Friday, January 9, 2009

bird randomness

Yesterday on the way to work I saw a red-tailed hawk try to fly into the wind and immediately give up and return to its perch. Shortly after that I saw a Cooper's hawk in flight suddenly get flipped on its side, one wing pointed directly at the ground with belly pointed directly into the wind. It flew sideways, well actually got blown sideways, for several seconds before it righted itself and it too found a convenient branch to perch on. Need I say it's very windy here?

Actually those two hawks reminded me of how I've tried to do some exciting or at least interesting birding between storms but been thwarted by ice and road closures and wind and just general absence of birds. One day last week I went to the Chain Bridge to look for eagles and great cormorants but found dark-eyed juncos feeding on a nearby lawn. That was it until I left. On the way back around the detour (the other bridge is closed indefinitely because a barge hit it), I saw a great cormorant in my rear-view mirror.

At least my traditional horned larks as first bird of the new year is still intact. Saw a dozen of them on New Year's Day. It would not be New Year's without horned larks. Must write about horned larks sometime. Seems most bird bloggers live in the Midwest where horned larks are year round residents, not a winter specialty and not a coastal phenomenon. Around here they used to be called shore larks because of their fondness for coastal habitat. Actually, according to some range maps they are in Massachusetts year round but according to others they only winter here. Must check more field guides to get the real skinny on these guys. I only know for sure that they are only on PI and Salisbury Beach in winter. I don't know about the depths of Western Mass. They like "barren" open spaces -- hence beaches and coastal parking lots. My best horned lark sighting though was in Tibet at a hot spring outside Damxung. I was scanning the landscape for maybe some new and exciting Asian birds and spotted a familiar face ... horned lark. Their kinda place is my kinda place I guess.

As I've been typing this, my birding buddy Ned has been texting me wanting to know if I am going to Choke Canyon, Texas for the pine flycatcher and wondering whether its appearance has anything to do with global climate change or with the Red Sox signing Rocco Baldelli or Al Gore or something. Wait, it's the flycatcher who's looking for Al Gore, not the Red Sox. And can pine flycatchers catch fly balls in the outfield? And what the heck is channelopathy and why is that not as bad as mitochondrial disorder to an outfielder anyway?

And lest I finish an entry without mentioning the cutest bird on the planet: Connecticut had a record number of piping plovers fledge this past summer. Yay! Remember summer? It's that season with no ice where the power outages are from too many air conditioners instead of flying ice laden trees. Soon enough it will be time to get my ass out on the beach again to resume talking to humans about piping plovers all over again.

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