I added a new yard bird yesterday, an exciting sighting of a flock of Snow Geese flying over my yard.
We've been in this location for nearly 19 years now so new yard birds are quite infrequent (but greatly appreciated and enjoyed!) This year, we had 3 new birds visit the yard (or the skies above): the Snow Geese, a migrating Swainson's Thrush in October, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker welcomed in the new year on January 1.
The geese were a real treat. The Hudson-Mohawk Birdline had numerous sightings of flocks of these birds on the move. I had wondered whether I would be able to differentiate a flock of Snow Geese overhead from the more common Canada Geese, who are also being widely seen moving in flocks. But I knew they were being seen, so I was keeping an eye out for them.
I had just read a post on the Stokes Birding Blog about the sighting of a White-winged Dove in Massachusetts. I love the reminders in their post to be observant and prepared as a bird watcher. "You never know what might show up. In birding, that's a good thing to frequently remind yourself of." It's easy to pass off a bird as that species you see all the time. But the Stokes post is a perfect example of looking closely at even the most common of birds for what it might bring: "So, next time...you're looking at a Mourning Dove, check it carefully. Who knows, it could be a White-winged Dove."
As observers of birds, we should try to know all we can about the most common birds in our own area (not only how they look, but how they behave, their sounds, etc.) Then we should always keep an open eye and open mind for differences from what we know. And we should try to learn at least a little bit about birds that are similar to our common birds. It helps also to keep an ear out for news of the migratory or unusual birds that are being seen in the area. Then be ready to see the unusual! For as Don & Lillian Stokes remind us in their post, "Chance favors the prepared mind, (or birder)."