I’ll come straight out and say that this is about my home county list. I know that reading someone’s words about their home county obsession is sort of like listening to them go on and on about a recent colonscopy, so feel free to move on if it’s not your thing. I won’t feel bad. But this story is also about a goal and the various and surprising ways one reaches a goal, too. And this goal has to do with birds, and I assume since your perusing this here blog, that’s something that might interest you. So read on. I’ll try to make it worth your while.
A quick bit of backstory. I move to Greensboro, NC, in the summer of 2013 with a county list of 60. in the nearly two years since I’ve been here I’ve been steadily climbing towards 200, a fair goal for a county in the center of North Carolina. I had planned to reach that goal by the end of 2016, accounting not only for the impressive potential of the county, but also for the fact that birding with two young children at home is not the easiest thing in the world. Granted, a flexible work schedule helps, but still, my birding has been about focusing on those birds I still need to meet my goal rather than going out an regularly working a patch.
Even so, this spring has been pretty remarkable. Since the last day of March, I’ve added 10 county birds a mix of cleaning up embarrassing misses and legitimate surprises.
March 31, 2015 – I get word from a friend that a non-birder has reported a large white pelican at a lake not more than 5 minutes from my door. “No way”, I say to myself in that way you do when you’re given a tip on a bird from a person you’ve never heard of before. “It’s probably just that Mute Swan than hangs out there”. But it’s near my kid’s school, so I head over on my way to the carpool lane just to have a look. Lo and behold, there’s the Mute Swan, with an AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN swimming along beside it. I get the word out. A handful of other people find it before it takes off that evening, never to be seen again. #181
April 9-10, 2015 – The fact that I missed LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH and PROTHONOTARY WARBLER last spring is a great shame to me, as their both fairly common early spring warblers across the state of North Carolina. On two consecutive days, I tracked these down at a couple random spots in the county. Missing no more. #182-183
April 19, 2015 – A Facebook friend and avid bird photographer sent me a photo in a message. “I think I found a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE“, she said. “Could you confirm this photo for me?” Not one to turn down a birder, I said sure, and delivered to me was a photo of that self-same goose. I was in the middle of cooking dinner, but I quickly got permission from my wife, turned the burners to low, and booked out to a park a few minutes away. In the darkening evening and rain, I found the goose among a flock of golf course Canada Geese. #184
April 23, 2015 – My parents are in town and my dad and I skip out to hit Hamilton Lakes Park, the primo warblering site in Greensboro in the spring. We had a nice morning, finding first of year Hooded Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler, among others. A skulky thrush showed a reddish back and plain face before flushing at the footfalls of a passing jogger. We marked it down as VEERY, and I didn’t think anything about it at the time till I got home and say on eBird that my county total had ticked up one. Here’s to the unexpected, I guess. #185
A Veery at the same site, but a few days later.
April 27, 2015 – I am on fire this day. It is my goal to track down species for my Piedmont eBird Challenge team, and county birds are secondary, but they come in twos. The first, the embarrassing heretofore unseen SAVANNAH SPARROW was a consolation prize for my FOY Grasshopper Sparrow. Most exciting, though, was a veritable storm of swallows over Lake Brandt featuring all the expected species, and a pair of unexpected BANK SWALLOWS, looking so very small amongst the comparatively massive Purple Martins and Tree Swallows. Later that morning, Canada Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush would fall to the Triad eBird team, though neither were county birds. #186-87
April 29, 2015 – CAPE MAY WARBLER is the last of the expected annual migratory warblers I need for the county. To say that I got a satisfying view of this crippling bird at Hamilton Lakes Park would be an understatement. To say that sometimes the crippling views do not make for crushing photos (this particular male was high and in and out of shadow) is also an understatement. Rest assured, friends, that I enjoyed the hell out of that bird, a plumage I do not see very often. #188
May 4, 2015 – Today was a day for BOBOLINKs, those famously backwards-looking blackbirds with the epic migration and the penchant for hayfields. My county is pretty developed, so finding a good-looking field where one might find these birds takes some doing. I headed out to the corner of the county, a place I’d known from a survey I did on an organic farm. I found the county’s 8th Dickcissel out there, so it seemed pretty promising. Turned out to be a good move, as a couple stops in I was inundated with Bobos in a field of clover. On Star Wars day, I can’t think of a more appropriate sound to be surrounded by than the sounds of dozens of Bobolinks and their R2 unit voices. #189
May 7, 2015 – I started the day in Raleigh, 100 miles from home, not expected to get any birding done. My friend Andrew Thornton texted me that he’d found a LINCOLN’S SPARROW at a greenway behind a Target supercenter (you may laugh, but it’s one of the county’s better sparrow spots). I finished my business in Raleigh, and headed home to grab my bins and camera, then headed out again. 10 minutes later I was on a Lincoln’s Sparrow. #190
There are so many ways to get target birds. Some you find yourself, some you rely on the help of fellow birders. I cannot deny that I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have feelers out in various spots. It’s good to know people, for sure. At this rate, and with a little luck, I’m pretty sure I should be able to meet my goal of 200 by the end of the year. Thanks to those Greensboro birders who help me along the way.
Onward to the double century!