October 1, 2011
Woke early, checked the radar, nice flight. Clear, Orion high in sky, the odd seep note. Went back to sleep. Woke at dawn, high wispy clouds; perfect for migration. Gale force winds of the day before now calm, perfect again. I brewed coffee, gruffed at the empty feeder, then settled down in the chair to finish reading the BIG YEAR.
The tinge of guilt that has been pestering me all year was as strong as the coffee. I really should be out working the last vestige of migration. I kept turning pages. I should fill the feeders, scope for ducks, walk outside and listen. Instead I read about Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, and Greg Miller making good on their obsession birding across American. I couldn't musser the enthusiasm to travel across my yard. The story isn't that compelling, though I marvel at the author's ability to keep a three way “competition”, that began and ended on Attu (Komito spent more time there than the other two), "fresh".
I finished the book by 10 am. Feeling motivated, I made another cup of coffee. I fantasized about hiring guides to bird my yard and call me about missing birds while I loaf on the couch that we don't have. I felt a tang of motivation; IF I gave it my all I might be able to catch Big Rig Komito by the years end. My list of missed yardbirds for the year is impressive and some are still within the range of possibility.
A trumpet of cranes heard inside the house broke my reverie. 50 were flying over in a V.... I called for Chris and she came to look too, responding “what’s that other bird circling”….still amped from the Big Year I frantically scrambled inside to find my bins and cried “where, where”, sure-nuf a sky high Red-tail inched me closer to my own Sandy Komito: Big Rig Brigham. That was #137 for for the year….I kept scanning overhead; another tail, then a couple sharpies, broad-wing, another sharpy. With Golden Eagle nagging I went inside to pack for my trip downstate (Tigers baby!). Never thought my dreams of a yard-guide would be fulfilled so quickly.
Around 2 pm, I decided it was time to fill the feeders and check passerines on the way to the platform. I stepped into the backyard and was meet with movement at my usually lifeless water feature; Blue-headed Vireo…. #138 for the year and a life yardbird, #177.
I knew I had to make it a Hat-Trick so I could pound on here about my exploits. I walked 200 feet through alder and buckthorn to the platform. At the end of the trail I caught movement through dense cover --- a medium sized bird darted away. It looked awfully like a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher which meant it had to be a cuckoo – and this time of year undoubtably a Yellow-billed Cuckoo; a Code 3 Fall Vagrant in the UP and a Code 5 UP yardbird. A Cuckoo lost in a sea of alder, buckthorn, and willow. I climbed the platform and spent time contemplating how to salvage the title to this blog post. Was cuckoo sp. appropriate for a silhouette? Would I honestly answer this rhetorical question? I scanned the vegetation for sign of the cuckoo -- after 10 minutes of contemplation there it was, 50 meters away perched motionless on the branch of a white ash, just the way it was suppose to be. I retreated for my guide (Chris) and digiscope. #139 for the year and #178 for the yard. o.k. where's the snowcock??