I and the Bird

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Friday, March 17, 2006

#5 Milford, Conn 11/6/05

Birding is hard. You can get a report of a bird being in a specific place and everyone has seen it but you go and it's gone (Nashville warbler in Baltimore). Or you go and see something flying away that could have been what you were looking for but you don't get a good enough look (goddamn Pharsalia crossbills...). Or you're just not smart enough to know what to look for or to know what bird sings that way and you miss out. It happens all the time. Once in awhile, though, things go right.
I don't know why I was in Maine or what I was doing but I was in Maine and driving back to DC. Of course, I wanted to do some birding along the Atlantic coast. I had read some RBA's that reported American Oystercatchers, a bird that for one reason or another I really wanted to see, at the Audubon center in Milford, Conn. So off I went, with Kate on the phone giving me directions.
Buuut there were some complications. We weren't sure where exactly Milford was or what was the best way to get there. Long story short, I ended up getting off exits and pulling uturns in annoying Connecticut towns and almost missed my window of daylight. I also got a nice burrito.
Finally, though, I pulled into the Audubon. A short walk from the parking lot too me to a beautiful beach with old guys fishing quietly and pointlessly (seriously go to Shaws please) in the surf and kids flying kites. The rising tide was filling a small pool and left a sandy peninsula (reminiscent of Point Pelee) jutting out into the water. Waders were all over, the most striking were the Oystercatchers. Easily the most beautiful bird I've seen. Sharp black and white with a bright red beak and eyes...I would have been happy had I seen nothing else.
But I wasn't done. Walking back toward the parking lot I noticed some brightly colored birds landing in a nearby tree. I took a closer look. What the hell is that? PARROTS? PARROTS?! No doubt, monk parakeets in Connecticut. In November. I couldn't believe it. I had read about escaped pet birds establishing populations but that was always in like Miami or something...I never expected to actually see them...and without even looking!
I walked over to a couple of birders at the wetland on the other side of the parking lot to verify that I was not on drugs and that there were Parrots in Connecticut. He was unimpressed, apparently tropical birds in New England in the winter were old hat, and we stood chatting for a minute by the swamp...until a brown weird looking bird took off from the reeds and flew to a spot about 10 feet in front of us. "American Bittern!" He shouted and then gave me the MOST awkward high-five of my life (birders...I tell you. We are not a cool bunch. More on this in the future). I had been to Montezuma, a famous place for bitterns, probably 10 times and not seen a bittern...and now one flew right in front of my while I was just chatting. Unreal. What if I hadn't stopped for that burrito? What if I hadn't been lost? I never would have seen these birds!
I arrived in Milford for a quick stop to see one bird, but left with three rarities in about 20 minutes. Now only if I had seen those friggin' crossbills...
It is amazing how many people that don't see the birds that are around them. I live in an urban area with bird life all around. Eagles, owls, corvids and etc. You would be surprised how many people that don't see them.
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