Some birds are old friends that you only see now and again. This morning, on my way to work, I stopped by Pine Run to look for shorebirds. Walking back to my car, a Bobolink flew up out of the field and circled me while singing. This past weekend, I’d seen three Bobolinks in a horse pasture in Ambler, where I always see them on my birdathon, but this was my first one for Bucks County. (photo credit: USFWS)
I did not grow up with Bobolinks, as they are almost unheard of in Western Oregon. There are a few scattered colonies of Bobolinks in Eastern Oregon, and I saw my first ones at the P-Ranch near Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge on May 26, 1984. The next year I saw them on June 1, during the traditional late May or Early June trip to Malhuer to search for eastern vagrants.
The next year I graduated from high school, and missed Bobolinks. For the next couple of years, I didn’t live in Bobolink country. Finally, on June 26, 1993, I was married, finishing up my degree at BYU, had a car, and was able to drive up to see Utah’s most accessible Bobolinks in some wet pastures near Heber.
In 1994, we moved from Utah before the Bobolinks returned for the summer, but I was able to see some on May 20 west of Helena while doing field work in Montana. In 1995, we moved to Texas. Bobolinks are only extremely rare migrants in Central Texas, and I never did see them near Austin where I lived for almost ten years. Bobolinks are uncommon but regular during migration on the Upper Texas Coast, and I finally saw some at Bolivar while leading trips for the April 2001 American Birding Association conference in Beaumont.
For the past three years, I’ve been able to see Bobolinks here in Pennsylvania each spring during my birdathon. I love to hear their raspy songs, and their stunning display flights. And every time I see them, it brings back memories of all the times and places where my life has intersected with these charming black, brown, white, and butter-colored blackbirds. While I’m not sure I’ve spent enough time with them to actually call them old friends, they are familiar acquaintances, favorite guest stars when they show up on my birding exploits and help weave together over twenty years of my birding odyssey.
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