The Great Black Hawk had NEVER been spotted in the USA until 2018! Its normal range is South America to Mexico. The fact that one was being seen periodically in Maine this Fall was simply astounding. Since Thanksgiving I had been keeping a close eye on the rare bird alerts. Two close buddies of mine saw the bird yesterday, so with the help of American Airlines, I made my move this morning.
By 10:30am I was in Deering Oaks Park reading one of the Portland park ranger signs carefully placed around the copse of trees most frequented by the Great Black Hawk. Several birders had been there since dawn….no sign of our code 5 visitor. The winds were calm but the temperature was 19F.
The park is host to a healthy gray squirrel population, a very popular food source for most raptors. The Great Black Hawk has reportedly feasted on at least one of these unsuspecting creatures daily.
After a couple of hours of pacing around the park, occasionally sharing brief conversations with the dozen or so other birders, but mostly looking at the sky, the trees, even the ground….I noticed a raptor in a nearby tree. For a moment I thought the Birding Gods had smiled on me once again. But no, it was a Red-Tailed Hawk.
More than five hours had elapsed and I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. Adrenaline had sustained me until now. I was frozen. The sun sets at 4:03pm up there. I was done.
So….this is not a triumphant story about ABA Area Lifer #776. Rather, it’s a chronicle of one day in my life where patience was tested and subsequent frustration must be conquered by the fact that trying is more important than the end result. Just writing this down helps take the sting out of today.