Let me set the scene. Wrapping up birding Rabbit Valley I now had the challenge of where to bird in the late-morning 90 degree heat. I’d decided to check Brewster’s Ridge on the Utah border where Scott’s Oriole, a more southwestern species, had been reported. But instead I encountered a totally unsuspected Long-billed Curlew.
Brewster’s Ridge is a high, very dry plateau which I’d visited on a previous trip. Even though I knew early morning would’ve been better for finding singing orioles, I thought I might get lucky anyway. So I drove slowly through the arid land listening for birds in the sparse Pinyon-Juniper woodlands. With very little wind the trailing dust from the gravel roads hung behind the car. But the windows were open as I continued to listen for singing birds.
And I did encounter a few.
But not much else was happening on the plateau in the noonday heat. After a half hour I spotted a large bird in a small tree. I figured it was the Red-tailed Hawk I’d seen circling a few minutes earlier.
But the bird was the wrong shade of brown for a Red-tailed Hawk. Since it was a large bird the thought of a Golden Eagle did cross my mind.
Then suddenly the bird turned into two birds. One went to the ground and the other flew into a nearby tree.
From the bill and call the species was obvious.
A Totally Unsuspected Long-billed Curlew!
I was in complete amazement that a shorebird, especially a large shorebird, might be nesting and breeding in such an arid environment. And unless I was completely missing it there was no water for miles.
The male, I assume, stayed in the tree calling while the female continued on the ground feeding. I’m thinking they were a pair so I didn’t linger around long in case they were nesting in the area. But in the short time I watched I got good looks and video of the both birds.
Now I often beat myself up for not reading my field guides in enough detail. But in this case I didn’t feel so bad. I at least knew Long-billed Curlew were in the area. And I assumed they’d be around the few bodies of waters or small man-made reservoirs. And reading my field guide after the encounter it states to look around the prairie potholes. There were no potholes or water anywhere.
So yes, they were totally unexpected Long-billed Curlew and another case of “you never know what you’ll find unless you look.”
At a later date I’ll post more photos and videos of the curlews.
And yes I whiffed on the Scott’s Orioles.