Sunday, June 26, 2011

Always Pack Your Binoculars!

Or, how I almost missed my lifer Yellow-billed Loon.

Let me start from the beginning. For those who don't know, I'm working in Western AZ right now, chasing Yellow-billed Cuckoos around and birding whenever I get the chance. A Yellow-billed Loon had been seen on and off this winter not far from where I live, and was refound shortly after I arrived here.

Apparently well known for frustrating optimistic birders who traveled hours to search for it, I was none the less determined to see it. A few failed attempts and triple digit highs the last few weeks, however, have tempered my enthusiasm to the I'll-just-scan-the-river-as-I-drive-by level.

And even that was fading fast. Don't get me wrong, I still wanted to see it, but it's hard to get excited about standing on the shore of the Colorado River not seeing anything at all bird related, going over scenarios in my head in which I try to convince a highway patrolman that I'm a birder and not some creep ogling girls. Really officer, there's a rare bird down there. Yea, it's probably underneath that boat right now. Yes, the one with all those girls sunbathing..

Which takes me to yesterday, coming back from Lake Havasu City, in which I used my two days off to do absolutely no birding whatsoever. I didn't even bring my binoculars with me. Everyone needs a little bit of a break now and then (actually, that's not true. Even sans binoculars, I still added California Gull to my county list..)

And what should see as I drive by the river, but a man with binos and a camera staring at the river! As I yell at my friend to pull over, I see it. Sitting in the river. Identifiable even without my binos. My lifer Yellow-billed Loon. And somehow, in the 5 seconds it took us to pull over, the man looking at the bird had vanished.

Leaving me staring at quite possibly the only Yellow-billed Loon I will ever see. Without any binoculars. Well, it's clearly a Yellow-billed Loon, I can see the massive upturned yellow bill from where I sit on the bank, the bird casually bobbing up and down in the river not 50 feet away. Probably better looks than some people have got even with there binos.

And then, here comes the birder who first was watching the loon, with a scope! My good luck never ceases! A few quick looks, some pictures are snapped (but not by me, my camera is still broken) and off he goes, hoping for a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that I gave him directions to find, as repayment for the temporary loan of his binos. All is well.

And that's that. Back to chasing Cuckoos in the morning and napping the rest of the day away.

1 comment:

  1. David,
    It was nice to meet you, and your friend Leif, under such auspicious circumstances.
    As for the overuse of commas, you're doing better than my wife, who wouldn't recognize a comma if it bit her in the ankle.
    Tom Miko
    Claremont, California