Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lifers: Birds and Friend

I first heard about the Le Conte’s Sparrow in Virginia Beach a few weeks ago and gave it a very quick try on the 14th without success. But when Lynn and her sister Sherry were going up to NYC for several days, I decided I should go birding. I dropped them off at the train in Fredericksburg, VA then drove down to Virginia Beach to the Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area arriving about 3:30pm. After slogging around in the mud for about 45 minutes, a beautiful lighter colored sparrow flew by me and perched-up in the scrub. Tick!

After spending the night in our almost empty house in Manns Harbor (and having a take-away mahi mahi BLT from Blue Moon as my lifer supper!), I drove back up to Fredericksburg. I had asked Mom’s Big Year Birder, Nancy McAllister, if she had the Barrow’s Goldeneye in Maryland. She said she was going to look for it on Thursday. I said that I was too! We had become good Facebook friends, but had yet to meet in person. As she said, “The planets aligned.” And we decided to converge upon the Elm Environmental Education Center about 10am.

I had a lovely drive over from F’burg through the Virginia and Maryland countrysides. I stopped just after crossing into MD because I saw a very small, stubby-billed Goose. I hopped out with my camera and found that my battery was flat. I had neglected to check it before I left, something I had never done before. I also did not have my spare battery.

Nancy had more traffic to deal with and was running late. I arrived just past 10 at the end of the dirt road and parked by the center. I took my scope and started up the beach. The weather was perfect, calm and sunny. I stopped to scan a raft of ducks and in just moments I saw the white spotted side of the Barrow’s Goldeneye! YES! I decided to try to digi-scope it and immediately lost it. I texted Nancy that I had the duck. I walked further up the beach to get a better angle, but I could not relocate it. After about 15 minutes, I re-found it as Nancy was walking up the beach. I thought I could just stay on the bird until she reached me. It dove. I lost it again. We then spent about a half an hour both scoping through ducks before I was finally able to say, “I’ve got it.” Nancy looked through my scope at the Barrow’s Goldeneye, then snapped a few photos in its general direction. Tick! We did not find out until days later that she had indeed gotten a definitive photo of the duck. Sweet. I am grateful.

Nancy McAllister's recording shot of our Christmas Barrow's Goldeneye (on the left).
Nancy and a crazy man.               
The parking area by the center. It is beautiful there.
We had a lovely lifer lunch and Lifer Pie desert at a little local restaurant. That might have been the last time I have fresh rockfish. It is not a fish that is available in Australia. It was a delicious end to a very excellent day. I added a new lifer and a new life long friend. I am very grateful.
Excellent local rockfish and good pie!
Here are a few photos of the Le Conte’s that I had already posted on Facebook. That is one lovely little bird.

Le Conte's Sparrow!

Peace. Love. Birds. Hope.