April 26, 2013 Grantsburg WI
It is always difficult going home they say. On April 25th when a NARBA alert for a Garganey, a code 4 rarity, went out for a bird found in Crex Meadows just north of my home town I couldn’t resist the chase, especially with bad weather coming in
What is a garganey? Well it is a duck, a common European/Asian one that is an extreme migrator from northern latitudes all the way to southern Africa, India, and Australia. The name is somewhat odd. The common English name dates from the 17th century and comes from dialect Italian gargenei, a variant of garganello, which ultimately comes from the Late Latin gargala “tracheal artery”.The English usage owes its origins to Conrad Gesner who used the Italian name in the third volume of his Historiae Animaliuum (History of Animals) of 1555.
This is a rare bird in North America and really rare inland, never having ever been spotted in Wisconsin prior but there it was tantalizing me in my hometown no less and in an area my mother just wrote a book about, the history of the Crex Company, which used the wire grass to weave rugs. How this bird ended up in Wisconsin is a mystery.
At 3am the next day with wife Silja in tow, away we went for a sun up duck hunting session, but not with a gun but a camera. These birds look and act like Blue-winged Teals which are really skittish and my concern was the 26th being a Saturday everyone and everyone’s mother would be out there and by 9am if it was still around it would have spooked to who knows where. Finding a rare duck in a sea of ponds and marshes which is the Crex would be an all day affair.
Well we arrived at 0745, stopped at the Subway at the corner with the only traffic light in town, which was not there when I graduated from the high school in 1984 and drove up to the north side of town past a corner that went to the old ski jump and north on F.
Immediately Silja began making comments about birder’s cars, something I wrote about in my Nude year book. It was a sea of Subarus, Toyotas, and mini-vans. I saw a couple of trumpeter Swans, then spotted two vehicles parked in that position that meant they were on something at the corner of Able and F.
A guy was out with his big tripod camera and I looked where he was, there it was the rarest bird my wife had ever seen, it spooked before I could get a picture and it flew overhead and I got a in-flight blurry picture and it landed across the road.
after a bit it came out of the grass and was the center of attention as more birders showed up, tick tick tick went everyone’s life list. The poor Eurasian guy was trying to cuddle up to a female Blue winged teal but she was having none of that, so it might be a lonely spring if he sticks around for the summer. It was a spectacular rare bird and as more cars came and the birding circus was beginning, we drove off to other pursuits, I passed a gray haired woman who looked to be in pure joy of having a life bird to her life list with the biggest smile I have seen birding. It was a good day and great end to a big birding week.
It would not have to be a bird i’d hope to find in the Pribilof Islands later this summer.
It was a big week at Lake Birdbegone (as opposed to Lake Wobegon) I spent the week trying to look locally for birds after coming home from South Florida. On Tuesday I spotted one of the latest Snowy Owl ever in South Dakota, missing the record by six days. He was nearly on the side of the road.
Lapland Longspurs bathing across the street in a puddle
A ran across a late flock of Ross’s Geese
Saw the season’s first Wilson’s Phalaropes
the odd bird where the female is colored and after laying eggs leaves south to let the male brood the eggs
Oh it was a really good week, next week my attention turns to migrating shorebirds……..