I half expect something maybe grand and wonderful. Maybe I expected fireworks, some sort of celestial approval but in November 2013 when I began my concentrated assault I didn’t know where it would end. I began my conquest of 700 ABA life birds at #619 by unsuccessfully chasing a slaty-backed gull in a dump in Thunder Bay Ontario (and getting having the dump banned for birders) but getting a Glaucous Gull instead I didn’t know where or how I would get number 700 but I figured it would be in the spring of 2015.
Last weekend I was sort of disappointed in Newfoundland that I was left one short of 700, when the plovers didn’t show and the Black-tailed godwit showed the day after I left and on the other side of the province and so I thought do I fly to Arizona? Texas? or should I wait for Nome?
On Sunday, I received word that a Ruff was seen near the Minneapolis Airport. I needed this bird. A ruff is a Eurasian shorebird that occasionally is seen just about anywhere in the lower 48 states or Alaska. Unfortunately, I was driving back from Wisconsin from helping my grandmother and was at the point of no return and I called my wife and dutifully, I headed home and didn’t chase it.
Last night, a Aberdeen birder friend of mine Barry, (Colorado chase) called me with an odd sandpiper that I whipped out of my house and drove the 40 miles to se what it was. It almost sounded like a Curlew Sandpiper (a rare vagrant) but alas 5 miles away from the spot driving like 90 mph, it flushed and all I had was Barry’s sketchy photo and no bird to identify
That brings me to today still at 699 and holding, a terrible number one short from a goal. Early in the winter, we signed up for a series of lectures on Runes and Runestones at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis and so off we headed east at 0400. We swung by the location of the Ruff, Minnesota Valley NWR, just south of the airport a little after 0730 and joined in the Ruff Stakeout but I met a guy from Austin and we didn’t see the bird but it was clear that if it showed, it wouldn’t be close. Lesser Yellowlegs were around and one had to sort through all the birds.
At 0830, off we headed for the program still at 699. I sat through Futhark lettering (mind you I’ve chased megalithic monuments in almost 12 countries and got almost as many pictures of odd runes, stones, mound, mound with stones, stones with runes and even…mounds with runes on stones…etc as I do of bids) and then my wife passed me a note. “Why don’t you go back to look for the bird and comeback for the Runestones in North America lecture later?”
25 minutes later I was hiking past a school group to the stakeout now occupied by 2 local birders, one a guy I bought the tripod from at The National Camera Exchange Store which I had on my shoulder. They had no luck.
I set up shop and immediate located the bird and pointed it out to them. It was out 300 yards and I just put the scope right on it.
The V is pointing at it. Bigger and darker than the lesser yellowlegs and with a bit of a pot belly. Mind you this is with 11x Camera and my scope was looking at it with 80x so I could actually see it but would I have been able to prove this code three bird if I had seen it first? Probably not. I forgot my digiscoping equipment to photograph directly off my scope…oh well.
Seeing this Ruff was like a bag of Doritos, it sure left you wanting more, but it was #700 and I shook the hands of the two birders I had just met and I was happy. It was a milestone. Not all birds make great photos. I think it would take me years to get a Key West quail-dove photographed. At least I got a photograph…..
here is what it is supposed to look like closer, but this is from the internet
Mine had a bit of a ruff forming on its back and was a male. As birds go, this one is a bit of an odd specimen and they can look so different and with a full garish ruff almost surreal.
I know, 800 is the new 700 and the old line that one should get 700 by 70 years of age is old and gone but I was still happy adding 81 lifers in 17 months.
I cruised back to the conference and we had a very good lunch, Swedish food.
My potato soup (above) and about the best shrimp open-faced Swedish sandwich ever. It was so good I didn’t slow down to photograph it. It was definitely a celebratory dinner and I washed it all down with a Carlsburg Beer, not my usual celebratory beer but it was a grand lunch celebrating a grand bird!
I went back inside to the lecture and we talked about the Heavener Rune stone in Oklahoma
the Kensington Runestone from Minnesota. It was a good talk by an excellent visiting Runologist from Uppsala, Sweden. The ASI (we are members) usually has good programs. The lecturer is on a 24 lecture in 28 days pace, something only a Big Year birder could appreciate.
What is next…I guess 701, and maybe even a runestone or two? Who knows what I will find. There is a mound in Oklahoma (Spiro) I need to see …and maybe a bird…..
Thank GOD for 700, I hated being at 699, that is all I can say and thanks to the Ruff for at least showing up the second look