Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tripods and Tuftulations

I am prone to wanderlust and enjoy birding in new and varied places. Earlier this year two waterfowl that escaped my purview showed up in close proximity to one another, if not in close proximity to me. Thus was the genesis of my journey.

Foolishl... er, eagerly hornswoggled into doing a NYS big year again due in large part because it started off so well, I found a window of opportunity to venture up to the Plattsburgh region. I also had an accomplice so that made the trip easier.

Capt'n Bob and I easily made our way up there on a beautiful if cold day, and arrived at Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area where A Tufted Duck was supposed to be. I scanned the huge flocks of waterfowl for a few hours but to no avail. I came across only one other birder, and though the report that the bird was typically seen a bit later in the day was encouraging, we decided to move on.

That would have been fine, but Bob had been listening to the radio with the car off, and unbeknownst to him, several internal lights were on as well. The cold and duration had weakened the battery enough to prevent its starting.

He was possessed of jumper cables though, so all was not lost. He cleared stuff out of the back of the car and I placed my scope on the ground so it wouldn't fall over in the strong breeze. The birder we had met before came back our way and obliged our jump request. With the car back among the living, Bob packed the trunk and we drove off to check some other locations.

With the wind and temp being what they were we did some car birding along the west shore, but a good vantage required scoping. Problem was, it wasn't in the trunk. Slight panic ensued, and we made haste getting back to where we had been. Seems he hadn't noticed it so didn't put it in the car with the other stuff.

We arrived and saw that the scope was still there, but upon closer inspection found out that the tripod had been run over when he backed up. My heart sank. Miraculously the scope was okay, but the graphite legs of the tripod splintered. Word to the wise: should you crush anything of graphite, pick it up with gloves and very carefully as well because the sprinters will get into all of your fingers!

No Tufted Duck, smashed tripod, and lots of splinters. The day was shaping up nicely...

We headed further afield and in search of Pink-footed Goose, also missed earlier home on Long Island. We took up station at a flooded farm field that was full of Canada Geese, and assorted other waterfowl. We spent about an hour in vain, and hunger pulled us away for lunch at a nearby eatery. Afterward we went back for another view. The hope that the goose would come in to join the others was not to be.

Somewhat dejected, we made one final attempt at the TUDU location and my luck changed for the better. Yes! Well at least it was not a total dip and loss.

I had gotten the graphite tripod because the original one I had was aluminum and heavy. The fluid head was okay so I salvaged it and re-attached it to the old tripod. I thought: “Okay, not so bad, at least I'm back in business...”

Not so fast. The plate with the screw that holds the quick-release plate to attach the scope to the tripod was disturbingly loose in the scope.

Bogen Quick Release Plate
Upon closer inspection the threads in the scope were stripped, and even closer inspection revealed they were all gone. Great.

Threads shot :(

Scopeless, I pondered if it was repairable, and if so how.

Spending a lot of time in the field, I come across a lot of 'parts' that fall off such as lens caps etc. One such part was a tripod hook; usually found at the bottom of the center post.

Random birder's detritus

I thought of getting a thread repair kit and brought the quick-release plate with me to the store. I had the aforementioned hook in the car and began fiddling with the two. They connected. Go figure - the threads were the same!!

What are the chances?

The wheels began to turn and I came up with a new plan: 

1. Cut off just enough of the female threads

This will do

Hey hey...

 2. Drill out and expand the hole in the tripod

Its now holier than thou
 3. Press in the threads and voila! 

I love it when a plan comes together

I'm back in business!  Now where be that blasted Goose?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

New 'Year' Birding Rocks!

Well the birds start coming and they don't stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Doesn't make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb
So much to do, so much to see
So what's wrong with taking the back streets?
You'll never know if you don't go
You'll never shine if you don't glow

It is accepted that many ( most?) people look forward to spring migration. On the other hand I have discovered that new year’s birding can be just as if not more challenging and exciting!

