Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jan 15 (Day 15) - BOOM! Barnacle goose, Eurasian wigeon, and thoughts on trust

Today was the first really nice weather day of the trip. It was in the high 30s and low 40s all day. The sun was out for most of the day, and it made for a beautiful ride from Hamden to Fairfield CT. The day's agenda was to find 3 previously reported birds: Eurasian wigeon, barnacle goose, and cackling goose. The post title tells you which 2 I found! I cycled 44 miles today.

Although my first scheduled stop of the day was Stratford, I detoured through Milford to visit Silver Sands State Park. On this detour I did find a few more Monk Parakeets. I pulled over, assembled my rig, and cracked off a few frames of these fun birds.  In case you missed it, yesterday's post contains much additional information on this introduced species. In Milford, I also found fish crow for species #102.

Silver Sands was a bit slow, but I did have a flyby Peregrine and a perched red-tailed hawk. From Silver Sands I continued down the coast to Stratford to look for the continuing Eurasian wigeon. I found a rough-legged hawk at short beach, and 2 snowy owls perched across the inlet on the beach to the east. One was perched up on a log and would have made an amazing photo if it wasn't half a mile away. On the whole it was a good day for raptors. I was able to locate the wigeon right near Stratford point. I first observed the bird from a great distance. I then cycled around the cove to get a bit closer. I was able to snap this VERY distant record shot of species #103.

After Stratford, I headed down to the Fairfield Country Club to find a flock of 500+ Canada geese that has hosted both a barnacle goose and a cackling goose. After searching the grounds for approximately 1.5 hours, I had found a grand total of 12 Canada geese. The flock was clearly somewhere else, and this now created a planning and logistical headache for me. I decided to retire to a bridge a bit upriver from the country club to contemplate my next move. As I was contemplating how to manage the last few hours of the day, I heard some geese honking. Just then a flock of ~12 birds came over trees about 80 years away. The third bird on the left side of the V looked much smaller than the others. By the time I got the binoculars up, I no longer needed them. The barnacle goose with its 11 Canadian escorts flew RIGHT over my head! They headed down towards the country club, and I gave chase on the bike. The birds wheeled and, for no reason that I can comprehend, flew right back over the bridge where I had just seen them. POOF! GONE! I rode upstream hoping I could relocated them. I was unable to find them, and despite the fact that I stood on the bridge for another hour after my upstream exploration, the Canadas and barnacle never reappeared. It was literally as if the goose gave me a personal flyby just so he could be #104 on my list! Just a note, this is the third time I have seen this bird in the ABA area. I saw one one at Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk, Long Island in November 2007, and I saw another in West Newbury, Massachusetts in December of 2011. I saw the Montauk bird in the same scope view as my lifer pink-footed goose - now that was a great goose day!

Now for the trust conversation. What I realized today is that this year is only going to work if I have your trust. We all know that birders have varying levels of credibility, and that this credibility is based not only bird knowledge, but also personal history. The reason I bring this is up is that you probably noticed that I did not post a photo of the barnacle goose. This is because I did not get a photo of it; My camera and lens were not assembled and were stuffed into my pannier when the goose went over. This bird has been reported regularly for the past 2 weeks, so its not as though I am reporting an equally rare bird that no one else has seen. Even so, I am asking you to trust that I did in fact see the barnacle goose. Bird listing or reporting typically happens "on one's honor". It is the responsibility of each individual to faithfully report what he or she saw. We typically do not ask for proof of common species, but for rarer birds photo documentation is normally required. The point is that I am going to do my best to provide documentation when required and possible. However, given the unique nature of this big year, this is more difficult for me than for car-based birders. My gear must be stowed while riding to prevent damage; I cannot have it on the passenger seat ready to go. I will also be doing a lot of birding alone as there is not room for companions on my bike. However, I think I can rely on my past reputation in the bird community to speak for me. Hopefully, this reputation and this discussion will help convince you to trust me. With this trust, we will be able to have an amazing year together, I promise.

I'm not sure how tomorrow is going to shake out quite yet, but I will be returning to the country club to search for the missed cackling goose. Hopefully he'll surface and he'll bring back his barnacle friend.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the brief detour from the birds to hear (read) your brief thoughts about trust. I think that one aspect of your "Big Year" that is different from others is that you have lots of slow, down-time to yourself as you ride your bike from place to place. One of my favorite things about riding a bicycle is the fact that it forces me to slow down and contemplate. I'm sure that you understand this. I wonder if a big year by bike is just as much about contemplation, of current issues such as conservation problems and green living, but also issues such as what it means to have integrity... I enjoy hearing about the birds and all, but I'd also like to hear more of your thoughts on these broad issues that birders deal with! I know you don't necessarily have a lot of time for posts each day, but I liked the difference in tone of this post.