Saturday, November 15, 2014

The trick is to *not try*

For the past 2-3 weeks I have spent many hours in the field here in Connecticut scouring fields and thickets for rare birds, particularly for western vagrants. Other than a hybrid gull and a few interesting juncos, I haven't found much of note while birding.

Last Thursday, a rainy and dreary day, found me running errands instead of birding. I brought my bins and camera bag along with me since I knew I would be passing a few fields and ponds worth checking for geese. After picking up some apples and donuts at a farm store, I casually checked a blackbird flock and immediately stumbled upon a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.

Dumb luck struck again today. I had a bit of time before I had to meet my father in Norwalk to winterize his boat, so I decided to stop into Seaside Park in Bridgeport to catch some bait for fishing later this month. While driving I glanced into the small horse pen at the park's entrance and noticed a CATTLE EGRET underneath one of the horses. No photos as I was without my camera, and the bird flew within a minute of spotting it anyway.

So there you go. Nothing earth shatteringly rare, but two very good birds for the state while "not birding." I can count on one hand how many individuals of each of those species I have seen in CT (keep in mind I do not year-list, so I rarely chase local birds).

Overall, as we reach the midpoint of November, the rarity season has been a bit slow. Other than a Painted Bunting in Stamford, no true megas. A Barnacle Goose probably ranks as the second rarest bird of the month so far. There have been some good lingering birds and some very scarce species seen too (Lark Sparrow, Western Kingbird, and the two species noted above).

Regionally, there was a great flurry of rarities from surrounding states at the beginning of the month, but this past week was quieter. Still, a Smith's Longspur in MA and a Couch's Kingbird in MD remind us that November is the best month for rarities in these parts. It pays to be in the field looking.

There is plenty of time yet, but one has to wonder what the current (and forecast to be prolonged) unseasonable cold spell will do to any lingering insectivores.

 - Nick

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