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Sunday, October 30, 2005

My nemesis bird

The Basherkill before arriving at fire tower

(Photo credit - Rob J)

It seems that every birder, after a few years, finds that they have a jinx or nemesis bird. That is a species that, no matter when or where you go, you can never manage to observe. Despite meticulous planning and research that bird somehow manages to elude “capture”.

I’ve been birding for approximately 10 years. Over those years I’ve never been able to locate a Golden Eagle in the wild. My wife and I once spent a couple of weeks vacationing in the Pacific Northwest. Golden Eagles are fairly common there but, apparently, not for me. I kept crossing paths with other birders who would say things like, “Did you see those Golden Eagles that were just here?” No. I would even go to hawkwatches every year hoping to catch a glimpse of one.

View north towards Catskills

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Today Shane and I decided to drive up to the Shawangunks and meet with John Haas to help out with the hawkwatch. Our motivation had been the reports of multiple Golden Eagles at that location. The Shawangunks are a high ridge that runs north to south, just below the Catskill Mountains. Raptors follow this ridge on their southbound migration. The watch is held from the top of a fire tower and affords expansive views of Sullivan County and, on clear days, much farther. For topographic reasons that I don’t understand the top of the fire tower is always very windy. John explained that during the hawkwatch period there are some days when the wind exceeds 70mph. Today was one of those days.

Fire tower shadow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Wind speed

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I suppose the conditions were not ideal as the hawks seen from the top of the tower remained very high and in low numbers. The most abundant species was Red-tailed Hawk and we tallied 24. John felt bad for us as he recounted fantastic hawk days on the tower and, recently, 5 Golden Eagles in one afternoon. I really didn’t mind much as it was pretty cool hanging out on the tower. We eventually gave up as the afternoon lull settled in and we accepted that we wouldn’t be seeing much more activity.

When I returned home I sat down at my computer to check my e-mail. The first message to catch my eye had the subject line “Rare bird in Prospect Park”. Three birders excitedly watched as a migrating Golden Eagle soared over the park at “11:10am”. So, my nemesis bird continues to elude me. I drove 200 miles to NOT see one when I could have walked 2 blocks to see one.

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Eileen's house

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Shawangunk Hawk Watch, 10/30/2005
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Wild Turkey
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Pipit
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow


Danielle said...

I know all too well about nemesis birds. It's really a shame you didn't get to see one while you were in the PNW. And then Sunday, to find out one was right in your own backyard, while you were elsewhere, lol.. I feel for you.
Maybe you could spend a weekend at Hawk Mountain sometime soon. It's worth a shot. From what's on their website, now is the best time to see one there.

And umm... 70 mph winds up in a fire tower? That must have been exciting. ;-)

Rob Jett said...

The high wind worked better than the coffee to wake me up. The hawkwatchers devised a makeshift windbreak out of 2 pieces of plexiglass for the northwest corner of the lookout. It works well until the gusts knock them out. ;-)