Monday, February 28, 2011

Twitching the Redpoll

This was my first real North Carolina “twitch,” a birding trip with the sole purpose being to see a single anomalous state bird.
In this case it was an easy choice to go after it. Common Redpolls rarely show up in North Carolina and when they do, they don’t often stick around to be seen for very long. Here was one staked out at a bird feeder just 40 minutes west of Durham. Plus Robert Meehan needed a ride.
For etiquette reasons I only took horribly distant photos. To approach a rare bird like this will lead to it instantly flush into the nearest window at deadly speed, or alternatively into the maw of a feral cat or talons of a Sharp-shinned Hawk, robbing fellow twitchers of a potential lifer. So you'll need to use your imagination to its full potential!
Boy I really need to get myself a digi-scoping setup! Mark Kosiewski got some great shots through his scope the following day.
If you squint hard enough you can make out the stubby yellow bill and black chin.

I hope lots of people got to see this bird. It stuck around for a few days, but as far as I can tell it is now officially MIA.
My last pure “twitch” was for a Virginia’s Warbler that showed up 20 minutes outside Providence while I was at Brown some four years ago. It was the first state record and a lifer for me.
Common Redpoll was not a lifer for me. I saw my first redpolls on Stewart Island in New Zealand (of all places!) back in 2009. But it was my 299th ABA tick and my 247th NC tick, so I’m rapidly approaching milestones.
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I’ve miraculously survived the month of February in my bird-a-day challenge. But I’ve only got about 7 or 8 easy piedmont birds left, so I’ll probably kick the bucket just before or after Spring Break.
I really should have started one of these last year. My schedule was perfect to make it through 365 species: Three weeks of winter NC birds to start the year -> fly to South America in late January and tick nothing but lifers through early August -> return to NC to get summer residents in the piedmont and coast, then fall migrants through the end of October into November -> surviving through November and December would have been dicey as some winter residents would have been used up from the previous January.
Anywho, at least this way I’ll be setting a low bar to be bested repeatedly in years down the road. The list to date (birds in bold were life or state birds):
01/01/11
Red-breasted Nuthatch
01/02/11
Pine Siskin
1/3/2011
Barred Owl
1/4/2011
American Kestrel
1/5/2011
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1/6/2011
Purple Finch
1/7/2011
Yellow Rail
1/8/2011
Lark Sparrow
1/9/2011
Piping Plover
1/10/2011
Red-throated Loon
1/11/2011
White-winged Scoter
1/12/2011
Red-tailed Hawk
1/13/2011
Cedar Waxwing
1/14/2011
Eastern Bluebird
1/15/2011
Black Vulture
1/16/2011
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1/17/2011
Brown Creeper
1/18/2011
Dark-eyed Junco
1/19/2011
Cooper's Hawk
1/20/2011
Song Sparrow
1/21/2011
House Finch
1/22/2011
Pine Warbler
1/23/2011
Eastern Phoebe
1/24/2011
Field Sparrow
1/25/2011
Hairy Woodpecker
1/26/2011
Canada Goose
1/27/2011
Pileated Woodpecker
1/28/2011
Yellow-rumped Warbler
1/29/2011
Short-eared Owl
1/30/2011
Blue Jay
1/31/2011
Fox Sparrow
2/1/2011
Red-headed Woodpecker
2/2/2011
Rock Pigeon
2/3/2011
Brown-headed Nuthatch
2/4/2011
American Crow
2/5/2011
Mourning Dove
2/6/2011
American Woodcock
2/7/2011
Ring-billed Gull
2/8/2011
Turkey Vulture
2/9/2011
Hermit Thrush
2/10/2011
Golden-crowned Kinglet
2/11/2011
American Robin
2/12/2011
Great Horned Owl
2/13/2011
White-crowned Sparrow
2/14/2011
Great Blue Heron
2/15/2011
European Starling
2/16/2011
American Goldfinch
2/17/2011
Downy Woodpecker
2/18/2011
Tundra Swan
2/19/2011
Dovekie
2/20/2011
Swainson's Hawk
2/21/2011
House Sparrow
2/22/2011
Brown Thrasher
2/23/2011
Eastern Towhee
2/24/2011
Killdeer
2/25/2011
Common Redpoll
2/26/2011
Fish Crow
2/27/2011
White-throated Sparrow
2/28/2011
Red-shouldered Hawk

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