Now some of you out there are not to keen on chasing, but I insist that its all a matter of degree, and is influenced by available free time, finances, and access to co-conspirators willing to be enablers.

This year has started off with some really special birds, and the result has been it has sucked me back into the game of year birding.

This time of the year is the best time to see owls and rare waterfowl, and it has not disappointed. The second week of January delivered Saw-whet Owl, Barrows Goldeneye ( a few scattered in the Kingbird Region 10 area! ) Black-headed Gull, Iceland Gull, Eurasian Wigeon, Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose and by sneaking out on a work day getting Common Murre.


Common Murre

The third week began with White Pelican and Barnacle Goose, then a mid-week trip upstate yielded Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Common Redpoll and Pine Siskin. We dipped on the Tufted Duck (or is it "Tuff"  Duck), but had a fantastic day nonetheless.  

Am. White Pelican

The week ended with no less than Varied Thrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Bittern on Satan Island. $17 toll! WTF!  No wonder so few outsiders want to bird there.  As hoped, there were numerous other birders assembled looking for these birds, and being able to spread out proved a successful method for birds that has been hard to connect with.

The fourth week I was able to get a decent look at a Black-legged Kittiwake out at Montauk Point; a bird I try very hard for every time I go there but for whom I have had disappointing results over many many years. Anthony Collared-dove said in response to my lament echoed my suspicion that there may be a degree of uncertainty in the credibility of more numerous reports. Who knows... For me, finally another sighting!

Week five began an unusual trend: dipping on targets but getting impromptu birds. My first stop was local, to pick up Monk Parakeet in a location I had not been aware they were present. I dipped, but saw a nice accumulation of birds in the local parks nevertheless.

Next I went further afield to try for Glaucous Gull. Again, a dip, and despite a valiant attempt at the location and others nearby, I remained un-gullible. Fortune looked up for more birds when a report came in that Clay-colored and Field Sparrows reported the previous day had stuck, and it was nearby!I had not given much thought to them as I thought they more probably would move on.

I made my way there and due to the location car birded so as to present as little threat to the birds as possible. I checked numerous locations nearby and then returned, and staked out the location from across the street. After some time another birder showed up and asked if I was there looking for these birds. Shortly thereafter, he spotted the birds sitting in some vines hanging from a tree. I had to pull my car up to see them, but they were sitting essentially right in front of me, though obscured at my chosen location. Doh! But I got them and that was a nice cap to the day.

Field Sparrow (L. Top)           Clay-colored Sparrow (R. Bottom)

The week ended and began a new month too. I made another attempt for Monk Parakeet and birded the south shore. While approaching an area where they had been reported previously, I spotted their large nests on some poles, embarrassingly close to where I had searched before. Doh! ...and I’m the one who usually admonishes others to look everywhere and bird every bird.

February’s first full week started off rather nicely. It was Superb Owl Sunday, so why not catch up on a cooperative Barred Owl in Da Bronx? In previous years, the Barred Owl present there had been exceedingly wary and easy to disturb, often flying out of a roost was the way it was spotted so stealth walking and no talking was they way to go.This year there have been many of them around.

The current resident is more amenable to people and has thus delighted many. I arrived with my posse, Dunlin and Avian, and we got this bird straight away.  The day was delightful so we enjoyed doing the Hunter’s Island loop and birding it. Another year score was Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Pleased with our success, we made tracks for Dutchess County. As I noted to them, Route 22 is a great place to see Red-shouldered Hawk along the road. That still holds true as I spotted one in Pawling while driving and stopped to let the others get a look too.

Dover Plains has a mountain ridge and farm fields that Golden Eagle has wintered in for some years. There are plenty of Bald Eagles there too, as well as numerous Red-tailed Hawks, Harriers, Sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s Hawks. We heard ravens and crows calling, but while enjoying the unseasonably warm and calm weather, we saw few eagles of any sort, and there are usually plenty flying about.There were a LOT of Ring-necked Pheasants though...

