Birder's Eye View

Monday, May 18, 2009

A wild Greater Sandplover chase, part 2

This is Part II. If you haven't already done so, please read Part I first! :-)
Dave, Wes, and Erik wanted to know what other birds I needed for my list. I didn't have it with me (nor was I prepared for their generous offer to help me find whatever birds I needed!), so we decided to go after a Painted Bunting, since there were supposed to be a lot of them in the area.

As we drove down a narrow little road towards an old plantation, we stopped in front of a house with a plethora of feeders around it. There were tons of peacocks in the yard, but no buntings as far as we could tell. As we were inspecting the feeders from a distance with our binoculars, the homeowner came out and invited us into his back yard.

He said he had tons of Painted Buntings and other species that visited his feeders, but they come and go randomly (as birds often do). We didn't find any at his house, but when he learned we had been over to see the Greater Sandplover, he gave us an article about it that had come out in his local newspaper. He also showed us all of his peacocks (there were probably 20 or more strutting around on his roof, his car, in the bushes, etc).

It's amazing the interesting people you meet when birding! Just in that one day, we met people from all over the state and the country, talked to complete strangers who had fascinating stories to tell, and were all more than willing to help us in whatever way they could.

After leaving the peacock house, we went to the end of the road and birded around the plantation (really cool place, I wish I'd had more time to explore!). We ran into another birder we had talked to back at Huguenot, and she said she had seen a Painted Bunting back along the road where we had come from.

We headed back to the location she indicated. We stopped at one point along the way, and observed an American Redstart feeded a baby Brown-headed Cowbird. (I felt kind of bad for the Redstart -- the cowbird most likely pushed her babies out of the nest, but she will instinctively go on feeding it until it grows up).

Finally, we pulled over one more time and Wes played a tape of a Painted Bunting call. After a good 5 or 10 minutes, the bird swooped down out of nowhere and started chattering irritably at us.If at all possible, I was even more excited for the bunting than I was for the Greater Sandplover!
It wasn't exactly a lifer (I saw Painted Buntings when I was really little), but it was exciting to see it again and really appreciate it this time.

Wes, Dave and Erik asked what other birds I needed, and I mentioned that I didn't have very many sparrows, so we decided to grab lunch and then find some pine forests in which to go look for a Bachman's Sparrow.

We went to a park called Haw's Creek, but it was overgrown with scrub and the wrong kind of habitat for sparrows. Plus, by now there were thunderstorms all around us and it was raining off and on, so we decided to take a quick break and then head back across the state. Before we left, we did manage to see a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on some trumpet vine flowers over the parking lot, which was a fun treat.

As we headed back west, we saw quite a few Swallowtail Kites flying over the road. When we drove under three of them together -- a juvenile and two adults -- we pulled over and Wes brought out his bird call tape.

The Kites doubled back and flew towards us, swooping in low and turning their heads inquisitively towards us to figure out what the sound was.

It was really cool to see them up close. They seem like very curious birds; after a while, two of them lost interest, but the third one hung around for a bit, still trying to figure us out.

In that one trip, I got 12 year birds, 7 lifers, and an unforgettable experience.

On the way back, driving through rain and thunderstorms, Wes and Dave told more tales about their birding adventures.

Once again, I am simply in awe of the incredible people I've met through birding. How amazing it is that three random folks who I don't even know would offer to take me across the state, show me new birds, and share their fantastic stories and wealth of knowledge.

I am infinitely grateful to Wes, Dave and Erik for taking me along on their great adventure, and putting up with my newbieness and ornithological ignorance. I am also indebted to my mom for getting up at 4am for me, tolerating my insanity, and supporting me in this wonderful journey. I can never thank you enough!

Until next time,

Happy birding!


To see the rest of my photos from the trip, click here.

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  • You saw some waaay awesome birds!!!
    CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!! It'll be a loooooong time before I have Sand-plover on my ABA list.

    By Blogger Chris W, At May 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

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