At the start of the new year, I resolved to see some new bird species.  I haven’t spent much time looking for new species, since they just fall in your lap when you are starting out, and since I still had a lot to learn around identifying the common species.  But now that I finished my county quest, and have a good bit of regular birding under my belt, I felt it was time to beef up my numbers and see some new things.

Using the ebird Target Species tool, I saw that Red-breasted Merganser was the most commonly seen species in January in my area that I did not have on my life list.  So, I started visiting spots where they had been seen recently.  After a couple of strike-outs, I went to Rankin Lake on January 3rd.

Rankin Lake

I had an enjoyable trip here last year when I was visiting Gaston County for my county project, and was hopeful the ducks would stay around, since it was a 45 minute drive away.  This time I struck gold.

Red-breasted Merganser

OK, this is not a great photo, but for birding it is perfectly fine to document a species.  You can just make out his bill point down and to the right, and the coloration on his body and head make him clearly a male Red-breasted Merganser.  As a bonus, I also saw two Common Mergansers, which are even more rare for this area.  They were not a life bird, since I had seen some at Pettigrew State Park during my Washington County trip last year, but it was still a great bird for 2018.

Common Mergansers

There was also about a hundred Hooded-Mergansers along with many other ducks.  It was a great day for watching birds, especially waterfowl, and I was happy to have my relatively new spotting scope with me.  it is hard to get close up photos of these guys, since they tend to swim to the other side of the lake as you are approaching, but a few birds were a little more daring.

Ruddy Duck
Great Blue Heron

There were also plenty of squirrels around, hunting for nuts.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

It was great to actually find a specific bird I was looking for, and it gave me confidence that my plan for the year should work out fine.  This was life bird 249 for me.


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