Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Huge, Glaring, Embarrassing Omission

There are some birds that you just know you are going to get. No, not those birds where you get a good feeling you’ll see, but birds that you see all the time and are everywhere so much so that you just take them for granted. Of course I always thought of House Sparrows as one of them, but it oddly took me weeks to see one here in Pennsylvania. I wonder if there are any like this that I forgot to put on the list because I just assumed I’ve seen them? (Spoiler alert! Yes, there is one and Paul has already pointed it out.)

So what are the birds that are so common that they are taken as a given, ones that you will see in your neighborhood or driving around with no effort whatsoever? In other words: if you never went birding (and weren’t a good bird anyway), what birds would you get just by default? Here in my area, I would say that would include the following 26 birds:

-Great Blue Heron: An odd choice, but they are everywhere here and you’ll see them flying over (I saw three flying together at my son’s baseball game yesterday)
-Canada Goose
-Turkey Vulture: I am tempted to put Black Vulture here, but they are sufficiently uncommon that it isn’t a given
-Red-tailed hawk: I’m tempted to put Bald Eagle here too, but they aren’t really that common
-Ring-Billed Gull: others are around, especially in the summer, but these are the no effort gulls
-Mourning Dove
-Rock Dove/Pigeon
-Tufted Titmouse
-Carolina Chickadee
-Carolina Wren: Oh, you will at least hear them everywhere
-American Robin: the poster child for “super common and everywhere”
-Northern Mockingbird
-Northern Cardinal
-White-throated Sparrow: Almost ready to leave for Canada
-Song Sparrow: I was tempted to put American Tree and Chipping here, but those require at least a little effort
-Dark-eyed Junco: mostly left by now, but still a few around. My first bird of the year!
-Brown-headed Cowbird: Oddly, this was only a relatively recent addition to my list
-Red-winged Blackbird: Super common and super loud now, elusive during the winter
-Common Grackle: Boat Tailed would qualify as default birds if I go closer to the shore
-House Finch
-American Goldfinch
-House Sparrow: surprisingly elusive here, but still common especially at feeders
-American Crow: Fish Crows are around here (I see them in Media just north of me), but they aren’t a given and take a little extra effort to identify
-Blue Jay: Everywhere even in winter, you can see them easily and hear them without any effort whatsoever…..wait, WHAT?!?!? I don’t have them on my list?!?!

Yes, as you can see from my faux surprise (like I didn’t know before I wrote this piece!), I do not have Blue Jay on my list. How the hell did that happen?

Listen, I know I’ve seen one and not just in the theoretical sense. I saw many when I went birding this weekend, I’ve seen them when I went to New Jersey like every time, I’ve seen them with my kids, I’ve heard them all over the place, I’ve even tried to make a ‘jay’ call to imitate them. Yet I did not have them on my list.

This is not a bad thing! Sure, it is a little embarrassing, but now I can add another bird to my list! The entry appears like this in my field notebook:

85; 4/10/2013; Blue Jay; Everywhere, a long time ago!

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