Toad in the Hole

January 01, 2006

First Bird

The first bird of the year for both of us was a junco -- I scared one off the feeder on the back porch when I looked out to see if it was actually raining. Hey, at least it wasn't a house sparrow.

As it wasn't raining, we went to Arrowhead Marsh for the high tide. We did this last year too -- same routine: heavy rains, superhigh tides (as always between Xmas and New Year's), therefore rails popping up to be seen. There were reports of double-digits of clapper rails and soras, some Virginia rails, and a merlin yesterday.

So we plunged through the huge puddle-pond at the parking lot entrance -- we did it last year, so I more or less knew how deep it was -- and got the brakes wet again, but that's just noise if you know how to treat it. And there were indeed rails popping up, and we could even see them despite enough wind to make everything shaky. (Note to self: put a toque in the parka pocket. Keeps the short hairs out of the eyes.) We even managed to set the scope up on the new tripod -- being careful to keep a hand on it at all times. Yes it was a bit windy. Made me stagger a few times.

Clapper rails right underfoot, swimming, bobbing about on floating debris, and walking along the shore and right up on the boardwalk. They really do generally think they're invisible. Soras, ditto, especially under the boardwalk, where a lot of the rails were hiding. A few Virginia rails, and this year we actually got a decent look at one or two. A merlin zipping low over the water, trying to perch on debris and some little wooden structure in the water, but not for long -- the wind was so stiff that evidently it was easier to fly into it than to try to hang onto a perch. Kind of tawny underparts; I'll have to look up which race it was.

All the geese were Canadas, all honkers this time. (We had a couple of white-fronts and cacklers last year.) A few ducks, gulls, cormorants, terns, savanna sparrows, song sparrows, yellowthroats, marsh wrens. Everybody clearly a bit discomfited by the flooding of the usual hide-outs.

And one real tantalizer. Other birders were tantalized too. Under the boardwalk, smaller than the sora next to it, not black but just a bit brown-motley, short bill, a bit dumpy-looking, I thought. Not a good look, dammit, and then after a minute or two it disappeared. Arrgh. If it was a yellow rail, it was a lifer. But I'm not happy with it.

There was one reported there last year at the New Year's tide.

Cripes, I guess we'll have to go to North Dakota now for a better look --- maybe.

Posted at January 1, 2006 10:27 AM