Sunday, December 21, 2008
That Was Easy!
Most serious birders spend large amounts of time "chasing" rare birds. I am no exception, but my ability to chase rare birds is somewhat handicapped by the fact that I lack both a driver's license and a car. Oftentimes, rare birds only hang around a day or two, and conning/begging/convincing/coercing/bargaining with my parents for a ride usually takes longer than that. It is entirely understandable why they are reluctant to drive forty-five minutes to see (or maybe not see) an obscure brown sparrow they've never heard of; only a rabid county lister would see the point of that.
But a Vermilion Flycatcher! This species occurs fairly regularly in Orange County, but, being new to the county, it wasn't on my county list. I convinced my mom that the little cemetery where it was wintering was "only a few miles" out of the way home from Starr Ranch and that it would take "only a few minutes" to find the bird.
For once, I was actually right on both counts. The cemetery - El Toro Cemetery in Lake Forest - was only about five miles off the two forty-one toll road we take home from Starr Ranch. On Friday afternoon, after a slow morning of banding at Starr Ranch (we caught exactly six birds, though I did see a couple Scott's Orioles which made things worthwhile), we glided into the cemetery and parked. It took all of about two minutes to located the female Vermilion Flycatcher hawking insects low in some trees nearby. It was rather unwary, almost tame, so I managed to shoot some decent photos. A nice new Orange County bird for me. Don't ask me what my current total is, as I do not know the precise figure... somewhere in the 270s, I believe.
It was nice to easily locate the bird I was seeking for once! Far too often have I chased a rare bird unsuccessfully. Some of the close misses are painful to remember, but some birders get in bragging matches about the birds they've missed ("Once I missed an Ivory Gull by two minutes." "Oh yeah? Once I missed a Bananaquit by thirty seconds!") I hope to boost my sub-par Orange County list past the three hundred mark by the time I leave home for college. It is possible, but it will take a lot more successful rarity chases like this one!