Shiny Cowbird, Ring-necked Duck, and a SEOW surprise…

I’ve been doing some fun fall birding recently, going to several local spots. A few weeks ago, I was reading the Maryland rare bird alerts. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw “Shiny Cowbird (45 reports)”. Excited, I scrolled to the sightings and saw the bird had been seen in my county! In fact, it had been seen 20 minutes away from me! I jumped in the car the next day, zoomed over there, and looked for it. A smattering of birders were there, all looking for the cowbird. I joined them, stayed for an hour, and had to go home with no luck. I was crushed, but determined.

The next day, I drove to the stakeout again. This time, my luck was a lot better. I got good looks at the bird after 10 minutes of waiting. The cowbird looked like a smallish BHCO with the head of a Red-winged Blackbird. It was interesting to meet some of the other birders who were looking for it. One guy had driven from Baltimore to see it! I felt privileged and lucky to see this bird (the first Maryland record, I believe). You can check out the ebird checklist here:

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40783422

That same week, I went to a location frequented by multiple duck species. My main goal was photography. I got there before sunrise, positioned myself to maximize the fall reflections, and waited. After about a half-hour, a small group of Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwalls and Canada Geese swam up to me. One Ring-necked Duck drake posed very nicely. He swam right into the golden autumn reflections! Here is what I got:

wordpress rn duck

A Canada Goose also put on a good show:

wordpress canada goose

A Song Sparrow posed nicely, too:

wordpress song sp

Last weekend, I was doing some birding in Virginia and came across a field that looked like suitable Short-eared Owl habitat. Sure enough, I saw a Northern Harrier (they and Short-eared Owls are sometimes seen together). It was probably too late in the morning to spot an owl, so I made a note of the location and decided to come back at the right time of day.

This past Tuesday, I returned to that spot. I arrived 45 minutes before sunset. Short-eared Owls are crepuscular, which means active at dawn and dusk, so I was there at the right time of day to see them.  First I saw one harrier. Then another. Then another. Finally, I got my Short-eared owl. Two were hunting with the harriers, skimming the fields and  looking for voles. It was breathtaking! They are so graceful and elegant in flight and they provided excellent views. I did not bring my camera because I wanted to simply watch the owls, but I plan to return to the location soon to try to get photographs.

Until next time,

Cameron Darnell

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