photographing it to try to garner more fieldmarks through my bins but the bird was soaring very close to the sun by this point and I couldn't see anything. I tried setting up my scope to try to pull more detail but by the time I set it up the bird had drifted NNE and was gone behind a cottonwood.
Just to illustrate how ridiculous this bird is and how incredibly unexpected in this airspace, I'm going to give you the number of times I've recorded the other raptor species at my place (Out of the 209 checklists I've submitted to eBird):
TUVU - 5 observations OSPR - 2 observations BAEA - 2 observations SSHA - 7 observations COHA - 16 observations RSHA - 1 observation RTHA - 16 observations AMKE - 2 observations MERL - 1 observation PEFA - 1 observation
A few notable omissions include RLHA, BWHA, and NOHA which I've never recorded from the yard before... Now my work schedule doesn't lend itself to mid-day raptor watching so my effort is actually biased against locating raptors that occur even regularly (thus the missing BWHA...).
As far as I can tell this is a first county record of Prairie Falcon for DuPage County and one of only a handful of spring records for northern IL ever (the linked site is an unofficial database of records)!
Hoping that some of my buds up in WI catch up with this guy as this species is still only hypothetical on Wisconsin's state list.
It's sightings like this that keep me going out time and time again, because you never know what you will be rewarded with!
Oh yeah, and I also added Fox Sparrow to the year list just prior to the PRFA.
2013 and beyond
It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.
2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.