Monday, 17 December 2012

Weekend Update

On Friday evening I set out for Massachusetts.   I had been driving or birding the entire time and had had very little sleep.  But the birding was great down there and the people I met even better.  I drove all night to get to Bridgewater, MA by morning to find the Northern Lapwing in a corn field.  There were already two birders present, but they had yet to find it.  We crisscrossed the fields, looking into the sheared off corn stalks, appearing more like CSI's looking for evidence than birders looking for a rare code 4 bird.  The sun was out and it wasn't too cold, so the walking was quite pleasant.

Eventually more birders showed up and it wasn't long before someone had seen the Lapwing at the opposite end of the field from where it had been reported, walking and feeding amongst stumps of stalks.  We all had great looks at it and enjoyed finding out how far each of us had all driven for this bird.  I think I had driven the furthest.  I struck up a conversation with Chris, from Florida, who had traveled even more miles than me for the Lapwing, though he flew.  We both wanted to see the Little Egret so agreed to meet an hour or so later at Kalmus Beach in Barnstable, MA.

We started where the Little Egret, which looks nearly identical to a Snowy Egret, had last been seen, but over the next four hours we and other birders were unable to locate it.   Fact was, it had it hadn't been seen the last two days.   Not that the trip was a bust.   Chris and I had split up so we could cover more ground and, while we still continued to look for the Egret, we were also scanning for a Black-headed Gull.   I wasn't having any luck, but Criss found one at Keys Beach, on a jetty, with some other gulls and a couple of Brant.  We were able to watch it for a good while before it took off and landed not far off in the water.  It stayed there for a bit then flew off.

We returned to our starting spot and staked out the water area when more birders showed up, with Big Hopes we had seen the Little Egret.  Alas, no.  But down at the beach one of the new arrivals had some Common Eiders in his scope.   Bonus!   Another bird for the Big Year.  I stayed until the sun started to set on our Egret Watch, and decided I would get a start on my drive to Boston.  One of the birders at the beach had just come from the Fenway Victory Gardens where they had a wayward MacGilvary's Warbler.  That was a bird I hadn't found on any western trips and had given up on as a bird I would see this year.

I got to the Victory Gardens, across from fabled Fenway Park about 8:30 on a cold, gray morning. These privately held gardens were once part of the war effort, all across the US, Canada and abroad. During the first and second World Wars they grew fruit, vegetables and herbs in order to reduce the reliance on farmed produce.   They also helped boost the moral, as it gave those left behind a sense of purpose in supporting the war effort back home.  Now, they are private retreats for local tenants.  Some are kept up meticulously and rival any home garden, and others are in need of a little, or in some cases, a lot of a TLC.

Upon my arrival I was immediately told that just an hour earlier the MacGilvary's, Nashville and a Golden-crowned Kinglet had all been in a bush near where I had entered.  Within half an hour there were nearly a dozen birders present and all those eyes eventually led to our first look at the MacGilvary's.  It was in a thicket, and though we could get good looks, a photo was difficult.  One local birder, Justin, did get a picture good enough to confirm the identity, but mine just showed the bush and a blur.   Over the course of the rest of the morning, myself and two guys named David scoured the gardens for another look.  Every time we ran into another birder, I introduced ourselves to them. "Hi, I'm Robert and this is my birding friend, David and this is my other birding friend, David."  As the morning wore on, we had more than our fair share for looks at the Nashville and were quite frankly getting tired of thinking we finally had the target bird, only to find out differently each time.

While one of the David's and I were down one row, the other David called the David I was with and alerted us to his confirmed MacGilvary's sighting.  We ran as fast as the binoculars slapping against our chests would allow, but it was gone by the time we arrived.  David Number One had a picture, and we knew the bird had not gone far.   In fact, within 10 minutes I spotted it and for the next 10 minutes or so all present got fantastic looks at this rare east coast visitor, and those with cameras got some nice photos.

I am home now, 4 birds on the plus side and a new total of 588 for the year.  Wednesday I head up to Hilardton Marsh for Northern Hawk Owl and Hoary Redpolls courtesy of Bruce Murphy, the intrepid northern Ontario bird bamder.

Part of the the B.S.I. Team,(Bird Scene Investigators)

Northern Lapwing: 

Black-headed Gull - Winter Plumage:

Nashville Warbler:

MacGilvary's Warbler:

Common Eiders: 

1 comment:

  1. I really hope you get those last 12 Robert! I managed to hit my 200 (thanks to a Red-breasted Nuthatch and YCN Heron on the same day) and then jumped to 203 (thanks to the Xmas Bird Count) with a Vesper, Pipit and Snow Goose!
    14 days to go! Fingers crossed for all Big-Year birders!