Friday, December 08, 2006

high-speed birding

I saw a Varied Thrush today. I think. I got to look at it for a nanosecond as my car rushed by, loaded with kids and dogs headed for work and school and daycare (where were the dogs headed? With me of course.) It was a darkish bird by the side of the road, but as we passed I saw it land on a tree branch and I distinctly remember seeing dull orange on the wings. I have seen enough of Robin and Roger's varied thrush pictures to make that click as a possibility in my mind. There is not another bird around here this time of year that would have that coloration. By the time I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop in the inch of packed snow on the road and backed up, it was gone. My kids, by the way, now are convinced I'm a wild and crazy birder. But they've seen it before. We made a stop for a suspected (and confirmed, in my mind) juvenile Golden eagle a few days ago.

Varied thrushes are a rare visitor in Minnesota, mostly hanging out on the West Coast at Robin and Roger's. But I have been following the birding listservs, and there are a few reports of errant Varied thrushes as close as sixty miles away. Stranger things have happened. There was a Painted bunting, a beautiful Florida/Texas native, at a bird feeder three miles from here a couple years ago. I have a copy of the video to prove it.

After doing daycare and school dropoffs, I was treated to the sight of a flock of several hundred snow buntings on a roadside. They scattered and flew up and drifted just like snowflakes. They are the snow; I don't think they were named just for their white color.

On the way away from work, which I left early to see Calvin's school Christmas program (yes, we're very un-PC around here, they even sang Christmas carols, and no one complained) I observed a hawk hovering and soaring above a patch of open grassland. On a whim, I pulled over to watch it; this was the same behavior I have seen over my swamp several times. I fumbled for my binoculars and found them in time to identify a Rough-legged hawk, our wonderful winter resident from far north. Their hovering, soaring flight is really a beauty to behold.

So many of my bird observations, it seems, happen from my car. Luckily the roads I drive are mostly lightly-traveled enough to allow me this pleasure.


Floridacracker said...

Your robins are here, hundreds of them in big flocks along the roadsides and in the yard.
I'll take care of them until spring, then I'm kicking their ass out!

Deb said...

FC- take good care of them, they are such a joy when they return in the spring!