I inspected one and then another location I have had success at in the past, then settled on a location which gave a wide vantage. Zip-o. This place was along a field marked as private property for the hunting club, but the members and workers are very friendly and helpful. They are welcoming to birders, but it is my understanding that in the past some thoughtless birders may have trespassed and garnered the ire of the club and other birders. It bears repeating DON’T TRESPASS!  

For what its worth, there is the ability to get great looks from many places, so there is NO need to trespass at all. The hunters also all are carrying guns, so how stupid would that be...

We had lunch, then returned to try some more. We conversed with a worker there who kindly offered info on trees that the Golden liked to perch in, but it wasn’t happening. It was at this point that we learned that a Pacific Loon had been located back on Long Island and giving great looks!  This after earlier admonishing Avian that he’d better make sure that the one in NJ was present on his NJ trip.

What to do, what to do... I told the others that we were not leaving until we had the eagle. I left this area and cruised a bit, and we saw lots of other nice birds like Bluebirds. I then decided to try my first spot again. We were not there too long when I saw a dark large raptor cruising the ridge and headed our way. I got a scope on it and YES! We got great looks and Dunlin and I took many photos.

Golden Eagle
Sated, I instructed the others to strap in as I was hell bent on making it back to the Island to get to see the Loon. Traffic cooperated, and we got there with a cooperatively close bird on flat calm water and with enough remaining light to get some photos. Yes! 

Pacific Loon
In addition to the loon report, Ross’ Geese had been reported out at Montauk that same day. When Tuesday came, Captain Bob inquired if I was doing any birding, and while my though had been to possibly try for those geese, additional reports came in about some birds that were on my radar.

These birds were Blue-winged Teal and Vesper Sparrow. We unsuccessfully tried for the teal, an then moved on to the sparrow location. A short time after we left Bob Prothonotary called to say that he found the teal, but it was hard to see at times going in and out of covering vegetation. 

Having found the sparrows, I waited for Bob P. to get there and though there had been a report of 3, we had at least 5 and thought there might even be more. Captain Bob has difficulty walking, so we  spent more time there in an effort to get him the sparrows too, and then headed back to the nearby teal location. We found the other Bob there who had the duck queued up in his cope. I got a nice look, and then passed the scope to Bob who couldn’t find it!  The little bugger was frustratingly good at hiding at times, but we eventually all saw it.

Happy with our success, we headed out to Montauk. The ranch had some geese but they were all Canada's as expected, and other locations checked seemed to be pretty un-birdy. South Lake Drive once again had a collection of gulls on the near shore, and amongst the Bonaparte’s was a Black-headed Gull! I ran back for my camera and got one shot showing it’s red bill. Chimping to make sure the photos were adequate, I was relieved to see one was.

Black-headed Gull
Our next stop was the west jetty which had an immature Iceland Gull, but not much else. With remaining light becoming an issue, we made an unsuccessful stop at Hook Pond for Tundra Swan, then a quick stop at Shinnecock for Snowy Owl for Bob.  We located it partly due to others looking at it, and were disturbed to find two people on the dune encroaching on the owl. Ah, never underestimate the ability of people to disappoint you.

And that sums up how birding has gone so far this year, with 137 species to date. Fun fun fun!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

I Say's 2019 Is Starting Out Golden!

December 30th and 31st were no fun. I awoke with a nose that started running so much that by new years eve it had been entered into the NYC marathon. I applied the requisite natural remedies and pleasantly on new years day I awoke and felt back to normal.

I made some calls and joined Arlene Rails for a trip to Shinnecock inlet and the reported Thick-billed Murre. The sea was roiling with huge waves pounding the shore. The wind was ripping the wave tops off into a spray, and ineffectively getting them to stop. We joined others at the jetty and in short order found the Murre, then a Razorbill close in in the surf, and then the two of them close in and together in the inlet. Of course, my camera malfunctioned, so the shots that begged to be taken went unexposed.

