This past Saturday, Ingrid and I piled into our Subaru Outback and headed up the coast in an effort to see three unusual birds.
Our first stop, was in Rockland, Maine where a Lesser Black-backed Gull had been reported in one of the bays. There we spent an hour sifting through hundreds of Herring, Great Black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls. We were trying to find a single bird with yellow legs (like the Ring-billed), dark wings (like the Great Black-back) and about the same size as the Herring Gull.
Gull birding is an acquired taste and can be a painful process . . . and this time we never found our target bird.
We then drove another 80 minutes to Blue Hill, Maine where a homeowner had agreed to let us stakeout his bird feeder. A Western Tanager (a bird of the American west that should be in Mexico) had been hanging our there since November.
This time we successfully saw our quarry (for multiple brief fleeting moments). This has been a good year for vagrant Western Tanagers as I got the one below just south of the Maine border in New Hampshire.
We would have liked have stayed longer at the Blue Hill feeders . . . but we had miles to go . . . and Short-eared Owls to keep.
Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the Bar Harbor Airport, not really knowing where to look. Airports are miles huge and pesky security fences can make finding a pair of owls challenging.
I drove along the entire east side of the airport, then looped around the north end toward the long term parking lot . . . when Ingrid exclaimed: “there they are!!!”
Across a field and through a chain-linked fence were two foraging Short-eared Owls. These bird fly like moths . . . gliding in a herky-jerky motion as they hunt for mice and voles in the grass. They are a very difficult bird to photograph, particularly at at distance and on a cloudy day.
So we got two out of our three target birds. The day made us look forward to our 2024 USA Big Year when we’ll be doing this everyday.