Persistence – 60 minute rule

Another in the series of finding uncommon birds in your area.  The series started here:

There is nothing I or anyone else can tell you that will help you find uncommon birds more than the simple act of perseverance.   Repeatedly get out in the field and look for the bird.   As Woody Allen once said “Showing up is eighty percent of life”.  Same with birding.  You aren’t going to see the bird without being in the field. A lot.  You might know everything there is to know about the species, but if you aren’t out looking, you won’t find anything.  Period.

Along those same lines is something I call the 60 minute rule.  When you go to a birding site, especially waterfowl and shorebirds, do not leave for 60 minutes.  Unless it is completely dead, and you call it dead like they do on a TV drama, hang around for an hour.  My personal experience says that you missed something the first scan, and the second scan, and probably even the third scan.  Things always seem to be hiding in the pack or flying in when you weren’t looking.  The best birders I have been around don’t seem to get in a big hurry and scan the area constantly before finally saying it is time to move on.  Other people I have been around seem to drive up, don’t see anything, and move on a few minutes later.  And one last hint, before you leave a waterfowl/shorebird area, take one last look.

A couple of personal notes.  A Horned Grebe had been reported at Driftwood SFA last spring.  When I got there it took about 20 minutes to find it since it was constantly diving.  I watched the Horned and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes for another 15-20 minutes and all of a sudden a Common Loon showed up on the other side of the lake.  An uncommon bird for a small lake in Central Indiana.  Did it just fly in?  Had it been doing deep dives the whole time?  Had I perfectly timed my scans of the lake for the times it was diving?  I don’t know.  But I do know if I had moved on after finding the Horned Grebes I would have missed the Common Loon.  And the Osprey that flew over 10 minutes later…

Do you ever wonder what happened to your pictures?  I have a picture of the Common Loon at Driftwood but I can't find it. Here are a pair of Common Loons at Lake Mendota, another small lake, 032911.
Do you ever wonder what happens to your pictures? I have a picture of the Common Loon at Driftwood but I can’t find it.
Anyway, here are a pair of Common Loons at Lake Mendota, another small lake in Illinois 032911.

And just last weekend Mike and I had spent sometime at a local waterfowl/shorebird area for about 30 minutes and decided to move on.  After we had birded another area for an hour Mike had to head home. We went back to the shorebird area where I had left my car.   I still had time so I decided to stay and scan the shorebird area.  I had been there about a minute when three American Pipits, uncommon birds for our area, flew in.  Mike was just getting ready to leave so he also got to see the Pipits.  Two minutes later they flew.  The point is that birds fly in and out.

And I feel if I scan for an hour then I have gave it my best shot.

Next week – Persistence 2 – The August Experiment.


4 Replies to “Persistence – 60 minute rule”

  1. Enjoying this series and particularly this installment, which supports a habit of mine as well. If enough of us start birding this way I’ll feel less foolish about the long time periods–measured in hours–I have to enter on my eBird checklists.

    I esp. agree about the exuberant divers being able to be missed for some time till you happen to catch them at the right moment.

    1. Thanks for reading. Working full time I don’t get to bird as often as I would like. So when I get out on weekends I usually only end up with 5-6 eBird reports. But I use a voice recorder and enjoy listening to the playback. Usually something in there that makes me laugh.

      Please check next week’s post. I would like to hear back on it.


  2. In addition to persistence, I would say timing is everything, too. I have been at some locations for over an hour and have not seen anything. When I show up the next day, there will be more activity going on at the site or birds I wouldn’t normally expect to see there.

    1. Good point. When I lived in Illinois there was a spot on the Illinois River where gulls and shorebirds hung out. With a 5 minute detour on the drive home from work I could go by the spot, which I did 2 or 3 times a week. Some days it would be loaded, other days empty. So I guess I was persistent in going by there, but it had to be the right day!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *