[Tweeters] Crested Caracara - YES!!!

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 3 07:14:40 PDT 2015

Dear Joshua and Tweeters,
I am so glad to hear that a few more birders got to see the Caracara. I won't be able to try for it again for quite a while, but maybe now, thanks to the "Local Lady" with the dog, more birders can have a shot at it. We have better information now.
When I dipped on the Caracara last week, at one point I was driving slowly past the goat pasture, in the car of some other birders who had picked me up. The man with the goat pasture came over to his gate as we were slowly driving by; he waved toward the east and told us to try the other end of town. Both the other birders and I noted a tone of exasperation in his voice. Having read Joshua's post, I suspect that the Caracara was probably in his pasture the whole time.
Mill Town is a quiet little spot, made even quieter by the fact that the bridge is out just to the west of it. Folks like their privacy. I like mine, too--but there's no law against walking along a roadway, looking for a bird!  Good luck to any Tweeters who brave the monstrous traffic this Independence Day weekend. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, George Washington, and James Madison would want you to enjoy your freedom to bird!
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

From: Joshua Glant <josh.n.glant at gmail.com>
To: "tweeters at u.washington.edu" <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Thursday, July 2, 2015 11:28 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Crested Caracara - YES!!!

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 complete!
Good birding, and long long long live Crested Caracaras, Joshua Glant
Mercer Island, WA
Josh.n.glant at gmail.com

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