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Missions - Secret and Otherwise


Well, it's 2021, and things are pretty much like they were in 2020. It's off to a good start, though. I got to photograph a bird I have not photographed before, and I got to photograph a bird I have never seen before.

The Secret Mission -

I understand owls are cool. I like owls. I also like sparrows. So, I think I am covering the gamut of birds with equal affection. The birding public at large tends to go nuts for owls, though. Enter the cute Norther Saw-whet Owl. A friend told me of a location to see one, and I jumped at the chance to photograph one. I do not see this species every year. They are usually not all that photographable. This one proved different.

Yes, it's a bit anti-climatic. I would tell you more, but it is a secret mission, after all.

The Otherwise Mission-

Pick a bird. Any bird. Well, a drab bird. Nothing more colorful than a dull, burnt orange. Now, decide, for whatever reason, that you really want to see one. Maybe the bird is extremely rare in your area; not everywhere, but just where you live and for thousands of miles around you. Let's pretend that this bird shows up somewhat annually within a couple hundred miles. Given all this, let's just go ahead and admit, against all definitions of the word "logical", that you have been dying to see this bird for years. Sure, you can travel to other parts of the world (Alaska, for example) and see this bird rather easily. Instead, it seems like a better idea to idly pine away for the chance to make a mad chase for a couple hundred miles to see this bird - and maybe not see it at all....

Such is the case of the Northern Wheatear. It tends to show up in odd places near (but never in) Indiana. There has been one in Upper Sandusky, Ohio for over a week, and this last weekend was the weekend to make dreams come true - regardless of how illogical that dream may be. And, oh yes, that is dreams - plural. I was not alone in this dream. My brother has been longing to see this bird, too. We will just call it a family illness.

Covid and all; we drove separately. I got the better route. Meaning that my route was relatively iced-bridge free but did have a couple that were a bit dicey, and there was that white-out when the snow hit hard. Did I mention that we were going to arrive at "sunrise"? So, all the tricky driving was in the dark, because "sunrise" arrival translated to a 4:30 AM departure time. Jeff had worse road conditions, but we both arrived safely, if a bit later than planned. It did not matter. Sunrise was a non-event, and we were treated to a cloudy day. It turns out that we also could have slept in. The bird did. It did not appear until around 9:30. It put in a heck of an appearance, though. The bird moved around a bit over the next 4 hours, but it was pretty much constantly in view. We photographed it on and off for quite a while; finally deciding that we had seen it enough and were ready to head home a bit before 2 PM. A few celebratory chocolate chip cookies (thanks Jeff!) kept me awake on the way home.

Life bird #649 for the old ABA region; #2110, overall. A good way to start the year.

Thanks for reading,






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