Lifers in the Fast Lane. And Other Strange Places.

In the last few weeks, I have been birding many times and seen many a good bird, but I┬ádidn’t have anything blog worthy until just yesterday. A work trip put me in South Bend for the day, and on the drive home a large, dark raptor flew low over the road right in front of my car. It showed clear white crescents under the wing and a white tail band, which mean only one thing: Golden Eagle! This is a life bird for me, and an uncommon winter visitor to the Great Corn Desert. It was also a bird of my 2014 strategic year.

I didn’t get a photo, since I was driving and my two colleagues wouldn’t have been thrilled had I slammed on the breaks in the middle of the highway and proceeded to iPhone the bird in the -25 degree wind chill. But despite the lack of pretty picture, I felt inspired to write today because of what this bird got me thinking about: the myriad esoteric lists that I keep in my head, and the weirdest or most random lifering I have had. Golden Eagle is the most recent and definitely the best life bird I have had while driving at 60+ miles per hour. But the 60MPH+ lifer list also contains birds such as American Kestrel, Wild Turkey, and Ring-Necked Pheasant, with numerous others on the list in general without the asterisk for seeing them for the first time at high speeds.

Other random and esoteric lists that I keep in my head include:

Birds Seen Sitting on the Bar Where I am Drinking List:
-Mourning Dove
-Cedar Waxwing

Birds Whose Remains I Have Seen After They Were Eaten By a Peregrine Falcon List:
-European Starling
-Rock Pigeon
-Northern Flicker
-Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
-Blue Jay

Real Birds I Have Seen In My Dreams List (This is an interesting list, because for most people birds in dreams are metaphors, but for me they are literal representations of things I pine for. I could get into a whole other blog post about the psychology here, but not today):
-Snowy Owl (attacking me)
-Harris’s Sparrow (landing on my head)
-Purple and Cassin’s Finches (at my feeder simultaneously)

Made-Up Birds I Have Seen In My Dreams List:
-Completely orange Northern Cardinal with black wing bars

And I also need to mention the category of strangest circumstances in which I have seen a life bird. Golden Eagle and others while driving at speed aren’t too out there. But I do have:
-Ovenbird (seen for the first time in a mist net during my ecology class field lab during my senior year of college, followed by the second time on the sidewalk (alive) in the middle of downtown Indianapolis after hitting a window, and finally countable for the third time in a normal habitat)
-Great Black-Backed Gull (with its head buried in a bag of Fritos)
-Sandhill Crane (seen for the first, second, and third time all while traveling for various job interviews)

And finally, I leave a special place for Carolina Wren, a bird which I observed for the first time when I was about three years old while lying in bed where I first lived in North Carolina. I have an incredibly vivid memory of being so excited that the bird was saying “Superman! Superman! Superman!” and I just couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until about 20 years later that I actually identified the bird, but I count it as my first ever lifer.