If I was able to stay out of the hospital James Orrico, James Randall and I were planning to do a big out of state birding trip this weekend. What a trip it was! 3 States, 6 hours of driving, and two lifers later, I write this entry on the amazing day we had.
Friday, Jan 29 I called James R. telling him my plan. He was stunned. So was James O. How can you do all that in one day? They asked. I explained my plan to them, and soon it clicked.
On Saturday we left prompt and early bound for a day’s driving with a bit of birding mixed in (after all that is usually what chasing rarities entails). Our first stop was way out on Long Island for a very coopritive and long-staying Dovekie. It had been spending time around a few marinas near the Timber Point Country Club. We arrived at one sandy marina to a cold wind blowing. No bird was in sight. We scanned and scanned and after 20 minutes still nothing. After our failed stop we tried another marina, inside the golf course. Nothing. Suddenly, two birders drove up.”See the Dovekie”, James R asked. “Yep, giving incredible looks right over at the West Marina!”
We drove swiftly through the property and arrived at the West Marina to find groups of birders and photographers pointing hefty lenses at the water below them. On first glimpse, I was amazed at how small the Dovekie was. When we got there it was diving frequently and I took my camera and tripod out hoping to get a shot or two. When the bird dove, you could clearly see it underwater and it appeared to be flying, just like a penguin. The crowd chased it up and down the marina until finally it rested on top of the water giving incredible looks, less than 8 feet away, sitting on top of the water not caring about the giants just feet away, staring intently. The bird was only around 8 inches long, was tiny and so cute as it swam around. I then got into photography mode, and took a few shots of the bird before it started to dive again. One of the birders there said it was feeding on grass shrimp, a tiny 1 inch creature that inhabits the bottom of the marina. After 30 minutes of chasing we were frozen but happy. For James R, his first alcid and new favorite bird and for James O. and myself, great photos and an experience to remember. Here are some photos of the Dovekie (more posted in my gallery):
After the Dovekie, we started our long drive to Califon, New Jersey. 2 hours and a few pit stops later we reached scenic Califon home to the Barnacle Goose. This goose, most likely a returning bird has been coming every October and leaving every March for 5 years. My father and I tried for this bird and failed in October. On this trip, our plan was simple: check the pond in front of the church it favors, if not there drive along Rte. 513 checking the farm fields, then wait for it to come and roost. When we arrived there were no geese at all on the pond. Onto the farm fields! Many fields were empty before we hit Melicks Apple Orchard. There were a few geese in the back, some obstructed by the trees, but no Barnacle. We moved on, seeing more empty fields and a small goose flock that didn’t contain a Barnacle.
This time we returned to the orchard and got out of the car. We walked between rows of trees and scanned. Nothing. Nothing Finally we stopped at another row. I saw it. “BARNACLE!” I shouted. We had the scope and got some distant but decent looks as the bird was very far out. Because we were going to wait for the geese to come in and roost, I didn’t digiscope anything-that would haunt me later.
Returning to the church, we relaxed and waited for the geese to come in. James and I made a foray down the street and bagged a Carolina Chickadee among a flock of Black-capps. A tough ID, though I’ve seen both species before and was able to notice a bit more white on the wings and tail and a bit of a different song, faster and hoarser. It was a lifer for James, a nice bird to add the day’s list. As we got back to the car flocks and flocks and flocks of geese started flying and circling overhead. It was a sight to behold. They called to each other in their preparation to roost. Wow! After 20 minutes there still weren’t many geese on the pond but a few straggling flocks were still coming in. Still, we decided to check upriver where we encountered a large group of geese and a few Common Mergansers. The Barnacle was not in the group and after 30 minutes of waiting we called it quits and headed home after an amazing day of chasing!