Whenever I head out the door to go birding, my husband tells me “I hope you will see what you are looking for.” During most of my outings, I don’t look for one particular bird, but stroll around one of my regular haunts while keeping track of whatever feathered friends show themselves on that particular day.
As fellow birders know, reports of an unusual or rare avian visitor in one’s home territory might trigger a kind of “hunting” instinct and result in a trip centered around the discovery of said rarity. If one is lucky, the bird will be present in the very spot where it had previously been observed, at the very moment one happens to be there. But more often than that, it will take multiple attempts to locate it again.
It is on such occasions that my husband’s wish gets amended to “I hope you will see what you are looking for—because it will make my day better, too.” Now why would he make such a statement? Why assert such a thing? Allegedly, my mood is affected negatively in case I don’t find the bird in question, and he claims that it’s no fun to be around me when that happens. Of course, I have no idea what he is talking about. 😊
January held several scenarios that necessitated repeated forays to local birding hotspots in search of some elusive bird. I finally beheld a Harris’s Sparrow and Northern Waterthrush at Fountain Creek Regional Park after 3 tries, and it took no fewer than 4 trips to Clear Spring Ranch to observe a Fox Sparrow. While neither bird was a lifer, I had encountered the sparrows only once or twice before, and the waterthrush only during migration. Right now, the latter is supposed to be overwintering along the Texas or Florida coasts, or in Central or northern South America.
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For my long-suffering significant other’s sake, I’m glad that, on some days, I get to see more than one bird on my wish list. So it happened on January 31, when I drove 50 miles south to Fremont County. Reports of various geese throughout the month had piqued my interest, and once those accounts started to include a Sandhill Crane in the days leading up to the 31st, they made up my mind. We get cranes in Colorado, but generally during their northbound or southbound migrations in spring and autumn, respectively. This bird was either left behind in the fall, or, more likely, was impatient to leave the wintering grounds in New Mexico by winging northward.
So on the last day of January, when the temperature was predicted to top 60 degrees and the forecast called for snow two days later, I wrapped up a satisfying month of birding at Valco Ponds in Cañon City. I was already extremely happy to have detected a triad of geese—a Snow, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted Goose—in one location, something that happens only rarely. My happiness gave way to elation when the crane appeared seemingly out of nowhere, circled once above the pond, then landed in an adjacent field, where he had probably been feeding before.
To top it all off, a pair of domesticated turkeys, presumably out on a romantic excursion from one of the nearby farms, was doing a turkey trot in the parking lot, with him strutting his stuff and singing to her, and her beguiled by his splendor and musicality.
According to my spouse, I was in an exceptionally good mood when I returned home.