Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lifer! Birding New Year Starts with a Bang

Photo of sandhill cranes, Bryan Miller
Somehow over time the first bird sighting of the year has taken on some sort of significance in my brain. I have no idea why as the first bird is almost always one of the common yard birds and therefore, unlikely to be super special. But still, many yard birds are wonderful--last year, my first was a cardinal.

This year, my first bird sighting was a house sparrow, which was a let down. But fortunately the day went from mundane to spectacular before it was over.

For some days, there have been reports of a whooping crane near Electra--which is a major birding event for this area. I went out with my husband on New Year's Eve and found the flock of 20,000 sandhill cranes, but in spite of an hour looking, did not see the whooping crane. Several other birders also were out--none that I know of got a good look at the bird.

I decided to go back out on New Year's day. I again encountered several birders in the area, all of whom were looking for the same needle in a haystack. The sandhill cranes were spectacular. Just imagine 20,000 of these elegant birds in a small area. Even without the added bonus of a possible whooping crane sighting, this was worth the time and effort by itself.

I spent about 2 hours looking for the whooping crane, with no luck. I told Terry and June McKee (two other birders looking) that I was going to make one last pass and then head home to try again the next day. They were also about ready to pack it in. They went on down the road and I started looking again through various groups flying overhead and finally, there was the distinctive white whooping crane in a small group. Nothing like starting the new year with a lifer! Terry saw the bird a short time later when some hunters stirred up the flock again. I received an email from Bob at Wild Bird Rescue that he and his wife went out later in the day and Phyllis got a sighting. Bob is going out again for another attempt.

As more people look, I am sure there will be more sightings--I just hope some folks get a good photo. If anyone gets a photo they don't mind having posted, please send it to

Good birding!

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