Category Archives: challenges


We wanted to make Day One of The Quest for 500™ special, so we headed to Milwaukee. We never birded there before, but a Snowy Owl had been sighted at the Coast Guard Impoundment, so we decided to check it out. There’s been a irruption of Snowies this year, but in spite of several attempts, we dipped every time, so we were in serious danger of losing our Birder Creds, which, though lousy, are hard earned.

We didn’t see it when we first arrived, so we set up beneath an underpass and managed to see some good birds, such as RUDDY DUCKS, NORTHERN PINTAILS,and BUFFLEHEADS. The big catches were WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and a LONG-TAILED DUCK, the first male we’ve seen. Then I checked the Wisconsin list on my phone and got detailed instructions on the SNOWY OWL. We found it immediately.

"It's no taiga, but the rats are delicious."

It’s always a bit sad when Snowies are so far south, castaways in an urban environment. This setting was particularly bleak, as the crummy digiscoped photo shows. But who knows what the Snowy felt? There are plenty of critters in the city, and brat-fed rat isn’t the wurst you can do.

go home, your excellency, or at least get lucky

IBET, the Illinois birding email list, alerted us to the presence of an ORANGE BISHOP at Montrose Beach. It was there all right. All the way from Africa maybe? No, all the way from some moron who released it from its cage. Since it’s almost certainly an escape, we can’t claim it as a lifer, bitchin’ as it was. Apparently, the same poor fella showed up the last year or two, but he’s just a cipher in the birding community until he hooks up with some of his kind and starts a breeding flock. But what do we care if he counts? We’ve got the His Eminence the Northern Cardinal who is just as bitchin’ and outranks our foreign ecclesiastic to boot.

waiting for the committee [253 – 255]

Watching for the MacGillivray's maybe

Back to the Magic Hedge today to see if we could find the female MacGillivray’s Warbler that’s been reported there. It’s a western bird, a rarity that would be very far from home. As soon as we arrived, we saw a group of about 10 people watching the hole on the north side of the hedge. That’s where they’d been seeing the MacGillivray’s. A few warblers were darting in and out of the bushes, and the first one we saw was a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER.

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the kirtland’s, feathered and plastic [245 – 249]

Soft focus makes the Kirtland's sexy

After a long drive north, we made it to Gaylord, Michigan this morning at 1 am. We came to see the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, one of the rarest birds in the States. It only breeds in a small area in northern Michigan, so if you want to see it, this is where you come. You can only view its breeding grounds on official tours run by rangers, and we met ours this morning at 11 am at a hotel in Grayling, a little south of Gaylord. We had two guides, the master (Chris) and the apprentice (Sean). The viewing season started today, so Sean was just learning the ropes. There was just one other birder on the tour, so we made a three-car convoy to the site.

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