Most serious birders have a nemesis bird, that one bird that has eluded them over time. I have had North Carolina nemesis birds and Mecklenburg County nemesis birds. It is that bird that disappears just a few minutes before you arrive to tick it off your list. Its that bird that is regularly seen or known to occur within your birding area but the two of you have never occupied the same GPS coordinates, as far as you know. It is that bird that you log miles and miles and hours and hours in search of it but never can get it in your binoculars. In short, it is that bird that embodies your shortcomings as a serious birder.
I keep several lists, Life, North Carolina, and Mecklenburg County. I have not traveled enough to have a nemesis bird on my Life List but I do currently have a North Carolina nemesis, golden eagle.
Golden eagles occur in small numbers in the rugged western parts and extensive wild lands in the eastern part of our state each winter. I have made numerous forays to hawkwatch sites in hopes of catching one migrating overhead. I have made trips to where individual birds have been seen regularly only to not show when I am there. This is a bird I should have added to my North Carolina list years ago.
Happily, nemesis birds usually at some point get checked off the list and that is exactly what happened to me on September 19 at Clark’s Creek Nature Preserve. I have been looking for a Connecticut warbler in Mecklenburg County for decades. To be sure, Connecticut warblers are extremely uncommon and elusive (very few birders in Mecklenburg have seen one here), but they certainly pass through Mecklenburg every spring and fall in small numbers. I figure that for a bird that occurs annually in the county I would have seen one in 45 years.
|Photo by Patty Masten
The night of September 18 ushered in a new, cooler air mass. Birders know the switching out of air masses results in a turnover of birds during the migrations. At dawn on September 19 it was apparent that had happened. Migrants of all kinds were filling the shrubs, brush, and trees at Clark’s Creek. One magic overgrown fencerow had already produced a least flycatcher and several species of warblers when a large, chunky olive-green bird flew off the ground just a couple of feet and landed on a horizontal limb. The first thing I noticed was a solid prominent eye ring. Next, no wing bars. That narrowed it down right there to Nashville warbler and Connecticut warbler. Then the bird proceeded to WALK (not hop) along the limb! That was it. Connecticuts walk. For the next couple of hours, I watched it forage on the ground, walking deliberately the whole time. Luckily, many area birders were able to come and enjoy this very accommodating immature Connecticut warbler with me. You can see the actual little beauty in the accompanying photo taken by Patty Masten.
I do admit to relief in finally getting a Connecticut warbler in Mecklenburg County, but I have already figured out what bird will take its place. I need to get out soon and look along the Catawba River and Lake Norman for a black scoter.