Bohemian Bonanza!

| March 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

Two years ago, I wrote a story about chasing my life Bohemian Waxwing in New London, NH, an annual hotspot for this species. I was living in Upstate New York at the time and often visiting my girlfriend, Lauryn who lived about an hour and change away from this mecca of wintering waxwings. However, unlike the ornamental trees around the streets of New London, my efforts at that time were fruitless and the trip was a solid dip. A year after that dip I was finally able to get a look at my life Bohemian Waxwing, not surprisingly in the New London area. However, the sighting was anything but remarkable and was little more than the flash of a silky bird flying across the road showing distinctive chestnut undertail feathers. As these things go, this sighting would starkly contrast the quality of sighting Chat Happens contributor, Kevin Vande Vusse had the very same day (actually within minutes of my sighting) when he found his life Bohemian Waxwings on the AUNE campus in Keene as they gorged on fruit at eye level. To be clear, this is the same campus that I also attend for graduate school!

In the end I was stoked for Kevin, but also very happy for my sighting as well. Even though my life sighting of this species wasn’t more than a glimpse, I did see the bird, which was my ultimate goal to begin with. I also got to share in my adventure with Lauryn, who at this point I was now married to. For the record, she did not see the bird. Above all else though, I was probably most happy with this sighting because it still gave me something to chase and there’s something so emblematic about chasing down a nomadic species such as this. For some birders, once a bird is ticked, I feel they believe the chase is over and it’s on to the next. Sometimes this resets each year giving them a new reason to chase down a bird. For me, to experience something again and again is the real treat. The next time I see a target species might not be as memorable as the last, but sometimes it is and there is always something new to learn. So, with the fleeting sight of the Bohemian in front of my car, I was still longing to see them again.

Fast forward another year to 2017 and I would once again have an opportunity to see Bohemian Waxwings. The location? New London of course! In late February a Great Gray Owl was discovered in Newport, NH about an hour north of where I both live and go to school. The day after it was discovered I made the trip up to see the owl, but unfortunately, I did not have my camera. After seeing the owl so close, I vowed to go back with camera in hand to get some shots. On March 6th I went back to look for the owl, but upon arriving in Newport the news was that the owl had not been re-discovered yet that day. Upon hearing this I decided to make the 25-minute drive to New London as I heard there were Bohemian Waxwings behind the Colonial Pharmacy.

Rolling into town with my GPS showing me my path, I was surprised to see the location of the Colonial Pharmacy, my intended destination. It was the same exact place that I had looked for Bohemian Waxwings two years ago! However, this time the fruiting trees behind the pharmacy would provide me with scores of Bohemian Waxwings at close range. As I pulled into the parking lot the tell-tale sign of birders with binoculars and cameras gave their presence away. Seeing 100 waxwings flying from trees behind the plaza down to the trees in front of me brought a huge smile to my face. Yes, it took at least 3 trips to the same area to find the birds like this, but it was worth every mile. For me, birding is more than just the birds…it’s more than just the ticks on a list or an entry into eBird. This is something I hope to explore in future posts.

Despite cars getting in the way as people went about their business, I was able to watch the Bohemian flock for about 20 minutes and I was able to watch them at close distance to take in all their nuances and to hear them calling for the first time in person. I even was able to get a few photographs! As I uploaded the photos to my computer that night I was hopeful to get “the shot” that every photographer hopes for. I didn’t. I got a few good ones but I was still left wanting more. A smile came to my face as I realized I would be given another opportunity to chase them down. I look forward to getting another chance of obtaining that perfect shot, more importantly, I look forward to the chase, where it takes me, and what I’ll see in the process.

Bohemian Waxwing (New London, NH).

Bohemian Waxwing feeding on fruit (New London, NH).

Bohemian Waxwing tossing fruit up into the air to catch it (looks to be suspended as other fruit nearby) (New London, NH).

The only Cedar Waxwing detected among the Bohemians. I did not let his common status take away from his beauty (New London, NH).

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Chad
Chad Witko has been an avid birder and all-around naturalist since the age of 3. Graduating from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY with his B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology (2003), Chad has worked on avian conservation projects across the United States. Ranging from New England (Atlantic Puffin research in Maine and grassland bird work in Massachusetts) to the Mid-Atlantic (Semipalmated Sandpiper research on the Delaware Bay) to California (riparian and coastal scrub passerines), Chad has worked extensively throughout North America and across avian taxa. Chad is currently pursuing his M.S. degree as a graduate student at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. Current research interests include the distribution of bird species across New Hampshire and North America. Residing in Wilton, NH with his wife, Lauryn, Chad continues to bring a holistic approach to birding while pursuing his interests of wildlife photography, nature tour guiding (eventually), and Chat Happens. For more information on Chad, please view his Bio page!

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