Eureka Nature

For posting information about natural history events in and around Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Missouri rarity

I travelled to Bagnell Dam, which forms the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, following up a report on the Missouri listserv. I was looking for a Black-legged Kittiwake, a kind of small gull, usually seen off the coast of Washington, and rarely on the East Coast. A lost juvenile. Drove four hours in the rain, sipping Rosco's coffee, and listening to his personal CD. The rain stopped about ten miles from the dam. Good sign. When I got there I was expecting to see some other birders, but not a soul. Bad sign. These critters are usually one day wonders, and this one had already hung on for four days. So I started scanning the sitting gulls, well over a thousand, stretched out over the lake. Back to the truck for a scope, but there were still many out of range. In the tailwaters of the power station were several hundred more flying around scooping up fish damaged by the trip through the turbines, Bald Eagles and Kingfishers as well.

What I was looking for was a collar mark on the necks of the sitting gulls, or an M shaped figure on the wings of the flying birds. After two hours it seemed I'd looked at every one three times, and no luck. Cursing myself for a fool, ("I never get these rarities") an idiot ("I'm really no damn good at birding anyhow") and regretting the lost time and gas money, I finally admitted defeat, got the covers for the scope, and started walking back to the truck as the rain started up again. Out on the lake I noticed one bird acting really acrobatic, flipping and swooping, so took a look through the binocs. Followed it lazily, tiredly, inertially as it crossed the dam. Then just overhead it flipped again, and gave me the perfect M mark, clear as type.


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