Golden Eagle Still Nemesis

What determine a nemesis bird is probably different for different birders. Most commonly it’s a bird that has been chased several times and missed. In my case though the term nemesis bird means putting myself in the right habitat at the right time and not seeing the bird. And that’s the case with Golden Eagle still nemesis.

I have put myself in the right habitat for different species several times and have had good luck seeing those birds. But not so for the Golden Eagle.

And my recent trip Colorado is no exception. Sort of.

Running the Douglas Pass BBS route north of Grand Junction looked perfect for seeing a Golden Eagle. Even the old BBS route map from the 1980s had Golden Eagle lair written at one stop. So I was quite hopeful I’d finally see one.

Just below Douglas Pass I saw a distant, large raptor flying up onto the mountainside. The bird landed on the wrong side of a tree which restricted visibility. At that distance and vantage point I wasn’t sure if it was an immature Red-tailed Hawk or a larger bird. I wrote down hawk sp.

The unknown raptor landed in the grove of trees below the pass.

The route continued to switch back up the mountain and I got close to where I’d seen the bird. And soon I started hearing the call of a Golden Eagle. But the call was coming from an area outside my visibility.

The BBS route demanded I keep moving. I decided after completing the route I’d stop in the vicinity of the calling eagle and scan the skies.

Upon completing the Douglas Pass BBS route I went back to a pull-off not far below the pass’s summit. This road makes a sharp turn making it a blind turn from both directions.

The view of the pull-off used to scan for the Golden Eagle. A Mountain Bluebird kept me company.
A closer view of the Mountain Bluebird using the dead tree to fly out for insects.
And Pine Siskins would land at my feet to add a little gravel to their diet.

From my vantage point I noticed a gas truck coming up and another gas truck coming down the pass. I’m thinking it would be interesting if they’d meet right at the turn where I was located. I assumed the drivers made this turn every day so there shouldn’t be a problem.

Looking down from the pull-off at a gas truck making its way up the switch back road.
The road coming down from the summit.
The immediate view coming up to the summit.
The best photo of the turn without falling off the pull-out. The eagle came flying over left of center.

Watching the skies but also keeping an eye on the gasoline trucks, I see they are going to meet at almost the same time at the turn. And I mean at the same time.

So of course right when the trucks meet at the turn the battery in my camera dies, and a Golden Eagle flies over with its wings positioned for a steep dive.

I got a glimpse of the brown and tan on the bird since it isn’t 50 feet away. By the time I get my binoculars on the bird and change the camera battery, the Golden Eagles is now probably a mile out over the valley and moving away fast. The only photos are of the Golden Eagle flying away.

The black blur left of center is the Golden Eagle flying away.

I sat and scanned for another hour without a hint of the bird. With the poor look the Golden Eagle will remain my nemesis bird.

Golden Eagle Still Nemesis
At least the scenery was beautiful.

And if you’re wondering, the truck drivers were pros and didn’t even come close to each other. They knew exactly when to slow down to make the turn.

Birding 2015 – Up 4 Already

If you have been following this blog, you know I would be content to bird my local area. But by having a birding goal or plan it gives me the push to explore different areas and habitats. Something I, and everyone else, needs to do on occasion to expand their birding knowledge.

So with that being said I have been thinking for a few weeks about what my birding plans should be for 2015.  I was thinking about maybe a Marion versus Johnson County total or some variant. But I just wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do with the time I have.

With the price of gas down and not quite certain what my new job will bring, I ‘ve decided to work on my Indiana Life List.  I know this isn’t my usual “birding the local area,” but I’m not sure how often I will be around the local area.

This doesn’t entail “chasing” but birding the right areas at the right times to add birds to my state life list. This is birding a way a lot of birders go about it. Like visiting Lake Michigan in winter for gulls and waterfowl. Or going to Goose Pond in winter for hawks or owls. Those type of outings.

Checking my state life list I figure there are a possible 42 species I could see by doing “normal”, non-chasing, birding around the state.  And another 18 if I get lucky.  So hopefully I can get 75% of the possible species, 25% of the lucky ones, plus 5 I hadn’t figured on. Like a Snowy Owl. So I hope to add 40 species to my Indiana Life List.

And I will probably have the opportunity to bird several different areas in the U.S. which means working on my ABA list. Plus hopefully get back to the tropics this year.  But that hasn’t been worked out yet.

I Have Already Added 4 Species to My Indiana Life List This Year

OK, technically 3. I went ahead and added Whooping Crane since the ABA changed the rule on Whooping Crane countability.  I saw them in 2013 at Goose Pond.

Mike Clay asked I go along and participate in this year’s Muscatatuck CBC on January 1, a count he has been helping with for 10 years..  The birding was slow but we did see 2 Trumpeter Swans, though they weren’t in our count area.

TRUS Picture by Dave Carr from dBird
This photo was taken by third person in our group, Dave Carr. He took the photo in the afternoon after we had headed out to count on the roads. You can read his analysis here, which I totally agree.

On the way back we checked out the Snowy Owl that has been in the Jonesville area.  As with most Snowy Owls I encountered in Illinois it was using something as a wind break.

SNOW Jackson County IN
I bet over 80% of the Snowy Owls I have seen were up against something – railroad tracks, silos, fence rows. Very rarely out in the open.

And Saturday I birded Eagle Creek in the rain and saw the easiest bird on my Indiana List – Pine Siskin. I watched them at the Ornithology Center’s feeders. Seeing birds not in a natural habitat isn’t something I like, but I have never seen Pine Siskin anywhere but feeders in the Midwest.  So I will count them and move on.

PISI Eagle Creek 010314
I just wish I could have taken better pictures to show the pointed bills, stripped undersides, and yellow in the lower wing bar. But the rain was coming down pretty hard.

PISI Eagle Creek 010314A

So what are your birding plans for 2015?