25 November 2007


I've never been a chaser. I've gone to specific places hoping to see certain species of birds, but often as not I'm more interested in becoming familiar with a new birding spot. After all, I'm new, I'm still crossing off most common species from my lifelist, I don't need to see a Ruddy Duck right away because I'm sure I'll see it at one of the many ponds on the Cape someday.

All of that changed recently when a Western Kingbird was reported to be seen at the Crane Wildlife Management Area. Again, this isn't an uncommon bird where it occurs. But unlike the other birds I still have to cross off my list that occur on Cape Cod, the Western Kingbird shouldn't be here. And unlike the Gray Jay that occurred earlier this fall, or any other rare bird in Massachusetts or even around the Cape, this one was in town. Across town maybe, but in town nonetheless.

So word trickled down about the kingbird, and I decided to go check it out, never having been to Crane WMA I thought I could still locate it. The morning after the initial report I went down there (it's hunting season so I was restricted to the road), a couple more people stopped by, but didn't see anything. One person had seen it the day before, pointed out a tree it had perched in, let us know it wasn't shy, and had been associated with a flock of Eastern Bluebirds. I went back at lunchtime, still nothing.

Still reports were coming in of people seeing this lost bird. "Great look at it." "Right where previously reported." Every time I gave up on seeing it, someone else would and I'd fall for it again. And still I saw nothing.

I read up on kingbirds in every bird book I had. I thought back to my experiences of seeing Eastern Kingbirds around town. This morning I was determined to go and see it. I stepped out into the hunting area, since quail/partridge season ended yesterday and since hunting is prohibited in Massachusetts on Sundays. I carefully watched the trees where the Western Kingbird was reported to have perched. I walked all around the area well to the north and as far south as I could, and still nothing. I secretly hoped someone else would show up and that their luck would influence the situation. Nothing.

So what can you do? If more reports keep coming in, I'm not sure whether I'll keep looking for the kingbird or not. I was hoping to have seen it this morning, since I had tried to prepare myself on how to find this elusive (for me but apparently not for anyone else) bird, and since today was the day I could go and explore the area it was seen in. But I didn't see it. I saw other things (I do believe the Northern Harrier has been the most fascinating bird I've been able to watch for any length of time). But I didn't accomplish my goal. In relatively fresh hindsight, however, my goal was just a simple wish, and in every other aspect this chase was exactly what I've been doing for the past year now: exploring new places to go birding, becoming more familiar with areas around my town where I had never been before, enjoying being in nature and getting to watch birds (whether or not they were lifers). I must say, then, that my first experience chasing was a failure, but what it made me accomplish was still a success.

No comments: