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Birding In The National Parks: Have You Dipped Lately?

Alternate TextBlack-bellied ducks waddling somewhere in Ohio/Kirby Adams

Imagine this: You'™re a big fan of geothermal activity and you'™ve heard about a new periodic geyser that'™s be wowing everyone in Yellowstone National Park. People are flying in from all over the country to see it. You schedule two days off of work to make a quick flight to Wyoming. Arriving in Yellowstone, you have one full day to see a good eruption before you need to head back to the airport in Bozeman in the evening.

You wait all day and the geyser doesn'™t so much as burp. Dejected, you finally give up and head for home. While sitting in Bozeman a couple hours later, you see video posted all over Facebook of a magnificent eruption that had just happened. 

Now you understand how birding often feels.

In the birding jargon, which we'™ve largely borrowed from the Brits, this is called dipping. If you make a special effort to go after a particular rare bird that has been in one location, but you fail to see it, you have dipped. Dipping makes for great stories in hindsight, but it'™s not especially fun while it'™s happening. This has been on my mind lately as my last few twitches (another British term, meaning the pursuit of a rare bird requiring some notable travel) have resulted in dips. There were Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and a Chuck-wil'™s Widow in Michigan. Dipped on both of them. There was a Snowy Plover on the shore of Lake Michigan. Dipped again. It was starting to become a trend.

Today I broke the hex by twitching and getting a Black-headed Gull in Michigan. I could have gone to Cape Cod National Seashore to get one on any given winter weekend, or to Sweden in the summer, but it'™s special to make your lifer a vagrant in your home state. 

And I did have a flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks dropped almost literally into my lap in Ohio in May, so I'™m on a roll. Nothing can stop me now'¦until the next dip. 

Have you dipped on anything, birds or otherwise, in your travels to the national parks? One notable non-bird dip I recall was during my first visit to Yosemite National Park at 12 years old. I'™d been dreaming about Bridalveil Fall for years. When we got there, it was essentially dry with just a few wisps coming over the lip. Who would'™ve thought you could dip on a waterfall? 


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