25 April 2008

Feeder Stakeout

The feeder stakeout is probably familiar to all serious listers. (No, I'm not a serious lister.) Most of the birds birdwatchers see are probably at birdfeeders, so occassionally a rare bird will show up at a feeder and word spreads quickly. It is then the job of the lister to pretend they're a private investigator. He or she contacts the homeowner, then waits by the feeder for minutes, hours, or even days hoping that the target bird will eventually show up.

I did my first feeder stakeout yesterday, at the home of Alice Lindahl. She reported a Harris's Sparrow coming to her feeder, a bird that normally sticks to the central part of the country and is very rare in Utah. (An interesting aside: this is the only species in the world whose entire breeding range is in Canada.) So, yesterday after handing in my research proposal and giving a presentation to the dean of the college, I celebrated by sitting in Alice's living room window and watching her feeders. Thank god I caught her just as she was leaving and she was gracious enough to let me in. The weather outside was horrendous, with sleet, snow, freezing rain, and hard winds.

After about 20 or 30 minutes of practicing my Junco subspecies identification, the scruffy-looking star of the show finally arrived! (Photo above, bird at center.) Not bad for my first feeder stakeout, and a very tough-to-get bird in Cache County.

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