Friday, January 21, 2022

Day 5: Lifer super chase: A bridge (and a bird) too far.

Somedays, one wonders if a plan is just too much, too ambitious and despite valiant efforts one may just be trying to attain the unattainable.  In 1944 in an effort to end World War II, the British Army concocted Operation Markey Garden, to recapture Dutch territory and get a bridgehead on the Rhine into Germany, but despite a big plan, the project was just a "Bridge to far," to steal a movie title about the event.

Quite possibly attempting to get five lifers in five days in four states was, like this 1944 plan, attempting too much and attempting to get a bird too far, and in this case a stakeout on an old and somewhat rickety swing bridge (The Southport Bridge, Boothbay Maine), so my trip to Maine was a bridge and a bird too far....

It was the big dipper of bird chases, for the biggest eagle, and a big nothing. 

Stakeout at the closed Aquarium overlooking Boothbay Harbor

It was a cold 2 1/2 days on a stakeout in snow, heavy wind, and cold, but luckily it was not on the Beaufort scale cold like it was here a few days ago OR like it will be in a few days. I had had a marvelous week of 4 lifers, but after the exhausting two plus days and a day of getting there and back, I was frustrated, beaten. and happy to get home, and I had forgotten the past success.  Like life, birding for big listers is much about the high or low from your last chase, a tick or a dip, and what I will remember about my time looking for the great Steller's Sea Eagle, the king (or queen) of Birds, a huge, one of a kind bird that should not be anywhere close to the Northeast, in fact even seeing one in the Bering Sea islands is a once in a lifetime event.  

So I missed the bird on Tuesday by about three hours, it has not been seen anywhere since. This bird has been seen at least in Quebec, New Brunswick, Massachusetts, Maine, in later 2021, but in March 2021, it (well probably) was seen in Goliad County, Texas, and then in 2020 it was seen and photographed in Central Alaska (which is confirmed the same bird), so this eagle has wondered around the North America some 7000 miles.  

From the Bangor newspaper, I hope to someday get another chance

This morning, the sounds of dozens of long-tailed ducks calling and echoing across the bay was almost as cool as seeing the majestic eagle.  Long-tailed ducks are handsome critters and their incessant calling was neat.  A new group of searchers showed but after an hour of nothing, many wandered off for breakfast or places unknown.  It is hard to stay at a stakeout as long as one may need to.

Long-tailed ducks, handsome even in winter.

Red Breasted meganser

Common Loon

I also saw three species of Alcids, Common murre, black guillimot, and razorbills

Black duck at sunrise before the snow yesterday

How does one evaluate what ended up being a six-day adventure with seven flight segments, three rental cars, maybe a thousand miles of driving, and some really bad meals? All in all, it was a good trip, maybe a bit long, and it ended badly, but was a big epic bird chase, maybe too big.  Maybe the eagle will even head towards Florida.  These eagles go to the southern islands of Japan in the winter.  

It is good to be home.  I was able to jump and earlier flight in Baltimore yesterday afternoon and still, no eagle reports.......but I was exhausted.  I need to get in better birding shape and in shape in general.

You may want to ask me, would I do this again? I will say it now, that I will never have the opportunity to do this again.  Mostly, because I will never have 5 lifer birds on the ground at the same time.  It was a fluke occurrence. The odds are so against it, that I was somewhat shocked it happened.  Of course if it wasn't for sloth and COVID I would not have had this happen, so it was good that I finally....finally got going and out birding.

Maybe it was a bridge too far, and an old rickety bridge, but it was a good bridge, just as it was a bird too far, but it was such a good bird, that if it is refound, I'll probably jump a Frontier or Southwest flight to get myself back up there

Until them, stay warm out there.



  1. Good work. That mini marathon must have reminded you of the pace and " wear and tear of your Big Year (s). Hard work but fun, eh?

    1. yes, but a big dip like this just meant would have another place to go, had a similar dip on a pink footed goose them but just got on a plane for florida for something else


Golden dreams and memories

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