Monday, April 13, 2015

Blue Laws Sure Can Give You the Blues

Soon enough, I will want to get up early and chase birds, but sometimes its nice to sleep in. I had been discussing making a trip out to Campmor with Arlene Rails for some time now but it always seemed to occur to me on Sundays, when the blue laws of Noodge Ersey prohibit stores from being open.

Campmor has every sort of outdoors equipment you can think of, and a lot you didn’t think of as well. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed west, with thoughts of birding possibilities.  A Crested Caracara had been located in Montgomery NY, located in unassuming Orange County. Orange county for the uninformed, is populated by some top NY birders, apparently trying to usurp the title of best county or region for rarities in NY. That region everyone knows is the four counties that make up Long Island. And they are doing a very good job. Doh! Chasing close by is better!

After we had obtained a few items and were about to leave the store when Bob Prothonotary texted me that he was on the bird, but it was at a new location. With this information I fired up the GPS and we headed after our quarry: potentially state bird 407 for me and a lifer for Arlene. I was particularly interested in getting this bird as one had mad a way too brief and incognito appearance in the backyard of a non-birding Nassau resident. A photo of the bird ended up in the hands of Steve Tanager, who ID’d it but alas, too late for anyone do anything about it. Subsequently, there were a few other fleeting reports but none that were remotely twitchable.

Although the bird had been found feeding on a deer carcass in a farm field nearby, it was now in this golf course. The GPS gave me the correct instructions, but the turn off was so discreet that I  drove right past it, not even seeing the road. Arlene did however, and several birders staked out there as well. A quick u-turn and we joined them.


Unfortunately, as in the Don Henley song: ‘Heart Of The Matter’, I got the news today, I didn’t want to hear... or more appropriately, the YSHBH Constant played out. We were told the bird had been perched prominently on a dead snag in the wooded area, vogue-ing nicely for the camera, signing autographs, even doing a respectable cover of 'Hello, Ma Baby'. ..And it just took off...

So we waited and looked around, trying to find the bird. After some time though, more people began to show up and park along Roswin Road. Some off to the side better than others. Some not so much. At that point, the manager of the golf course drove up hastily and judging by the way he stopped and got out of the truck I knew it was not good. He was exasperated that so many cars were blocking the road and relayed that the owner was upset. So I asked him what we could do to make it better. He told me that we should have parked in their lot, and when I explained that there were several “no trespassing” signs at the gate that we didn’t want to violate, he relaxed and said that parking there was not a problem at all, and preferable to blocking the road. So I told him I would inform the others, and he seemed very pleased. He then remarked that they got a kick out of the bird’s presence, and that they also had a ‘crane’ on the 8th hole. We never looked into that though.

When birding on private property it is always important to be respectful of the owner’s wishes. Foremost, don’t trespass first and ask permission second. If they ask you to move, do so forthwith. Be aware that no matter how good a bird is, if it is private property or especially a business, they owe you nothing! Distressingly, some ladies from Noodge Ersey said with snark in their voices: “well he passed by four times, so why didn’t he say something before?”  For all I know, maybe with one car or two it was not a problem, but now with many more, it obviously was a cause for concern. In any case, remember that you are a guest and should not do anything to ruin it for other birders who may not have seen the bird yet!

With the problem resolved, we went back to looking for the bird and hoping it would reappear. And then it did. It flew over the woods adjacent to the main road and landed at the top of a tree affording all very good looks and eliciting gasps of joy. 

Crested Caracara
We were both very happy to have witnessed a majestic bird. We had a leisurely drive home, and on the way back an email alerted us to the Yellow-throated Warbler still being present. Though light was fading, we made an attempt, only to find the south gate of the park locked for the evening. Despite this, I was able to spot the bird across the street at the local park, and got Arlene on it. Hoping for an even better view, we drove around closer, but by the time we got there we could not relocate the bird again. Oh well, a year bird for her nevertheless.

The next day was a beauty, and we decided to stay local. {Ha!} We obtained a bagel with cream cheese to start our day, and then headed to Miller’s Pond in Smithtown. Great day to be out looking for birds, but our desired target, Blue-winged Teal, could not be located. Based on proximity, we decided to be a bit more responsible and took the opportunity to test drive some Subaru cars as we had been discussing. This worked well and confirmed our thoughts on these fine vehicles. But then Grouse called, and informing me that there were now -four- Little Gulls in Southport Beach, Connecticut, well I may have coerced Arlene into another road trip...

Connecticut sure is picturesque, and what better way to discover nice places than to end up there because a good bird was reported nearby? We found Connecticut birders Townie and Mardi Dickenson scanning the flock of gulls, and Grouse was further out on the beach for a closer look at the flock that held no Littles.

Curious to me was the large number of fresh water duck species that were in the sound; more typical of a pond. They included Shoveler, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and Am. Wigeon. Some time later we were joined by local birder Stephan, who diligently picked out Blue-winged Teal of all things! Later he found the Eur. Wigeon but no Little Gull, so I reminded him that he was present at the non-existent Painted Bunting and Dickcissels in Stamford, and declared him bad luck. At home I confirmed that it had been a long time since I had seen a Little Gull, that being back in 1996. Now it seems, it will be even longer.

With light fading and hopes dashed, we proceeded to the Westfair Fish & Chips for dinner as suggested by Mardi. The food was great! But I wanted a beverage to go with our repast and as the restaurant had no liquor license, they suggested that I try across the street. Well the liquor store was already closed, and at the supermarket I found a shade pulled down over the beer. WTF!? The employee explained that the blue laws in CT made sale of these beverages not possible after 5pm on Sundays. Huh? I guess they want people to be sober enough to go to work on Monday. But really?

So I had a root beer instead. And the fish was delicious. And it was another fine day of birding and exploring.

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