Sunday, October 21, 2018

Left DC; Now Back in Maine

Exciting news in the world of the Birdist: I've relocated to Maine to work for Maine Audubon. They're an incredible organization, based in my hometown, and I'm ecstatic to be in the fresh air working to promote and protect our state's wildlife.

It was difficult to leave DC, and my job at NPCA. I had a lot of great years and great friends there. Plus, great birds. The DC birding community threw me a nice going-away party, which was so kind, and thanks again to all who came. So many kind birders there: Paul, Gerry, Sharon, Dan R., Dan S., Taj, Hugh, Frank, Scott, and lots more.

I'm sad, too, to leave the DC Audubon Society, which I volunteered with for years. Leading monthly walks with the large group of birders was some of my most enjoyable times in the city. I'll miss a lot of those folks, especially Sara, Chris, Zach, Liz, Tom and Callie, Joel, Marissa, Dana, and others.

Let me do a quick recap of my top birds in the city. I left the city with a respectable 234 species. I'll break this down into birds I saw that others found, and self-found birds.

Top 5 DC Birds

5. Ash-throated Flycatcher - There are a lot of species I could put here at #5, this re-finding this Ash-throated Flycatcher at Kenilworth Park was a real highlight. I showed up and the bird hadn't been seen for a few hours and I was hanging out with some cool teen birders I'd never met before (Kevin Bennett, I think, and some others?), when one of the cool teens was just like "hey there it is," and there it was. Plus, uhhhh, I got some great pics.

4. Snowy Owl - The winter of 13/14 brought an incredible irruption of Snowy Owls to DC and elsewhere along the East Coast. In late January I ventured to McPherson Square - near the White House - to view a Snowy hanging out in the middle of this very urban park, and watching city residents walk almost directly under a Snowy Owl without seeing it was one of the most surreal DC moments I had, and led to this blog post.

3. Bell's Vireo - found by one of DC's best birders, Hugh McGuinness, in an odd little area of the National Arboretum. Tough to get a good look, but a great bird.

2. Black-throated Gray Warbler - another Hugh McGuinness find, this time on one of his daily walks around his suburban, not-at-all-rarity-expecting NW DC neighborhood. This western stunner spent a few days coming to a feeder and sapsucker tree, and gave me some brief but obliging looks on Dec. 20, 2016.

1. Prairie Falcon - This bird just kicked a bunch of ass. I never expected a Prairie Falcon to show up anywhere near DC, but this bird was found hanging out on the side of a huge old power plant in Alexandria, making dive-bomb murder soirees over the Potomac and into DC territory. It was about a 10 minute bike ride from my house, and I loved it.

Top 5 Self-found DC Birds

OK I'm crap at finding good birds on my own. I'm just crap at it. Here's what I did.

5. Lesser Black-backed Gull. Look, I said I am not that good at finding rare stuff, OK?

4. Black-billed Cuckoo - Look I know! I know. Big deal. But this was back in 2006, and I remember that I saw both this bird and a Blue Grosbeak in my binoculars at the same time, and that both were lifers for me. Two lifers in one binocular-life! Does life get any better??? I wish I had a pic of that.

3. Surf Scoter - Scoters are pretty tough to come by in DC, but I was pretty lucky. I spied a Surfer from Tide Lock Park. Went back to the car to get my camera and when I returned it was gone.

2. White-winged Scoter - Another scoter on the Potomac, with a pic this time.

1. Lapland Longspur - There was a big snowstorm in on a Tuesday in mid-December 2013, and I left work (or work was let out? I can't remember) and hiked down to the Washington Monument to see if anything had been kicked out of the skies. Right there on the grass, with the Monument in front of me and the White House behind me, I found a nice flock of Horned Larks (rare in DC) and a couple of Lapland Longspurs. I didn't realize it at the time, but longspurs hadn't been seen in the District for more than 20 years! I got THE WORST digi-binned pics, but they were good enough.

Love you and miss you, DC. Stay gold.

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