[Tweeters] Crested Caracara - YES!!!

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Thu Jul 2 23:28:19 PDT 2015

Hello Tweets,

I woke up early this morning to hit the road by 8 AM, excited to try for
the third and probably final time I could chase this wonderful bird. We
arrived in Skykomish at 10:40 AM. Our first stop was at the railroad track
where it was seen on June 26th - nope! Then on to the airfield. I heard
Swainson's Thrushes, MacGillivray's Warblers, a Pine Siskin and a Hammond's
Flycatcher, but saw nothing on the grass but crows and a robin.

After one more fruitless check on the dead-end railroad track on the east
end of Skykomish, we headed straight to Mill Town. We drove all the way
north to the closed bridge, then all the way back, with no caracara to be
found. I checked the tall snags beside the railroad tracks, but the bird
wasn't perched up there, either. I then decided to walk down the trail to
the railroad track. A Yellow Warbler sang a bit like an American Redstart
(not to discount the Redstart reported last week or anything.) I finally
saw a Swainson's Thrush for 2015 (until today, heard-only), and saw a nice
Vaux's Swift twittering over the river, but otherwise the walk didn't
produce much more than a female grosbeak, a pair of pewees, and a scolding
Warbling Vireo. Oh, and lots of robins.

I was walking back to my car, feeling a bit defeated and ready to resign
myself to dip-ression, when a local lady with deep red-brown hair walked
onto the trail with her dog. "You must be looking for the bird!" she said
with a smile. "Yes, I am," I responded. "Well," she continued, "it's a bit
hot right now for the caracara in the forest. He likes to find a cooler
place in the mid-day. I myself like to hide in the shade too when it's this
hot!" She laughed, then added, "Every morning at 5 AM, he catches snakes
right in my yard." My eyes widened. "Every day?" I asked. "Yes, every day.
And what's more," she continued, "I just told your Mom that he likes to
hang out in that field with the goats, just north up the road from here." I
checked my phone, and sure enough there were two text that read "Come back
its at another area", and "Lady coming your way with dog just told us".

I thanked the local lady, and she turned back towards the road and began to
walk. I stopped to look at a cute young Red-breasted Sapsucker clinging to
a thin trunk, then hurried back to the car.

Slowly, we rolled past the pasture. I wasn't sure what to expect, or where
to look. From the left passenger seat, I scanned the field. Then the near
fence. Then... Wait a minute, WHAT IS THAT!?!?!? I saw a dark silhouette
perched regally on a shaded, leaning fence post in the back, behind the
waving leaves of a cottonwood. It was the caracara! I was really, actually,
finally seeing the Crested Caracara!

I started to feel a bit of the adrenaline that was already built up, and
though I restrained myself from any expletives, I did utter a series of
awed, excited "Holy crap"s despite myself. "MOM, pull over NOW!"

For the next hour, I watched him (sex is unknown, but I've been calling
this bird a "him") perch, flap, walk around on the ground, scratch, and
generally be a calm, relaxed and completely comfortable caracara. I saw him
itch himself with one yellow leg, and stand with one foot curled, then
tucked in, in a position that reminded my mother of a flamingo.

I shared my binoculars around, and my mother and brother both got good
looks (especially my mom, who was almost as excited as I was). The caracara
relocated himself to a low perch on a cedar branch, offering great views as
he opened his wings, walked around and preened. I finally left the spot at
2:00 PM, with the caracara perched on the cedar branch, still as kingly and
composed as ever, and surveying his current rainforest domain.

I left feeling like I was floating on a cloud. Success at last! I'm still
buzzing with elation at finally seeing the Crested Caracara. Third time's
the charm!

BUT... A small warning!

The owner of the property seems to value his privacy a lot. As we sat on
the roadside watching the caracara. He told us that he was "tired of all
these bird people coming by for two weeks". Another thing he said was,
"DON'T tell anyone that the bird is still here!" And I felt very torn,
stuck between a conflict of interest and a regard to etiquette. In the end,
I felt a responsibility to report the bird's continuing presence, because I
knew how much joy the sighting had brought me. It was a wonderful moment
with my brother and mom that I'll never forget. However, I urge all birders
to try and respect this homeowner's privacy as much as possible. I was
pleased that everyone in Mill Town proved to be very friendly, and as
visitors, we need to return the favor by respecting his wish to keep his
property kept to himself.

Oh, and if you see the lady walking her dog, please do tell her that the
boy she met on the trail with the blue hat thanks her for making my summer

Good birding, and long long long live Crested Caracaras, Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com
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