Sunday, November 15, 2009

The road not taken

Yesterday we had some birding excitement in Michigan. An Ancient Murrulet (Synthliboramphus antiquus - now there's a name) was found by Tim Baerwald in Lake Michigan at Tiscornia Beach in St. Joseph. This is in the southwest corner of the state. Secondary to having needed appointments that I had made long in advance and multiple errands that I had put off until this day, I knew I could not go to see this bird. I knew many who were going and were lucky enough to see the bird and, it seems, quite close, too. See Matt Hysell's blog, Birding Berrien and Beyond titled November Rocks, dated November 14th - (found to the right in my blog list.)

But I had nothing in particular planned for Sunday. I could go on Sunday. The observations made by Matt seemed to suggest that the bird would stay in the area. It apparently had been seen on days just prior by local fishermen and there was plenty of food for it. This would be a life bird for me and it would be an exciting bird to see in Michigan.

Flash back to November, 2008 when I attended a conference in Seattle and went on a poor birder's pelagic by taking the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton. I arrived early and stood outside to watch for birds before the ferry departed. I had only my binoculars. I saw a small, black murrulet-like or auklet-like bird floating along and occasionally diving, but too far out to have any hopes of making an identification. At the time, I remember thinking, "is this my life Ancient Murrulet?" In the end, I had to let it go as unidentified.

I googled the directions for Tiscornia Park on google maps and learned that it is a 169 mile drive. The distance gave me cold feet, but I could get an early start and the miles would tick away driving along westbound I-94. I went to bed still undecided about whether or not to make the trip to see this bird. It was a long drive and would take the whole day and, most importantly, would the bird still be there. I slept poorly, I'm sure because of the open-ended decision still hovering in my brain, and because of this did not wake until 8:30 am - a very late sleeping time for me. So, this morning my decision was finally made, quite easily, and I did not go. A review of the birding listserves this evening revealed that the bird had not been seen today.

Instead I went elsewhere and found this little guy - a rewarding and beautiful consolation.

Cropped for close-up - the bird's facial disk feathers are beautiful.

My final photo of the day was of this handsome Redhead which swam away at my approach despite how stealthy I was trying to be.

In the past several months, especially following my trip out west, I have had an awareness that the focus of my birding should change in order for me to continue to enjoy it as much as I have in preceding years. I think this Ancient Murrulet experience has been an important one for me.


Laurent said...

Smart choice to stay home on Sunday!

D - Wing said...

Great stuff