Minor detail: there is no diner open at 6 am in Harbor Springs. So we lowered our sights and grabbed a couple of convenience-store belly bombs and two cups of hot battery acid (with hazelnut creamer). NOW we were ready to go birding.
Down to the harbor we went, arriving well before the sunrise. Gazing out over the frozen harbor, I noted the distinct lack of bird life. No crows, no starlings, no Canada geese. It was 2 degrees F. I couldn't blame them.
We drove around the old familiar places, getting excellent looks at bare fruit trees, piles of snow, and some ice-fishermen out on the lake, still frozen in the same positions they'd been in the day before. We even went back out to the land of snow buntings, where some waxies had made sporadic appearances. We scanned the open water on the lake. Nada.
The day was slipping away.
I'd sent out another plea for help on the MI-birds listserv and got some good leads on BOWAs both farther north and farther south. Since we were running out of time, we needed to make a strategic move, and fast.
By 10 am I was getting both restless and slightly annoyed. So Heets and I decided to head south to a hopeful-sounding sighting in Traverse City. A kind soul named Holly had e-mailed me to share her day-before sighting of a sizable flock of BOWAs in a neighborhood with ornamental fruit trees. It was time to man up or clam up.
Man up it was. I took a nap while Heeter drove us down the lakefront highway to Traverse City.
We stopped at several places where fruit remained on the trees. No dice. We spotted some tundra swans. And a ring-billed gull. And a pile of rock pigeons. Yawn.
And then we pulled into the un-gated gated community where Holly had seen many, many Bohemian waxwings the day before. We began driving the roads, hoping for a miracle. First street: nothing. Second street: nothing. Third street...
They were just seven or so dots in the top of a tree, but I knew, KNEW, that they were Bohemian waxwings. It's possible that I caught a whiff of their diagnostic aura of patchouli. After gawking at them for three seconds in my binocs, I began scrambling for my various cameras. First the Canon 30D. Clickclickclickclick.
Then the Leica spotting scope for some digiscoping.
And then, like leaves blown by the wind, they lifted into the air and disappeared into the distance. Gone! But we'd SEEN them. How sweet! Figuring we'd find another flock or that this one might return, we left the perfectly manicured neighborhood and went looking for a lunch spot. We found a great little deli a half-mile away and settled in for our first real food of the day. Four spoonfuls into my soup I felt the irresistible urge to check Bohemian waxwing off on my checklist. Geoff caught the moment on video.
And so the journey ended successfully. Sigh of relief.
We headed southward so Geoff could visit his family in Big Rapids and Grand Rapids (lots of rapids in these parts, nearly all frozen solid). We made a stop at Geoff's boyhood home.
So here's to you, Heets! Thanks for making the trek with me, bro. And I've gotta say, dude, if you'd been a singer, with your flowing mullet, you could have given Shaun Cassidy a run for his money.
And that's the story of The New Brohemians and their birding victory over the itinerant Bohemians.