It’s not a Competition

Birding isn’t a competitive activity but I confess that I do get annoyed a bit when I read that someone has seen a bird in Hutchinson county that I’ve yet to see. I report my bird sightings to a website (www.ebird.org) maintained by the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. There aren’t many folks locally that use the site, but occasionally someone comes by Hutchinson County from another part of the state and spends the day birding. They post their sightings and if they see something that I haven’t, I get an email from ebird listing rare sightings and common birds that I may not have logged so far for the year.

I received an email the other morning that contained just such a message. Not only were there a half dozen common birds that I hadn’t seen, there were nearly that many more rarities for the area and, of course, I bowed up a little over it and headed out to the lake to see if I could find the birds. Part of the reason I get riled is that I spend 2 or 3 hours at least 3 mornings a week out hunting for birds and taking photos and then someone comes in, spends the morning birding, and reports things that I haven’t seen. A couple of rational conclusions could be made– I am just not that good at identifying birds yet and this person is much better at it, or the birds are transient and were just around on the day he saw them (a day, by the way, that I was working and couldn’t get out to the lake.)

I never found the birds. I really wanted to; five of them, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Clark’s Grebe, a Bonapart’s Gull, a Lincoln’s Sparrow, and a Cackling Goose would have been lifers.  I saw Common and Hooded Mergansers that morning, but no Red-breasted, although they are difficulty to tell at a distance from the Commons.  I’ve seen Western, Eared, Horned, and Pied-billed Grebes at Meredith, but I didn’t see any at all that morning.  There are hundreds of ring-billed Gulls at the lake and I’ve seen Herring and Franklin’s Gulls before, but I couldn’t see anything but Ring-bills, no Bonapart’s that morning.  I saw dozens of sparrows and hundreds of Canada and Snow Geese, but not a Lincoln’s Sparrow or Cackling Goose.  Both would have been hard for me to differentiate from similar species; sparrows have such minor differences and the Cackling Goose is basically just a smaller, lighter, shorter-necked version of the Canada Goose. The others are birds I’ve seen around the county before, just not so far this year.  Oh well, there’s still a long time left in the year, and like I said, it’s not a competition.

Here’s a few photos of the birds I did see.

Redheads and a Canvasback.redhead-and-canvasback-1280x813

Red-tailed Hawk.  It was pretty cold that morning-he’s (maybe she’s, not sure of the gender) puffed up and has on foot drawn up under her (his) feathers.
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Least Sandpipers aren’t uncommon around here but it is a little unusual to see them this deep into the winter.least-sandpiper-18-1280x852

At home the feeders have been swamped for the last few weeks with Pine Siskins

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pine-siskin-9-1280x848and House Finches.

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I took my first trip of the year up to Palo Duro Reservoir earlier in the week and saw lots of Canada and Snow Geese,

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1 adult and 4 Juvenile  Bald Eagles.  Here’s a couple of shots of two of the juveniles.  Never got a good one of the adult.

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Several Northern Harriers.  ‘This one is breakfasting on a Canada Goose frozen in the ice at the edge of the lake.  I think he probably is just scavenging, it’s pretty big for him to have killed.

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Common Mergansers.  The dark-headed ones are males and the red-headed ones are females.common-merganser-2-1280x831

A pretty good week, actually, even without the lifers.  (It’s not a competition, it’s not a competition, it’s not a competition, it’s not a competition,……)

More photos in the galleries

4 thoughts on “It’s not a Competition

  1. Mark, it isn’t a competition! 🙂 It does look like you had a pretty good week though. I don’t normally go after rarities in my area because I pretty much want to help keep the disturbance to a minimum for a rarity. Now if I stumble onto one I do take images of it and then leave.

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    • I agree with you there, really. Nearly all of my birding is from a clifftop with a long lens and a scope. One of these days I’ll figure out how to hook my camera to the scope. The closeups are almost always either from my truck parked on the access roads or from hiking trails around a wetland area below the dam at Meredith and I just get lucky to have something land nearby.

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  2. You bring up an interesting point re: county birding and competition… but I have to wonder about the home field advantage. eBird reports tend to range from day lists to trip lists being entered as a lump and often enough people are unfamiliar with what’s expected and up reporting what they THINk would be expected. Under-birded areas are plagued with bad data (reports of 30 Common Grackles instead of Brewer’s Blackbirds anywhere in West TX, for example), but I suppose these lists ultimately challenge us to be more alert. Keep up the great work and thorough documentation!

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