In 2001 A movie starring William Hurt told a tale of an out of luck inn owner who claimed to have seen a rare bird in order to draw guests to the area. While the movie did little for me, it does describe a phenomenon that does occur. When rare birds are observed the word spreads fast and people from all over the country show up in hope of seeing it.

I, however, rarely chase after the rare birds. My primary interest is in the beauty not the ability to add one to my list. On-the-other-hand, if there is a rare bird in the area, why not? 🙂

There have been few occurrences that I can think of but there have a been some. Most notably was the time an Emperor Goose was observed in Bandon. Since I had not even heard of one and the guest who told me about it was extremely excited, I had to go check it out.

Years passed and we found ourselves in Beaverton when I heard that there was a mass influx of Snowy Owls near Vancouver BC. This sounded like the best of both worlds, a rare bird and beautiful. We made a run for the border. When we arrived we found that the reports were accurate, there were dozens of Snowy Owl lined up on the drift wood. Opposite, lined up on the dike must have been 30 photographers.

Then there was the time I happened to hear from a local report that there was an Indigo Bunting along the road heading to the Bandon Marsh. I was heading that way in any case and shure enough, there it was. 

most recently it was a report of a slightly rare bird, a Eurasian Widgeon, being in Coos Bay. I took a shot at seeing what I could find and was quite pleased. The bird was beautiful. It was not particularly cooperative though and I had to wait a long time for it to move out onto the water for a shot.

While these images would suggest that chasing rare birds would be a great idea, what they don’t show are the times when I have seen nothing. The time when, as we drove through Newport, I noticed a gather of people looking up into the trees with binoculars, stopped and took a look myself. A rare warbler was in the area. I spent several hours searching through trees and never saw a thing.

They also don’t show that it is not always the rare bird that is the most attractive subject. While we spent a few days photographing the Snowy Owls, it was a Short Eared Owl that was my favorite image from the outing.

We were photographing the Snowy Owls sitting on a log when movement caught my eye. Turning I saw a Short Eared Owl gliding effortlessly over the contour of the land. I started shooting and told the person next to me what was going one. He continued to look straight at the Snowy Owl and said “Ya, it’s here all the time.”

In the end, chasing after rare birds can be fun. It can add an additional layer of interest to your images. And, it can take you to new and exciting places where you meet new and exciting people. However, it can also distract you from other things that are going on. 

My advice, go for it but keep your eyes open to other possibilities along the journey.

Happy shooting

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