Date: 11/20/18 7:44 pm
From: DAVID A LEATHERMAN <daleatherman...>
Subject: [cobirds] Prospect Ponds Natural Area, Fort Collins (Larimer) on 11/20
So, I was at Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins this morning and got a text from friend Georgia about Evening Grosbeak at Prospect Ponds Natural Area (PPNA) across town. To chase or not chase, that's always the question. Seeing an Evening Grosbeak anytime is cool, in the city is special and seeing any bird eating something is really special. I finished up at the cemetery (Golden-crowned Kinglet and Eastern Screech-Owl were the only noteworthy birds) and went to PPNA. I suspected the grosbeak was eating Russian-olives, a resource any birder who's paying attention knows is important to a lot of bird species. I also thought there might be a chance of seeing the Rusty Blackbird at that site which is becoming a bit of a nemesis individual (I've gone down swinging with that darn bird at least 3 times). The standard mathematical description I've thought of regarding chases is that only three things can happen: one of them is good and two of them are bad (you see the bird, you miss the bird, you miss the bird and somebody else sees the bird after you were there). Expanding on this, when chasing two birds at the same location, there are six things that can happen and four of them are bad. Well, I was thinking all four of the latter happened. No Rusty Blackbird, no Evening Grosbeak, others have seen these birds today. But, there have been other Patagonian-type discoveries because of the initial scrutiny of the general area where the mythical Rusty was first reported by John Shenot: altivagans Fox Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Winter Wren. Today I met a nice birder named Michelle McKim who had seen the Evening Grosbeak, not the Rusty and who was hoping for Winter Wren for her personal Big Year. We tried for the PPNA Winter Wren that had been in the deep woods north of the bike trail at the point where Lynn Hull's adobe & wood blind stands covered in orange plastic netting. No Winter Wren. But right above where it was reported yesterday by John, we heard a strange agitation note. We looked up and two birds were dogfighting their way thru the treetops in an obvious agonistic interaction of some sort. One of them flew off, the other landed - a Northern Shrike with a deermouse. Cool, a species, almost assuredly two of them, I had not yet seen this autumn, squabbling over an identifiable food item. The score was squaring up a bit. Walking back to our cars, Michelle indicated Eastern Screech-Owl was another species she was hoping for yet this year. We went to the cemetery, where the owl sat serenely in the setting sun. We also ran into friend David Wade. Then we saw a fellow with a big camera walking about the general area of the owl. Turns out he is Anton Morrison, caretaker for the owls and raptors at the Denver Zoo. Daily, behind the scenes, he nurtures a one-eyed Western Screech-Owl, but had never seen a wild screech-owl. Dave and I showed it to him. Anton was truly, to his marrow, thrilled.

Driving home, I reconsidered this chasing business. Misses on target birds: 2. Target birds seen by others before, during or after I was there: 2. New friends: 2. Target bird found for new friends: 2. Text from old friend: 1. Old friend seen: 1. Unexpected birds: 2. Food item: 1. Today's "new math" chasing box score: bad 4, good 9. I will always value "discovery" above "successful chase" but certainly good things can happen during a so-called "unsuccessful" chase. I suspect most of you know this already. I do, too, but forget from time to time. Thankfully, humans, birds and a mouse helped me remember. There ought to be a holiday for this sort of stuff.

Dave Leatherman

Fort Collins

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