Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brown-chested Martin!

It's been a lonnnng time since I've posted anything on this particular blog, so I trust that you as a reader are well rested.

On Sunday I went with Linda Pivacek and Patty O'Neill down to the Cumberland Farms fields in Middleborough to join Eddie Giles' BBC walk. We had a fine time on a gorgeous day. What we did not have was an austral vagrant, of any variety. But the next day Jeremiah Trimble and Marshall Iliff sure did, in that very location -- a Brown-chested Martin!

Naturally I lamented my fate, not only because we'd been down there a day too early (or worse, that we'd been right on time but we'd overlooked it), but also because I'm a working stiff and did not have Columbus Day off. I figured I'd missed my shot.

Then it was reported again on Tuesday. Mary Keleher sent me a Facebook note asking if I'd seen it, and then when I responded in the negative, she jokingly suggested that I call in sick today. I laughed that off, being a good and responsible sort of employee, but when the bird was reported again this morning, I couldn't help but start to ponder the feasibility of taking a quarter day off to drive down to Middleborough when my afternoon meeting was over. (It's a longish hump from Beverly.)

When, as the sun shone, my afternoon meeting suddenly got postponed, I didn't hesitate -- I put in for a half day off and hopped in the car.

There were gobs of birders already down there, especially for a Wednesday afternoon, but of course this bird was big news. I didn't have to wait long at all before our hero showed up, almost straight above us. There was some debate about whether or not it really was the bird, but I was in the pro camp, and I believe that ultimately the cognoscenti were with me. The flight seemed suspicious -- it seemed like the bird was gliding for waaay too long (not that I'm qualified to say), and he looked pretty substantial, even in the immediate presence of an optimistic harrier that harbored a fantasy of having martin for high tea. Regardless, I wasn't satisfied with that sort of look at what I hoped would turn out to be a life bird for me.

So I was very very pleased when, a few minutes later, Vernon Laux shouted out that the bird was heading our way. This time it came in very low, just over the fields at eye level, and passed right in front of us. The overall size, length, and visible-to-the-naked-eye band across the chest left no room for uncertainty. Ka-ching! It quickly flew off, but made an encore several more minutes later, again making itself plenty obvious.

Flushed with that victory, I rounded up a small party to go down to Wareham for the Sandhill Cranes. A splinter group had gone for them after the BBC walk on Sunday, without any luck. This time, armed with explicit instructions, we had no trouble finding the particular spot, and with a fellow birder already staking them out, we were on them in no time flat. I had my second state bird, and Leslie Kramer her second life bird, within the space of an hour. Sweet. For good measure, we stuck around to get an eyeful of them flying off, which they cooperatively did right in front of us.

Good day. Nancy had a pretty good one herself, for entirely non-bird-related reasons, and we celebrated at the Duck Walk. The noodle curry was especially tasty...