In the midst of all the last minute planning for The Big Year Birds and Beers I still have to work and I’m in the middle of 3 different bird surveys. One is my fall waterfowl surveys in conjunction with the National Park, US Fish and Wildlife, MN DNR and WI DNR and the others are for bird monitoring for private companies.
And it’s totally an adventure to fly over thousands of ducks on the Mississippi River, but I do enjoy surveys on the ground, enjoying the autumn air and the last ambient sounds of leaves rustling in the wind. Almost all of yesterday was perfect. Most of my survey spots are on the side of the road so if rain comes I can quick duck in. I have one survey spot that is almost a mile walk from the car on uneven terrain. It’s a lovely walk and very birdy, but I don’t mind it.
Even though I do have to wriggle under an electrified fence on my walk there. Just adds a bit of adventure to my work…and as someone mentioned on Twitter, it’s also excellent motivation for not eating too much…Non Birding Bill texted that it looked like a storm was approaching. Normally, it’s so quiet out here I can hear a storm when it’s still 40 miles away. I didn’t hear anything until a half hour before I was supposed to leave.
On the walk back, I could see the storm moving my way fast. I hustled to get back to the car…except at the electric fence, I took my time there. I could see hills disappearing and fading as the rain came closer and closer. Just as I was putting my scope in my trunk, buckets of rain hit. I made it just in time! I drove to my next survey point and the hard and fast rain soon passed. When it was finished, I noticed a couple of odd shapes.
Closer inspection revealed waterlogged red-tailed hawks. I saw about three different birds, all in this posture. If you’ve ever wondered what birds do after a rain–spread out the wet wings so they can air out the feathers.
Poor wet-tailed hawk! Drenched feathers have to affect flight and one’s ability to hunt. It’s gotta be uncomfortable too. I wonder if they get frustrated the way humans do when rain hits after they water their yard. Do hawks think, “Dang it, I just bathed 2 hours ago in that pond and of course it rains!”
Many of the smaller birds took refuge in the remaining corn stalks. Warblers, sparrows and juncos were all over the leaves after the rain passed. Above is a winter plumage chipping sparrow. It kept flipping its wings–I would guess to try and flip off extra water on the feathers.
I have one more day of surveys today and then tonight it’s our Birds and Beers and Big Year event. NBB though not a birder has been a huge help in the last minute preparations. When we got the Swarovski 10×30 CLs yesterday he posted them so people could see them…and to taunt me a bit.
They are a sweet little pair of binoculars…complete with a Batman-like insignia.