Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Brilliant Start to the New Year

At various times in the past I have been encouraged or coaxed into doing yet another CBC. My two 'standards' are the Bronx and Queens counts, but this year I was given a sucker punch by a nasty stomach virus and missed out on the Bx CBC.

So this year I was 'volunteered' for the south Nassau count, and found out about some nifty places on the Queens / Nassau border I'd previously not explored. It's a good thing I'm not much for new years partying, because it made it that much easier to get up way too early on January 1 to count birds.

Though cold, the weather was pleasant enough, and it even warmed up enough for us to remove layers. The birding was as to be expected for a winter's day, though it was punctuated by a simple text message Jean received.

Grace's Warbler Point Lookout

 What else does it say? Lets Go!! While some others may not have immediately grasped the significance of the report, I pointed out in a hurried and 'enthusiastic' manner that this bird is not ever been seen in New York, and probably not on the east coast as well! The New York status was quickly verified by checking my Avysis checklist in my Palm Treo.

Lets go! I said emphatically again, but there was some hesitation on the part of the other CBC participants. I pointed out that Point Lookout was not that far away, so we could go and come back in short order. I convinced Jean and then Eric. But George steadfastly wanted to stay on task and was detectably annoyed [ or worse ] that some of us were jumping ship.

So Jean Eric and I decided to run over to try and see the bird, while George and another birder stayed behind. I felt no remorse; this was not a count I was that 'committed' to, and this was after all a monumental find. Jean remembered that we had planned to leave early anyway to attend her niece's birthday party. For Eric's part, his plan was to see the bird then return and resume the CBC. I gladly offered to run him back afterwards.

So I fired up Loretta [ my GPS ] and had her guide us to our destination. But speed limits and traffic lights are the bane of Power Birders everywhere. They provoke that special twitchy nervous feeling one gets when contemplating how close yet how far one is from a bird that they hope to get to in time to see.

Arriving on location, we were amazed by the hoard of birders already assembled. But this is a good thing! More eyes makes finding a target easier! In fact the scene was like a who's who of birding in Kingbird region 10. Present too were other members of our CBC who also got the message and made a 'detour'.

And in short order the bird was pointed out, though at first furtively. Depending on where you were standing, the tangle of Pine branches made catching a glimpse acutely critical. Thankfully, the bird was largely accommodating and no one to my knowledge left disappointed. Those with cameras were able to get some rather nice shots, and much to my chagrin, several noticed the absence of mine. Groan. I had left it home as I thought it would be easier to travel light.

 Sated in that peculiar '1st State Record' way, we drove back to drop off Eric, and then headed east. On the way I convinced Jean that we should shoot out to Wading River and try for the Mountain Bluebird we had dipped on previously. After glaring at me, she conferred with her sister and learned that things had been pushed back a wee bit, and this gave us a modicum of breathing room.

We now had time to stop home and change from birding gear into more presentable attire, and venture for the bluebird. Arriving on the location we spied another car pulled over a short way down, and the occupants began pointing a long lens in a suggestive direction. We joined them , got on the bird, and this time I also had my camera!

Wow, what a day... what could make it better? BEER! Well a short way down the road we perused the fine selection of beers at a distributor, and I availed myself of some Mother's Milk. Mmmm.

And oh yes, the party was nice too.

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