Sunday, April 7, 2013

Size, and Goals

 [Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, the center two are the greaters. Compare overall size and bill proportions. Heislerville WMA, NJ April 6, 2013. Click to enlarge photos.]

It was a cool and windy morning at Heislerville on Saturday, and I discovered that although the tide was right (high), the early morning light is not optimal for checking both impoundments thoroughly, because the more eastern impoundment has you looking right into the light. That's the one that would have had the Ruff, if you could have seen into it.

I don't know, something's always conspiring against you if you let it, so I decided not to let it, and took advantage of a place where the light was perfect just to watch and listen to the flocks of Dunlin and yellowlegs. This was in the little triangle-shaped pool to the west of the main Heislerville impoundment, and with the sun over my shoulder I could sit in the truck, out of the wind and with the truck as a blind, and study. And truthfully just enjoy watching the birds feed, swirl, shuffle, feed some more, scatter when the Merlin flew over, and so on.

[Dunlin are about the size of a soda can. Notice how this one has a couple new feathers on its shoulder, as it starts the molt into breeding plumage.]

A Barn Swallow twisted by in the wind as I watched the shorebirds, one of two year birds for the weekend. The other was a singing Yellow-throated Warbler in Belleplain, where other than Pine Warblers and frog noise it is still pretty quiet.

I was asked by a friend this weekend if I had any particular birding goals for the year. I've been birding as much as I can, which means weekends mainly, and by virtue of living in Cape May and making a couple chases for rarities, have a pretty good "score," i.e. state year list total. The total's just a number, but the birds have been great.

So do I have any particular goal? Not really. I'm not doing a big year, not chasing down any rarity that's not convenient.  I guess I want to learn, to keep the knife sharp. What I mean is, if you don't bird a lot, you get a little slow and dull. You forget the hard stuff first, like flight calls, and lose your calibration for subtle i.d.'s like the yellowlegs. So there it is, have fun birding and stay sharp, that's the goal for 2013.

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