I bird for several reasons. I like the quiet of sitting in my truck or at a blind watching and waiting for the birds. Sometimes I sit and watch, sometimes I sit and think, sometimes I just sit. It’s a nice way to start the day. I also do a lot of walking as I bird. You never know whats around the next bend or over the next rise. I enjoy the march of the seasons, the passing of migrants and the gradual change from summer songbirds to winter waterfowl and back as the leaves color and drop around me or spring greenery slowly hides the bare branches and infuses the dry grasses and reeds with life. I suspect that the excitement I feel when photographing birds has some primordial root that stalking and waiting nourishes within me as I creep closer to the prey to get that perfect shot. Best of all, though, as I’m sure other birders will testify, is coming across that surprise bird, one that you never expected to see, that sends you scrabbling for the guide book to find it just what it is that you’ve stumbled upon. That’s the best. That’s the top reason that we bird.
Sorry, I know that got a little weird, but it’s the truth, and yesterday morning I had just such an episode as I sat in my truck at Spring Canyon watching the sun light creep down the canyon walls, waiting for it to get bright enough to see what was floating on the pond, and listening to Red-winged Blackbirds clamoring in the reeds behind me. I could see the resident Great Blue Heron hunting in the shallows across the way and could make out a dozen or so shapes floating in the middle of the pond. When the sunlight finally splashed across the water I was able to make out several Ruddy Ducks, a pair of American Wigeons, and three of the half-dozen Pied-billed grebes I’ve been seeing for the past few weeks. And something else, something that looked a bit odd, with a profile akin to a Canvasback, but darker. It took several minutes of looking through the scope and thumbing through the guides before I decided that it must be a scoter of some sort, but, I couldn’t decide which one. I took several photos and after I got home I was finally able to determine that it was a female Surf Scoter. I posted a photo to a subreddit that specializes in bird IDs and soon had my confirmation.
Surf Scoters are coastal birds that winter in northern Canada and Alaska, and summer on both coasts and the gulf and that rarely find their way to the Texas Panhandle. I was pretty excited by the find. Here’s the bird. Sorry that the photos are not that good, they stayed quite a long way off the whole time I was watching.
Surf Scoter and an American Wigeon
Surf Scoter, American Wigeon, and a Ruddy Duck