There was also a frustratingly difficult view of a Red-necked Grebe that was obscured by the waves and by diving, though at times visible. New for this area was very numerous Scoters and Common Eiders; each year they seem to be present in increasing numbers.

That was the extent of the exciting new years birds; all other targets for the day eluded us, those being King Eider, Snowy Owl, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Glaucous Gull – all present days before.

Elsewhere that past Sunday no less than a Golden-crowned Sparrow was discovered in Delaware county by Lance Verdin while scouting for their local Christmas count. The report had adrenaline squirting out of my ears, and like a few others my eyes conveniently averted the line that said the bird was on private property and not being disclosed. Nevertheless I remained hopeful... ( or 'wishful' Arlene? )

I made some calls, and posted a missive on how birders ~should~ behave. The last time a rarity showed up at a private home someplace upstate it was unjustifiably squelched. A small select group of birders were let in on the secret, but no one else because...? 
I wanted to prevent a repeat of that selfish, unnecessary, and unwarranted event; the home owner was ~fine~ with having visiting birders.

This is the sort of happenstance that occurs 
if you reveal birds at private homes!

Then word came that the bird was sticking, access had been deftly negotiated by Lance, and the wheels started turning. So many people wanted to go, I had to decide which posse to join. 1st world birder's problems!

Pelican, Arlene Rails, Johnny Gaggle-o-geese, and I met at 5am for the trip up. Its always best to blast past the morning traffic on the Island and NYC. Traffic as hoped for was minimal, though the forecast was kinda accurate with snow coating the roads in Sullivan county. As sunrise arrived the snow abated.

We arrived just after 8, and were joined shortly thereafter by Ed Thrasher, Bob Prothonotary, Harry Woodpecker, and Doug Fulvetta. Avian Resnick, Dunlin, Earic, and Shrimpke showed up a bit later as well.

There certainly was a nice variety of birds availing themselves of the offerings on Doris' porch, which we observed from the street. While waiting for the star to make an appearance, we saw White-throats, Tree, Junco, Song, BC Chickadee, Purple Finch, Bluejay, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied on the porch and at the feeders across the street.  Ravens were croaking on the ridge and a Bald Eagle flew over us.

Some of us wandered about, scanning birds in other areas. Bob noticed some White-throats under the rhododendron behind the house, and called us over – he had the bird! We were able to get a quick look at it when it flew into a bare tree, but it had its back to us, and though it turned its head back and forth a few times it was not a satisfying look. Nor enough of a diagnostic look to satisfy Doug. 

Goldie flew off and we lost sight of it. Apparently it landed in the tree with the feeders, and Ed and Harry saw it but thought it was a White-crowned. Low light and brief glimpses will do that. And then it was absent for a while longer. Pelican felt the call of nature and Arlene and John also wanted a rest room and some vittles. I declined imploring them to give it some more time...

I was glad I did!  The bird came into its usual spot just after they left, so I alerted them and they hastily returned and we all enjoyed far better and quite enjoyable looks.

For my part I reminded several people present that we had been requested to park by the covered bridge; one person who is known for pointing fingers at others apparently thought the rules didn't apply to them. I was more than happy to remind him. I was also gratified that a number of persons had brought seed or made donations to Doris.

Now that we had properly seen the bird, we went to the diner in town for breakfast sandwiches. We spoke with Doris who was sitting there enjoying her celebrity. I showed just about everyone present some photos of the bird, answered their questions and explained how rare it was. The townsfolk were a bit incredulous of the distance we had traveled and pleased with the novelty.

Our next birding was fraught with bad directions and we did not connect with Siskins as hoped. We then went to a nearly perennially reliable home for Evening Grosbeaks in Sullivan County. It is located at the corner of Cooley Mountain Road and Smith Road. The owner of the home is quite birder friendly; in the past he has had a sign in his window saying: “Welcome Birders”. Unfortunately there is a 'for sale' sign up on the property now.

