Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gray Bird on a Gray Day! - 14 Jan 2017

Patrick Wright had found a Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) at Island Lake State Recreation Area on 8 Jan 2017. Since then, several birders have been able to relocate the bird despite its gregarious range in the SRA and the miserable crappy weather the past four days. I decided to drive out there this morning to look for the bird, myself.

My adventure started a bit early, unfortunately. I was forced off the highway on the way to my destination, which caused my camera to slide off the front seat and onto the floor. When I reached the parking lot I noticed the autofocus failed to work. Removing the teleconverter restored autofocus to the camera, but I then could not get it back on the camera. So, I went to work using the naked 300/2.8 VRII on the D500.

I met Joe Kasniewski in the parking lot near the dunes where the bird was last located. The flooded trails had frozen overnight so walking was treacherous. We found our way to the last known coordinates and started looking around. Nothing. We would eventually see Myles McNally, Andrew Simon and Andrea Rose in the area. Nothing from them, either.

In the meantime, a small flock of Eastern Bluebirds made an appearance, so I spent some time following them and trying to get some digiscoped images in low-light. They would provide about the only color of the day.

I would hike down around the ponds and back up onto the dunes, eventually running into Lyle Hamilton, Scott Jennex, Greg Smith Mary Trombley, and Dan Fox. Their only highlight of the morning were four Field Sparrows back from whence they came.  After another half-mile walk Lyle got a call from Myles stating that the bird had been refound (at the lake where I had just come from).

We headed back to the dunes and split up. I headed back toward the trees, and after a few minutes spotted the bird flying out over the lake and landing in a tree near Joe. After a few minutes it flew back toward me, but I couldn't get the camera out of my harness and missed it flying right over my head. Ugh.

Luckily, the group refound the bird and we were able to get some images in the poor light. My only decent pics were of the bird on the other side of the lake while it perched atop a treetop.

Once the crowd left, the Townsend's Solitaire reappeared in the trees overhead. I spent some time trying to digiscope it from the bottom of the hill, but then saw Lyle and Greg photographing it from the top of the dune. Joe, Tim Thompson and I would then hike to the top of the dune and spend some time digiscoping it from a better angle.

The poor lighting would require a digiscoped video in order to get any usable pics.

Joe and I would then head back to our cars, but not before stopping to try to get some last looks at the bird before it flew back toward the lake. It was great meeting you, Joe, and thanks for all the help finding the bird (and my car...).

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