Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Twitching a wayward finch

Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis). 

This is a species that many birders make a special trip to see.  It's fairly common in high elevations of the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, but in the lower 48, it is restricted to only a few mountain peaks and high passes.  

I've seen this species before, both in the Canadian Rockies and at Glacier National Park, but my home state of Wisconsin had but 2 previous records.  

Last Friday, that changed.  Word came 'round that one had turned up at a feeder in a back yard near Mellen, WI. A potential 3rd state record if accepted.
Mellen, I thought to myself. That's way too far to chase on my own. My car needed new tires and 700 miles of driving would be rather pricey, even with the lower gas prices lately.

Then, wonder of wonders, my friend Jim E called to say he was going and to ask if I was going to be twitching it.  Of course I would twitch it! But, only if he was driving.  Fortunately, he had one extra seat left in the back of his Suburban.  I took it!

I met the group at 2:30am at the interstate and we took off.  The group was composed of my friend Jim and some other awesome people from near Waukesha: Mark K, Ryan and Derek S and Ryan's girlfriend Bri.

We had a great ride over the next four hours, chatting about traveling, old WI vagrants that had turned up over the years, birding in various exotic places around the country and the world, etc.
The usual birder chatter on long road trips.

We arrived shortly before 7am and set up our stakeout where the homeowners had said birders could stand to view the bird.  20 minutes later, as the sky was steadily getting lighter and Purple Finches, Evening Grosbeaks began to sing, a small brown blur zipped through my field of view and to a railing that was just out of sight around the corner.  "What was that?" I asked, suspecting exactly what it was.  "Get on that bird!"   Those to my right had a better view of the railing.  "It's the Rosy-finch!"  and so it was.

The bird sat on the balcony for a good ten-fifteen minutes, enough time for me to sneak around the other side so I had a better shot. A few minutes later, everyone else joined me.  We watched the wayward bird feed heartily on the offered sunflower seeds, then darted into the Spruce tree a few feet away.  A few minutes later, he popped out and sat on a branch, in the open, for the next 45 minutes.
All who were present (by that time a few other friends: Tom P, Ted K, Dan B, had all shown up) enjoyed spectacular looks at the bird.  Finally, the bird darted away into a nearby tree and took off.

Feeling that we'd had the best looks we were going to get, we exchanged high-fives and piled into the car.  Another successful chase in the books and a new state bird for all of us!

More photos and a video on my Flickr page:

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