We cruised the roads briefly and returned to look at his platform feeders. The Grosbeaks were not present, so I suggested that we wait. Pelican, who can be an impatient one, wanted to move on but I suggested that we wait some more. Ed and Avian drove up in turn, and continued on to cruise the roads while we continued to wait.

As I predicted, and from experience, I saw the Grosbeaks fly into the trees in the yard. I sent texts to the others while we enjoyed the beautiful birds. The others were able to return in time to get to see them too.

Our next stop was at the Wallkill NWR where a Say's Phoebe of all things had been found earlier in the day. The GPS guided us through some beautiful bucolic back roads and we arrived to a parking lot filled with the cars of other birders.

On the way up the trail we were told that the bird was being seen so we made haste to join the hoard and look for this unexpected bonus. Despite it previously having been perched, it was currently flying back and forth along a creek. I ran into Orange county birder Linda Skua, who generously offered to leave her scope with me, but I declined because I knew that I would be offered a look through someone's scope, or at least be able to beg or shove them out of the way long enough to get a look. ;)

At first we got glimpses, and then I was able to locate it on top of a stalk pumping its tail. A tall fellow standing next to us got in his scope, and I had to tip toe to look through it, but at this point in the day I was kinda floating.

And the hits kept coming!!

We then headed to Indiana Road where we got Rough-legged Hawks, Harriers, Short-eared Owl, and Kestrel. What a day!

We ended the days activity at the Goshen Plaza Diner with a hearty repast and a celebratory beer. Lifers for some of us and NYS bird #426 for me. Thanks Lance! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I’m Down For A Great Black Hawk!

For those that need proof of the effects of climate change, I for one attribute the steady stream of “firsts” to changes in climate, local weather patterns and its effect on food, as well as how it may blow birds off course.

The firsts to which I refer are birds that have their first recorded sighting in a state or country / region where there are no previous records of it having been seen there. It also lately seems that every time you think the game is over, the gifts keep on coming. Great Black Hawk, a neotropical resident from Argentina to Mexico, is the most recent gift for me and fellow birders.

By gifts, I mean the gift to us birders in seeing a rarity. There is much debate on how it portends for off-course birds themselves. Some survive, some do not: that’s how it works in nature. For me, I hope that our society isn’t making things worse.

This bird first appeared in Texas on April 24 2018. This state is a place where birders can see Common Black Hawk, but that bird has black band at the end of the tail and so the rush to confirm the ID was on.  

Having confirmed the ID, thoughts went to ‘was it (really) the ~first~ sighting?’ For unabashed listers, the dreaded specter that the bird escaped captivity ie provenance, might be a hybrid, was mis-IDed and so forth, can dash hopes of it being a “countable” bird.

It has been reported there may have been previous sightings from Texas, Arizona, and even Florida. What ever the reason, those supposed sightings have not made it into the official record.

This bird had passed all the tests, and has been accepted by the records committee of the American Birding Association! And it gets better. On Monday August 6th a juvenile Great Black Hawk was discovered in Biddeford, Maine, and remarkably, careful study of feather patterns in photos have concluded it the same bird! 

Imm. Great Black Hawk
That Thursday August 9th I would have made an attempt, but instead joined others on a more local and futile attempt at a Bridled Tern.  

Tim Heathhen and Mike Zino’s Petrel made the better choice of going for the Great Black Hawk, and succeeded. Rumor had it that the duo didn’t want others to get the bird, so they taunted it with references to elderberries and hamsters. A truly ugly scene, and the bird flew off over the ocean. That was that: the bird did not return. I had planned to try for it that weekend, but it was not to be.

Tim in his best taunting attire
The following Thursday August 16th I made another and this time successful attempt for the tern.  As stated, success is often the result of not quitting. Not quitting may also mean a bit of waiting.  Waiting in this case meant waiting for Thursday November 29th, when it was relocated ca. 20 miles north as the hawk flies in Deering Oaks Park in Portland.

