Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gargany Me With a Spoon

 So a Gargany was found this past Sunday, June 5, a mere 315 miles away at the Knox Marselles marsh section of the Montezuma NWR. A twitch Monday was out as it is a work day, and this Monday was  especially out as I had surgery scheduled to repair an  inguinal hernia. Being a powerbirder takes guts, and I am apparently bursting at the seams with guts. 

Monday was also a nail biter as birders everywhere were checking the ever proliferating and unnecessarily redundant venues for updates. Was the bird ever relocated? Where are the updates? It was not until late in the day that reports came in that yes, (phew) it had been re-found. This news came a bit too late for some that had the opportunity to bolt up there on that Monday, but had decided or needed to depart prior to its being located.

The pattern of behavior that emerged frustratingly late was that the bird becomes visible towards the end of the day. Gaaah! But having received word that the bird stuck, posse formation began in earnest. Pelican contacted me in the evening, while I was convalescing with quite the sore abdomen and an even sorer throat from the procedure I had undergone earlier in the day.

Once knocked out, they intubate you for anaesthesia purposes. But since you are already knocked out they apparently just jam the breathing tube down your throat in a brutally rough manner. How is it that my throat hurt so much more than where the surgery was? No matter, there was a bird we needed to see! The planning was underway.

Earic Miller had also previously expressed interest, and Pelican had indicated that John Gaggle-o-geese was on board as well. It was not until late that night that John responded to my text, and I found out he had already gone! Unfortunately he didn’t get the bird, and would not be joining us for another try. 

Early Tuesday morning I met Pelican at her place, and we collected Earic in Queens. She graciously agreed to drive as it was suggested that I not do so for more than short distances. Not that I was worried about overexertion, but as it turns out I had significant difficulty moving due to the residual effects of the laproscopic procedure. They inflate you with CO2 and some stays inside after they are done and it really is irritating; the result makes getting in and out of the car painful if I had to bend or twist. Or cough or sneeze.

We chose the  17 / I-86  route. No matter what time of year, it is a superbly gorgeous scenic drive. I navigated and performed my maddest DJ skills, but Earic didn’t step up to the plate with snacks and beverages - sheesh, ignorance of road-trip protocol...

After a while I put on one of my favorite albums: Spectrum by Billy Cobham. It has almost always been one of the first albums listened to on these epic journeys, but we were well on our way. I ascribe my success at finding the target birds with listening to this album. Listening to it this late in the trip though, would it still have its magical effect?

We made a pit-stop in Hancock, NY at the roadside rest, and in addition to leg stretching, we got several birds right from the lot including Cedar Waxwing, Warbling Vireo, and Chipping Sparrow. Earic also heard a Redstart that I not surprisingly, did not.

We continued on the rest of the way, and arrived at East Road where we found Zach Saw-Whet Owl amongst other birders. We hoped that the intent scoping was a positive indicator but it was just intent searching through the many birds out in the marsh.  

It was a process to pick through them.  Zach pointed out a Sandhill Crane for us, and the Trumpeter Swan and Snow Goose. We also got three Black Terns, so it was starting out well with several targets easily obtained. Boy were there a lot of Mallards, and the most Wood Ducks I have ever seen in one location. 

After some time, someone stopped by and said he had the Gargany that morning from the infamous Towpath Road. Not sure if that ever got posted anywhere, and not sure why. An ABA code 4 bird and not more than one or two posts on all the lists? WTF?? Come on upstate birders, we can do better than that... Zach also informed us that there were other goodies there, and we decided to try our luck after exchanging cell numbers.

The Towpath road was a challenge to traverse. For Pelican, it was for doing her best to pick the best path and stay out of ruts etc. For me, it was the jostling of my belly that made me wince repeatedly. Earic and Pelican did their best not to laugh too loud or too often.

At the clearing we saw Common Gallinule and heard Least Bittern, as well as Orioles, Yellow Warblers, and Catbirds. We gave it some time, but if there was a Gargany there we sure couldn’t see it.  We also saw Green winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, and Pintail. After a while as many as five Bald Eagles appeared over the marsh, and put up all of the ducks. Couldn’t pick out our target in the melee, but a sight to behold nevertheless.

We decided to try birding elsewhere and met up with Willie Diademed Sandpiper-Plover on the way out.  He and his party took up station at towpath after exchanging cell numbers, while we went to the visitor’s center.

The visitors center gave us Martins, a bird I had missed on the Doodle-ing Bash trip. Not a lot else and it appeared very dry. Add to that a creepy guy shouting out bible rantings and we departed in short order.

Much to our chagrin we discovered the wildlife drive was closed for repairs and was fenced off. We headed back instead. On the way we stopped at Armistead road where we looked for a reported Prothonotary, we found a male and female Cerulean in consolation.

Oh well, we decided to head back to East Road to give it another go. After all, it was getting near the time the bird was ~supposed~ to show up. Zach was still there, as was a group of other birders. No luck yet. And then Menachem Goldfinch and his mom showed up, as did Patrick Pallas Reed Bunting. The birders, not to mention down-state birders,  were coming out of the woodwork; would the Gargany?

We were assembled so that we could search the south west corner of the marsh. We began scanning in earnest again and then after a short while Earic said: “I think I have the bird, let me look in your scope Pat”. He looked through her superior optics, and said: “That’s it!”

I looked through his scope to find landmarks, then through mine and confirmed it was the bird. Holy excrement! The bird was sleeping with its head tucked backwards on its back. How the hell did he find it, especially with that scope of his? Its just a cardboard tube with the bottom of a coke bottle taped onto the far end.

Earic ~heard~ it of course. I overheard him say that “Its snore sounds similar to,  but different from Green-winged or Blue-winged Teal, so I knew it had to be the bird.”

After getting a good look I yelled out to the other birders that we had it, and the mad dash of excited birders gathered round. The distance, the obscuring vegetation, and the wind made observation a challenge. That’s why we had set our selves up sheltered by Pelican’s car. It became most expedient to let the others look through our scopes rather than try to describe the location. 

It was a lifer for almost all present, though for me it was only a NY State bird having seen one in 1997 in NJ. But it is NYS bird # 414 for me. Sated by our views of the bird, we went in search of food. We stopped in Auburn at Parker’s Grille & Tap House for the requisite celebratory beer and a hearty and well deserved repast.

Happy birders! A great end to another epic journey, with great weather, great scenery, and great birds. And the spotting of the bird later in the day was no doubt due to the delay in listening to Spectrum. I’ve learned my lesson: play that album ~first~ so we find good birds without delay!

I have to thank Pelican for doing all the driving. What a trooper! Earic offered to spot her a few times but she is no slouch and said 'no need'. There was a point at which he and I were asleep while she drove on in solitude. Not a birder to be trifled with, in my opinion the epitome of what is being strived for in the article about “female leadership in birding”, on the ABA's blog. On the other hand, twice she made me laugh so hard my belly hurt. Its weird to go from laughing to wincing, but she seemed to enjoy watching me do so.

Gargany Me With a Spoon? Uh, yuh, totally.