Date: 4/1/17 5:42 pm From: Paul Roisen <roisenp1950...> Subject: [ia-bird] March Big Day 2017--sorry for the late post
My friend Nathan Miller, a seriously talented birder, from the Lamoni area in Decatur County invited me to participate in a attempt to break the March Big Day record which I think is 102 set awhile back with by the Fuller brothers and John Ruthenbeck.
Date: March 31, 2017 Starting Temp 42 End Temp 46 Starting Wind 12-15mph Ending Wind 3-4mph Sky overcast all day with one very brief sprinkle Start time 6:00AM End time 7:30PM Counties covered: Appanoose, Decatur, Ringgold All three counties had received considerable rain and mud was everywhere..
The AM started off quite well with Eastern Screech and American Woodcock vocalizing. Brief run to Kellerton (Ringgold) which sported a Rough-legged Hawk and 25 or so Greater Prairie Chickens be harassed by two Northern Harriers.
Back to Decatur County hitting Lake LaShane, Lamoni Sewage Lagoons, Little River Lake, back to the "Decatur Boys" property, and Nine Eagles State Park. Best birding start to a day this year: 52 species by 9:00, 82 by 10:30.
On our way to Rathbun Dam we realized that with all the species we had gathered we did not have an American Goldfinch yet. This seemed rather surprising and a little concerning since we would need every species we could possibly locate to have a chance. Mike and Vicki Stephens indicated that they indeed did have Am Goldfinch but not much else. A 3 minute stop snared this species and as it turned out we did not see or hear another goldfinch all day.
Our first run to Lake Rathbun produced Snow and Ross's Goose, Horned and Eared Grebe, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers as well as several Herring Gulls moving us to *91 species by 2:30PM.*
We had missed Northern Bobwhite in Ringgold and Decatur. It was getting late and still 8 species short of 100--which was my original goal since I had only 99 species total from Jan 1 through March 30. Nathan on the other hand would not be satisfied without at least a tie. Truthfully, I was tensing up a little as my competitive nature gnawed at my insides Reality was beganning to set in and the rest of the day was a real grind with lots of vehicle miles and walking.
However, considering we had missed Mallard, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwing, Trumpeter Swan, and both expect accipiters and had seen any shorebirds yet we still optimistic about our chances but daylight and places to bird were fast decreasing.
Sedan Bottoms was kind of our last chance still needing 11 to tie and 12 to break the record. Possible birds: Greater White-fronted Goose, Cackling Goose, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Northern Pintail--Shorebirds with possible Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Wilson's Snipe--Cooper's and Sharp-shinned, Barred Owl, and Belted Kingfisher. If we got them all we would be successful! Chipping Sparrow was hoped for but we were kind of out of habitat for a even an early visit from this species.
Mallard, Hooded Merganser, a Great Egret is perched in a tree, Greater Yellowlegs, and GWF Goose popped up quickly (96). As we headed back into Pool 8 we surprised wonderful views of a (IMHO) late Short-eared Owl (97). The Red-shoulded Hawks on Nathan's property were a no show so we tried for the one that had been down on 590th but no luck. Birds activity was dropping rapidly. As we walked out we were really starting to feel the weight of not even making 100. But.... Barred Owl starts vocalizing (98) and then about 110 Pectorals get up from "who knows where" to get us to (99). We are know out of ideas so drive the Sedan Bottom roads a little. A lone Northern Pintail (100) flies over with a bunch of teal and mallards. Then a couple of Cacking Goose show up in a hidden pond (101). My stomach unknots a little since 100 feels so much better than 99. S*o why is that we do not feel the same way when we go to the store?? Doesn't 1.99 seem much cheaper than 2.00 dollars. Yep I am still tired from last night.*
Still not Belted Kingfisher. *We have seen more ponds and crossed more creeks, steams, and rivers than Noah's Ark and NO Belted Kingfisher*! No accipiters, no snipe, no swans, no sandhill crane, no lesser yellowlegs, on Canvasback. It is 6:30 and with the overcast it is getting to then end of the day.
Head back towards Decatur and hope to see an accipiter or swan or canvasback along the road? we only need ONE to tie!! As we come through Centerville my Subaru balks at heading home and unexpectedly heads to the Rathbun. Hum, why not we have would have about 20 minutes of reasonable light on the lake. Nothing new on the lake. We approach the north end of the dam (no one is coming) so we pause and scan. Nathen remarks that there are possibly some small gulls up by the Marina but maybe then are just far away. We speed over there as the light is fading past. As we park we immediately notice a Bonaparte's Gull (102) then 2, 3, 6. We count 16. High 5's are exchanged as we have at least tied the record. A couple more small Gulls. Can't make them out. Get out scope. Two more Bonaparte's Gull "No 3 NO that's a Franklin's YES two more. We are 103. Emotionally worn out we pack up and head out to drop off Nathan.
Amazing moment of the day for me I hear a Red-Shouldered Hawk scream except is seems very muted and has a slightly different timber but yet it does not sound far away. I hear it again and stop and listen and Nathan just says that is a Blue Jay. On this point I am skeptical but I hear a gain and sure enough it was a Blue Jay. When the Red-shoulded pair were there at least one of the Blue Jay's leaned to mimic it incredibly well. I had never heard such an accurate vocalization as that from this species.
850 miles in 36 hours--with actual Big Day vehicle miles of 320 and about 4 miles of walking made for a very tired Paul by the time he returned to Sioux City at 3AM Saturday.
Shock of today. We did not have a checklist with us so wrote everything down on a large pad. This morning when I transferred the list to a checklist I found we had forgot to write down our sightings of American Tree Sparrow on the MAIN list. So 104 it is.
A great thanks to Nathan who has incredible ability to identify chips and calls and songs from many many of the species
*Paul O. Roisen* *Woodbury County, IA* *Mobile 712-301-2817 <(712)%20301-2817>*