Friday, February 3, 2017

Um, Of Course Its A Day Trip...

The last time a Ross’s Gull. showed up in New York was on March 20, 1994. It was in Jones Inlet, and insinuated within a flock of 1000's of Bonaparte’s Gulls. Trying to find it and stay on it was very challenging. VERY challenging. I was one of the lucky folks who saw it.

The 1994 bird was the second NYS record. The first was many years prior at Montauk Point, and is questioned by some or so I am told. March 20 was a special day at the inlet for other reasons: I had 10 species of gull that day: Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Greater Black-backed, Ring-billed, Iceland, Glaucous, Bonaparte’s,  Little, and Black-headed in addition to the Ross’s in the inlet.

Undoubtedly, the first accepted / well documented sighting was in 1975 in Massachusetts. You can read about in this archived article that appeared in the New York Times.

As you can see, this bird is a really big deal. Normally one would travel to the arctic circle to see it, so a trip upstate is a relative bargain! ( And not indicative of impending mental collapse)
Ross's Gull

That I had many inquiries regarding a trip to see this bird should not come as a surprise. But I was not ready to commit because my chase-ability algorithm had not indicated a high probability of success as of yet. That and I had committed to cover leading a trip for a friend who needed to be there for his mom.

That is not to say that I did not keep my nose to the wind.

During the course of the day on our trip to Montauk, we read our emails. After all it would be rude not to; what with someone making the effort to write them. It became clearer and clearer that there was ample food around and that the bird would most likely stick. Tupper Lake hosts many ice fishermen and apparently they gut the fish and leave the offal on the ice for the Bald Eagles... and the occasional Ross’s Gull. 

In the car with Pelican, she was doing her best: “I’m a rational responsible person” imitation. But her friend Charlotte Kiskadee was not having it: “Who are you kidding Pat, you know you want to go”. Add a text inquiry from John Gaggle-o-geese, and then a plaintive inquiry as to my interest, and we had a plan. A quick text to Arlene Rails and she was in too.

We met at 5 am for the 330 mile trip. It was a beautiful day, and just as always, once we were into the Adirondacks it began to snow. I think it’s a requirement.  But Pat is a good driver and she has an all wheel drive car so we had no issues.

Once we were near the lake, I reminded the others that the bird had been seen along the highway on the lake’s open water, so we switched to being birderers. As we passed the Tupper Lake boat ramp, I saw folks with scopes and cameras and yelled out “pull in there”.

When the car stopped, I grabbed my bins and camera and ran over to find the bird. YES! For some reason the others took their time, and Arlene complained that I had not waited for them. What? Are we eating dinner and I have to wait for everyone to be served? You guys can dawdle all you want, I was there to see a bird and didn’t want to risk missing it.

She further disparaged me by reiterating that I had claimed it was not that important and yet I ran off without them. I reminded her that yes, I had previously seen this bird, but that it was a ~lifer~ for them, so dawdle if you must, but having traveled all that way, you bet your sweet ass I wanted to see it and wasn’t in a rush to ~miss~ it you dawdlers! Two of those present it is worth mentioning, were ever so slightly delayed in their arrival at another good bird, so my concern was not without merit nor precedent. Also of note, this sighting was at 11am, and by 12:30 the bird had vanished and could not be relocated much to the dismay of those that arrived later than we did. So there Arlene. Dawdler.

The view from the boat ramp was okay, but the gull kept returning to a spot a short distance away where some edible stuff was on the ice. We noticed other birders there, and went to that location. The views were spectacular! There was much rejoicing.

Notice the look of 'joy' on her face.

Other birds were about the area, and we went off in search of them after we had a sufficient fill of this cutie. John and Pat had heard of a Northern Shrike, so we went to its last known location. We drove around and tried to dodge the snow flakes. Amazing sunshine one moment and near blinding snow the next.

The first places we tried were a bust, but later we saw likely Shrike habitat, and pulled into a convenient parking lot. We got out of the car and were preparing to walk and search when John said: there it is! It was perched as Shrikes are supposed to be, at the top of a tree. There was much more rejoicing!

Northern Shrike

We then perused the scene of the crime ( the home where the Ross’s Gull was first located ) where Earic and Shrimpke had seen a Barred Owl, but the snow began to fall in earnest again and we could not find it.

We then checked some feeders in and about town in hopes of finding Evening Grosbeaks that those two had also had, but dipped again. So after a quick bite to eat we hit the road for Newcomb. We stopped in the visitor center where the feeders had nothing unusual, but the docent there gave us a map to houses in town where Bohemian Waxwings had been seen.

We drove around, and stopped but saw nothing. Then as we were pulling away I spotted the Waxwings in the Crabobble tree right in front of us. More rejoicing!

Bohemian Waxwing

We made a few more circuits hoping to score the Grosbeaks, but we did not. We then made tracks for Lake Champlain. Despite an unfortunate course selection, we corrected and made it there before the sun set. Scoping the available ducks did not find us a hoped for Tufted Duck, and ironic comments were made that "they are going to show up on Long Island".

Son of a B... the very next day ( Monday ) they ~were~ found on Long Island. What’s worse, on that day at Lake Champlain both Tufted Duck ~and~ Barrows Goldeneye were located. Doh!

And it gets better. The next day ( Tuesday ) a few of us went in search of the TUDU and despite many eyes and much time spent looking, we could not find it. Then it was relocated Wednesday. Double Doh! Unbelievably, Friday I learn it returned to Swan lake. WTF!! I take Tuesdays and Thursdays off, and so does this duck! Gaaaaaaa!

UPDATE:  Brendan Frogmouth has informed me that: "We've had ROGU a few times in between though: 1995 Niagara, 2003 Rochester, 2008 Niagara, 2012 Cayuga Lake." 

Today on the plus side I was able to see the Barrows Goldeneye with Liz Ardcuckoo Patrick, though depressingly yet another attempt for the Swan lake TUDU was for naught.  But at least I've gotten some leads on more goodies!

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