That weekend was not doable. Dang. I was leading a birding trip to Montauk Point on Saturday, which sported beautiful weather, and Sunday was very terrible weather. It would have to wait even more. Double dang.

Not easily thwarted, a plan was hatched of course, and thoughts were to go see it on Tuesday if there were positive reports Monday. There were! But like the best laid plans of mice and powerbirders, things often go astray. Undeterred, a post on facebook and some phone calls yielded a posse avium questus

Pelican and I met Avian Resnick at 5:30am, for the trip up to Maine. (Note: we did not ~contract~ avian resnick, the oft confused-with debilitating disease.) Travel was pleasantly unencumbered with the traffic we saw headed in the other direction and we arrived at Deering Oaks Park by 10:45am.

It’s a nice little park in the center of downtown Portland, and navigating to the area described in the posts where it was suggested to park paid off. We put our birderer skills into use, and made our way over to the assembled mob of birders.

We were puzzled at first, as most were not actively looking at the bird. Was it there? Inquiry confirmed that it was, and a fellow birder all the way from Minnesota (!) had the bird queued up in his scope and kindly let us get a view. The Great Black Hawk was mostly obscured perched in a pine tree, but his head was visible if you knew -exactly- where to look.

Yes! Another successful twitch that yielded a lifer for Pelican, and ABA bird #721 for me. Avian and I had lots of killer looks at adults on our recent trip to Brazil, where we got up close and personal looks as they consumed fish. He lamented that we should have brought one along for us to offer it. The fellow from Minnesota recounted that when he was watching the bird at 7am in the morning, it was dining upon a squirrel.

After we were satisfied with our looks we went for a walk around the park in hopes of relocating Pine Grosbeak and Redpoll that had been reported the day before. We took note of the numerous, rather plump squirrels inhabiting the park. Their interest in us suggested that they were accustomed to being fed by park patrons.

No dice on those other birds, or much of any other interesting birds, but we returned to get some more looks at the hawk and noticed that signs had been posted for the hawk’s welfare

After a short time a Red-tailed Hawk cruised in and made a swipe at GB. They jostled for position for a few moments before GB flew off. We learned that this altercation had occurred before with GB returning. To the chagrin of birders, it was not present in the am Wednesday, but a vague report was posted after 1pm suggests that it has returned.

For us, time was fleeting and with the bird gone we went to acquire lunch and the requisite celebratory beverages. We found Shay’s Grill Pub to fit the bill, and the burgers were pretty darn good.

Celebrating good birds and the availability of good co-conspirators

"Oh crap" she thought, now there will be proof.
We hit the road, but made a pit-stop on the way in Massachussetts’ Parker River NWR. It had gotten colder and windier and there was not much around save for some Pintails and an immature Snowy Owl. Not too shabby. When we arrived back in Queens, I proclaimed: "Well that didn't suck!"  It didn't. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Bridle and Grooving

Failure sucks. And failure after having to deal with a slew of hurdles that come one after, together with imaginative and impromptu solutions that don't give the desired result is another level of suckitude altogether.

And success is often the result of not quitting. Today I made another attempt at seeing the Bridled Term resident on Great Gull Island. Of course, part of the process is assembling a posse. Though there can be more participants than available space.
Bridled Tern
After a bit of machinations, I recused myself from the decision process, and things worked itself out. Ed Thrasher and Avian Resnick met me at 11am and we trailered my boat out east to meet Pat Pallas Reed Bunting an hour and a half later at the DEC 'Oyster Ponds' boat ramp in Southhold.

Arriving at the ramp, Pat was waiting for us but hopes were soon dashed when I saw the barrier across the entrance which said 'closed to the public'. WTF?! A quick inquiry at the beach next door revealed that the ramp was damaged so they closed. it. #$%^&&^
Now you tell me!

Undaunted I inquired further and was told about other ramps, but unlike this one they were resident only. #%^&*(.

