There is one thing as satisfying as chasing (and seeing!) a new bird …..aka “lifer”….and that is witnessing the joy in other birders as they add new birds to their life-lists. This Holiday week, Family in Vermont plus Covid, combined to produce a wonderful “socially-distanced” activity = BIRDING! Brother-in-law Joe was already an avid birder and now his son Carson was beginning his life-list. On top of that, future son-in-law Hunter couldn’t resist participating in the action.
I have spent countless evenings walking the Wilderness Community up here with limited success in hearing the resident BARRED OWL. When Joe & Carson spotted one sitting in the apple tree outside of the Weisbord house at lunchtime, the text exchanges heated up and ultimately created plenty of excitement for everyone.
Photo by Carson Weisbord
Now that several Family members were eagerly talking about birding and posting each sighting on E-bird, I felt compelled to try to find them another special treat of Vermont’s harsh winter climate. But what bird? A quick search of recent sightings in Rutland County showed that EVENING GROSBEAKS were being reported on a consistent basis only 12 miles away in Shrewsbury. These gorgeous birds are hefty members of the finch family that breed in Canada. Their appearance in the Northeast in winter is highly variable.
The four of us took off the next morning with the posted coordinates as our destination. Unfortunately, Waze led us up a dead-end road adjacent to private property. These coordinates were several miles from the written description “Vicky” had provided on her E-bird posts. So we tried the “intersection of Town Hill and Lincoln Hill Roads”. Nothing. Not even a crow. We headed home a bit disappointed but determined to try again that afternoon.
Fueled by anticipation mixed in with innate competitiveness, we returned to the promising intersection of the aforementioned roads. Two Eastern Bluebirds caught our attention when we were politely interrupted. “Are you guys birders”? asked the driver of the only car we’d encountered in 20 minutes. I lowered my binoculars and asked: “Are you Vicky”?. “Why yes”, she replied and after a quick exchange of pleasantries we learned that the birds she had been posting on E-bird were actually seen in her backyard….a half mile from the intersection. She kindly allowed us to stand in the cover of trees and watch her feeders as the sun set. No grosbeaks but several other new birds for Carson and Hunter elevated everyone’s spirits.
Of course, we invited ourselves back to Vicky’s home the next morning and she enthusiastically obliged. Despite harsh winds and intermittent snow, more than ten different species gorged themselves at her feeders. Seconds turned into minutes and after half an hour I was beginning to worry that we would miss our target bird. Then Hunter calmly asked, “What is that on the table”? GROSBEAK! One, then three, ten, twenty! The bright yellow, black and white males lit up the feeding area.
Photo courtesy of Vicky Arthur
2020 was a tough year in many ways but this was a great way to close it. On to 2021!