Getting To 499

Hey, on Monday at 3pm, I'll be on Twin Cities Live talking about attracting birds to your yard and the City Birds/Country Birds book signing on August 23, 2008 at Cardinal Corner:

August 23, 2008: Cardinal Corner in West St. Paul Store (651-455-6556) 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Cardinal Corner in Newport (651-459-3880) 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Don't forget, Cinnamon fans, the Queen of Disapproval will also come and hang out at the signing too.

Okay, so I think I'm going to finally finish up my Swarovski Blogging Event posts...oh wait, no, I just realized there's one more thing I can talk about after this, but I have to wait a few days longer before I actually talk about what we got to play with. But back to Cape Cod birding--I gotta a couple more lifers bringing my list to 499. So close to 500, yet so far away.

One was a roseate tern--this very light colored tern with a mostly black bill. That was pretty exciting. Terns are amazing creatures. If I ever transition from point and shoot camera digiscoping to SLR digiscoping, I want to try and capture terns fishing. Terns are such dainty and elegant birds in flight and when they dive into the ocean, it's like watching a delicate piece of origami smacking onto the surface of the water. Loves 'em.

Nice scope posture there, Corey! Corey and I each had a few lifers to catch up on. We both needed roseate tern and we also needed arctic tern. The group watched for them, but at the same time we loved getting photos of all the birds on the beach--dead or alive. I was standing with Corey and Ben from 600 Birds. They had spotted something dead further down the beach. It first glance, we got the impression that it was a dead black-backed gull...but when you looked through the scope, the bill looked all wrong. I wondered if it was a dead gannet. All three of use lit up with excitement and hurried off towards the carcass. As we closed in, Clay called from off in the distance, "Aaaaaaaaartic tern!"

Corey and I stopped, Ben who already had an arctic tern said, "Uh-oh."

Corey and I wavered, we were so close to the gannet, could we get photos of the gannet and make it back in time for the tern, or would the tern take off.

Ben, sensing our indecision said, "Gotta make a choice, dead bird? Life bird? Dead bird? Life Bird? Dead Bird? Life Bird?"

Corey and I finally made a rational decision that between the two birds, the dead gannet was guaranteed to stay in one spot, while the tern was not.

So, here is an arctic tern (masked in some major heat shimmer and non breeding plumage). This is an intense little bird if you think about it. This species breeds around the Arctic Ocean--as far north as Greenland and then winters on pack ice in Antarctica. This bird is about the length of a blue jay and flies pole to pole--that's over 24,000 miles round trip. Then when you look at things like banding records and find that in ten oldest birds found on record--the arctic tern comes in at number seven--a bird documented to have lived for 34 years! Imagine living 34 years and making that trip every single year--that's insane. This may be a small somewhat blurry photo, but the amazing potential in this bird deserves a little attention and was well worth abandoning a dead gannet. It was a good thing too. Not long after Corey and I joined the group, a family coming down the beach frightened the flock of terns and the arctic tern disappeared from view.

And then we hightailed it back to the dead gannet. Based on plumage, it looks like a first year bid. You just can't get close to gannets--they're amazing to watch in flight, but this dead bird was a treat to really look at some of its features up close.

The feet were incredible. They were webbed like a duck but had large white claws on the tips--they nest on ledges of cliffs, in the direction of prevailing winds, perhaps that's why they need the claws for gripping?

Who knows how this bird died: disease, poor hunting, poisoning, eating plastic--tough to say but I appreciated the chance to admire that long, tough bill.