Yet it soon occurred to me that the marina from which I had gotten a ride last week surely must have a ramp. I did not know this to be a fact, but I headed there anyway. Thankfully I was correct.
$ mile shortcut
A sign at the ramp instructed us to fill out a form an put it with $20 into the slot, which Ed took care of. Noting that Pat was with us, I turned to Avian and asked if he had brought the guns. He replied in the negative. Clearly not a Warren Zevon fan.

I launched the boat, we boarded, and we were on our way. My boat was no where near as fast so it took us an hour to get to Great Gull Island, arriving at the north east end of the island at 2:15. On the way we saw a few Parasitic Jaegers which was nice, but no feeding terns or Shearwaters.

I anchored the boat 150' offshore and we began to scan the reported area. Hope as we did, it was not there when we arrived. During our vigil we noticed a commotion which turned out to be an immature Bald Eagle being escorted away from the island by a flock of angry terns.

At another point a Roseate tern flew right over us and gave killer looks. And a short time later a dark and powerful bird flew at the island which was a young Peregrine.
This concrete structure is Bridie's crib
Then at the reported 'favorite' spot I saw a bird land with what appeared in the harsh sunlight to be brown wings. YES! It was the Bridled Tern and I got the others on it. It then moved onto the rear of the structure it liked, and we took the opportunity to move the boat closer. A short time on something put the terns up and a large bunch flew out an past us together with Bridie. We got great looks as it flew out past us then flew back past us. YES! Lifer for Ed & Pat.
Bridie's Here!

It then alighted on the rocks near its 'spot' and we got more killer looks. Elated, we got our fill of looks and decided to head back to shore. Just west of Great Gull Island we saw another Parasitic Jaeger, but this time it flew towards us giving us killer looks at this bird too.

Despite the initial kluge with the boat ramp, early in the week the weather forecast accurately predicted it would be the perfect window to try for this bird. And the voyage out was easy. It was also nice that the relocation saved us 4 miles of boat trip! Then again on the way back the wind picked up a bit and some sections were a bit choppier and required slower travel.

And then we passed a clump of seaweed off of Plum Island that fouled my prop. Everything was fine until we got close to Orient point, about as far out as the Orient Point Lighthouse, and the engine stalled! Yikes.

I pulled the starter cord and it started back up right away (phew) but it was running a bit off. I choked the fuel and it ran perfectly and we continued on our way to the ramp.

After we loaded the boat back on the trailer we walked over to the marina's restaurant and had the requisite celebratory beer and a nice repast. One of the things we discussed was that my boat did not as of yet have a name. A few had been suggested, and I had come up with a few but I was not enamored of any of them. I also recounted one of my favorite jokes from The Flintstones. It was a joke about how they had named their boat – “My wife wanted to call it the Sea Queen, and I wanted to call it the Nautilus. So we compromised and called it the Nausea” 

I'll send this out while I wait for my food

When our beers arrived, I gave my favorite toast: “L'tsipourim!” Its Hebrew for “To Birds!” and then it hit me – I had the perfect name: the “Seapourim”. Sure, I was cautioned by the others at the table that I might have to explain it to most people, but hey, I like it.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Unbridled Passion

I, will take the tour,
They said, and turned to go.
Can they be late for the Bridled Tern show?

A Bridled Tern, yet another heretofore southern species has returned to our area, more specifically Great Gull Island, for the third year! To add to the special visitor's appeal, this time it appears to want to hang around Great Gull Island instead of venturing off to Connecticut.

Other recent notables from this realm have been a few Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, Wood Stork, and even more remarkably, Great Black Hawk. The later is from central America!

With reports coming in that sightings from the Orient Point and New London ferry's “Light House Tour” of Bridie from the tour boat, it became far more feasible for those of us interested, and there are many who are interested, to make an attempt for this rare visitor.

At the suggestion of Pelican, a group of us decided to do the tour which she described as being both interesting and modestly priced. Add the opportunity to stop in Southhold for a lobster roll and it was a plan. Yay.

