But first, my dad and I went down to the Harris Gamelands before sunrise to scrounge up an Eastern Screech-Owl. It didn't take long to hear one responding to our playback. About a half-hour later, as the sun went up, we watched a dozen or so American Woodcocks display in the fields - they would utter their nasal "peent"call, then take flight. I always love watching this pre-dawn display, and this was by far the most impressive one I have seen. Down at the boat ramp, I spotted an adult male White-winged Scoter swimming near the far shore.
Next up, Seaforth, a peninsula jutting out into the middle of Jordan Lake. I hardly ever bird this area, though maybe I should - crazy birds like Long-billed Murrelet and Gray Flycatcher have been seen around there in years past. The only downside is that it's in Chatham County, so anything I see here doesn't add to my growing Wake County list (currently sitting just one bird below the two-century mark). But, Eared Grebe would be a state bird, and a "lifer plumage" for me - I've only seen them during breeding season out West. Plus, it's fun to add more birds to my short Chatham County list.
Eared Grebes can be tricky - they are notoriously similar to the closely-related (and more common, at least in this area) Horned Grebe. Head shape is probably the best way to differentiate between the two, especially this time of year when the molts can get messy. The Eared has a rounder head that peaks in the front, whereas the Horned's head is more flat and elongated. Eared Grebes also ride higher in the water, and have a slightly upturned bill. I was faced with this identification challenge as I scanned a flock of grebes just offshore. Horned, Pied-billed, Horned... Until a different bird popped into view. It had all of the characteristics mentioned above - yes, this was it.
|Eared Grebe at Jordan Lake|
That afternoon, after I was finished cleaning the gutters on the house, I went back out birding - this time to Prairie Ridge up in Raleigh. It was a beautiful day in the low 70s, and the slight breeze kept the air nice and fresh - how could I not be outside? My target up at PR was the American Bittern. Yes, that same bird I saw back in December. I needed it for my Wake County Year List, after all (I am realizing as I'm writing this just how far down the listing road I've fallen, but bear with me).
|Prairie Ridge American Bittern - trying his best to blend in.|