Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Shroud, A Veil, Covering up a Fail

My birding has been pretty minimal these last few weeks. I must admit, considering how good November and December are for vagrant/rare birds, I am a total grinch in getting with the 'chasing' spirit. I justify this surliness in that most of the vagrant birds are eclipse-plumage waterfowl on large reservoirs, and it would have to be a very rare bird indeed to make crumby scope views worth a long chase. Some vagrant Warblers have turned up, as well as a Baltimore Oriole hanging out in Tucson. There was a time I would have chased many of these birds, but having now seen most of these species in other states, I've lost a fair bit of motivation, at least as much of the motivation as is required to get over the various and sundry obstacles inimical to early-morning birding. Plus it's been rainy the last two weekends.

Anyhow, even I had to get into gear when someone reported a Long-tailed Duck (not quite annual in AZ) at Saguaro Lake, a mere 35 minute drive without traffic. This would be both a lifer and a pretty great bird for Arizona, and it was close. But of course, all of those earlier grinch factors were still in play. The Saguaro Lake reservoir had a nice, primordial fog going as the sun labored to crest its bluffs. 

I set to work scanning the near-shore waterfowl, not expecting to find a Long-tailed so close to land, but more for a lack of anything else to do until the light improved and the stratus lifted.

I feel like every bird blogger and his cousin have all had one or more experiences in which a Sora walks out into plain view and just loiters, allowing for fantastic crushing. Soras, for the most part, have been mean to me in denying such an opportunity. One fellow was pretty accommodating this morning, but this was in large part due to the soporific lighting. The Hi-Res crush must wait.

The Saguaro Lake reservoir is a nice area, great for logging all of the expected waterfowl and some semi-rarities like Surf Scoter. The surrounding mesquite scrub is pretty good for the Sonoran species--woodpeckers, sparrows, thrashers, and wrens.

Out of the mist materialized many such birds, including some spiffy Buffleheads, but Long-tailed Duck was not one of them. I did have to make note of how quick it was to register all of the waterfowl in the area though, including 4 Grebe species. This might be quite the essential spot in a Big Day challenge come spring...


Eared Grebes are nice, though scant consolation for a Long-tailed Duck. If only the cheeks were whiter, the head less peaked.

Since the bird was first reported on Friday, there has been no further mention of it on the listerv, which was very curious considering how centrally located Saguaro Lake is. Perhaps the Long-tailed Duck was simply a long tale. Well, it was still nice to be out. White-crowns and Cardinals are expectedly everywhere. This is like the AZ equivalent of the Cardinal-eating-sunflower-seeds-in-snow that we'll all being from the east in the next few weeks:

So, even the close-to-home chase was bust this time around, doomed from the start perhaps. At any rate, I have one more week of work before winter break, and then there will be some serious chasing. Until then, I shall remain an existentially troubled Coot, wanting much, yet seeking little.