Birding Saved My Lockdown Sanity, But I Still Went Cuckoo
My daily walks for the last couple of months have consisted of visits to county parks, greenways, and nature preserves. It has been a good spring for migrants with all the cool weather. Winds with northerly components provide a headwind for northbound migrants, effectively slowing migration, causing the birds to linger instead of hurrying through. One species that I consider rare in Mecklenburg County is the black-billed cuckoo. During any given year only a couple of reports may be posted. I had not seen one in Mecklenburg for 4 years. In the last three weeks however, five reports of this species have been posted and confirmed with photos.
|Photo by John Ennis
I really wanted to see one this year so I chased every report. I just missed a Latta Park bird. A Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve bird was present in the morning but disappeared by afternoon. While I was successfully chasing an Alder flycatcher at McDowell Nature Preserve, other birders were enjoying a black-billed cuckoo less than a mile away. It was joined by another bird a day later and I again missed both. I feared the migration window for that bird had closed by last Friday another report came in from McAlpine Creek Park. I jumped in my car and was there in 15 minutes, only to be greeted by a group of birders who uttered the dreaded line "You just missed it. It was just here". I gave it a few minutes but couldn't stay long. I was almost back to the parking lot when the phone rang. The bird had re-appeared. I turned on a dime, headed back to the spot, and was rewarded with great looks at a great bird.
|Photo by Jeff Lewis
I guess with all the sightings of black-billed cuckoos this spring the odds finally favored a successful chase. Birders know how to swing the odds though; chase every bird and sooner of later you will be rewarded.