Wow, 72 degrees for a high today (Wednesday, 2/6/13)–a bit windy, but a beautiful day, none-the-less. It was cloudy and foggy at sunrise so I put off a planned trip to Gene Howe WMA, about a 90 minute drive to the northeast, and I went out to Meredith to see if anything was happening. Most of the regular crowd was out; hundreds of Mallards, Northern Pintails, Ring-billed Gulls, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, a small flock of Great White Pelicans, two adults and a juvenile Bald Eagle, a Northern Harrier, a pair of Northern Flickers and a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Since the light was so poor, I didn’t take any photos early (you can see photos of all these birds in the galleries.) By the time I made it around to Fritch Fortress the sun was shining and warming it up a little so I walked down the beach east of the boat ramp and got a few photos of a small flock of Least Sandpipers, an unusual bird for this time of the year around here,
and a few of the hundreds of Northern Pintails that are on the lake right now.
Best of all was a mystery bird. I thought, as I was taking the picture that it was a female Red-wing Blackbird, although it was a little small and pale. I looked at it through the scope and it just didn’t work for a blackbird-the bill wasn’t right and the breast wasn’t streaked enough. On top of that it was in a strange place for a red-winged; on a sandbar about 30 meters off the shore, hobnobbing with a Killdeer and the previously mentioned sandpipers. And it was running, which is strange behavior indeed for a blackbird. Next, I though maybe it was a meadowlark, but the bill is still not right and the bright yellow breast and black necklace, are missing.
When I got home I loaded the photos onto the computer, enlarged it enough to get a better look at it and started trying to figure out what it was. I thought perhaps it was some type of thrush, with its narrow bill and spotted breast, but nothing really worked for me. I finally went with an American Pipit in non-breeding plumage which it would be, this time of the year. The bill shape and the streaked breast fits the pipit, as does the white eyebrow and the black line behind the eye. The behavior works also, running and tail-bobbing, and the call when he flew was a definite pip-it, pip-it (should have been my first clue,) so, unless someone tells me different, I’m calling it an American Pipit.
I’m probably the only one excited by it, but it’s another new bird for me. Ah, the life of a Bird Nerd (and it still might be a Red-winged Blackbird female.)