Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tundra Swan Reminder Of Do's And Don'ts

 I was at  Haddam Meadows state park a couple of weeks ago and noticed a large number of Mute Swans on the Connecticut River. One of the general  rules of birding is that whenever you see a large flock of common birds it's a good idea to check them carefully to see if a rare bird might be mixed in with the flock. I half followed that advice as I checked through the flock of Mute Swans but did so halfheartedly. I even thought I caught a glimpse of  one that had black bill but then the swans moved further down the river. It would not have taken much effort for me to walk further down the trail but instead I opted for getting breakfast and calling it a day.
 The following weekend I stopped by the same park and ran not a couple of birders. I asked them if they were seeing anything interesting and they told me about the Tundra Swan (rarer bird) that had been reported here a few days earlier. Sure enough, it was there just as I'm sure it was there the weekend before right under my nose.
Reminder to self # 1: Do make sure to check through through the flock thoroughly.

Reminder to self # 2: Don't assume it's unlikely for a rare bird to be in the mix. Have some faith that a rare bird might really be there so you don't just go through the motions.

Reminder to self # 3: Don't take a breakfast break until you find the bird you're looking for.
The day after I saw the Tundra Swan I did some Sunday morning birding on a patch of hunting land in Cromwell. Before walking the trail I stopped at a small town park that overlooks the Connecticut River. There were some Common Mergansers and Canada Geese within close view but on the opposite side of the rive I saw 3 birds that I was unable to identify with my binoculars. Wouldn't you know I decided to leave my spotting scope at home. I ended up using my camera at full zoom to try to get an identification photo. I was eventually able to figure out that the mystery birds were White-winged Scoters which I was more excited about than the Tundra Swan. I underestimated the rarity of A Tundra Swan and overestimated the rarity of seeing a White-winged Scoter inland. Although, I do believe that the importance of a sighting is in the eye of the beholder.

Reminder to self #4-Don't Forget Your Spotting Scope: Always bring your spotting scope just in case: The frustration of not having it when you need it is much worse than the little effort it takes to throw it in the trunk.

Reminder to self # 5-Do Use your camera for ID shots: If you're not sure of the identification of a mystery bird make sure to take a photo or video of it. Even a crappy photo might be helpful for identification purposes.

Reminder to self # 6-Do Brush Up On Rare Birds: Familiarize yourself with rare bird possibilities in your area before you see one so that you don't become flustered when you have a chance encounter.

I have no ambition to become an elite birder but that doesn't mean I want to repeatedly make the same mistakes. Hopefully I can eventually eliminate some of these bad habits. 

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