Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Seventeenth Raptor

I took the auto tour on Saturday. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic place full of multiple habitats: Mud flats, deep ditches, vast expanses of deeper water, marshes, swamp...

The auto tour is my favorite part of the area because you can go at your own pace, and birding from a car is easy on the feet.

At one point, I had stopped (it's easy to find an 'exciting' bird, because a bunch of cars will be stopped and everyone will be out of their car, looking in the same direction). I noticed large, dark birds circling above. Vultures are around, but not like here. A large dark bird is worth checking out.
There were three birds:
1. The first one was obviously an immature bald eagle; Wings held totally flat. dark overall with lighter splotchiness.
2. The second one was too high up to tell anything.
3. The third one was holding its wings in a very shallow dihedral (a "V") and the plumage was all dark brown. It turned into the sun and I saw a golden gleam across the head and nape.
Oh my God. A Golden Eagle.

I stood there in disbelief for a minute. Golden eagles are hard to come by in Ohio. But I got my validation when the carload of people just down from me started yelping....I heard one woman say, "That looks like a Golden to ME!"

I grabbed my cell phone and left a probably maniacal message for Kathi.

I couldn't get a clear picture of it, so I just watched it until it was gone. Grinning like a fool, I got back in the car and moved on. As I turned a corner, I saw the second bird swoop low enough to ID it...an adult Bald Eagle. Whoot.

I came across another car stopped, and I got out to see what they were looking at. It was the "swarm" of dunlins. I asked them if they had seen the Golden.
This guy said, rather snarky, "Well, I saw the IMMATURE bald eagle."
I said, "I did, too. But there was a Golden with it."
He then started schooling me in raptor identification. I decided not to alert him to the fact that I don't need schooling in raptor identification.
I moved on...and began to second-guess myself. I know I shouldn't have, but he bugged me.
I went over all that I had seen, and I kept telling myself that I did see a Golden.
The next day I checked the Hawk Watch Tower list, and observers had seen FIVE Goldens. I had my validation.
I adore other birders. We are, for the most part, helpful people who are fun and who listen. And then there are those "Crotchety Old Lady From The Birds" types. COLFTB's.
Have I just created a new acronym?
So, anyway. That Golden Eagle makes my 17th raptor species. Woo hoo!


NCmountainwoman said...

Amazing how many snarky, condescending "experts" are out there. Wouldn't you just love it if he dropped by the raptor center and saw you?

You must have had a wonderful day. Thanks for sharing it with us.

KatDoc said...

On the auto tour, I stopped to look at shorebirds, and asked a woman with a scope and a lot of birding patches what we were seeing. She answered, "Greater Yellowlegs," rather abruptly, then began debated the ID of some ducks with her friend.

"Those are female shovelers," she opined, "because they don't have the big bill."

"That's exactly why they CAN'T be shovelers," replied the friend, "because they DON'T have a big bill."

Trying to return the ID favor, I chimed in, "There ARE female shovelers with the males, but those two ducks you are looking at, with the black butts, are Gadwall." They continued to argue, I repeated myself (in case they hadn't heard me) and they ignored me again.

Now, I don't pretend to know all birds, or even most of them, but I took an excellent Audubon Society bird ID course, and Jay Stenger made sure we ALL knew our ducks.

I left when they began the "coot vs. moorhen" argument. "Coots," I muttered under my breath. "American Coots. They are thick as flies at Camp Dennison gravel pits every winter, and I KNOW they are coots. But, I won't share with you."

I had positive help from many other people throughout the weekend; this was the rare exception.

~Kathi, who saw the immature Bald Eagle, but missed the Golden, due to no cell service while in the refuge

dguzman said...

I guess snotty people walk among us, even in the perfection of the outdoors--where they don't even deserve to be! A-holes.

Congrats on #17. You are my raptor goddess.

Steve said...

If you actually have any pet rats I'll bet they get pretty nervous when they see your birds out the window!
You might like to look at my website of bronze animals I've made, there's some pet mice.
I always fancied keeping raptors as a kid, but I never did.
Nice work helping them out.

Lynne said...

I am geen with envy on your Golden Eagle sighting. But I also couldn't be happier for YOU!!

Dave said...

I never secind guess myself. Three or four times maybe. :) Sounds like you're having a blast.

Mary said...

Congratulations, Susan! Don't second-guess yourself on Raptor IDs for goodness sakes.

I've made so many mistakes I think I'd keep my mouth shut, knowing a COLFTB will stomp on me and love it.