Friday, November 4, 2016

Moby Tick, Or The White Wagtail

Picture of the picture on Earic's camera

It all began when I arrived home and got a text from Mike Zino’s Petrel. I had not heard about any new rarities so when he asked if I was going to Rye, I presumed he meant for the Virginia’s Warbler in Westchester, NY. He did not. He sent me a screen shot of the news from the alert. Wow!

White Wagtail was not on my radar, and I thought it would be a life bird. It turns out I had seen it back in 1979 in Israel, so this would still be a bird for my ABA list and a neat bird that I had not seen in many years.

Mike though inquisitive was also tentative: long drive, rain, blah blah blah.  I was piqued. I read the reports and reached out to old friend Steve Strickland’s Woodpecker from up that way. The reports were not 100% encouraging, but encouraging enough. For me anyway. The White Wagtail was discovered by birder Josh Gahagan at Ragged Neck on 11-2. It lingered most of the day of discovery for lots of folks to see it.

I next began the all important task of grabbing a posse. No. Can’t. Can’t. No. Finally Earic Miller was interested, so things were looking up. A call to avIan Resnick gave the usual I’m interested but have to work tomorrow response. However, after much coercion I was surprised that eventually I was successful in convincing him that this was much needed debauchery. With others on board I suggested that Mike reconsider and he came aboard. I have a posse comitatus!

The weather forecast was of the sucky variety. I told avIan and reminded Earic that on the last twitch to NH the conditions were forecast to be similar. We met early in the am and got on our way.  The weather was holding on during our travel, and I checked the lists periodically for updates.
Dreary, but at least not raining and the foliage was nice

At 7Am the report was no sightings yet. I bit my tongue and do not tell the others. At 9am  the report was its been relocated! By 10am we made it to New Hampshire and made a pit stop at the welcome center.

While maneuvering into a parking spot we saw a man walk by who we looked at and looked at us. Do you know him? someone asked. I replied “no, but he looks like a birder, then again, most peoples apparel in New Hampshire makes them look like birders”.

Guess what: not only was he a birder, but none other than Donald Stokes of the field guide fame. He and his wife were on the way to the bird too.

What do you mean by 'where is the squirrel'
Inside, we had to squelch a moosogeny attempt by Mike, who was transfixed by the display. “Look at the snout on that thing - I must touch it!” “Come on Mike, we have to go” we said as we dragged him back to the car kicking and screaming....
Along the final stretch and on the lawn of a quintessentially New England home we saw some Turkeys  and arrived to a crowd of other birders at Rye Harbor Park by 10:30.  The word? No bird, but no rain so there was at least that. 

The bird had been relocated earlier in the day a short distance south of its original location by Steve, off Straw Point’s private property. After getting permission for people to visit, the bird flew off with only a couple of people seeing it. Dang!

Conferring with Steve now, most of us stayed where we were and birded this park while others tried to relocate the bird in areas not publicly accessible. Good thing, because as promised it began to rain. This was not so bad for us as there was a picnic shelter to stand under and a surprising number of good birds to look at while we hoped to find the intended target as well.

We saw Black-bellied Plover, Bonapate’s Gull, lots of Snow Buntings, several Common Eider, Common and Red-throated Loon, Surf and White-winged Scoter but also a late lingering Pectoral Sandpiper, and Ipswitch Sparrow. Even better was Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe and an immature Black Guillemot.

We maintained hope that it would be relocated by at least one pair of the myriad eyes present. In the crowd of birders it was nice to recognize and greet Sam Millerbird who I had met previously also in New Hampshire, also at a good bird: a Redwing, and also in the rain.

Eventually I got a call from Steve that the bird had been relocated! The birders present were alerted and we made our way by following a local who knew the area so we caravanned it to Great Boar's Head some 7 miles away and 2.5hrs after the first sighting that day. What good birding detective work!!

We arrived and parked, but another birder was heading back to his car explaining that the bird had just split headed south a bit more. Double-dang! We continued down the road a little, parked, and tried scanning. Earic and Mike headed back north, while Ian and I looked from near where we parked.

After 10 minutes or so, Earic who had wandered back away, called me and relayed that a bunch of birders further on had just started running back towards the beach! I ran that way, as did Ian, and a bit out of breath we finally got to the sea wall where the crowd was either oohing and ahhing, or saying ‘where is it’? Of all the skills needed to bird, it amazes me how many folks still have not mastered how to relay the location of a bird to others.

To begin with, Do NOT say ‘straight ahead’. EVERYTHING you look at is straight ahead of you! Do NOT say ‘in the tree’, chances are there are a lot of trees where you are if you are birding. Instead select a ~distinct~ landmark; something that is unique to orient others to where you are looking. Then say come forward, left, right etc of that object. If it is a tree, start as before to get the correct tree then use the clock method- 9 o’clock... 3 feet in and towards the back etc.

Of course its nice to get a photo too. That’s made a whole lot easier if you have your camera at hand. Doh! Ian volunteered to go back to the car and drive over. Unfortunately by the time he got back the bird had flown off yet again.

It flew quite a distance, and looked for all intents and purposes that it was gone. Photo-less were Ian and I, but Mike and Eric had gotten some. I need one of those bridge cameras that don’t weigh a ton like my beast.

Wow. Great bird! I thanked Steve for being so diligent in making sure people knew about this bird, and when he pointed out Jeanne-Marie Mash-Harrier, the person who had relocated it here. I thanked her as well. She had stopped here because she thought it was good habitat. Then she heard it call! Way to go Jeanne-Marie! And well deserved of the thank you hug I gave her.

We were all understandably happy with our splendid views of this rarity, and upon its departure, we sought out comestibles. Petey’s was recommended, and with libations on tap and lobster on the menu who could argue with the choice? Most of us enjoyed a lobstah roll with a celebratory Guinness (or two).

Da boiz be chimpin

After lunch we made a brief attempt at a Western Kingbird 2 miles up the road at another beach, but dipped on that. Oh well, no complaints here, and it was time to hit the road.

The ride home was devoid of rain and traffic and with our return at a good hour, a most pleasant conclusion to another epic journey. ABA #717!

                         For a video of the bird click here.

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