When it comes to seeing a memorable bird or birds, there’s no question you have to be in the right place at the right time. Yes, you can improve your chances by going where a particular bird likely is to be seen, but that doesn’t mean it will oblige you by actually showing itself.
When it comes to pursuing an opportunity for a particular sighting, I am not the kind of birder that will hop on a plane to see a rarity that’s been sighted in Ohio, but I might drive a couple of hours to add something to my life list. But sometimes despite by best and persistent efforts, I will come up short. There are times when I positively feel jinxed as if the surest way not to see something is to try and go see it. This happened two years ago in pursuit of a pink-footed goose, a species that calls Greenland home but occasionally wanders down along our Atlantic Coast. On three separate occasions I tried to track one down. The first was in Falmouth, ME. My wife, sister and brother-in-law drove to the fields where it reportedly was seen mixed in with a flock of Canada geese only to find out upon arrival that that flock had moved to another field. For two hours of walking and driving in a fairly steady rain we were rewarded with nothing.
A few weeks later found me driving to Claremont, NH with my birding friend Wayne fo0llowing up on a reported pink-goose sighting in fields along the Connecticut River. Again, two hours of driving up and down along the river produced only frustration. Later we would learn it indeed was there and seen just closer Bellows Falls than we had gone.
This having been said, jaunts in pursuit of a good sighting don’t always end disappointingly. For the better part of the New Year, a northern hawk owl has been sighted on a regular basis along in Waterbury Center, VT. Having completed an errand in Bethel, I decided to continue up I-89 to see if I could make a sighting. I arrived with no owl in sight, but was led to it five minutes later by another birder who with a very powerful scope had located it obligingly perching in plane view atop a white pine.
Then there was the time this past October that my brother, Wayne and I went out to Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, VT in hopes of seeing the great spectacle of the fall snow geese migration, an event that can include upwards of three thousand of them or more. We arrived around 9:30 A.M., and indeed the geese were there, perhaps as many as 4,000 just 200 yards away feeding in the stubble of a recently harvested corn field. We got our binoculars and scopes out and began scanning the flock. We had been doing that for just ten minutes when suddenly, in a great swirling, cloud-like mass the flock lifted up circled and flew farther away from us disappearing behind a ridge. That was the end of snow geese sighting for the day. A 9:45 arrival instead of 9:30, and we would have seen nothing. Timing is everything.
Snow Geese Airborn at Dead Creek WMA -- Wayne Benoit/Hanover