A big part of finding birds is being in the right place at the right time. When the birds show up, you have to be there. Last Friday, local birder John Brammer looked out his window and saw a large yellow bird that he did not recognize. He had the presence of mind to snap off a series of great photos for the next 15 minutes. Then the bird departed.
Local birders pored over online photos of immature male orioles (there are not all that many, by the way), and identified it as a hooded oriole, a bird native to the Southwest and Pacific coast.
Though the bird was not seen at all the next day, eight birders gathered at the residence for more than five hours on Sunday in hopes of catching even a glimpse of the far-ranging visitor. I set up a folding chair with a clear view of the feeders and for nearly four hours I watched more than 40 species fly by – a brown creeper, hermit thrush, pine siskins, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Eastern bluebirds, red-shouldered hawks, pine warbler, yellow-rumped warblers, an American woodcock and more. But not one of them was a hooded oriole.
So the bird did not keep the appointment. He probably did not know he was supposed to hang around. He was eager to continue his whirlwind tour of the Eastern United States, I suppose. Or maybe he is still in the area. I prefer not to think that bird may have been just few houses away the whole time we watched the site.
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Birders call birds like these one-day wonders, rarities that don’t linger long enough for others to enjoy them. I’m sure there are other rarities at feeders right now. I am always eager to help with identifications if I can get a decent photo. It doesn’t have to be great, just good enough to see some detail on the bird. The hooded oriole is a first for the state record. Who knows? Maybe you will be the next person to make a contribution to the bird records of the county or state.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com