The Queen’s Gambit

I slept like a log last night,  My body must have needed it.  But this morning as I began to wake from my slumber, I realized that I had no idea where I was.  Sierra Vista or Green Valley in Arizona?   W. Harrison, Indiana? Barrington, IL?  Tawas Point or Whitefish Point in Michigan? I’d woken up in a strange bed in each of these places the last ten days.  Then I realized  where I was. I had played the Queen’s Gambit last night.  Hell bent on reaching Chicago, I was driving hard and fast west along US 2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Mark Hubinger called to report a singing Winter Wren at Peninsula Point.  That was only 25 miles west of where I was at that moment.  One of his friends  had heard it earlier in the day.  They were all going to camp at the end of the point in hopes of seeing a Western Tanager, a vagrant to Michigan.  So I sacrificed the Connecticut Warbler (for Friday) and decided to stay in Gladstone for the night and come down early this morning to try for the wren.

Executing a “Big Year” is like a chess match in some ways.  I was playing against Lynn Barber’s 2008 results and Bob Ake’s number from last year.  My advantage  was all their moves were already cast in stone.  I still had flexibility, plus was able to learn from each of their lists.  Matt from Ohio was still playing. In fact he’d made a counter attack at Whitefish Point getting two Long-eared Owls migrating across Lake Superior two nights ago.  But for the most part, the chess match was between Bob Ake/Lyn Barber and myself.  Matt from Ohio still needs to break 500 before he can join this chess game.

There is one big difference between a birding “Big Year” and a chess match.  Variability of the star attractions, the birds of course.  Time will tell how this works out, though, I’m starting to feel birds slip through my fingers.  The Eurasian Hobby in Massachusetts on Tuesday and the Curlew Sandpipers in New Jersey, just to name a few.

This morning I got great looks at the Winter Wren. Tomorrow is an all out assault on the Connecticut Warbler.  Ryerson Woods, Magic Hedge, Jarvis Sanctuary and Wooded Isle.  Move your pawns, there’s a knight on a roll!

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One Response to The Queen’s Gambit

  1. Mark & Joanie Hubinger says:

    Hi John, Enjoyed the pleasure of finding a few big year birds with you. I hope our quest for the Winter Wren didn’t slow you down. Now that we’ve settle down at home (though not completely; it’s a birding problem), I’m watching, in hopes of you finding the Connecticut Warbler. Should another great bird show up, Joanie & I would enjoy hosting you in the U.P. again. Take care & Keep on birding, Mark & Joanie

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