Wednesday, January 15, 2014

SIDEBAR #2 - The BIG barnacle goose gamble

OK, now that I have seen barnacle goose, I want explain some of my strategy to tick this bird. A barnacle goose was actually reported in Rhode Island on January 9th, a day that I was in the state. In fact, the bird was only ~35 miles from me when I got the report. So why did I not chase that bird instead of waiting the week that I did to get this bird?

BECAUSE I AM SELF-POWERING THE YEAR! - Let me explain. Here is a map of Narraganset bay in Rhode Island. I have added a few things to it.

OK, I was standing at point A at 2:00pm on January 9th when I got a phone call telling me about a barnacle goose that had just be found at point B. My original plan for the afternoon of the 9th was to ride south and stay in the pink circle. The reported barnacle goose was about 35 miles from were I was standing (blue line between A and B). I would need about 3 to 3.5 hours to get to the bird which means it would be dark by the time I got to the area. The first headache that this would have created was that I would have had to find a place to stay at point B. I would have looked for the bird the morning of the 10th, and for the purposes of this discussion, we'll assume that I would have found it before noon. This is a very optimistic assumption as the bird could have easily left overnight.  If you were in a car at point B, it would be easy to drive over the bridges labeled with red and green arrows to get to the pink circle for the night of the 10th. HOWEVER, since I am riding a bike I cannot go over the bridge with the red arrow (it does not have a foot/bike path on it). What this means is that after hypothetically seeing the goose on the morning of the 10th, I would have had to ride the 35 miles back around the bay to Providence for the night of the 10th, and then ride to the pink circle for the night of the 11th. Essentially it would have taken 2 full days to chase a bird I might miss. The chase was in the complete opposite direction of where I was headed (I was headed southeast, off the lower left corner of the map). I knew that the Fairfield bird that I saw today had settled into a routine since it had been seen over several days. So, I decide not to backtrack, and instead keep moving towards the Fairfield bird that I though was more predictable. I am now 2 full days ahead of where I would have been had I chased the other bird, plus I got Rusty blackbird yesterday and rough-legged hawk the day before. You never know how its all going to work out, and this is what makes it equally exciting and infuriating!

The bottom line is that I am not going to chase rarities very often. It is MUCH MUCH MUCH more important that I get all my expected species than get one rare bird for which I work overtime. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm greatly enjoying your Blog. Vicarious pleasures. I would like to point out that bird names are so established that one can use common names such as American Robin and not rely on scientific names such ar Turdus migratorius. This would not be true if you were biking for ferns or lizards or anything other than birds. There is a convention to capitalize common names so one knows if one is referring to a Little Bunting or a small sized bunting which would be a little bunting.