Friday, December 24, 2010

River Royalty

Christmas Bird Counts are a great chance for birders to get out and do some good. Survey work, by the layman (or laywoman, as the case may be) in the name of science can be very rewarding. Plus, the chance to see birds, after the count, that have been dug up by other teams adds another layer of fun.

I had just such a fun episode yesterday. 

This past Saturday, a team working the Anchor Bay Christmas Count (one of the best in the state) drummed up a King Eider.  That's good stuff.

As one can see on the range map, this gal (a "Queen Eider" to some) was a bit lost.  Basically, they breed in the north-central part of the continent and fly either east or west to winter along the oceans.  A bird on the Great Lakes (outside of Lake Ontario) is not a common thing, at all. In fact, the Michigan Bird Records Committee describes them as "Casual" - a species that have been recorded more than three times, but fewer than 30 times, in the last 10 years, and were recorded in fewer than nine of the last 10 years.

That is quite a mouthful, huh?

Anyway you look at it, I got the shaft from a photography standpoint. As is so often the case as of late, I had my camera and a good bird ready to go. What's missing? Good light.  Yeah, I had clouds.  Tons of 'em.  Oh well.  Any way you look at it, my picture is certainly alot better than that coin to commemorate the upcoming royal wedding.  (Can they get they married already? I'm tired of it...)

Was it new for me?  No, not by a long shot.  I have seen them in Alaska and Maine.  Interestingly enough, my very first one was in Michigan.  A bird was hanging out at the Power Plant in Sault Ste. Marie in 1997.  There is no tellin' when I see another one.

I almost didn't see this one.  For days, she had been hanging out at the ferry landing to  Harson's Island.  Of course, she can't be there when I'm there.  Oh, no.  That would be too easy. So after watching and waiting for over an hour, I took off.  Hundreds of yards of shoreline can't be covered in the area as the river front is all private property.  As I pressed on for home, I noticed a little restaurant a half mile downriver from the ferry with some open public land on the waterfront.  "What the heck...", right?  So, I got out.  And there she was practically at my feet.  

Wait.  She is royalty. Perhaps, I should be at her feet?

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