Ed Thrasher, Bob Prothonotary and Ardith Booby and I met Pelican, Johnny Gaggle-o-geese, and Kurt & Stacy Meyer's-Friarbird and we gormandized on our delectable repast. We then continued on to Orient Point in high spirits, possibly due to having consumed some spirits...

This quickly went south upon arrival, where the fellow at the entrance informed Pat, and the phone message I received having just restored cell service, was that the boat's mechanical issue meant the trip was off. Darn

Undeterred, we sought out our refunds and alternatives. We went to the marina a short distance back where we inquired of one of the boaters if they would be able to take us there. Willing yes, but unable at that time. Dashed hopes again.

We then approached another boat but they were preparing for an offshore trip and could not spare the time either. Darn and drat.

Undeterred we inquired w/in the bar and one woman there was the spouse of a boat captain and knew others. Yay!

Several calls and no one available. Darn yet again

Then we saw two young fellows come into the Marina to refuel... Stacy went over to charm them and not surprisingly she succeeded, and they were happy to take us. Yay.

Then upon looking they discovered that they only had enough life jackets to take 4 of the 8 of us at a time. They recently had a Coast Guard surprise inspection and were not willing to risk it if they got stopped again. Understandable. Grrrr.

Still undeterred, we again inquired at the bar. The nice woman called around but we could not find anyone that had extra life jackets that we could rent or borrow. Darn.

So then the guys on the boat offered to take us out 4 at a time. Yay! Of course this meant deciding which 4 would go first. Coin tossing, rock-paper-scissors, and fist fighting were suggested, but we finally decided that Pat, John, Kurt & Stacy would go first, as it was a potential lifer for them; the rest if us had seen this bird before except for Ed.

They set off while we sat in the air conditioned bar, and I drowned my sparrows in another beer. They finally returned after being given a generous amount of time. Happy, but not elated. Some got Parasitic Jaeger for a life bird, but the main target was not spotted. Darn.

They departed while we embarked on our attempt. Yay.

These two college students named Duncan and Sloan couldn't have been nicer to us. On the way out there was feeding frenzy activity and they asked if we minded if they tossed out a few lures to see what they could catch. They did get one small Bluefish, but that was all. We on the other hand had really close looks at Cory's and Great Shearwaters, as well as lots of Common and a few Roseate Terns.

We explained that these were good birds because they were difficult to see from shore, and the tern was a rarity here and we tried to put it into perspective. At the end of the trip they actually thanked us for teaching them about the stuff we were after. Bright, affable, genuine young folks; perhaps there is hope for the human race after all.

It didn’t take us long to get to the island, and we tried mightily to find Bridie. We couldn't approach closely because there was a lot of huge rocks in the area, and the guys kept the boat out in the 20' depth some 150-200 feet from shore. Landing is also forbidden, and I hear they have 110mm artillery on that island!

Being one of the largest Tern nesting colonies, it was no surprise there were lots coming and going. We scanned the rocky shore where the bird had often been seen, but to no avail. Then finally at around 5pm Bob called out that he had the bird. It was flying in with other terns, yet it was difficult to be able to describe where to look to the rest of us before it became obscured by the island. Well at least one of us saw it, but we wished it were Ed because, lifer – you know.

We stayed a bit longer hoping it would come to rest in view, but it did not. Then the guys asked if we minded going back because they had not eaten all day and were starving. Oh well, time to call it a day. It was an adventure with a lot of ups and downs – even if we didn't mightily succeed.

I get up, I get dow-ow own
Bridled Terns will pass you by...

As to the aforementioned Great Black Hawk which which was seen by Mike Zino's Petrel and Tim Heathhen the day before, we bandied about the thought of chasing it on the upcoming weekend.

Latest word though is that the bird flew away, (some say because of Mike's driving so fast,) for which he was rewarded with being given the opportunity to make a donation to the Maine constabulary.

And this is birding. You get some, you miss some, but you have an adventure either way.