We all have our bogey birds, those troublesome species that play a permanent game of avian hide and seek. The only problem with the game is that bogey birds are on a winning streak that can last for years. Some of the most unrepentent players of this frustrating means of play are species like Masked Duck (my personal nemesis), Boreal Owl, and Conn. Warbler . Those birds just love to bend space and time to avoid you, and you know that you are dealing with a bogey when you experience too many dialogues like so:
“Guess what I am looking at!”
“I don’t know, an Ivory Gull?”
“How did you know! YES! I’m, feeding it dog food, took 400 pictures, and it’s not going anywhere! I know you need it so come and tick it!”
“Ok, I’m on my way!”
Half an hour later, you step out of the car with high spirits and binoculars at the ready. However, as you approach your faithful birding friend, the victory spring in your steps turns to an uneasy, stuttering stroll when you see the apologetic look on his or her face. You know what that means because it’s not the first time this has happened to you. You don’t even need to ask if your long awaited mega tick Ivory lifer Gull is around because the face says it all.
Sheepishly, your friend says, “Ahh, it left 5 minutes ago. Maybe it will come back”.
You know the score, though, so you sigh and say, “I’ll wait but what can you expect from a bogey bird”.
Of course, it fails to show after a couple of cold hours so you head back to home, work, or some other non-birding endeavor. Sure enough, it either shows up right after you depart, or the next day, or some other time when you can’t see it. Such is the curse of the bogey bird and it won’t be broken until some angelic individual Ivory Gull, Black Rail, or Northern Goshawk jumps into view and says, “Yes, my kind does exist! Lifer hereby granted!” With the curse broken, you then of course see flocks and multiple individuals of the much wanted species because they know that the game is over. They don’t want to play it any more with you so they settle their mischievous sights on the next needing birder.
I finally broke one of those curses this past Sunday on a trip to Chomes. We were actually looking for other birds (and that might be the key to ending the accursed game) but I was glad to FINALLY get Long-billed Curlew for Costa Rica. Yes, I have seen the tawny senor Pinocchio on wintering grounds in Mexico and watched its antics on the short grass prairies of Colorado but I still needed it for my Costa Rican country list. Others have espied it many a time in Costa Rica and one friend has seen the species on just about every visit he has made to Chomes. He was with us on Sunday so this is probably why the curse was broken but I’m not complaining, I will break that bogey bird curse any way I can!
As for the Masked Duck, I’m done playing with that skulking, web-footed zorro of the marshy underworld. If it shows, I will look sans elation. If I don’t see it, it’s dead to me anyways! You hear that, you bunch of no fair playing, poor excuses for a relative of a Ruddy Duck? When I see you, I won’t even raise the voice! There won’t be any excitement or birding dance at your appearance. No, I’m going to be as casual with you as mentioning the presence of a Blue-gray Tanager. In fact, I might not even tick you off the list! Ha! Still want to play hide and seek?
(If anyone reading this seems to be a magnet for Masked Ducks, let me know! Just keep it on the down low…)