Our winning streak (winging streak?) started a few weeks ago with a Tundra Swan at Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. It was the same weekend that the Georgia Ornithological Society had its seasonal meeting on Tybee Island, and this concentration of the state's top birders into the area was leaving no rarity unreported. We met a GOS field trip while we were there and, since we had little idea where the swan actually was in this expansive system of impoundments, we tagged along with them. The swan was right where it had been seen during the previous days though, and gracefully fed and preened until we finally walked away contented.
|Tundra Swan -- Believe it or not, the swan photos are all phonoscoped|
That very evening a Western Kingbird was spotted at Ft. Pulaski, just 10 minutes from our apartment. We had literally just changed after returning from the swan when we got the call. We were totally spent from a long morning, and pretty set on a nap, so as painful as it was, we decided to put it off until the next day, hoping for the best. And our plan paid off beautifully. Several other birders arrived at the same time, just after the gates opened, and we split up to maximize our coverage. It was relocated low in a tree after about 45 minutes of searching, and gave mostly semi-obscured looks. As more and more birders streamed in, though, the kingbird started acting more like the star attraction it was. Planting itself right on top of a cistern, out in the open, as we all crowded around in adoration. And he loved every second of it, letting us soak him in until everyone had their fill.
Then last weekend, we made our way to Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (confusingly, across the river in South Carolina) to find a reported Cinnamon Teal. It had been fairly reliably found between mile markers 2 and 2.5, and sure enough, it was right there, doing a terrible job of hiding amongst the hundreds of Green-winged Teal. The teal, like the Tundra Swan, was a lifer for us, and we couldn't help but remark on the aptness of the name. It's just so -- cinnamon!
But our luck didn't end there. The very next day (a Monday, no less), we got a third-hand scoop about a Snowy Owl on Tybee Island. I was just leaving work, when Maureen told me she had a voicemail from our friend Diana that was almost too good to be true. A Snowy Owl (the same one?) had been seen on St. Simon's Island in December, and we spent a significant portion of my birthday trying to track it down, to no avail. Now here it was, just 15 minutes away! Unfortunately, the sun was fading fast and we still had to pick up our gear. It was already dusk by the time we parked, but how hard can it be to pick out a bright white bird? Not very. We stepped out of the car, turned around, and saw a shape silhouetted against the sky. Literally the first thing we looked at was the Snowy Owl. Even in the dark, it was breathtaking.
|Snowy Owl -- phonoscoped at night|
We woke up early the next morning before work, to try and see it in the daylight, but to no avail. (Diana Churchill has some great shots up on her blog, though). Hopefully, this doesn't mean our streak is at an end. A Northern Lapwing (!), Georgia's first on record, is relatively nearby, in Statesboro. Man, that's a crazy good bird. Hang on, lapwing, we're coming!
|Dawn sky over the pier|
|It's hard to get too upset about missing the Snowy when we got to see a sunrise like this before work|
|Sunrise over Tybee Island|