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Finding rare birds often takes diligence

I have written about bird chases before. Serious birders who maintain lists or who are willing to change their schedules at a moment’s notice to try to see a reported bird are engaging in “chases.”

Usually a chase involves traveling from the birder’s location to the bird’s location. The bird is either there or isn’t. The chase that I engaged in on April 13 did not fit the norm. I actually had to chase a bird around the county before I found it.

Thunderstorms had moved through our area in the predawn hours. Storms often ground migrating birds, and I knew there would be loads of migrants throughout the county that day. I also suspected someone would find something really unusual. That afternoon my prediction came true. A sandhill crane was reported from a business park in the Whitehall area off South Tryon Street.

I immediately left my home in Mint Hill and negotiated rush-hour traffic on I-485 to get to the business park. I arrived about 4:30 p.m. No crane, despite a thorough search of the park. A call to Jennifer Gordon of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue to get more detailed directions about where the crane was seen revealed that the crane, or another crane, was now in the middle of Sam Wilson Road and Moore’s Chapel Road, miles away.

Back to I-485 and more rush-hour traffic. I missed the access onto Sam Wilson Road, so I had to go down to the Belmont exit and double back. I was really getting stressed by then, wondering how long that bird would remain in that area.

I finally made it onto Sam Wilson Road and a few minutes later was relieved to find a very docile sandhill crane eating grass seed in a front yard being guarded by another person to keep it from wandering back into the road. The bird was exhausted, weak, lost and hungry. It allowed itself to be caught by hand and is currently rehabbing at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

So the chase ended well for all parties, I suppose. I got my bird, and the crane got the help it needed to continue its migration to the upper Midwest.