Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 21 of 35

This is only about 15 minutes away from both my home and my workplace. I passed this information on to the twitchers in the bird club and managed to get to the Hybkis' on my lunch break on Thursday, February 2. I sat in my car from noon until 1 p.m. watching the feeder by their front win- dow, where they had been seeing the oriole. It was sunny but cold and windy outside. Just as I was getting ready to give up and head back to work, the bird flew in to the feeder. I watched it for a few sec- onds and took a photo through the car window. I got out of the car to attempt a better view, but the bird was shy and flew to and hid in a crabapple tree in the next yard. After a few minutes, it flew out and down to a concrete birdbath at the back corner of the Hybkis' place. It took several drinks of water and I got some more photos. It was a beautiful male ori - ole: black above and yellow–orange be- low with a large, white wing patch. I was pleased with our luck of having such a beautiful Bullock's Oriole (as I thought it was) in the area. After drinking, it flew up and perched in a tree behind the house for minute, then flew out of sight. Happily, I went back to work. During my mid-afternoon break, I up- loaded the photos to my laptop. They weren't great, but they would be ade- quate for documentation. However, I re- alized that the bird wasn't a normal male Bullock's Oriole, nor was it any other species I knew. I wondered, "Could it be a hybrid or an atypical individual?" I wasn't sure what to do because I didn't yet have permission from the homeown - ers to further publicize the location. Seeking expert opinions, I decided to post a few photos to a Facebook group called "Advanced Bird ID". I wrote, "An adult male oriole is present in Berks County, Pennsylvania, reported by a homeowner on private property on Tuesday. I got to see it and get a few poor photos today (Feb 2). It appears to be a Bullock's Oriole with a lot of white in the wings, but the auriculars are black, and overall the head is black except for orange spectacles. Is this within the nor- mal range of variation for an adult male Bullock's, or is it maybe a hybrid? We will be trying to get homeowner permis- sion for more people to visit." I checked back in a few minutes and saw the first comment was from Birder's Guide editor Michael Retter: "THIS IS A BLACK-BACKED ORIOLE!!!! It's a Mexican species!!!" After some quick Googling, I knew Michael had nailed the ID. As more comments came in on Facebook, I learned that there were no accepted records for this species in the ABA Area! (One previous ABA Area re- cord in San Diego County, California in 2000–2001 was not accepted as wild by the California Bird Records Committee.) I now knew that what would have been a bird of merely local interest had become a really big deal. I needed ad- vice and had some serious planning to do when I got home that evening. Many questions were running through my mind: Would the Hybkis give permis- sion for possibly hundreds of birders to come and stare at their house? How many people would come? Were there enough parking spaces? I have been occasionally going on rare bird stakeouts for many years, and I've hosted two smaller-scale rare birds of my own, a Northern Wheatear that I found on the campus of Reading Area Community College in October 2012 and a Rufous Hummingbird that was visiting my yard. For the latter, I wel- comed some local birders into my yard and kitchen to see it. I had also read about many rare bird stakeouts, both ones that went well and ones that had Black-backed Oriole 20 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | August 2018 n For about half an hour after the 7:30 a.m. "start time", people arrived and waited for the cry, "He's at the feeder!" It's located behind the Hybkis' house, on the left. Photo © Michael Slater

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