The Chase

Yesterday I had the afternoon off, and the snow had not yet started, so I rode out to Eagle Marsh for probably the last time this year. I had one bird on my mind as I wound down mop-up duty for my green list.

hegu

Herring Gull

The list-serv reports told me this gull was there. So yes, that means exactly what it sounds like: I used a free afternoon to spend time and energy chasing a Herring Gull on my bicycle in below freezing weather.

Herring Gull is not a county bird, nor is it  even a year bird. And it is certainly not an exciting bird. But when their reliable spots of expansive open water are an hours-long bike ride away, getting one this close to home was very big news and I had to chase it. This is another reason why birding green is so fun. Even the trashiest of trash birds become really good ticks. Trash bird is not meant as an insult; it’s just how I also happened to also see some HEGUs the previous day while driving for work:

Trash Birds.JPG

Trash Birds

Despite their low-brow status, they are at least interesting as the garbage disposals of the bird world. The slab of panfish that the youngster above was eating was doubtlessly scavenged from one of the better hunters sitting nearby:

gulling

Thief

For what it’s worth, if I were doing a 5-mile radius challenge, I could count the Ring-billed Gulls in the photo above, but not the Herring Gull. The 5-mile radius line from my house splits the main impoundment of Eagle Marsh cleanly in half, and the birds in the background are on the far side of the line and outside of the circle.

GBHE.JPG

We are not amused

Playing by those rules, the heron in the background would also be out of bounds. But this one would count. There are plenty around still even though the water is mostly frozen. They all look angry like this, though.

Coyote.JPG

Coyote

The most interesting sighting of the day came in mammal form. About half of the Ring-billed Gulls were spooked, so I began scanning for eagles. I didn’t see any, but I noticed some movement along the far shoreline where a coyote was tentatively trying to step out onto the ice. He evidently thought better of his plan, though, because after a few steps he turned around and gave up. Neato! This is my first coyote in Allen County, and getting it motorless puts me at 13 mammal species for the year.

On my ride home, a shiny adult White-crowned Sparrow popped out of the brush on the trail and landed in a tree right next to me, giving me another addition to the list and saving me from a really embarrassing miss this year. It plus the gull put me at 143. That will probably be my final number unless a Purple Finch shows up in my yard.

I plan on starting 2017 strong, though. I am participating in the Southwest Allen Christmas Bird Count on January 2nd to jumpstart my resolution to hit 150. See you then!

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5 thoughts on “The Chase

  1. I understand completely. I have one Herring Gull on my Johnson County list. Not like I have that many Ring-billed Gulls on that list..

    So does that mean you are going green on the Southwest Allen Christmas Bird Count? And did you see the 5-mile challenge on Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds?

  2. Love the dedication to the green list! It’s funny living on state lines- I can get birds on my motorless list without getting it on my state list. Fingers crossed for your yard PUFI.

    • Thanks, Jen. Are you doing another motorless list in 2017? I am only 20 miles from the Ohio line and have thought of making the ride just to get another state on the list.

      • I think I’m doing a motorless list, though I’ll probably focus on the 5-mile radius list. My friends said they are going to try a 5-mile radius big year next year so it would be fun to do a kind of year-long *friendly* competition with them.

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