Saturday, March 1, 2014

By the Sea

[This adult Razorbill was "naked-eye" on the north side of the 8th Street Jetty in Avalon, NJ.]
I love the sounds of the late winter ocean, and I'm not talking about the surf crashing, though that's nice enough. No, I'm talking about the courting ducks, the plaintive whistles of male Black Scoters and the barking of Long-tailed Ducks. That's what you hear when you get out of the car at Avalon, NJ now, from the many ducks that have accumulated there at the mouth of Townsend's Inlet.
Today there was also a nice close Razorbill, which set me to thinking about why I don't find rare birds more often.  The first reason is one of my favorite birding theorems:
But there are other reasons. Like, I don't look hard enough.  I left several thousand dollars worth of scope and graphite tripod sitting in the truck because I didn't feel like carrying it. Having the scope in hand interferes with quick binocular and camera use, but without the scope you are obviously range-limited.  I'm even more range limited at least some of the time, because when I'm thinking about pictures I'm thinking about, and looking for, close birds, i.e. naked eye birds, which is what the Razorbill was.  You'd be surprised how far away you can identify a bird naked eye once you try it, but even so, you find more birds if you scan with binoculars and scope.
Another thing that limits my rare bird finding is that I just don't enjoy looking for one species, no matter how rare.  This explains why I drove by Stone Harbor Point today, thought briefly about searching for the Smith's Longspur that was there a few weeks ago, and just said, nah, I'd rather not devote a lot of time looking for one rare bird when I can spend the same time looking at many common birds.  Like the flocks at Avalon.
It's not even that Razorbills are all that rare from shore in the winter.  I'd describe their status as "You usually don't find one, but now and then you do."  The Ebird filter doesn't even flag a single Razorbill in Cape May County, though I wonder a little about that, maybe it should.
[The Razorbill flew briefly out to the end of the jetty but soon worked its way back in to about the halfway point, where it spent a lot of time underwater.]

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