05 December 2012


Just one look out of the window and I knew I was in trouble. A Red-necked Grebe had been reported in Colorado recently, and staring at the Pied-billed Grebes in the distance I knew I wanted one of them to not be a Pied-billed Grebe. I had foolishly agreed to study at a friend's house this morning, and my mind was a million miles away. I glanced over and said "I'll be back, I'm going to go check out that bird."

And so my noble quest of not-studying began.

The grebes were, of course, Pied-billeds. But since I was outside, and it wasn't raining that hard, I figured I might as well check out the weedy fields nearby. Under the gray overcast skies, I trudges through the brush, heading further and further into what appeared to be a construction project abandoned a few years prior. The weeds were crawling with birds, and the proximity to the lake made for an interesting mix of species. Dozens of Black Vultures streamed from a nearby roost, passing silently overhead, which the constant calls of Swamp Sparrows revealed just how thick they were in this field (I estimated at least 26 individuals in my short little jaunt). The mud stuck to my feet as I worked my way ever forward towards the edge of the woods, working my way through the birds of the brush every dozen meters or so. House Wrens, Song Sparrows and Swamp Sparrows were by far the most common birds, but a 'drier' patch of weeds hosted a small party of Savannah Sparrows and a lone juvenile White-crowned Sparrow was nice confirmation for the one I thought I had heard earlier in the morning. I trudged onwards towards the trees and was amazed to find that the 'better' the habitat became, the fewer birds I had. At the treeline, I only had four species of bird new for the morning: Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay and Red-headed Woodpecker. I began my slow return through the muddy field, attempting to keep from getting any dirtier in the clay dirt and drizzling rain. As I neared civilization again, a lone Lincoln's Sparrow flushed up next to me, providing a nice Melospiza sweep for the morning. (My complete checklist accessible here).

By the time I returned to my friend's house, my pants had brown sheet of clay staining them, my shins were caked in mud, and my shoes and socks were soaked through. The only thing harder than the mud to get rid of was the smile on my face as I walked inside and stared out the window, ignoring the shocked and confused looks from my clean contemporaries who had assumed I hadn't left the porch.

It was good to get back in the field again, and winter break can't come soon enough.

On an unrelated note, lots of pelicans are moving through Louisiana right now, so in honor of them, here's a picture I took on Grand Isle a few years back. Good birding, and see you all on the other side of finals week!

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